Utilising her skills as a dentist, Dr Angela McCarthy of Erko Dental in Erskineville, NSW, makes beautiful worlds in miniature.
I began making miniature dioramas when I had an Etsy shop. The site specialises in arts and crafts, and I was making jewellery and lockets that featured tiny dioramas. A 3cm-by-5cm locket could be opened to reveal a deer next to a tree in a field. I had another piece that contained the grim reaper following an old man down a path. They sold really well and people still contact me in the hope of purchasing one.
“When we opened our practice about a year ago, I wanted to make something a bit larger and really interesting for the waiting room. I started with the figure of
a man holding an axe that looked like he was about to chop something. Then I found some teeth left over from dental school.
I painted them to look really old and placed them in a large jar so they appeared to be growing out of the ground. The man with the axe is positioned so it looks like he’s chopping up teeth. That diorama has been in our waiting room for a while now.
“The response to it is really interesting. People can visit multiple times and not take any notice of it. Then something about it catches their eye and they look closely. It’s certainly not the sort of thing you expect to see in a dentist’s waiting room.
“People often request special pieces. There was a couple who wanted a memento of their wedding so I made a Hawaiian-themed scene in a glass bauble.
I used photos of the bride and groom to make the figures that look like them, and there’s a crowd of figures attending their wedding on the beach.
“I actually use a lot of my dental gear to help make the dioramas—particularly loupes, tweezers and composite resin to sculpt various items. Dentistry is like the perfect training to make tiny dioramas—they both require the same fine motor skills and attention to detail.
“I have a workroom at home that’s full of paints, pots, modelling supplies, clay and instruments. It’s really messy with stuff strewn about everywhere, but it’s great fun to go in there and start building a new piece. I love it when I successfully make a small but realistic tree, or rock, or running water effect.
Like dentistry, it’s a very rewarding process. But the good thing is the end result doesn’t walk away in someone’s mouth.