Inside the World Of Food Miniatures

Photo:Irene Lin

Instagram isn't good. Instagram isn't bad. Instagram, like any social media, is what you make of it. If you don't like the images on your feed, then you're failing yourself as a curator. Because there is an enormous world of amazing imagery out there waiting to be discovered.

For instance, among the photos that occasionally scroll through my feed are those of miniature food art like the one pictured above. One of the artists behind these miniatures is my friend Irene Lin. To find out more about this peculiar world, I asked her a few questions about her process.

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So, how did you get into the world of food miniatures?

Irene: Well, I'm fairly new to the whole miniature food thing, but I've been following it for quite some time. I've always had an obsession with fake food in general, the more realistic the better. There were two artists I had come across online that really caught my attention: Paolo Pivi, who created an incredible looking eight-foot sculpture composed entirely of fake food, and Sandy Levins, an artist specializing in historically-accurate faux foods. While researching Levins' site, she describes the process of creating some of the food (e.g., materials, techniques, etc.), which inspired me to purchase air dry clay and attempt to make my own faux food. Also, Toni Ellison and SugarCharmShop are huge inspirations in the online miniature food community. They provide a lot of tutorials and information on how to make food and are the go-to experts for polymer clay food.


How do you go about deciding what foods to make?

Irene: Since I'm just starting out, I choose things that are a bit easier and also things I like to eat. For example, I've made hamburgers, pizzas, sandwiches... you get the idea. I've observed that food miniaturists typically make the same foods (e.g., smores, pies, macaroons, cakes, fried eggs, bacon, fruits) but everyone has their own style, ranging from simplistic to detailed, or cartoony to realistic. It seems everyone starts out making the same type of food, which I jokingly liken to a rite of passage, where you master the basic foods to build a foundation and then graduate to more complex food items that are more technical and time-consuming.


What materials do you use?

Irene: I started out using air dry clay and have transitioned to polymer clay. But I will probably try to continue experimenting with air dry clay, as I've recently seen an artist in Singapore make very detailed food items, which I didn't think was possible with air dry clay. I still have a lot to learn.


What's the hardest part of the process?

Irene: I really hate conditioning the clay. Other than that, the hardest part for me is creating a food item and making sure it is my own style and not looking like a carbon copy of someone else's creation. For example, everyone makes pizza, but I want the pizza to be my own and not look exactly like someone else's just because I watched their tutorials. It's a bit difficult if you're making a common food like a pepperoni pizza, but at the same time, there are so many different shades of red for the pepperoni and various colors and textures to use for the cheese and crust. I just think it would be really boring if everyone's food looked exactly the same! As I start making food items that don't have tutorials and aren't so common, I expect the challenge will be to figure out how to create the right textures and combination of techniques to make it look as realistic as possible.


What miniature foods are next on your plate?

Irene: The foods I'm going to tackle next are probably going to be meat-related -- steaks, rib roasts, things like that. My ultimate goal is to recreate my mother's home cooked meals, which are all Chinese. I think that would be really cool, but I need a lot more practice!


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