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An A -ma-ZINNing Afternoon with Alice Zinn

By Joanna Campbell

At first blush, Alice Zinn’s home looks like all the other
houses in her neighborhood. The building is pleasant, on a pretty corner lot in
a small city in Florida. However, when she opens the door and permits you
entrance, you feel like you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into an enchanted
universe where fairytales and wishes come to life in miniature.

Because she knew I was interested in her workspace, Alice
took me on a quick tour of her shop before we had the lunch she so kindly
prepared. The converted garage is packed with supplies, as you might imagine,
but most importantly, everything is labeled. Alice can put her hands on things
quickly. I stood there and turned a tight circle at the stacks of plastic
storage tubs that lined the walls and towered over my head. Her computer is at
a right angle to the desk where she works, and therefore, perfectly situated
for convenience. Although she enjoys working from the comfort of a big cushy
office chair, because her work space is so large, she also makes use of a backless
stool on rollers so she can scoot along the corridor in her warehouse of

When you meet Alice, you are immediately struck by her active,
seeking mind. Her breadth of knowledge about the world in general is amazing.
Her process is one of problem-solving. The pneumatic stool is an example. Its
height is easily adjustable, and there’s a tray on the bottom so the stool can
actually be used to transport items. Really, it’s perfect. I found myself
coveting this handy seat. Alice laughed and said, “Stop by Harbor Freight.
It’s on your way home.” I did and bought one for myself, a bargain at $26.

Walking from the workroom into the house, I paused to gawk
at the shelving over the top of the doorsills. Alice set cove molding a ninety-five
degree angle, turning the wood slats into narrow shelves. On these she’s
displayed miniature chairs in all sorts of furniture styles. There’s also a cabinet
full of gifts, including a china collie given to Alice by her grandmother.
Alice was eight at the time and suffering from chickenpox. Young Alice was
bothered by the fact that the dog didn’t have fur, which made the piece more
like a statue than a miniature pet. Many years later, when Alice decided to
make miniature animals for a living, she set herself the task of making them
furry, because no one else was doing so at the time.

We passed Alice’s bathroom, and oh, my! A person could get
lost in there. She’s packed the place with tiny scenes, including a shadowbox
of Teddy Bears, which houses another childhood favorite of hers. There’s also a
small nautical scene on the back of the toilet. “Guests go to the restroom
and take forever,” said Alice. “They get so involved with the

As I wandered around Alice’s home, it was delightful to
pause and admire all the minis, including one particular castle, a showcase for
Alice’s sense of humor. The piece is called “Fear of Flying.” It
depicts a wizard teaching a young dragon to spread his wings.

“Dis-embarking”  *  Photo courtesy of Alice Zinn.
Nearby is a large Japanese house with a most unusual
provenance. It was built post-WWII by a Japanese architect who wanted
Westerners to see what a typical Japanese home was like. Alice’s iconic Noah’s
Ark scene