Violin

Where can you buy a violin for $24?

Brigitte Nagle with one of her miniature bedrooms.

What about thumbnails? You can’t help but smile at the sight of tiny people sitting on tiny chairs, waiting for a meal in a tiny kitchen. Is it an intimate scene or are the thumbnails just plain cute? Or are we in awe of an artist who could make inch-tall cakes, flowers, and pets that look so real – how can she be so precise at that size?

Brigitte Nagle says part of the appeal of miniatures is nostalgia, seeing a bedroom or living room painting evoke memories of a childhood home or possession. This rocking horse… I had one!

Now you can ponder the allure of tiny people and their accessories at Nagle’s sunny new shop, Miniature Works, on Route 213 in High Falls. Here, she showcases shelves of tiny furniture — like an inset chest of drawers with pull-out drawers, matching chairs and bed, deli, butcher, and lounges in various styles.

Brigitte Nagle in her studio.

In display cases are an array of polymer clay figures, each unique. The ladies are elegantly dressed, for a lunch or an evening on the town, cigarette holder in hand. Among the male figures are a barber with lather on his razor about to shave his client, a painter with his palate, a fisherman, his pole ready to haul in a catch.

Pretty much everything Nagle didn’t make herself comes from a large collection of miniatures she bought out of the blue at an estate sale. Amid the crumbling boxes were collectibles like Reuter china and elaborate Asian mini-furniture and figurines. In his own work, Nagle likes to make scenes that suggest a story. Why is this little phone off the hook? What happened in that glass house? Why is this wheelbarrow on its side? She also incorporated miniatures she made into the scenes made by others.

Apart from a watercolor course, Nagle is self-taught. But she’s always loved visual storytelling, having fun as a child with cutouts from Sears Roebuck catalogs for the shoebox displays she made while accompanying her father, a bull rider, across the country for rodeos.

Nagle retired as a history teacher at Margaretville three years ago. With time to experiment, she realized that she loved miniatures and had a knack for creating them. Nagle can do almost anything with wood, wire, polymer clay and paint and she has just learned electrical wiring. She credits YouTube videos for some of her lessons, but admits she’s already spent five hours figuring out how to make a banana. She said, “If I can see it, I can do it.”

Her work includes commissions for clients who want to remember places where they have made happy memories. A Vermont woman called a few years ago to ask Nagle to recreate in miniature the podcast studio his wife was considering abandoning. She sent photos to Nagle and from these, Nagle recreated the room with the same proportions and decorations. The podcaster was so moved that she rediscovered her passion for podcasting and still does.

Since then, Nagle has had clients leaving their beloved homes for assisted living facilities. A couple asked him to recreate the garden where they shared an evening glass of wine. For another client, she recreated a study for a literature professor who loved art. She studied the details – from the paintings on the walls to the stacks of books and pens on the teacher’s desk. Details matter. Another couple commissioned a scene of their now 23-year-old niece reading as a child in an Adirondack chair.

Along with her husband George, Nagle co-owns The Spy restaurant just up the hill from Miniature Works. George takes over management of The Spy and their three adult children are all entrepreneurs. At 60, Nagle is excited about the challenge of starting her own business.

Some customers will find Miniature Works inspirational and Nagle is curious to see how the store will evolve. Nagle will offer monthly classes and restore childhood dollhouses and other miniatures. She sells DIY houses, ready to be furnished with clients’ artistic talent or with furniture and accessories she sells, such as a small set of brush and comb and the chest of drawers to place it on. Its prices range from a $3 surprise bag for the kids to a $24 violin to furniture selling in the triple digits. It corresponds to eBay prices for collector’s items.

Miniature Works is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.