Sometimes, when Victoria is watching her TV shows on NetFlix, her hands are busy with clay. As her eyes follow her favourite characters on the screen, her fingers are shaping what will become miniature ang ku kuehs, mee jian kuehs and prata.
I spoke with her on the phone today to learn more about her clay miniatures, her process and how The Mini Collectibles came about.
Hello Victoria. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me.
Hello Murphy. No problem.
Can you tell us about how The Mini Collectibles started?
Firstly, The Mini Collectibles is not a full-time gig for me. I already have a full-time job. The Mini Collectibles began 11 years ago.
It was 2009 and the Hello Kitty fad was dying down.
Hello Kitty stores were going out of business. I thought about taking over one of them. I looked at the merchandise, the dollhouses and thought they needed more variety. I wasn’t the only one. I saw on YouTube that people were exchanging their dollhouse miniatures when they got bored of their own.
I wanted something new. So I decided to make my own dollhouse miniatures and food using clay.
You mentioned that you have a full-time job. What industry do you work in?
The recycling industry. I have been with the same company for 16 years.
Where do you make the clay models?
At home. Sometimes I just focus on my models. But sometimes, I make them while watching my TV shows on Netflix.
How long does it take for you to make one?
I make them in sets of 8 – 10. If it’s a set of 10, I take up to 3 hours to produce them. I make the miniatures much faster if I’m not watching Netflix.
Do you work with anybody to produce your miniatures?
I’m a factory of one. If demand is high, I sometimes stay up until 2am making my miniatures.
Do you design them or make a sketch before sculpting the clay models?
I base all my miniatures on photos of real food from the internet! I look at the photos on my phone and get to work.
The first time I came across one of your miniatures was at a columbarium. What percentage of your customers buy your miniatures to put in their dollhouses and what percentage buy them for prayer purposes?
Over 90% of my customers buy them for visits to loved ones, to put in their columbarium niche or on their ancestral tablets.
What are your best sellers?
The incense set. Did you know I make them from real incense? The drinks are also a hit because what’s a meal without a drink? The satay, prata and nyonya kueh sets are also top sellers.
I noticed that you’re on all the online shopping platforms, including the local ones like Shopee, Lazada and Carousell. Which would you say keeps you the busiest?
It’s up to shoppers to choose their desired platform. For me, my goal is to reach out to as many shoppers as possible which is why I’m on all the platforms. My product range is rather wide so if I wanted to list my entire catalog, it would cost quite a bit.
You have a lot of great reviews on all your platforms. Do you have any memorable customers you can tell us about?
Yes, I love that customers can share their positive reviews with me directly. Their kind words keep me going! Back before COVID-19 hit, I often had customers over at my showroom, which is at my workplace.
One customer that left a mark on me was a young lady who came in with her mother. When they walked in, I sensed a dark aura. A heavy feeling of sadness.
She was looking at everything I had on display for a long time. Later, she told me she wanted a miniature milk bottle for her stillborn baby. This saddened me as I was not able to fulfil her need. From then on, I made sure to always have some miniatures for kids in stock.
Since your shop is based online, do you do any kind of outreach or advertising?
There are limitations since this is not a full-time job. For example, I have no time to conduct workshops. But I have been contacted by malls to set up booths. Sometimes, hiongh (joss paper) stores call me up and say they want to stock my miniatures.
In the past, I used to rent shelves at Toy Outpost, Hako and Box Boss to sell my miniatures. That cost me $200 – $300 per month.
Do you have anything else you’d like to tell Singaporeans?
If we’re being honest, we have no way of knowing if our dearly departed can enjoy any of the food we’ve prepared and brought to them. It’s the same with my miniatures. But what matters is the time we take to go see them and talk to them.
The food is just symbolic. It represents the memories we have of them, of sharing their favourite food with them. Of all the good times together.
Thank you so much for your time today, Victoria!
Curious about Victoria’s miniatures? You can check out the store’s official website here. She also has a shop set up on every major platform, on eBay, Etsy, Shopee, Lazada and Carousell. Her shop is also on Instagram as well as Facebook.
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