Tiny Designs, Massive Ambitions: A Magnified Look at Artist Amr Hassan’s Miniature World
If only we could shrink down enough to live in these little scenes.
For as long as I could remember, I’ve had an intense and undying love for anything small-scale. Seeing something as mundane as a chair or a spoon or even a brick turned into a teeny tiny replica for whatever purpose has never ceased to get my blood (and creativity) pumping. I’m sure the same can be said for many of you; who wouldn’t want to have a miniature replica of their lives at hand to gawk at and poke with childlike glee?
Writing about some of Egypt’s various artists, besides being a tremendous honour on my part, tends to open many doors into different sects of human creativity. The latest and most significant, in my scope at least, was a young pharmacy student (go figure) by the name of Amr Hassan, whose knack for all things teensy and tiny was too good of a spectacle not to write about.
“I didn’t find much interest in the usual stuff that kids were into back in school, be it football or any other sport. I found myself more interested in the artistic side of things, especially stuff that needs a lot of handiwork.” Amr doesn’t have much of a grandiose origin story; he’s mostly just a guy like the rest of us, with the exception of a peculiar talent for crafting miniature set-pieces and items. This is an example of somebody who, instead of writing it off as a passing hobby, took his interest in crafts and DIY and nurtured it throughout his 21 years of life.
“I had this art teacher in high school who inspired me keep up with what I love doing. Seeing him perform any task or do anything in class, the way he’d pay so much attention to detail, and actually pour a bit of him into everything he did, it was motivational to say the least.” The teacher in question also showed Amr a hefty amount of tips, tricks and workarounds to approaching any artistic endeavour. But in the end, it was Amr’s own passion that fueled his hobby.
The first thing I thought to be a major obstacle in the path of somebody like Amr is materials. Where the hell do you get the stuff you need to make a tiny lamp? Who sells that small a length of fabric for him to make the furniture he does? Tools? Wiring? Do you buy things from gnomes?
“It was a nightmare at first; trying to get what I needed to, let’s say, make an upholstered chair. No fabric merchants would sell you a one-by-one metre piece of fabric, and finding bulbs or similar materials for the scale of what I did was a dead end a lot of the time. But after many dead ends, I found some out of sight merchants deep in the Azhar Market area that would offer me the fabrics I needed. Not only basic ones, but different patterns, styles, textures, even embroidery.”
OK, we’ve got furniture down. What about the electrical side of things? “Nobody makes commercial bulbs that small, and I wanted something that would give off enough light to be feasible in the setting. So after a length of trial and error, I found out that car mechanics, especially electricians, had a variety of small bulbs and appropriate wiring for me to use. Whenever they’d ask what I needed them for, regardless of which merchant it was, I’d just say it was for a university project. It’s a lot easier to explain than telling them I made miniatures.”
Amr even managed to give a workshop to folks in Alexandria for folks who wanted to make their own little slices of life. You have to give the guy credit.
Let’s pretend I’m somebody in the creative field (if writing about bidets and chairs is a creative endeavour): I’m somebody who’s fond of writing to a degree, and I decided to capitalise on whatever talent I have by using at as a source of (tainted) income. Herein lies a pickle of sorts; the second you monetise a hobby or talent you have, it’ll either suffer dramatically in quality, or you’ll give up on it entirely at some point. I’m sure some folks can balance it out perfectly, but those are exceptions, not the rule.
At one point, Amr was contracted by a friend of his who wanted a miniature set-piece for a project (some quick cash doesn’t always hurt). Amr had already started working on it according to her specifications, but he noticed that a lot of things could use adjusting, a lot of the colours could be better, and rearrangement could make the whole thing shine more. She didn’t share those sentiments, however, mostly due to time constraints. So, Amr delivered what he was asked, and the girl got her grade, but what transpired throughout that little segue was essentially the creative/client
“Apart from it being something I adore doing, I primarily want to use my miniatures for stop motion animation and short films. I’ve been contacted by a few names in that niche, and I’ve been offered a chance to get into it full time. But when I experienced what would happen if I set it up as a business more than a personal hobby, it didn’t feel right at all. I’d rather avoid it entirely, at least, for this segment of my life.”
Amr genuinely wants to find a way into the stop motion biz, or really any creative field that would have need of his beautiful talents, but he still has a few (rigorous) years of pharmacy ahead, and he’d rather see to one endeavour at a time before the next, so as not to muddy both.
Tiny Steps Ahead
Regardless of what the universe throws at him, Amr always dedicates a sizeable segment of his life to his (literally) little craft. Hell, high water, exams or even a broken leg, he’ll still find the time away from life to craft his ungodly adorable and meticulous pieces. He continuously adds to his workspace, and constantly experiments with new techniques and materials to better hone his craft.
I don’t know what it is that forces people to squeal at a miniature of anything. Maybe we all want to be giants? Maybe deep down, we think that if shrinking ourselves down to a substantial degree, we’d effectively solve world hunger, and open thousands of doorways for progress? Maybe it’s just cute. Whatever the case, Amr loves what he does, and so do I.
“I can’t say whether or not I’ll take more of an interest in my pharmaceutical career instead of my miniatures, or whether or not I’ll pursue my stop motion ambitions regardless of a traditional career. All I know is that doing what I do makes me happy, and it makes others happy. I can have both and be diplomatic about it, for practicality’s sake, but I’ll always lean more towards my little world.”