We live in times in which we are quite often confronted by monumental pieces in museum and art spaces, their size, bright colours and intriguing shapes immediately striking our eyes, filling our field of vision. Yet, faced by an object reproduced in a reduced scale, we find ourselves forced to observe things a bit better, as the object prompts us to stop and take our time to look at it and admire its details. Dina Berman's artworks do exactly that.
A terrific miniaturist, Jerusalem-based Berman creates tiny sculptures, carving them out of wood, reinventing them from paper, bits of wire or rather unusual materials such as matchsticks. At times Berman recreates entire scenes: a miniature plane lands on a paper clip, minuscule bottles hiding secret messages float on the surface of a matchstick turned into a liquid sea, while exquisitely carved ships fight a deadly battle.
Through her charming and inventive delicate pieces – from rocking chairs and rocking horses to bicycles, peaceful palms, boats and trains – Berman retrains our eyes, teaching us to grasp the beauty in details and the overwhelming wonderment behind tiny portable jewel-like worlds.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Dina Berman: I'm 39 years old and I live in Jerusalem, Israel, with my son who is nearly 5 years old. I graduated from the Ceramic Design department at the Bezalel Art Academy in 2003. Since childhood I have enjoyed working with my hands, using different materials to make all kinds of things. In the past few years I have mainly been working with paper-clay or matchsticks.
When did you start creating miniatures and was there somebody in your family already well versed in this field?
Dina Berman: I started creating miniatures in my mid-twenties. It kind of evolved over time. Although I do have very talented parents and siblings, it wasn't something I learned at home.
What fascinates you about miniatures and the miniature world in general?
Dina Berman: My fascination with miniatures is about two things. First, the ability to create a tiny world, and the challenge it presents of creating smaller works of art that resemble or remind me of places or things I would like to see. Second - the more serious of the two - my early life experience of needing to hide. In my early twenties I struggled with the realization that I was probably a lesbian. Growing up as an Orthodox Jew, living a very regulated religious life, there was no place for someone gay. It was against everything I believed in. I always imagined that I would marry a man and have children, so the idea of being a lesbian was terrible and extremely frightening. I was already studying at Bezalel by then, but I lived in constant fear of being "found out" because I believed my world would completely fall apart. That was why all my work could be hidden in the palm of my hand. If anyone asked "what are you doing?" I could close my hand and say, "Nothing". A lot of my work had to do with transportation, or rather, running away. Planes, ships, rocking horses...
Which are your main materials of choice?
Dina Berman: My main medium right now is matchsticks. I also use paper-clay, cardboard, string, seeds and other materials when working on a larger scale.
In your matchstick art, a simple yet dangerous object becomes a poetical thing: did you ever think about this transformation when you started working with matchsticks?
Dina Berman: I deliberately chose to use matchsticks partly because they are mundane and often overlooked - and thus serving to camouflage my work - but, more importantly, because my work can ignite in flames at any moment. The latter is yet another reminder of how fragile life can be. LIke the secret life I was living at the time I began doing this work, as well as life in general. About a year ago a friend and I made a short video of one of my battleships burning. It is currently showing in an exhibition, along with some of my other work, at the Tobak & Match Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.
Your designs and creations are minutely detailed: how long does it take you to work on a piece?
Dina Berman: Each matchstick piece takes a few hours to create. Because I am a mother and also have a job, I sometimes begin a piece one day and have to finish it on another.
Would you ever incorporate your artworks into accessories or jewellery?
Dina Berman: I haven't yet made matchstick jewellery, but it's a clever idea.
Did you ever customise a tiny work of art for a customer? Or do you accept special requests from customers and collectors?
Dina Berman: I used to make personalised miniatures as gifts - but not out of matchsticks. I have also created customised miniature models of rooms. There are certain themes and pieces I enjoy creating from matchsticks, and those are for sale. I always try to create new works and improve.
Can we visit your studio and buy your creations directly from you?
Dina Berman: You are more than welcome to visit my website - www.diniature.com - and we can discuss what you are looking for! My studio is actually a workbench in my house. But, if you happen to be in Israel, we could arrange a tour of my workbench!
Are you working on any special pieces/exhibitions at the moment and is there a country you'd like to take your art to?
Dina Berman: Right now I am showing my work at the Tobak & Match Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. I would really love to show my work at other galleries or museums and I'm open to suggestions. Lately I am working on carving animals, but it's a lot more complicated and challenging than I originally thought!
Images credits for this post
Artwork by Dina Berman. Photographs by Hila Shiloni, Naama Mushkin and Netta Maykon.
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