Artist Phillip Nuveen lives and works in a glamorous world most of us can only dream of, a world of Hermés bags, Eames chairs, and high rises with impeccable décor. But Nuveen is no one-percent mogul (yet); instead, he is an artist who is a master of creating miniatures. It’s unlikely that you would find his pieces in your grandmother’s dollhouse, however, as his specialty is recreating real-world luxury on a small scale.
From tiny Chanel bags and Bloomingdale’s boxes to miniature modern homes, replete with tiny designer furniture (think Noguchi coffee tables), his work is both chic and adorable. We caught up with Nuveen to find out more about the art of the miniature.
How did you to start creating miniatures?
As a child I was always obsessed with building, engineering, and making things. It started with Legos, a lot of Legos! I studied graphic design primarily in high school and college but always geared my school projects toward a 3-dimensional aspect. I love flat design, but figuring out how to design for things that require assembly and construction is much more interesting to me. Naturally, this has evolved into the miniature worlds and objects I create today. I’m endlessly fascinated with architecture, and making the miniatures is a way to show the world what’s in my head with having to obtain a degree in architecture.
What was the first piece you made, and what is your favorite piece?
The first serious miniature structure I made was a 6-floor townhouse. It was intended to be a fancy nightlight in my bedroom and reached over 6 feet tall. After I posted photos of the building process and final result, the reaction I got from the Internet was that it was amazingly well done for a first try. I can’t say I have a favorite; each one is better and better and pushes my craft further.
You’re drawn to high-end/luxury design, whether making tiny Chanel bags or a Noguchi coffee table. Why do you like miniaturizing these types of products?
Yes, this is true. I’m very drawn to high design and luxury. I think it’s just a mere coincidence that my mind formed to value the best designed and most aesthetically pleasing items the world has to offer. I think a portion of my talent is having good taste, and good taste leads to great selection, whether it be what you wear, where you dine, or where you choose to live and what furnishings you choose to surround yourself with.
If you had endless resources, what famous scene or item would you love to miniaturize?
Well, that’s one of the main reasons I work in miniature; anything that’s beyond reach in my reality (e.g., a room filled with Hermès boxes containing Hermès products, a shopping spree that would cost six figures) in miniature is free! Well, besides the cost of art supplies of course. But one project I’m dying for is hoping that some famous brands reach out to me for some killer window displays! Imagine miniature Chanel workrooms, miniature Hermès boutiques, a miniature Herman Miller factory!
What’s one thing that might surprise us about working with miniatures?
It’s easier than you think! I mean, you have to be crafty and have an eye for scale. But once you get the ball rolling, it’s quick to pick up.
What’s the biggest challenge of your work, and what’s most rewarding?
My biggest challenge is finding materials and supplies. It’s a constant battle that has me hunting all over New York City. I try to source supplies locally and try to not use supplies packaged in a lot of plastic. I upcycle a lot of materials and am really efficient with my material usage.
The rewards are when customers/clients write me after receiving a piece of my art, and they are ecstatic and so thankful. It makes me feel so good that I’m able to make beautiful things to make people happy. Validation and exposure in the media is always fabulous as it ensures I can keep working and further my business plans.
Can you give us a good piece of creative advice?
I think the most important thing is to really push yourself. And I mean live and breathe your creative ability. You have to produce, produce, and produce if you want to get noticed. Yes, it’s no fun to sacrifice time with friends, frivolous activities, or living life in the slow lane. But if you are truly determined, those sacrifices are necessary.
How do you deal with creative blocks?
I’m lucky that I never feel blocked creatively. If anything it’s that I’m exhausted or I don’t have enough time to get to all the ideas in my mind. Although, when I’m really stressed out or tired, I take a walk in my neighborhood and it helps to free my thoughts and put things in perspective.