A doll’s life

• Shirley Putnin—construction worker. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

• Shirley Putnin—construction worker. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

As a young Ardross mum Shirley Putnin eschewed the hobbies of her contemporaries—who in the early 1970s were taking up china-painting and macrame—in favour of woodwork.

Self-taught, and having honed her skills making her own furniture, she began crafting kindy equipment for the kindergarten association.

But what became her real passion was sparked by a request to make a doll’s house more than 37 years ago.

“[And] it went on from there,” Mrs Putnin, 70, says.

For 22 years she ran It’s a Small World, on Parliament Place in West Perth, making much of the miniature furniture she sold.

Rent hikes forced her out to the ‘burbs where she continues making tiny pieces from her one-woman factory in Kardinya.

“I try to make everything that China doesn’t,” she smiles.

It’s not all woodwork, with clay vegetables and a number of scale-model glass conservatories in production.

Her own doll’s house—a sprawling 50-room mansion in miniature—takes pride of place in the workshop.

Still swimming against convention, has no plans to retire and put her feet up: “What else would I be doing?” she asks.

From her old West Perth shop she established the WA Miniature Association which quickly grew, sparking other groups, becoming, “big enough to join the Australian Association”.

This year the national miniatures conference is in Perth, along with a miniature fair.

“I’m doing a workshop at the show—along with other people,” Mrs Putnin says.

It’s on the weekend of August 17—18, 10am to 4pm at the Cannington Exhibition Centre. Entry $5 ($10 family).


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