AUSTIN (KXAN) — Growing up in Austin, Big Top Candy Shop was a childhood staple for Kayla Kent, enraptured by the circus imagery and mountains of sweets.
Now, Kent is commemorating these little slices of Austin history with “Functional Miniatures,” physical replications of acclaimed local businesses. Each piece is designed to mimic the exteriors of beloved Austin institutions, with a functional element.
Her first piece paid tribute to Big Top Candy Shop, doubling as a candy jar.
Kent took inspiration for this creative endeavor from Small Scale LA, a similar artistic outlet playing homage to iconic locations in Los Angeles. She said Small Scale LA’s work inspired her to look outward from Austin institutions you might expect to be miniaturized — such as the Texas State Capitol — and instead focus on locally owned shops.
“I wanted to miniaturize shops that would be iconic to Austin, but not necessarily ones that everyone would expect to miniature,” she said.
Each model is first designed in Photoshop, which can take about a month to master. Kent then 3-D prints the models, which takes approximately one hour to finalize.
She utilizes resources like Google Maps to get online size renderings so she can build them true to size, as well as captures photos in person or finds historic ones online to replicate all the minute details.
While she is still brainstorming her next piece, she said the reception to the first three have shown that as far as Austin goes, there’s an appetite to keep, and support, local businesses.
“It’s funny because when I started this, I wasn’t planning on selling them,” Kent said. “It was just like a hobby thing. And when [Big Top’s] inventory manager saw this, he was like, ‘I want this and I want to sell it in the store.'”
For Kent, she wants fans of the stores who purchase miniatures to be able to put them for use. Just as Big Top Candy Shop serves as a candy jar, Antone’s Records can hold vinyls, and South Congress Books’ miniature doubles as a bookend.
“Small businesses are just like the lifeblood of the cities that they reside in,” she said. “I really just want people to kind of remember what makes Austin unique, because I think it’s a big part of it. Austin isn’t really unique for big box stores — they’re unique for the small businesses and the one-off shops that exist around here.”
More information on Functional Miniatures, including how to purchase them, is available online.