Engineer turns diorama queen

Young talent: Lim showing off her miniature dioramas at her home ­studio in Johor Baru. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

JOHOR BARU: Turning nostalgia into tiny figurine creations is what miniature artist Lim Pui Wan does best.

Since 2017, the 30-year-old, who qualified as a mechanical engineer, has been making a living off her hobby in diorama-making, which she learned during her teenage years.

It was Lim’s elder sister who first got into the hobby. She bought some books and do-it-yourself models, but later lost interest and handed over the items to her.

“I knew quite early on that I wanted to pursue a career in miniature model making but my mother advised me to further my studies as she wanted me to have job security,” she said.

“While I was in university, I started taking orders and making dioramas part-time as I saw it as a chance to test the waters and see the market demand.

“I’m glad I listened to my mum about not doing things blindly. I used those years to learn the ropes and improve my craft, as well as do proper market research and learn how to run a startup.”

She eventually took a leap of faith six years ago and became a full-time miniature artist, specialising in recreating old memories, including one of her grandmother’s kitchen.

Her customers are mostly from Malaysia and Singapore, with some from the United States, England, Finland and France.

Lim said it would take her up to six months to complete a project, depending on the size and level of complexity, adding that she would usually visit the place as part of her research.

“One of my favourites was a request from a customer in Singapore who wanted me to recreate his grandfather’s sundry shop for the senior’s 80th birthday.“The sundry shop was no longer operating and the customer only had a few old photographs as reference, but from my conversations with him, I could tell that the shop meant a lot to his family as his siblings and cousins grew up there,” she added.

Besides personal and commercial use, Lim said some of her customers also bought her creations to be placed beside the urn of their loved ones.

She said she used materials such as wood, foam board, paper, clay and plastic to make the models as realistic as possible.

Some of her miniature models include the traditional ais kacang maker, kopitiam and outlets of sunset industry services such as blade sharpening.

She said the standard scale used by miniature artists was 1:12 but she preferred using a 1:24 scale as she believed that she could better showcase the details.

Although her hobby has now turned into her job, Lim said she still enjoyed making them.

“An eye for detail is very important in my line of work and I try my best to capture as many details as possible.

“A lot of patience is needed and I also have to overcome my own emotions along the way as I tend to get frustrated if I have to keep trying to get a design right.

“Once I complete a project, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I cannot get from anything else,” she said.

Lim, who was featured in Deadpool actor Ryan Reynold’s “Ryan Doesn’t Know” Snapchat series in 2021, said she planned to hold her first solo exhibition next year to spread awareness about miniature artistry.

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mechanical engineer , hobby , miniature


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