Minister’s miniatures

By Karl Terry: PNT managing editor

Jeff and Eloise Symonds say Portales and the First United Methodist Church, where he recently became the minister, are an ideal size.

He calls both small enough to be really friendly, but large enough to provide conveniences and help do the work of the church and make life enjoyable.

“This is probably our favorite size community to live in,” Jeff said. “We’re very comfortable here.”

In his hobby, however, Jeff finds most things are far too big. He collects and creates miniatures.

The miniatures include doll houses and other scenes — both realistic as well as ideas of fancy. The Symonds have a complete room dedicated to Jeff’s collection with more than 20 sets on display and others still unpacked.

Jeff graduated from seminary in 1976 and has been has been associated with the New Mexico Annual Conference of Methodist churches for 30 years. The career has kept the couple, who recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, on the move throughout New Mexico and Texas, with their last stop in Cloudcroft.

The couple also lived in Roswell, where Jeff acquired his hobby 20 years ago.

Eloise had given him a doll house kit to complete and soon he became involved with a miniatures club in Roswell.

“Boy, they got me hooked,” Jeff said of the club.

“I’ve fallen into the realm of creating my own world. It allows me to be in control” he said. “It puts me in the position of being a lot like
God in his ability to completely create a world,” the minister reflects.

Some of the sets started with kits that came as a basic shell. Others Jeff has created completely on his own with found objects. He says he’ll see a case or other object at a garage sale, second-hand store or craft shop and soon it will be transformed into something completely different with a little paint, glue, fabric and imagination.

“We’ll look at things and say, ‘We could use that as a lamp shade,’” Jeff said.

Among the sets included in his collection are a conservatory, a re-creation of a kitchen in a house where they previously lived, a fantasy scene with rabbits dressed in clothes in a garden, a service station like the one Eloise’s father operated with a 1940s pickup out front and a bathroom scene with a little dog, like their own Ginger, unwinding a toilet paper roll.

An English cottage was created by Jeff to be a part of a complete Victorian village of 120 homes put together by the Roswell club.

Most people’s favorite in the collection is his adobe home, however.

He said the idea for it began with a thin spindle of wood that became chairs in a dining set. The rest of the scene evolved around those chairs. It includes a kiva fireplace that glows, chile ristras, Navajo rugs on the floor, vigas in the ceiling and traditional niches in the adobe walls that contain tiny Kachinas created specially for the set by a Native American artist friend specializing in Kachinas.

The detail in the set goes all the way down to the food on the table which includes tiny tortillas.

Eloise, who will soon work at the Portales Public Library, says she understands the passion her husband feels for his hobby. She says she might help out on a few things and offer ideas, but the doll houses belong to her husband.

An art education major in college, Jeff says the miniatures allow him to do all the things he likes to do and combine them into one creative energy, including teaching others the hobby.

Back in the real world, the couple is thankful they landed in Portales and eager to get involved.

“I’ve only known these people here a few months — these are nice people,” Eloise said of Portales.