Lucy Maloney is one of those rare people who found a calling and path to transcend both her passion and her purpose. I sent a packet of my dog’s fur to her with some photographs of a life well lived and forever painfully missed. What was returned to me was nothing short of a miracle. So what does she do that involves dogs, passion, and turning grief to hope? Don’t let the “miniature” in her product fool you; Lucy Maloney’s craft looms larger than life.
An artist working with the sculpture of animals, mostly dogs and cats, Maloney made her first “official” piece of art in 1997. “I have been interested in making dog models since I played with Barbie in the late ’50s. My Barbie had many dogs in her home,” she says.
So how does someone make the leap from dog passion (as millions of us have) to creating closest-thing-to-life-I’ve-ever-seen miniatures? Her late beloved dog, Ted, a Cairn Terrier, sparked her flame. Maloney tried to create an ornament that looked like Ted, using yarn in a wrapped fashion. She loved the result and started making a replica of her parents’ late dog. Using some of her own dog’s hair, Maloney produced a piece so real, her parents were overjoyed. A career was born.
Talent transcends time, as some of the miniatures take months to perfect. “The form itself only takes a few hours, but to get the piece to completion can take days weeks or even a month depending on many factors,” Maloney says. “Some dogs seem to come through with ease, and some need much coaching.”
When I lost Brandy Noel, my Cocker Spaniel, in 2008, grief washed over me unlike anything I had ever experienced. Lucy volunteered to craft her into sculpture form, but I hesitated. I wondered whether people might think I was strange for wanting a keepsake like this.
It also occurred to me that the pain of seeing her miniature version might make me melt into a puddle of hurt, like that which hit me on the day she passed. I’ll never get over her, I decided, since time only acts as a soother of the soul and makes the loss that much more real. “Yes, Lucy Maloney, I’d like a miniature version of my dog, and I don’t care what people think,” I told her.
So as Lucy began the process of working on my miniature, I wondered who else had been affected by her talent. The Puppenhaus miniature museum in Switzerland is home to many of her pieces. Many of her customers have also become Lucy’s lifelong friends. “Two of my dogs are in the Rin Tin Tin museum,” Lucy says. “Daphne Herford, the breeder of the Rin Tin Tin dogs, has made me the official maker of Rin Tin Tin replicas.” Okay, we’re talking big leagues here.
After a few months, a box arrived from Lucy. I called a family member to come open the box for me. It was the same as the day I had to let my baby go at the vet: Please don’t make me do this alone.
What surfaced was nothing short of a near-identical likeness of Brandy Noel. Lucy incorporated some of Brandy’s hair (I kept a packet from her grooming sessions) into the fiber of the miniature. She stands more than several inches high, but the gaze in her eyes, the ever-so-slight tilt of her head, the love in who she always shall be — those magical qualities were brought to life. Yes, I cried. I cry as I write this. Time taught me to let my tears flow, no matter who thinks otherwise.
Beyond Maloney’s talent, there are tools of the trade, and like any craftsperson, these are the items that help define the outcome. “With the help of German glass eyes as well as fine alpaca, cashmere, silk, and wool, I bring miniature pets to life,” Maloney says. She knows the miniature is complete when she sees the distinct spark of life in the replica’s eye.
Lucy interacts one on one with her fans at the Chicago International Miniature show each April and recommends others who want to get involved in the craft do two things: practice and attend miniature shows. She says, “Dare I say my inspiration comes from my real dogs. The overwhelming love I have for them seems to need to come out in my work.”
Size does matter to some, so Maloney makes 1:12 scale for dollhouses and miniature settings, but she also makes many in play scale, or 1:6. For memorial pieces she tries to make them bigger for more detail, and to use the real dog’s fur where possible.
My Brandy Noel is home in the closest sense I will ever have her until we meet again. Lucy Maloney is a maker of miracles. For that, I am forever indebted.
Check out Lucy’s other works at Designer Dog Miniatures.