MEET the mega-talented modeling enthusiast who entered a TV dollhouse contest – to prove it’s not just a hobby for little girls.
Crafty Thomas Murray from Carlow first got into miniature crafting in 2006 and has since built a miniature mansion featuring over 70 incredible pieces.
The 48-year-old recently put his skills to the test on Channel 4’s The Great Big Tiny Challenge, where contestants compete to turn an abandoned mini-mansion into the ultimate fantasy home.
Although he didn’t make the final, Thomas says being on the show was worth it because he was able to shine a light on his unique craft.
He said: “The hobby of dollhouse miniatures is very much behind closed doors.
“People don’t often admit to doing that, but I wanted to kind of represent and raise awareness for that here in Ireland.
“People always think ‘oh, it’s little girls who build dollhouses, but because I’m a guy, it opens the door a lot.
“Before the show, I thought it was a small community, but I got messages on Instagram and Facebook saying ‘thank you for showing people that our hobby and our craft are real.'”
Thomas started the business 16 years ago, but he was always artistic growing up.
He said: ‘I’ve always toyed with the idea of making dollhouses or model trains.
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“I went out and bought a magazine for each of them, then something reminded me that people like to look in people’s windows, so I decided to do houses.”
It started building on an Argos shelf, and from there it grew into a 103-room mega mansion.
Unfortunately, the mansion was destroyed due to a leak in its roof, so he set about making another one.
His mega dollhouse, which he calls Barkertom Court, now has over 70 rooms and boasts stunning ballrooms, intricate staircases, stately dining rooms and handmade chandeliers made from genuine Swarovski crystals.
Thomas, who also works at a garden center full time, spent THOUSANDS of hours creating his mansion due to the high level of detail.
And this time, it’s guaranteed.
He said: “The ballroom took me 100 hours to do. It was also the most expensive part I had ever built. There were 15 or 16 pounds of gold leaf at €25 a pop. It was definitely close to €1,000 to build.
“All the chandeliers, I also build them from Swarovski crystal. They take about eight to ten hours each to build.”
Thomas handcrafted the entire model and makes most of the accessories himself, using materials such as wood and silk.
LITTLE LITTLE BUSY
He spends at least five hours a day perfecting his craft.
On his Instagram page @thomasmurrayminiatureshe delights his fans with photos of his creations – including the mansion decorated with tiny Christmas trees and cozy bedrooms with working fireplaces.
He said, “I think it’s a way of getting away from it all, you make your own little world, there’s no crime, there’s no that shit, no wars, no dope.
“I’m a bit of a history buff, so I also like to research. I find that very relaxing.”
Thomas’ dream is to one day open his own miniature museum. He also plans to start online classes, teaching people his craft.
And he’s grateful for the Channel 4 show, The Big Big Little Challenge, for giving him the confidence to shine a light on his beloved hobby.
He said, “I had an absolute ball on the show. The reason I wanted to do it is that I always think you’re never too old to learn.
“I thought if I could go on and teach even one person how to do something, or even learn a skill, it would be worth it to me.”
Watch the Great Big Tiny Challenge final this Sunday on More4, and find the whole series on All 4.