In a world that constantly implores us to “think big,” Jedediah Corwyn Voltz has built his professional and artistic life by doing just the opposite. A solid 6 feet 7 inches tall, Voltz stands in Viking-like contrast to the miniature realms he constructs with meticulous care.
By day, the 41-year-old Los Angeles artist crafts sets and props for stop-motion animation commercials. A recent holiday campaign for Honda found him fabricating Lilliputian reindeer, snowcapped trees, chainsaws, gingerbread men, and Santa’s microbrewery – stocked with pint-sized bottles of “Jingle Brew.” Voltz started crafting his own vignettes about seven years ago, after noticing the piles of wood, plastic, metal, and fabric left over after shoots. “It was such a waste,” Voltz says. “On a whim I built a platform into the branches of a plant, and furnished it with pieces I made from the scrap. And here I am – 50 tree houses later.”
While the early pieces were more literal interpretations of tree houses – outfitted with tire swings, ladders, sleeping bags – the arboreal dwellings have become increasingly complex. “Now they’re more realistic, whether homes or more industrial settings, with multiple levels, staircases, décor, and mechanical moving parts,” explains Voltz. “And I include more of myself. I’m a dedicated collector/hoarder. My house is stuffed with plants, minerals, artifacts, and art projects, which I recreate in shrunken form.” Although many of his tableaux are anchored into succulents and small trees, Voltz also fabricates free-standing stilt houses that he sets directly into pots, with or without a plant.
The artist’s fascination with mythical places imbued with magical properties started young. A self-described “fantasy nerd” who dug up his garden to create backdrops for his toys, Voltz was weaned on Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons by his parents (who named him as a riff on Ged, a character from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea realm). As an adult, Voltz’s imagination seems to have only grown richer, and his intricate scenes are like maquettes for fantastical worlds: crumbling Gothic spires turned into lighthouses, radio stations run by pirates, breweries for secret potions, and a castle replete with mechanical thrones, silver furniture, and wall-mounted weaponry.
Voltz earned a BFA in illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2002 and later moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a set dresser for some “great low-budget horror films” before getting into commercials. Already a wizard at repurposing items many of us regard as trash (a berry basket might be transformed into a skylight one day, stained-glass windows or speaker grills the next), Voltz also took classes in ceramics and jewelry making, becoming adept at throwing the pots that house his plants and fabricating delicate metal objects. “There’s a joy that comes from figuring out how to replicate something on a shrunken scale, and watching some mundane thing – a sword or a skateboard or a bed – come to life,” says Voltz.
As his work began to reach a wider audience through Instagram (11.6k followers), Voltz attracted the attention of the larger miniaturist community, including Darren Thomas Scala, proprietor of D. Thomas Fine Miniatures gallery in the Hudson River Valley and a passionate promoter of miniaturism as a fine art genre. “I’m particularly excited about makers like Jedediah, who are pushing boundaries by creating and furnishing their own, sometimes edgy, worlds,” says Scala. Voltz’s History Jug and Tech Jug – a historical juxtaposition of two contrasting scenes he built directly into a split ceramic vessel – was part of “BadAss Miniatures,” a show Scala curated in 2018.
These days, Voltz prefers to personalize his commissions by embedding objects with special meaning for their owners into his pieces – a portrait, an artifact from their travels or hobby, or a pet. Says Voltz, “There’s so much crazy stuff going on in the real world, it’s really nice to have a more magical place to come home to.”