The tagline for the American Windmill Museum in Lubbock is “Walk Among the Giants,” which is ironic considering some of the most impressive structures on display inside the 66,000-square-foot space are itty-bitty. The towering wooden and metal wind machines collected from across the globe are worth a visit. There are 200 on display and more in storage. But peer into the museum’s permanent collection of diminutive dollhouses measuring from 6 inches to 3 feet tall, with leopard print bathrooms and wee greenhouses, and you’ll discover the imagination of local artist Alta Reeds.
A bright pink and blue sign reading Miniatures by Alta Reeds hangs inside the museum. “You don’t expect to see a neon sign with your name on it, but when you’re in the museum you can’t help but pay attention,” Reeds says.
Reeds, 86, started making miniatures in the 1980s after she retired from her career as a dental hygienist. Her daughter and a friend suggested she take classes in dollhouse making as a hobby to fill her free time. “That was the last thing I was gonna do,” Reeds says. “I had just retired, so I laid around the swimming pool all summer.” Eventually Reeds did take a class. “I got hooked.”
Since then, Reeds has devoted thousands of hours to her new obsession—designing tiny bathrooms with Lilliputian soap dispensers, carefully adding siding and wallpaper to pocket-size bedrooms, and placing tiny décor on antique tables that could fit in the palm of your hand. When the previous director of the American Windmill Museum, Coy Harris, came to Reeds’ home years ago to look at her work, he told her he’d take the whole collection.
Reeds can’t do much miniature work these days. “My hands bother me too much,” she says. She still has about 40 pieces at her house, but most of her work, 80 dollhouses in total, can be found at the museum.
The American Windmill Museum displays a Christmas village each year from November through January, and hosts a Corvette show in January. But it’s Reeds’ tiny flowerpots, chandeliers, and banana cream pies—handmade or from kits—that make the biggest impression.
For more information, visit windmill.com.