Carving Memories from Chickpeas

Living Library: Lorene Patrick, making whimsy from everyday objects.

Entering Lorene Patrick’s home was a step into a wonderland full of fantastic creatures. Everywhere I looked were hideaways, cottages, circuses, workshops & shoes where tiny lives are lived. All of these intricate dioramas have one thing in common, their creator, Salem Oregon resident Lorene Patrick. 

Lorene with her circus diorama
Lorene with her circus diorama

In the 1960s Lorene purchased her first carving tools and began creating. She was inspired by the tiny dolls and miniature toys she treasured as a child. And now, 89 1/2 years old, she shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, her creativity and passion is truly inspiring and her tiny creations are a wonder to behold. 

Delighted by the work of hobby miniaturists, she joined a miniature group in the Portland area. Eventually she was consumed by her hobby & found herself a member of six miniaturist groups. She travelled to England and other faraway places to see the work being done by other craftsmen. 

Slowly she left the miniature groups and set out on her own. Her imagination lead her to create unique dioramas, creating each pattern and piece from scratch. At a craft show one artist displayed tiny dolls made from chickpeas. There, her creative mind took off as she assembled miniature scenes and tiny habitats. 

Lorene carves each diorama by hand, assembling scenes that are the work of a master puppeteer. Tiny clothes, shoes with buckles, fireplaces. Each exquisite detail is handcrafted. 

Look, here. In this corner I saw the interior of Geppetto’s workshop, with several Pinocchios and minute wood shavings on the floor. Tiny brushes and paint pots sit readied on a miniature workbench at the puppeteers elbow. 

Looking in another corner, I see a scene from Wind in the Willows where Toad sits in his easy chair by the fire underneath a pastoral image hung over the hearth. 

Lorene has lovingly created each and every one of these scenes from wood, beans, bits and pieces of gathered fabric, leather, remnants of seed heads turned upside down to be a woodstove for a tiny mouse, and tidy garden rows fashioned from spices turn into cabbage heads and such. 

Lions, giraffes, clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists, miniature bands, popcorn munching chickpea headed audiences are transfixed by the magic that is happening under the Big Top. Each and every one of these scenes are created from a single idea. Lorene starts with no plan and no pattern, simply a germ of imagination. 

I was transported to an unforgettable world filled with curiosity and a generous dose of magic during my visit with Lorene.     

Originally published in the South Salem Senior Center Newsletter, June, 2019

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