C+C Mini Factory: Small Scale, Big ImpactAug 29, 2022 04:15PM ● By Jonathan Orozco
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Quinn Metal Corbin, half of the duo of the insta-famous C+C Mini Factory, hates being asked this question: “Do you make everything?”
She always gives a succinct response, saying, “we’re not miniaturists—we’re photographers, we're artists. If you take a photo of a person, would you say you made the person?”
Originally from Dundee, Corbin studied theater in Pittsburgh and London, but eventually settled back in her hometown. Like most creatives in Omaha, Corbin left for reportedly greener pastures and found herself in New York City.
“I knew I wanted to do more visually. I was working in high-pressure, intensive theater places on the administrative side. I really wanted to do something creative. I was constantly surrounded by creative things but never engaged in it,” Corbin said.
Corbin met Chelsea Cates, an installation artist and graphic designer, around 2007, and the two formed C+C Mini Factory in 2012.
Cates, like most New Yorkers, struggled to find enough studio space for large-scale projects, so Corbin suggested they team up and use Corbin’s miniature collection to make small-scale installations. The objects they use may be small, but Corbin’s massive inventory includes such delightful items as skeletons, menorahs and dreidels, roulette tables and slot machines, and 20th century modernist furniture.
They work together, and, at times, independently, to curate interiors, natural landscapes, and even spaced-themed stories, all with miniature animals. Like most artists, Corbin and Cates retained full-time jobs and practiced art on the side.
Around the mid-2010s the group blew up on Instagram. Corbin vividly remembers the moment, saying the group only had around 300 followers one day and 40,000 the next. After Instagram decided to feature the duo, their professional careers took off.
Commission requests came in from brands such as Starbucks, Refinery 29, Mozilla Firefox, and florist Putnam and Putnam, among many others, for cutesy little scenes by the duo.
Corbin recalled getting a call from an agency asking if they'd be interested in working with a coffee house based in Seattle. The agency did not mention the company’s name, but Corbin knew right away they were representing the coffee giant Starbucks. She said, “They were sort of like, 'we can't tell you who but it's a giant Seattle coffee company…'”
Still riding the media high, C+C Mini Factory was nominated in the Best Instagrammer category at the Seventh Annual Shorty Awards in New York City. This was no easy feat, since the group was in competition with celebrities such as actress Mindy Kaling, singer Justin Bieber, and fashion designer Kate Spade. Not expecting to win, Corbin and Cates weren't planning on attending the award ceremony at The Times Center. C+C Mini Factory won, and the duo ended up attending in person.
After their period of media success, the group began to shop
around for a publisher for their next project: a children’s book of their photographs.
“We always intended our work to be nostalgic. We didn’t intend the work to be for children, but we wouldn’t be offended by that outcome,” Corbin said.
A Night at the Farm came out in February 2021, a time when so many schools and libraries were closed. In a way, the book existed in a void.
This didn’t stop the group, and they are developing an adaptation of their book at The Rose Theater with the help of Jackie Kappes, the education director and a teaching artist at the theater.
Other C+C Mini Factory ventures include: holiday stationery, such as Valentine’s Day Cards and yearly calendars, and hopefully a television series adaptation mixing the Muppets and Pee-wee Herman.
Corbin is now in Omaha and Cates is living on the West Coast, which has made collaborating on their work more challenging.
Cates said, “Our moves have forced us to develop ways to carve out dedicated time to work together so I'm excited to be applying for residencies or retreats that will allow us to come together and work intensely on specific projects.”
Visit @ccminifactory on Instagram to learn more.
This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.