Lill Ahrens’ Small World: A Big Universe In Little Packages

R is for Representationno aliens were harmed in the making of this mini dioramaEach box holds another surprise, puzzle, or word play to discover. Artist C. Lill Ahrens makes matchbox-sized mini-dioramas that are light and fun. They look delicate but their tininess is part of the joy of discovering them.

“When people see my tiny stuff they really respond to it,” Ahrens said. “It’s as if we’re looking into a parallel universe, and when we’re not looking stuff could be moving around.”

People respond to it so well that she didn’t have any of her finished work to show me—it’s all sold. “I just have faith that if it attracts me and makes me chuckle, then it’s going to make other people chuckle, too.”

Making people chuckle, and chuckling herself, motivates Ahrens and energizes her creativity.

Pay no attention to the main behind the curtain“Watching people play with my work and laugh with my work just gives me so much energy and makes me happy,” she said. “I love to make people laugh.”

Humor is a very important element and it bubbles through all her work, whether it’s drawing, sculpting, or writing. She’s a published humor writer and creative writing teacher as well as a visual artist.

Dresser with open drawersAhrens started sculpting as a girl and moved into graphic art before leaving art behind and becoming a full-time writer. Now she’s teaches “The Writers Workroom” at the Benton Center and is on the editorial board of CALYX Journal.

But her visual art muse isn’t gone.

“My muse was in a wheelchair and I would wheel it to an art class and we would do something,” she said.

She wheeled her muse around until she got an artists’ call from The Art Center for a shrine. Ahrens decided to make a shrine to writing.

Eric the 'edge 'og“Working on that, suddenly I discovered that my sculpture muse was still alive and well,” she said. “We’re talking about 40 years from when I stopped. I found out my sculpture muse had been waiting; all I needed was an assignment. Suddenly I was totally in love with creating art again, as long as it was sculpture.

“The hardest thing for me, and the thing I struggle with all the time, is trying to accommodate two muses who both want all my time.”

Ahrens participated in The She Project at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library during June and was a part of the LaSells Stewart Center’s eighth annual Community Art Show held through July 26.

See more of her work online at

By Lana Jones