300 Barbie dolls and counting
FOR most girls, Barbie was a memorable part of any childhood but one Bundaberg woman has not let growing up stop her from continuing to be entertained by the popular figurines.
Creating what can only be described as extremely elaborate themed displays, perfectly replicated to one-sixth of real life, they include a caravan with a working television and a festive lounge room with working Christmas lights.
Rieckie Muchow started making the Barbie-themed dioramas as a way to keep herself distracted while her premature daughter was in hospital. Now 31 years later the intricate designs are helping her through another medical battle - chronic pain caused by a degenerative spinal disease.
"I had a premature daughter and I came out of hospital and I needed something to do," she said.
"Then I stopped for a while when my daughter was little but then when she was finished with Barbie I liked the furniture so I kept it all. I didn't throw any away.
"And then when my daughter was 10 we had another daughter and so there were more Barbies."
Mrs Muchow said her interest in Barbie was rekindled and led her to online Barbie groups and the hobby really took off.
"They told me about this company that makes the miniatures, realistic household items - things that I've never seen before like sliced onions and tomatoes.
"It's called Re-Met. You buy them in sealed themed boxes. It's in a capsule like a Kinder Surprise and they come as a series.
"Once I had these items, I thought 'I've got some furniture, I'll make a kitchen'.
"The first one I did was in a cardboard box and I used washing powder boxes to make the kitchen cabinets and made it up as I went along.
"I entered it into the Bundaberg Doll and Bear Fair and it won."
From there Mrs Muchow was hooked and husband Trevor's skills have also been put to the test to help create the diorama boxes.
"I said to my husband 'If you make me the one wooden box, I'll be able to strip it out and reuse it every year'," she said.
"Well I counted this morning I now have 24. How could you pull it to pieces?
"The oldest one I have is probably the castle."
Meticulously painting sets, imagining new uses for everyday items and using tiny replica items to design varied themes, Mrs Muchow hand makes the items she can't buy.
"I wanted a lawnmower and you can't source a lawnmower so, jam jar lid, a piece of balsa, a soft drink lid, some more balsa, a scoop from the washing power, some Lego wheels and you have a perfect lawnmower," she said.
It's the hours and hours of time spent perfectly creating each diorama that keeps Mrs Muchow distracted and her mind off the pain from the degenerative spinal disease she now suffers.
"It's wonderful pain relief," she said.
"You've got to sit there and concentrate crazily on making sure everything is in the right spot."
Mrs Muchow estimates she had upwards of 300 Barbie dolls and couldn't put a monetary value on her collection or count the hours she's dedicated to the hobby.
"I make three each year for the Doll and Bear Fair. I start in January for the show in September," she said.