Inspired by pop culture and current events, Beverly Borrill creates miniature scenes with her pet hamsters. The British school teacher, who runs the Instagram page Harcourt Hammies, poses them in a variety of scenarios from holidays like St. Patrick’s Day to TV shows like “Doctor Who.”
Borrill spoke with Insider about her process, why she loves hamsters, and how her eccentric hobby has been keeping her busy during the coronavirus pandemic.
Beverly Borrill is a teacher who found a hobby creating scenes with her pet hamsters.
Borrill’s passion started when her daughter created a hot air balloon model and Borrill decided to let the family’s pet hamsters pose with it.
“It looked so good that we thought wouldn’t it be cute if we put the hamsters in the basket? It looked really great,” Borrill told Insider.
She decided to create more miniature models for her hamsters to pose in, thinking, “This could the start of a great adventure.”
Borrill has been creating scenes like this one of her hamsters reenacting the iconic “Lady and The Tramp” scene for five or six years.
She said so far she has designed about 40 different models.
Her six hamsters, Marmalade, Button, Sable, Merlot, Sebastian, and Raisin, are the stars of her creations.
“They’re almost human, aren’t they?” Borrill said, regarding a hamster’s human-like paws. “It’s very easy to put them into a human scenario because they’re so sweet that way.”
A hamster only lives about 18 months, and Borrill finds it sad to watch them get old so quickly.
“You get very attached to them, then … oh dear,” she said.
She designs her scenes around events like Mother’s Day …
“I usually take inspiration from things that are topical, anything that is going on around us,” she said. “If it’s Wimbledon week for example, then we will do hamsters playing tennis. That’s how it begins.”
… or pop culture icons like “Doctor Who.”
Before construction begins, Borrill will sit down and sketch out what she wants her scene to look like.
“Then I get out the scissors and the glue gun and the cardboard and the bits of left of leftover plastic and recycled milk cartons,” she said.
Other works inspired by pop culture include this scene from Disney’s “Aladdin.”
In the scene, the hamster takes a magic carpet ride and summons a genie to grant his wishes … more peanut butter, perhaps?
To get her hamsters to pose for the camera, she has a couple of foolproof tricks.
“There are two basic tricks,” she said. “If you have a particular male hamster you want to pose then you want to put a female hamster where you want him to go because he’ll sniff around and look for her all day long. If you got a female hamster you want in a particular pose then you get peanut butter out because they absolutely adore peanut butter.”
But she also has to be ready to improvise.
“Some [ideas] are really successful, and some you think are going to be successful don’t turn out the way you want somehow,” she said. Sometimes the hamsters will eat her props.
Given their sleep schedules, Borrill usually tries to create a scene at either dawn or dusk when they first wake up.
Borrill has even created scenes that relate to COVID-19.
Though she normally works on the models alone, the hospital scene she designed was a family affair.
“Those were a real family effort. Everyone got involved,” she said. “My mom knitted the blankets for the bed. My daughter folded all the paper for the ventilators.”
It took her four days to create this scene of a hamster working from home.
“I generally tend to work around the kitchen table, so the family can often be seen eating their dinner around a hospital scene or whatever it might be that’s on the cards at the moment,” she said.
Getting supplies for the scenes can be difficult during the pandemic …
“The difficulty I have right now is getting to places to buy the things that I need to create the sets,” Borrill said. “Sometimes you may need cardboard or that sort of stuff, then it’s difficult to get to because non-essential shops are still closed. Fortunately we still have the internet, and good ol’ Amazon shows up pretty much everyday to our house.”
… but Borrill will also recycle her old models for supplies.
Though she recycles and disposes of most models, mostly due to space concerns, there are a few she couldn’t help holding onto.
“I kept a couple just because they were very lovely and I really enjoyed making them,” she said.
Among her favorite scenes is a hamster maternity ward.
She enjoyed creating the maternity ward for hamsters because they were so tiny and cute.
Thousands of followers on social media also enjoy her creations.
They enjoy her scenes like this hamster finding gold at the end of a rainbow.
“I’m absolutely blown away people find my very strange hobby interesting and rewarding,” she said.
“To me, family time is really valuable and to share a hobby and interest like that is really lovely,” she added.