Tiny food art sends SAM's fans on city-wide scavenger hunt

Tiny, realistic replicas of favourite foods have been popping up all over Ottawa, and the artist behind them says she gets a kick out of the joy it brings the devoted sleuths who track them down.

Anonymous street artist plants miniature morsels all over town

It looks like a wad of chewed gum carelessly stuck to a wall, but this shrimpy shrimp was purposely planted between the bricks of a Bank Street building by the artist known as SAM. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

She steals her way through Ottawa neighbourhoods, leaving her curious mark in hidden places, careful to evade witnesses and avoid revealing her true identity. 

Her alias is SAM, an acronym for Street Art Miniature, and the little, realistic culinary creations she's planted throughout the city has scores of food sleuths on her trail, hungry for more.
People who discover SAM's creations post their own photos on Instagram. (SAM StreetArtMiniature)

SAM plants the tiny morsels, which have included penny-sized pizzas, diminutive dishes of ice cream and puny Popsicles, on window ledges and posts, in dark alleys and on storefronts. 

So far she's secreted 400 of the little wonders around the city, all photographed and posted on Instagram, along with clues to their location.
A mini Popsicle stuck to a post somewhere in Westboro. (SAM StreetArtMiniature )

Inspired by London street art tour

SAM has been producing the ceramic miniatures for years, but got the idea to turn her food art into street art after a tour in London, England.

"I was so inspired. I thought, what can I do? What can I bring to Ottawa as street art?" SAM said.
SAM, who has managed to remain anonymous, spends hours at her secret studio location creating her tiny works of food art. (CBC News)
So far, SAM has managed to keep her identity a secret. Until now even her gender was a mystery. She says she doesn't want people to approach her art with any preconceptions or foreknowledge about the person who made it. She just wants to make people smile.
Sam fashions a tiny hot dog in her studio. (CBC News)

"I find it really funny. It brings me a lot of joy to do it," she said from her studio, where she spends hours shaping and painting her tiny foods.

"The best part is when someone snaps a picture and tags me on Instagram and they tell me how much happiness it's brought to them. It was just such a wonderful thing to hear, that I had made someone's day with just something silly like that."
SAM posts photos of her tiny creations on Instagram. This tiny bowl of ice cream was left somewhere in Chinatown. (SAM StreetArtMiniature )

SAM's fans love hunting for 'minis'

SAM's devoted fans say they love the thrill of the chase.

"I love the adventure, I love the treasure hunt. I love the fun and excitement of finding one," said Ashley White.

White and her friend Meghan McKenna say the urban scavenger hunt has helped them discover their city as they wander through neighbourhoods including Chinatown and Westboro looking for clues.

"When I was young I read a lot of Nancy Drew novels," said McKenna. "In those books it's always those moments that lead up to solving the case that are the most exciting, and I pretty much go through that process when I'm hunting for a mini."
Meghan McKenna, left, and Ashley White, right, love tracking down SAM's 'minis.' (Sandra Abma/CBC)