Small Talk Archive: September 2013

Cast Me a Samovar

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Like many miniature artists, Pete Acquisto transferred his skills in a full-scale craft (for him, jewelry making) to miniatures. After selecting and researching classic antique silver styles and forms, he uses casting to create each work. He likes to choose increasingly difficult pieces, such as this samovar, or beverage dispenser, in the T/m collection. Samovars were used in Central and Eastern European countries to heat water for tea.

Can’t imagine how someone can make something so intricate, so small? Check out this video from the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures to hear Acquisto talk about his work. Then, see more of Acquisto’s miniature reproductions of antique silver in 1:12 and 1:24 scale online at the Acquisto Gallery of Fine Art.

“When You Were 10, What Did Your Imagination Tell You To Do?”

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Have you heard of Caine’s Arcade?! This little boy’s imagination not only created an awesome cardboard arcade, but sparked a movement, and a foundation, to foster creativity and entrepreneurship in kids. The Imagination Foundation’s second annual Global Cardboard Challenge aims to engage 1 million kids in 70 countries in creative play. What will you make out of cardboard on October 6?

After his TEDxTeen talk, Caine is moving on to his next entrepreneurial project: Caine’s Bike Shop. But no fear, TOMS Shoes, in partnership with the Imagination Foundation, is taking Caine’s Arcade on the road. We’re looking forward to seeing where Caine’s imagination takes him next!

She Looks Just Like You

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What little girl wouldn’t want a doll made to look just like her? American Girl Dolls can be customized to match their owner’s hair, eyes, skin tone, and even hobby (gymnastics anyone?!). While ordering dolls online may be a 21st century idea, custom-made dolls are a trend straight out of the Victorian Era.

19th century doll artist Izannah Walker began creating hand-painted cloth dolls in the 1840s. By 1873, she patented her process for doll construction, which covered molded fabric with paste. Walker’s dolls were an unbreakable counterpart to the popular china or bisque dolls of the time period. As you can imagine, these dolls were often well loved, so many of them haven’t survived. We’re lucky to not only have Miss Mary in our collection, but also a photograph of her and Mary Estelle Newell, the doll’s original owner—and in matching outfits no less!

Where it all began…

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T/m’s large fine-scale miniature collection began with this three-inch rocking chair. One of our founders, Barbara Marshall, came across the subterranean storefront of Eric Pearson while shopping in New York City in the 1950s. Pearson began making miniatures twenty years earlier after a successful career as a full-sized cabinetmaker.

He had many loyal customers: Narcissa Thorne contracted him to make several pieces for her European and American rooms now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. And he produced numerous custom-made furniture pieces for Eloise Kruger now housed in the Kruger Collection at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Pearson is often credited as the first professional fine-scale miniature artist in the United States.

What is a fine-scale miniature? Miniatures are accurate, scaled artworks of full-size pieces. Often they are made out of the same material as the full-size works and operate in the same way! Most of our collection is in 1:12 scale, meaning one inch in the miniature equals one foot in the full-scale piece.

Big Changes are A’Comin

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We’d like to introduce you to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures! Starting this January, the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City will transform into The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

What do you mean by “transform?” Well, we’ll be pausing museum operations on January 6, 2014 for a while so we can fix our building’s temperature and humidity issues, and create new exhibits. When we’re all done, we’ll be better able to share one of the United States’s largest collections of antique toys on public display and the world’s largest collection of fine-scale miniatures with you.

In the meantime, check back here often to learn about our collection and other toy and miniature collections around the world, see what inspires us from thought-provoking projects to invigorating individuals, and learn more about T/m’s past and future, including some radical photos from the 1980s.

Watch our renovation project unfold on our Facebook page and pin your favorite museum objects from our Pinterest boards.