Small Talk Archive: April 2014

Sunday Funday

Noah's Ark

How did you spend your Sunday last week? Maybe you went to the park, caught up on some reading, played Wii Sports Resort, or watched Game of Thrones… whatever you did, we hope it was relaxing! For children in Victorian times, Sunday was not a time for play, except of course with Sunday toys. In many households, Sunday was considered a day of rest and worship. Thus, Sunday toys were religious in nature and based off stories in the Bible.

Noah’s Ark was an extremely popular Sunday toy, complete with tiny carved and painted animal pairs. German cottage industries worked tirelessly to meet demand for these popular playthings, so much so that the tiny carved animals became known by the workers who made them as “misery beasts.” As the world grew more industrialized in the 19th and 20th centuries, toy companies like R. Bliss Manufacturing Company and Schoenhut also began making Noah’s Ark sets. Playing with a limited variety of toys on Sunday must have become tedious at some point, but play is all about using your imagination, right? We suppose some Victorian children didn’t exactly stick to the biblical storyline!

Meet The Newest Cartoon Stars

Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York

The 2013 inductees to the National Toy Hall of Fame are in the spotlight once again, starring in Leigh Rubin’s Rubes® Cartoons. Rubin began his artistic journey with his own greeting card company, which led to his funny Rubes® Cartoons.

Many of Rubin’s cartoons feature toys in hilarious situations, and the unique cartoons he created for the 2013 inductees, rubber ducky and the game of chess, are no exception!

Photo: Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.

The Wonderful World Of Miniatures

Courtesy Walt Disney Family Foundation, ©Disney

T/m founder Barbara Marshall wasn’t the only one inspired by the Thorne Rooms. Before settling at the Art Institute of Chicago and other art museums, the miniature rooms traveled the United States including an appearance at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. There, they captured the imagination of former Kansas City resident Walt Disney. Disney began collecting miniatures on his European travels, bringing home minuscule works in wood, glass, china, and metal.

He also tried his hand at the craft creating 100 5 ½” inch pot-bellied stoves that he gave to friends and sold for $25 each. To his delight, Thorne purchased two to add to her collection. In the 1950s, Disney began working with Disney Studio animators to create an entire miniature world that he coined “Disneylandia.” He envisioned placing the miniature settings on a special 21-car train; the animated scenes would tour the country and come to life when a quarter was deposited. Although the project never happened, some believe it was the forerunner for Disneyland.

Disney continued to use models and miniatures in dreaming and scheming for his big projects. Check out some of these miniatures from the Walt Disney Archives. And learn more about The Miniature Worlds of Walt at The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Photo: Courtesy Walt Disney Family Foundation, ©Disney

Bliss-Ful Toys

Bliss Dollhouse

Founded in the 1830s in Rhode Island, the R. Bliss Manufacturing Company crafted a variety of wooden products in its 100 year history ranging from piano screws to tennis racquets. The most famous (and of course our favorite) Bliss products were wooden toys and elaborate dollhouses. The company’s founder Rufus Bliss was a trained carpenter who introduced new technologies to his craft in the form of manufacturing techniques; one invention was a machine for cutting wood screws that made the process faster and more accurate.

The hallmark of Bliss toys was the colorful chromolithographed paper applied to the wooden pieces. This new printing technology not only added colorful, decorative detail to the toys, but also helped Bliss achieve financial success through mass production. When added to a sturdy and attractive wooden dollhouse, the chromolithographed designs made for one of the most beautiful toy lines on the market. Today, Bliss toys and dollhouses are highly collectible and can often be identified by a trademark or logo placed within the design.

Art Nouveau Spring Sketches

Jardinere Sketch

We’re the first to admit that we wouldn’t even know where to begin creating something so beautifully intricate in such a small scale. Lucky for us (and for you), Linda LaRoche provided T/m with a behind the scenes look at the creation of Flora Marina, Flora Exotica.

We’ll be sharing insight into her process over the next couple of weeks, starting with this intricate sketch of the piece. First, LaRoche created a rough sketch of the object with the carvings and marquetry designs loosely drawn. Looking at all of her scaled measurements for the jardinière makes our heads spin!

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