Small Talk Archive: June 2014

“The Finish and Color… is the Magic For Me”

hastrich's miniature furniture

Originally a maker of full-sized furniture (do you see another theme here?!), James Hastrich became engrossed in miniature making after constructing a 1/12th scale desk for a client. So much so that in 1977 he sold his furniture shop and fully devoted his time to the art of producing Early American painted furniture in fine-scale. Hastrich’s miniature furniture is hand painted using traditional methods and materials.

The artist’s sample box is based on one owned by Moses Eaton, a traveling painter specializing in faux graining and stenciling. Unlike the DIYers with their plastic grocery bag techniques today, the decorative painters of the 18th and 19th century were highly skilled. Eaton’s work adorned the walls of homes along the East Coast between 1800 and 1830. Hastrich replicated Eaton’s wood paint samples using historical methods such as vinegar grainingsmoke graining, and brush stroke graining.

We’re Under Construction

national museum of toys and miniatures renovation

After many months of planning and packing, the museum staff have relocated our administrative offices to a temporary location and turned the building over to the construction company for renovations to begin! We offered them all of our toy dump trucks and erector sets; not surprisingly, they declined.

While most of the collection went into storage, we saved several pieces for exhibition down the street at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Starting July 2, you can catch our world-class objects amongst some of Kansas City’s other great objects. Look closely! A few of T/m’s miniatures are replicas of work in the Nelson-Atkins’s permanent collection.

The staff will be around town too; look for us at Maker Faire this weekend, June 28-29, at Union Station. We’ll see you then!

Under a Magnifying Glass

paul runyon miniature

While we wish that we could walk into The Metropolitan Museum of Art to measure, study, and photograph a 200-year-old secretary, we aren’t all fortunate enough to be miniature artists. For Paul Runyon, this was just the first step in crafting a miniature version of the Goddard-Townsend block and shell desk and bookcase. Made by the Goddards and Townsends, two intermarried 18th century Rhode Island furniture-making families, the desk gets its name from the raised blocks and carved shells on its surface.

Runyon was so particular that he was known to discard his plans for a miniature if he couldn’t make every single part in exact 1/12th scale. He worked under a magnifying glass to assemble the secretary because some of the pieces are as thin as .028 (or 7/250th) of an inch. It took him almost a year to complete this extraordinary work of art.

Trash or Treasure? Update

just colcord

Last year, the museum featured the work of toy artist Just Colcord in Trash or Treasure? So we thought it was high time to check in with Colcord in his studio to see what he’s been creating since the exhibit. Inspired by a lecture given by Wichita, Kansas artist Randy Regier, Colcord began crafting packaging to display his found object toys while they are at rest. The packaging highlights the individuality of each piece, allowing the viewer to focus on the intricacies of each creature without the distractions of the surrounding environment. Colcord mused that the toys enjoy having their own “room” to inhabit as much as men enjoy their man caves and women their craft rooms.

After looking at one too many vacation photos that featured the beautiful scenery, but not the people experiencing it, Colcord decided to play with the idea of space in his work. Colcord documents his toys adventures in the real world, such as an excursion to Ripley’s Museum, and is narrating these trips in albums on Facebook. Next up is “mobile interactive play sets,” that allow viewers to play with his creations. Colcord hopes these sets will inspire participants to explore their environments with the same spirit and gusto as his creations.

Gimme A Ring

seiffen ring

While Noah seemingly had an easy enough time gathering two of every animal for his ark, we were starting to wonder how toy makers got enough beasts to fill their arks?  We found the answer in the small German town of Seiffen. At the end of the 18th century, woodworkers invented an ingenious method to make lots of wooden animals cheaply and efficiently (and rather attractively, we might add): the Seiffen ring. The ring allowed craftsmen to meet the popular demand for Sunday toys in markets far and wide.

How can a ring become a lounge of lizards or a caravan of camels? First, a cross-section of a tree trunk (usually fir) is cut. Next, the disk-shaped piece is shaped and turned on a lathe to produce a donut-shaped wooden ring with the profile of a particular animal. After the shape of the animal takes form, the ring is sliced like a pie into segments to create each individual figure. The finishing touches are hand-carved and the details are painted. Sounds easy enough, right? Check out this video (and brush up on your German) to see the process in action.

Photo: Seiffen, Staatliche Spielwaren-Fachschule, German Federal ArchivesWikimedia Commons.

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