Small Talk Archive: February 2016

American Folk Art in Furniture

Folk art furniture

If you’ve been following our blog for a while now, you know that fine-scale miniature artists Jim Ison and Therese Bahl didn’t stop once the bones of the room were finished. They had to furnish it! For “A Tribute to the Classic Period of American Folk Art,” Ison and Bahl made sure they had plenty of seating. Ison created two spindle back chairs with tan leather seats, a Windsor chair painted green, and a Martha Washington chair based on a circa 1800 model upholstered in flowered print. Bahl made a black Hitchcock chair based on a circa 1830s Connecticut model with painted gold designs, and a pink sidechair with painted fruit, flowers, and accents.

With plenty of places to sit, Bahl added a wood swing table with a rural house scene and a black metal deed box with painted embellishments. Ison contributed a mahogany writing desk with six drawers and accessories, an octagonal-topped mahogany tilt top table based on a circa 1800 model with spade feet, and a clock for the mantle with a painted landscape and gold finials. Together, they created a yellow Boston rocker with an ocean scene and a decoratively painted side table. While this may be just another project in the life of a fine-scale miniature artist, we, for one, are exhausted!

A New Frontier for Toymaking

Yoshiya Flying Saucer

The mid-twentieth century saw technological advances in everything from nuclear power to televisions and kitchen appliances. Toys too came with all kinds of new features that allowed imaginations to run wild. One of the biggest influences on toys of the 50s and 60s was the addition of a built-in battery power supply. Indeed, this was the dawn of “batteries not included!”

Post-World War II Japan produced some of the earliest examples of battery operated toys on the world market. With an internal power source, toys achieved new capabilities previously unavailable for wind-up toys including extended movement, sounds, and lights. This circa 1960 Yoshiya “Flying Saucer with Space Pilot” is equipped with bump and go action, space noise, and a rotating color wheel—all of which, of course, are very important for space travel!

Cut Along the Lines

Black Paper Dolls

Just when you felt that you would never be able to tackle coloring in the lines, kindergarten threw another curveball at you: cutting along the dotted lines. A hard task to tackle, especially with kiddie scissors, but an essential one for playing with paper dolls. The kids who played with the paper dolls in T/m’s newest exhibit were well-seasoned line cutters!

Stereotypes to Civil Rights: Black Paper Dolls in America documents the 150-year evolution of cultural images of African Americans from Little Black Sambo and Aunt Jemima to Jackie Robinson and Beyoncé Knowles. Catch a glimpse into the history of racial perceptions with more than 100 dolls from the collection of noted author, lecturer, and collector Arabella Grayson on view from February 20, 2016 through August 21, 2016.

Lights, Camera, Miniatures!

Miniature museum in lyon

Like T/m, Lyon, France’s Musée Miniature et Cinéma features two distinct, yet related collections. Rather than toys, this French museum collects, conserves, and displays a variety of cinema props and objects, many of which are actually miniatures in their own right. For generations, filmmakers have used small-scale models and dioramas as a less expensive alternative to filming in an exotic location, or using full-scale props, or computer-generated imagery. Miniatures can have a use beyond just art you know!

The other half of the collection at Musée Miniature et Cinéma focuses on fine-scale miniatures, many of which were created by the museum’s founder, Dan Ohlmann. Formally trained as a cabinetmaker, Ohlmann works in a variety of media, and is especially drawn to the curvaceous (and difficult to recreate!) Art Nouveau style. Operating in a historic sixteenth-century building, the museum also houses a workshop for miniature artisans, who at the moment are collaborating on a scaled-down version of the Brasserie Georges.
Photo: Restaurant Maxim’s de Paris, Dan Ohlmann. Courtesy of Musée Miniature et Cinéma.

Rolling Out Adaptive Toys

UNF Adaptive Toy Project

Toys can teach us lots of important life skills: how to run a household, how to change a diaper, and even how to delicately remove a wish bone. While kids are busy playing, toys simultaneously aid fundamental cognitive and motor skill development. As Mr. Rogers once said, “Play is really the work of childhood.”

For some kids with physical or mental disabilities the benefits of play can be harder to come by. Often, store-bought toys don’t accommodate for special conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, Spina Bifida and muscular dystrophy. Enter the Adaptive Toy Project, an initiative through the University of North Florida’s (UNF) Neurodevelopment Systems course that modifies toys for children with disabilities, allowing ease of play. Student teams at UNF have retrofitted motorized toys with adaptive technologies that were custom designed with a specific child in mind. Know a child that would benefit from one of these custom cruisers? Referrals to the Adaptive Toy Project can be made through a licensed physical therapist.
Photo: Courtesy of University of North Florida.

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