Small Talk

Decision 2016: The Nominees

Decision 2016: The Nominees

Another election year is upon us, and the stakes are especially high this time! Yes, that’s right, it’s time once again for Americans to fulfill their civic duty and vote for the next inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame. While we wouldn’t dare make a political endorsement here, we will introduce you to the candidates.

The polls are in and the race has been narrowed down to twelve. This year, a rainbow of toys including coloring books, Care Bears, Transformers, and Uno make for some colorful options. Also in the running are classic board games Clue and Dungeons and Dragons. Of course, who can deny the contributions that perennial favorites Nerf, pinball, and Fisher-Price Little People have made? We’re not sure which states they’re from, but the red versus blue Rock’em Sock’em Robots are also duking it out for the prize. Some unconventional candidates have emerged this year as well. The tactile fun of bubble wrap appeals to all generations of constituents. And it goes without saying that “swing voters” will undoubtedly cast their votes for, well, the swing. Stay tuned for election results this November!
Photo: Courtesy of The Strong®, Rochester, New York.

Inspiring a Fine-Scale Collection

Inspiring a Fine-Scale Collection

On Small Talk, we’ve already looked at three miniature commissions in the early 20th century that helped spark the fine-scale miniature movement: Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, and the Thorne Rooms. All three commissions employed full-scale craftsmen to create miniature versions of their work for public exhibition. But how did the museum’s collection come to be?

Museum founder Barbara Marshall loved small things. Contrary to most children, she always looked forward to getting the “smallest” present. In the 1950s, she discovered the shop of Eric Pearson, one of the craftsman hired to furnish the Thorne Rooms. A 1:12 scale Pearson rocking chair began her collection that is now the largest in the world. Stay tuned for more about Marshall and the gigantic, miniature collection she built.

Details Wright to Scale

Details Wright to Scale

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s belief in gesamtkunstwerk or “total work of art” meant that all the components of his designs matched each other, as seen in the art glass cabinetry, windows, and furniture in the William Martin Breakfast Room. In order to get the sharp geometric details just right in miniature, artists Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd had to rely on some pretty clever techniques to emulate the look of leaded glass. First, Jedd fabricated the art glass panes out of strip styrene glued to 1/8 inch glass. Ashby then applied several layers of acrylic paint, bronzing powder, and gel medium to emulate the texture of leading.

Prairie Style accessories in the room include works by a variety of other artists. Ceramics by Jane Mellick and Carol Mann sit on a matching table in the window. Delicate glassware by Jacqueline Kerr Dieber is kept in the built-in cabinets. And of course you can’t get much more “prairie style” than the floral arrangement of grasses and black-eyed Susans on the table by Nancy Van DeLoo.

Tonka Tough

Tonka Tough

Before trucks were built Ford tough, Tonka toy trucks were strong enough for an elephant to stand on (we’re not kidding… it was the focus of a 1970s advertising campaign for the company founded on the idea that “a toy shouldn’t break just because a child plays with it”). Originally named Mound Metalcraft for the company’s home in Mound, Minnesota, the name was changed in 1955 to Tonka Trucks (“tanka” meaning big in Sioux) when the company shifted from tie racks and garden tools to metal construction toys.

And their first toy wasn’t even a dump truck! The manufacturing lines first turned out cranes and steam shovels, selling 37,000. By 1955, demand for the realistic, durable, and heavy, automobile-grade, 20-gauge steel trucks took off with baby boomer parents, and the excess of postwar steel made them cheap to produce.

When the Mighty Dump Truck did come along, it weighed in at 11 pounds, complete with solid rubber tires. Since then, an estimated 15 million have been sold. While T/m’s circa 1955 version isn’t yellow, it was still the go-to for dumping and hauling sand in the neighborhood sandbox.

Furniture Wright to Scale

Furniture Wright to Scale

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed his buildings and homes in their entirety, often right down to the furniture. Wright believed that architecture should be suited to its environment, and similarly the components of a home should match the architecture. As a result, the art glass windows, built-in cabinetry, and dining set in the William E. Martin House all tie in with the home’s Prairie style aesthetic.

Taking Wright’s principles into account, artists Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd built the Martin House dining table and chairs to match the original design. Just like in the room’s trim, they substituted quarter sawn oak for cherry for its small grain and workability. The top of the chairs also contain mother of pearl inlay to mirror the art glass design in the window. Other handcrafted, Prairie style accessories in the room include works by a variety of artists, which we’ll look at next time!

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