Small Talk

A Doll Abode with a Simple Commode

New Rochelle Mystery House Bathroom

We often like to ask our guests on a tour if they notice anything unusual about the New Rochelle Mystery Dollhouse. At first glance, the house appears similar to our many other stately Victorian dollhouses: there’s a parlor, a grand staircase and every room is furnished with tiny doll décor. What the untrained eye may not have noticed is that this dollhouse contains something many real-life houses from the time period didn’t often have: a bathroom!

If you look closely at the room in the upper right of the house, you’ll find a bead boarded alcove with a built-in bench with a hole in it … ok, this toilet looks more like an indoor outhouse than the porcelain thrones we’re used to today. The toilet’s tank is the box located high above with a long pull chain to flush. The bathtub and sink located to the right is also paneled around the sides, making them permanent fixtures in the room. While we don’t know exactly who manufactured the New Rochelle Mystery House, we can tell that it dates to the 1880s, which was the same time period Prince Edward VII of England commissioned a plumber, and sanitary pioneer, named Thomas Crapper to install lavatories in several royal palaces. Yes, that’s right, the first Mr. Crapper and perhaps the origin of the use of the word… that’s quite a claim to fame! All toilet jokes aside, this doll bathroom is certainly a special feature!

Making A Doll That Looks Just Like You

Miss Mary

It is believed that from 1845 to 1886 Izannah Walker—and her team of three sisters—produced close to 3,000 dolls. Although Walker’s career happened concurrently with the Industrial Revolution, each of the dolls was hand-painted to have a distinct look and face rather than the ceramic or bisque dolls that were currently being mass-produced. In a male-dominated doll making industry, Walker became the first American woman to receive a doll making patent with her process for making a soft cloth doll that did not break when dropped. Here’s how she pulled it all off:

First, the doll’s head and shoulders were formed by applying glue to layers of inexpensive cloth and batting. The fabric was then pressed into a mold to harden. A rod would be inserted into the center of the form to provide strength from the head to torso. Ears were formed out of fabric tubes attached to the head. After applying another layer of paste and waiting for the doll to dry, Walker would paint the doll’s head. Next, the doll’s torso and limbs were sewn and stuffed. Walker preferred to sew joints at the doll’s elbows and knees—she even attached thumbs and sewed fingers! She would then paint the limbs with the same color used on the head. All that was left was to attach a second covering to the doll’s body in order to conceal the elbow and knee joints and provide a neatly finished doll, each as unique as the child that owned her.

Tag, You’re It!

Worldwide Day of Play

NASA, IRS, NFL, CDC… need another acronym to keep track of?! How about WWDoP? WWDoP is short for Worldwide Day of Play, a concept created and promoted by Nickelodeon, home to kid-friendly programming and games. Started in 2004, the event encourages children from around the world to get away from the television and get physically active. Nickelodeon wholeheartedly invests in the day, suspending programming across all of its television channels and websites from noon to 3pm on WWDoP. Instead of SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, kids will see a message urging them to “get up, go outside and play”.

We don’t know about you, but we need no further encouragement! Tag, kickball, red rover, hide-and-seek, or double dutch anyone? We’ll see you on the playground on September 20, 2014 for the 11th Annual Worldwide Day of Play!

Photo: Tulane athletes playing kickball with Upward Bound Students, Tulane Public Relations, Wikimedia Commons

Hickory Dickory Dock

Clock from Boston Beacon Hill House

One of the more amazing pieces (okay, let’s be honest, we think they’re all amazing) in the Boston Beacon Hill House is a case clock by Frank Matter, modeled after a piece by Eli Terry. The case clock contains the world’s smallest watch movement, which was taken from a diamond bracelet watch by Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Boston Beacon Hill House is created on one of the smallest miniature scales, 1:48, which means that 1 inch in miniature equals 4 feet in the full-size world. It also means that artists such as Matter had to create on a super-small scale without going blind. Matter’s solution to this issue was that he made most of his pieces using tools he created himself. And while today’s miniature artists work under multiple levels of magnification, Matter created all of his works using little to no magnification!

Building a History of Toys

Randy Regier

Visual artist Randy Regier plays with the present and past by creating new, vintage-inspired toy sculptures which look as if they have existed for decades—obviously, we at the museum are big fans! We recently caught up with Regier to discuss some of his work and inspiration. Surprisingly, Regier explained that he didn’t own many toys growing up and rarely were those toys new. On one occasion when he brought home a good report card, he was allowed to buy a 1967 Rolls Royce Matchbox car. The bright yellow and blue box against the shiny cherry red car struck young Regier as something to be treasured. As a child Regier was influenced by 1960s and ’70s American pop culture as well as comic artists such as Bruce McCall and B. Kliban, who also used bright color palettes and witticism to provide social commentary.

Since new toys were a luxury, young Regier often built most of the toys he wanted to play with himself. The toys he made as a child helped him to imagine his future and articulate his observations about the landscape around him. As an adult, Regier uses the colors, designs, and aesthetic he grew up with to create his current body of work. Regier paraphrases Albert Camus when he describes his sculptures as his excuse to rediscover the things that have excited him throughout his entire life.

Look for Randy Regier’s artwork in State of the Art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art until January 19, 2015.

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