Small Talk

An Impressive Press

An Impressive Press

In November 2013, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History accepted a small depiction of American history from an unlikely source. Before retiring from Duke University’s Divinity School, Professor Richard Heitzenrater created a miniature replica of the printing press Benjamin Franklin used as an apprentice between 1725 and 1726. Heitzenrater used the small piece as a teaching tool, showing his students the intricate process behind 18th century printmaking.

The small press’s construction so matches that of the original press that tiny wooden pegs hold almost all of the item’s joints together. Heizenrater’s miniature joins the original, full-sized press, which the museum has owned since 1901. And both of the Smithsonian items also match T/m’s fully functional miniature press, pictured above, by William L. Gould.

The Walls of 17 Winter Street

The Walls of 17 Winter Street

Like many young ladies near the turn of the century, Mamie Burt learned household management as she decorated and played with the dolls (and animals) that lived inside her dollhouse. Many of the rooms, from the music room to the hallway, are decorated with original wallpaper and gold cornices. Most likely Mamie used leftover pieces of real wallpaper to decorate her dollhouse. We like to imagine that her dollhouse looked a lot like the rooms in her real house.

Look on the far left and you’ll see that the parlor even has a pocket door! Pocket doors were common in Victorian homes to close off sitting rooms and dens, and a practical solution for a dollhouse where there is no room for the swing of a hinged door.

Framing the Miniature Madame

Framing the Miniature Madame

When we’re visiting another museum or gallery, we’ll admit it’s easy to miss what’s around the works of art: the frames. Which is a shame, because they are often works of art themselves! The same might be true of framed fine-scale miniature paintings. Upon closer inspection however, these gilded borders really shine. As we’ve discussed previously on SmallTalk, Johannes Landman is a miniaturist in a range of media. Once Landman had completed the miniature painting Madame de Pompadour, he mounted it in a custom-made frame.

To achieve fine-scale miniature accuracy, Landman used western ewe wood for its fine grain. He was able to shape the curves and tiny details of the frame using a Flexcut carving tool. Lastly, Landman gilded the wood using 24 karat gold imported from Italy. The finished product is a beautiful and classically designed frame fit for a queen … or in this case, a royal mistress!

Banned for Life

Banned for Life

You’re probably familiar with The Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, where rejected playthings find community amongst ice and snow hoping for a ride in Santa’s sleigh. (Who wouldn’t want a water gun that shoots jelly?!) In reality, lawmakers and the public call for the removal of many “misfit” toys from store shelves for safety reasons ranging from choking hazards to toxic paint.

Luckily, the Banned Toy Museum in Burlingame, California provides a home for prohibited toys. Started in 2009, this collection features everything from hand-chomping Cabbage Patch dolls and lead-painted Sponge Bob notebooks to science kits containing uranium ore samples. Like the rest of the museum’s objects, these were banned for being too offensive or hazardous to consumers. It may not be a ride with Santa, but the museum will preserve these ill-fated playthings for years to come!

Photo: Battlestar Galactica Missile Launcher, 1979, Mattel, United States. Courtesy of the Banned Toy Museum.

Teddy Bear Tales

Teddy Bear Tales

Who exactly protects us from those things that go “bump” in the night as kids? According to comic artists Nick Davis and Dan Nokes, “He has amber eyes, yet he never blinks, a smiley mouth, yet never talks. And if you look closely enough, you can see a little white stuffing poking out of his portly-shaped belly.” Davis and Nokes created a dream team of monster-fighting heroes with an unlikely source as its leader: a teddy bear named Tristan.  Calling themselves the Cuddly Defenders, the gang of plush toys defends children from the dangers of monsters under the bed in a quarterly, 24-page epic series.

The project received funding this past November through a Kickstarter campaign. Now in full production, the ever-expanding comic series is available online. Fans of the series (or those who may have a monster under the bed) can also purchase handmade plush versions of their favorite characters on the site.

Photo: Courtesy of Nick Davis.

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