Small Talk

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!

To the Batcave!

To the Batcave!

This unique attraction was born from a citywide effort to revitalize the downtown district of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. With a little “BAM!” and a bit of “POW!” The Toy and Action Figure Museum opened in 2005 as the first museum devoted to the art and sculpting of action figures. The museum’s diorama showcases their collection of over 13,000 action figures, with an entire room—appropriately called the Batcave—devoted to the evolution of Batman action figures. One visitor described the experience as a “Where’s Waldo?” of action figures.

The museum’s mascot, Rivet, overlooks the museum, which invites the young and young at heart to find their inner action figure in the museum’s playroom, complete with capes and costumes. The museum also houses The Oklahoma Cartoonist Collection, highlighting the work of artists inducted into the Oklahoma Cartoonist Hall of Fame. The museum’s newest exhibit juxtaposes action figures with America’s favorite fashion doll. Lucky, Barbie!
Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.com

Playful Collecting

Playful Collecting

The new exhibits at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures would not be complete without paying homage to the women who started it all: Barbara Marshall and Mary Harris Francis. Nestled amongst the toy exhibits on the second floor is the first antique dollhouse acquired by Mary Harris Francis in 1974—the New Rochelle Mystery House—and a fire station and pair of trucks from her husband’s childhood.

Mary Harris Francis never lost the connection she felt to her own childhood and this sense of playfulness guided her collecting. She was most attracted to objects that had been handmade and well-loved, leaving T/m a collection of toys with rich provenances that are detailed here on Small Talk and in the museum. Francis passed away in 2005, but her curatorial acumen will always be remembered through one of the nation’s largest collections of antique toys at T/m.

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