Small Talk

Small Cities in a Big World

Small Cities in a Big World

This falls into the category of “don’t breathe” or “we thought houses of cards were difficult;” these artists have taken it to the next level. In 2010, artist Peter Root spent 40 hours standing 100,000 staples on end to build a miniature city inspired by New York City that he called Ephemicropolis.

Stan Munro builds famous landmarks out of toothpicks. What started as a 5th grade art project turned into Toothpick City. The City features more than 50 famous structures from around the world (the Space Needle, Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge) made out of six million toothpicks and 170 liters of glue. Now on permanent exhibit in a Spanish museum, Munro has continued crafting, including Toothpick City 2 at the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, New York.

Artist Meschac Gaba made a large-scale model of a fantasy city featuring landmark buildings from around the world (Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, Empire State Building). Seems simple enough, right? What if I told you it was all made out of sugar? Meschac Gaba: Sweetness includes 600 buildings, measures 30 feet by 20 feet, and took two years to build. Talk about sweet!
Photo: Toothpick City 2, MOST.org.

A Grand Grocery

A Grand Grocery

Where and how we buy our food has changed a lot over the last 150 years. Today’s big box stores, drive-through windows, vending machines, and mail-order meals are a far cry from the simple grocery shops of the nineteenth century. Although they didn’t have to choose between paper or plastic, children, particularly girls, in the Victorian era were expected to learn how to buy groceries in preparation for running a household of their own.

This ornately decorated toy grocery (accessorized here as a bakery shop) was made by the acclaimed Christian Hacker company of Nuremberg, Germany. Details like hand painted paneling, colorful lithographed wallpaper, and mirrored alcoves made this an expensive high-end toy. The blue banners that mark the contents of the store’s drawers are in English, indicating this toy was made for export to England or America. The drawers are demarcated with familiar goods like lentils, raisins, and limes, but also some stranger ones like chocolade and greuts, which seem to be mistranslated!

A Trip to the Moon

A Trip to the Moon

In honor of Marble Day today we thought we’d roll with one of our good friends and favorite local toy businesses, Moon Marble Company (as well as fit in as many marble puns as possible). Named one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce, Moon Marble is the only store in the country where you can buy toy marbles and handmade, art marbles, and watch them being made! No, we haven’t lost our marbles. At Moon Marble, you can marble at artisan and owner Bruce Breslow turning molten glass into a ball of fun while he shares his knowledge in glass working and marble history. Talk about multi-tasking!

Since 1997, Breslow has knuckled down making approximately a thousand marbles a year. And don’t take his works of art from granite; his handmade marbles sell for $20 to $250. We’re not fudging! But if you’re in the mood to play for keepsies, Moon Marble also offers machine-made version for as little as ten cents.
Photo: Moon Marble Company.

Mathematical Miniatures

Mathematical Miniatures

Many of the artists represented in T/m’s miniature collection had some formal artistic training in their medium, although maybe not on a fine-scale. For example, Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd worked on theatrical stage design and construction before taking up building fine-scale room settings and structures. One of the most prolific miniature makers, Emily Good, however, had a quite different training when she found the art form in the early 1970s.

Good earned an advanced degree in physics and worked as a physicist and mathematician for most of her adult life. In 1971, she discovered the art of miniatures after making a small Christmas room scene to decorate her home. With her creativity sparked, she applied her mathematical know-how and passion for creating into everything she made and eventually opened a miniatures business. Considered one of the earlier contemporary fine-scale miniature makers, Emily Good was a jack of all trades and worked in a variety of media including ceramic, metal, wood, and fibers.

Visit Beautiful Elgin Park

Visit Beautiful Elgin Park

Part of the allure of miniatures is that they give us the opportunity to create entire worlds in a small amount of space. For Michael Paul Smith, that corner of the world is Elgin Park, a fictional city based on mid-twentieth-century small-town America. Inspired by painful childhood experiences, Elgin Park is a utopian place that allows Smith’s creativity to flourish. At first glance, Elgin Park may seem a bit like Mayberry, but a closer look will reveal some of its mysterious secrets.

Using skills he learned by being an architectural model maker (and other numerous jobs), Smith constructs 1:24 scale buildings, houses, and streetscapes that appear realistically worn and weathered. These miniature scenes are outfitted with appropriately scaled die cast vintage cars. In order to achieve the realistic background in the photos of Elgin Park, the miniature scenes are photographed outside against the (full-scale) horizon, a technique called forced perspective photography. Over the last few years, Smith unexpectedly gained international attention after his Flickr page began receiving millions of hits, which eventually prompted him to publish a book of his photography.
Photo: Studio Back Lot, Michael Paul Smith.

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