Small Talk / Inspiration

It’s National Puzzle Day!

national puzzle day

Most of us (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) can start to feel a bit stir-crazy around this time of year. Luckily today, January 29, is National Puzzle Day! Ok, maybe puzzles won’t completely cure the winter blues, but it’s worth a shot! Whether you prefer crossword, logic, jigsaw, linguistic or mathematical puzzles is up to you.

John Spilsbury invented the first jigsaw puzzle (pictured above) in 1766. Originally meant as a teaching tool for geography classes, the jigsaw puzzle caught on. And for good reason too—puzzles teach important motor and problem solving skills, and aid in creative and abstract thinking. By the 19th century, chromolithography made it easy to create an array of colorful designs that were applied or printed directly onto puzzle boards, blocks and boxes. Even in the video game era, puzzles of all kinds continue to delight us. Perhaps the thrill of completion is what keeps this pastime so popular.

Photo: © The British Library Board, Maps 188.v.12

A Time to Give

Toys for Tots

After Turkey Thursday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, it’s time to give back! Join thousands of people around the world in giving back to communities and organizations this Giving Tuesday. While we think we’re a great organization to support, we love supporting any organization that encourages imagination! Toys for Tots collects new toys each holiday season to distribute to children across the United States. The Toys for Tots Foundation received its official status as a U.S. Marine Corps program in 1995. Over the next ten years, the organization collected more than 469 million toys for more than 216 million children!

To participate in the 2014 drive, pick up a toy or two the next time you are out for deposit in an official drop-off bin near you. Conveniently, all Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us locations nationwide are Toys for Tots drop-off locations. Don’t have one nearby? You can donate money or purchase toys online to be included in the collection.

Match Box Dolls Make a Comeback

match box dolls

What happens when you mix a Beanie Baby and a Polly Pocket? Well, you might end up with a match box doll!  Popular in the 1970s, these bean-filled dolls are small enough to fit inside of a match box, which doubles as the doll’s bed. Though they didn’t gain much popularity in North America, match box dolls were all the rage in other countries around the world as an inexpensive alternative to the popular toys offered in the United States at the time.

Today, match box dolls are making a comeback in North and South America. After being unable to find a doll similar to the ones she played with growing up in Cyprus and Greece, entrepreneur and mother of three Elizabeth Cross created Stork Babies. Each of these modern match box dolls come with a personality all their own: a Spanish gal named Carisa, for example, encourages everyone to “enjoy the world and all the beautiful things it has to offer, especially ice cream!” Cross’s daughters (ages 6, 10 and 11) act as the company’s Vice Presidents of Design, insuring that the dolls are on-trend and of course maintain maximum cuteness.

Tag, You’re It!

worldwide day of play 2014

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

Building a History of Toys

randy regier art

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.

Page 1 of 3123