Small Talk / Inspiration

Batteries Not Included

classic wooden toys

Think of all the toys you’ve played with that came with the caveat, “batteries not included.” Bummer, right? The sheer disappointment that ensued after opening a new gift only to realize its inability to function without batteries isn’t easily forgotten!

While battery-operated and other electronic toys continue to captivate kids (and adults), a trend to revive analog or “slow toys” has emerged. Combine that with recent consumer safety issues from toys made abroad and the result is Americans are once again smitten with the wooden toys of yesteryear. One of the perennial favorites, Lincoln Logs, has returned 80% of production back to the U.S. after being made in China for nearly 60 years. Pennsylvania-based Channel Craft has built an entire catalog of toys that your grandparents or even great-grandparents likely played with. Can the simple joys of tops, train whistles, boomerangs, and yo-yos divert our attention from Angry Birds or Nintendo 3DS? Maybe for a bit. One thing’s certain: they’ll still be around when electronic toys’ batteries run out of juice!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Raggedy Ann Turns 100

raggedy ann

With her button eyes, triangle nose, candy-striped pantaloons and orange yarn hair, Raggedy Ann is one of the most recognizable dolls around. You might be surprised to learn that the raggedy redhead has gone through a only few updates in her 100 years as play icon. Ann’s 1915 patent shows her with very long thumbs, a teardrop-shaped nose, a puffy dress, and a floral bonnet with her namesake on a ribbon.

While much folklore surrounds her creation, we know that Raggedy Ann’s creator Johnny Gruelle created Raggedy Ann (and later Raggedy Andy) for the pages of children’s books. Set in his daughter Marcella’s nursery, Gruelle’s first book, The Raggedy Ann Stories, introduced the doll who embarked on a series of adventures: raiding the pantry, rescuing the family dog, and teaching tolerance to the other dolls in the nursery. You might say the secret to Raggedy Ann’s longevity lies in her softness—both literally and figuratively.

School is Now in Session

IGMA Guild School

Where do miniature artists hone their craft or (quite literally) learn the tools of the trade? Sadly, no, the answer isn’t a miniature version of Hogwarts. Every summer, the International Guild of Miniature Artisans (IGMA) hosts students in Castine, Maine for six-days of workshops and classes led by some of the world’s leading fine-scale miniature artists.

The event, known as Guild School, welcomes all skill levels from beginner to advanced. This year, participants can learn silversmithing, leathercrafting, wheel-thrown pottery, pizza making (yes!) and more from some of our favorite artists, including Pete Acquisto and William R. Robertson. Do you dabble in miniature making and want to build your skills? An annual Guild School Scholarship is available to a promising artist. Who knows, maybe your work will end up in a museum someday!
Photo: Courtesy of IGMA Guild School.

Oh, You Beautiful Bricks

Beautiful LEGO

There seems to be no limit to what you can build with LEGO bricks. In recent years, a major traveling exhibition of fantastical LEGO sculptures has graced museums nationwide. Additionally, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers popping up across the world allow fans to unleash their inner architect. In 2013, master builders at LEGO even built a life-sized Star Wars X-Wing entirely out of the inches-long plastic bricks!

LEGO’s versatility inspired graphic designer Mike Doyle to spend hours creating his fantastical and artistic designs. One of his major works was inspired by the housing crisis in 2009: dilapidated Victorian houses built entirely in grayscale colored bricks (without paint or glue!). Doyle decided to combine his two passions in a new book entitled, Beautiful LEGO.  The book features everything from fantastical science fiction scenes to life-like food sculptures. In addition to featuring his own work Doyle solicited images from aspiring LEGO artists around the world.

Photo: Mike Doyle, Courtesy of No Starch Press.

The Thief’s Delight

william morris strawberry thief wallpaper

File this one under “dream job!” Did you know that the V&A Museum has a Games Designer in Residence? Last October, Sophie George completed six months of research and created an interactive iPad experience to accompany an exhibit. The game is now available to the public in the Apple App Store.

The game, called “Strawberry Thief,” draws inspiration from a textile by the same name. A notable contributor to the British textile revival in the 1800s, William Morris’s wallpaper and textile designs transcended his time. His famous organic, repeating patterns continue to influence designers and artists today. Players and visitors to the museum can use their figure tips to draw and color the fabric’s intricate patterns. When the work is done, the image zooms out revealing the re-worked Morris piece in its entirety.
Photo: Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. © Sophia George.

Page 1 of 512345