Small Talk Tag: Inspiration

Visit Beautiful Elgin Park

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.

Toys with Disabilities

Toy Like Me

Toys aren’t just fun, they’re also important teaching tools that help children make sense of the world around them. One of the oldest categories of toys, dolls, have helped kids learn important skills ranging from parenting to fashion. What else can dolls teach? A new movement is calling for more toys that promote self-esteem and inclusion.

For kids with physical disabilities, finding dolls and toys that look like them can be a challenge. Enter Toy Like Me, an organization that calls on big toy companies to produce toys that reflect children with disabilities. In just a year, Toy Like Me’s social media prowess has gained the attention of Makies, Playmobil, and LEGO who now make toys representing children who have physical disabilities, use wheelchairs, hearing aids, service animals, and more.
Photo: Toy Like Me.

A Gilded Palace Comes to America

Catherine Palace

It’s hard not to be amazed by Russia’s eighteenth century Catherine Palace. With its sky blue and gold gilded façade, the building is three stories of “whipped cream” Rococo architecture. The interior is equally stunning: grand halls with marquetry floors, ornately-painted ceilings, and, of course, wall-to-wall flowery molding dripping with gold leaf.

Private collector Carole Kaye commissioned Robert Dawson of The Modelroom to miniaturize the fairy tale magic of the Catherine Palace. Nearly a decade later, the finished product has been gifted to the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection at the Kentucky Gateway Museum (on view through April 30, 2016). One of the most stunning rooms in the miniature palace is a 1:12 scale interpretation of the Amber Room, in which Dawson hand painted and engraved hundreds of pieces of veneer to emulate amber. The full-scale Amber Room was once considered the “eighth wonder of the world.” Maybe the miniature Catherine Palace could be considered for the ninth!
Photo: KSB Miniatures Collection.

Get Your Game Face On

Hasbro Gaming lab

In 2015, Hasbro announced a new competition that was right up our alley: design a great game. They partnered with Indiegogo to find the next face-to-face party game. In order to run the competition, they founded the Hasbro Gaming Lab with the mission to discover and develop great new games, connect with the gaming community, and bring fresh experiences to gamers everywhere. Count us in!

After over 500 submissions, Dan Goodsell and his game, Irresponsibility – the Mr. Toast Card Game, took home the grand prize. Irresponsibility is a fast-paced card game for 2-4 players. Featuring Dan’s fun illustrations of his character, Mr. Toast, and his friends, the first player to gather 15 points wins. We’ll be first in line to buy Dan’s game when it premieres. And we may just start thinking about our next big party game idea in case Hasbro decides to have another challenge.
Photo: Courtesy of Hasbro.

 

Rolling Out Adaptive Toys

UNF Adaptive Toy Project

Toys can teach us lots of important life skills: how to run a household, how to change a diaper, and even how to delicately remove a wish bone. While kids are busy playing, toys simultaneously aid fundamental cognitive and motor skill development. As Mr. Rogers once said, “Play is really the work of childhood.”

For some kids with physical or mental disabilities the benefits of play can be harder to come by. Often, store-bought toys don’t accommodate for special conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, Spina Bifida and muscular dystrophy. Enter the Adaptive Toy Project, an initiative through the University of North Florida’s (UNF) Neurodevelopment Systems course that modifies toys for children with disabilities, allowing ease of play. Student teams at UNF have retrofitted motorized toys with adaptive technologies that were custom designed with a specific child in mind. Know a child that would benefit from one of these custom cruisers? Referrals to the Adaptive Toy Project can be made through a licensed physical therapist.
Photo: Courtesy of University of North Florida.

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