Small Talk Tag: Inspiration

Happy Accidents

toys invented by accident

Would you believe that the infamous Etch-a-Sketch was inspired by the replacing of a light switch?! Originally called, “The Magic Screen,” the toy’s inventor was working as an electrician when noticed that drawing on a light plate’s decal cover created images on its opposite side.

The truth is, many toys have accidental origins. So many, in fact, that the National Retail Federation compiled a list of the top ten most stumbled-upon playthings, including Play-Doh. Its creators had only intended the compound to serve as wallpaper cleaner. The oldest toy on the list is the Slinky. In 1945, Richard James, a naval engineer, dropped a tension spring he was creating for a battleship and watched it “slink” down a staircase. Two years later, Richard and his wife Betty sold 400 Slinkys during a 90-minute demonstration at Gimbel’s Department Store.

Photo: Inside view of an Etch-A-sketch toy showing the plotter-like inner mechanism, with the aluminium dust removed, Wikimedia Commons.

Beautiful Builder Bangles

emiko oye LEGO jewelry

Artist emiko oye told Smithsonian Magazine that as a child she avoided playing with LEGO sets because of the brand’s boy-centric design and advertising. However, her contribution to the Smithsonian’s Craft2Wear event in October 2014 offered reclamation of the small building blocks for women and girls. Using plastic LEGO pieces, oye fashioned bold bracelets and intricate necklaces that rival the high-end geometric baubles seen on runways around the world.

Founded in 1932, LEGO got its name from the Danish phrase “leg godt,” or “play well.” First produced by LEGO in 1949, the plastic, inner-locking bricks allow children of all ages to assemble endless systems of buildings and pathways. Today, LEGO features female characters and a wider range of building sets in its product line to attract young girls. oye says she noticed the ability of LEGO to inspire young minds. “I saw this media that was limitless, pretty much, and always changing and evolving … [and]… everybody has a connection to LEGO in some way … Their eyes light up when they see my work because it touches in them something very personal and that’s how jewelry really is.”

Photo: emiko oye.

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.

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