Small Talk Tag: Toy

Steeped in History: The Montereau Tea Set

montereau pottery

Tea time, anyone? Children’s toy dishes and tea sets can be found in a variety of materials, from wood and tin to porcelain and plastic. When porcelain became widespread in the 19th century due to technological and scientific advances, factories began producing toy tea sets and doll accessories. Tea sets became especially popular in the mid-to-late 1800s when Queen Victoria popularized “taking tea.”

Due to the lack of documentation, it is often hard to track the origin of these sets. Lucky for us, this child-sized set in T/m’s collection is marked “Montereau” and “LL,” indicating the set originates from a Montereau pottery shop in the Oise region of France. The yellow-glazed earthenware has crisp, black transfer patterns and hand painted rims. We bet a little girl saved this “good china” for a special occasion.

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.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

kite exhibition

For centuries, kites have remained one of the most universal outdoor toys. A symbol of childhood and freedom, the playthings can be found everywhere from suburban America to Brazilian favelas to the villages of Japan. A new exhibit at the V&A Museum of Childhood prominently displays a colorful kaleidoscope of kites from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Kites from Kabul is a partnership between the museum and British charity Turquoise Mountain. Established in 2006, Turquoise Mountain’s Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture teaches young Afghans traditional arts and crafts like calligraphy, ceramics, and jewelry-making. Videos and photographs of the children who made the kites accompany the installation. A product of the intersection of art and play, the kite exhibition aims to foster greater understanding of Afghan culture.
Photo: Andrew Quilty/Oculi, V&A Museum of Childhood.

 

Jumping for Joy

raggy doodle paratrooper doll

Parachute troopers played a decisive role in World War II. The D-Day invasion, which led to the end of the war, began with an attack by American parachute troopers. With their parachute, the troopers carried between 90-120 pounds on their back. They were jumping into unknown territory so they had to be ready for anything!

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Prager and Rueben Company began making parachute trooper toys. The brown cloth Raggy-Doodle U.S. Paratrooper had a sewn-on aviator’s helmet and goggles. His painted aviation harness kept his heavy backpack and parachute in place. As you can imagine, T/m’s parachute trooper probably had many an adventure jumping out of bedroom windows, and off of tall trees, or maybe the occasional roof. Geronimo!

The Wonderful World of Walter Wick

Walter Wick exhibit

Anyone who has been to a Scholastic Book Fair in the last 20 years knows the joys of the I Spy and Can You See What I See? books. Think of the hours spent combing the pages for each meticulously placed object! The photographer behind the juvenile book series, Walter Wick, is featured in a retrospective exhibition at the Shelburne Museum this summer.

Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic is a feast for the eyes comprised of Wick’s large-scale photographs and whimsical dioramas. Visitors of all ages are invited to search the visual puzzles for optical illusions and ever-elusive toys. Wick explained that the exhibit’s title “not only describes the contents of the show, but the contents of my head.” We hope he has no plans to declutter anytime soon!
Photo: Walter Wick, Mirror Maze from I Spy Fun House, 1993. Pigmented Inkjet Photograph, 50 x 36 in. Copyright Wick Studio. Organized by the New Britain Museum of American Art.

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