Small Talk

Look, I Can Swim!

Look, I Can Swim!

This boxy bathing beauty doesn’t look much like your typical doll—she’s equipped with a key-wound, spring-loaded mechanism that allows her to actually do the breaststroke! Patented in 1878 by E. Martin, Undine, as she was named in the patent, probably wasn’t meant for children. Fanciful mechanical toys such as Undine were likely too expensive for child’s play and were instead used as a form of entertainment for adults during parties. While we don’t think she crossed the English Channel or won any medals for swimming in the 1896 Olympics, this Victorian mechanized swimming doll is certainly a noteworthy gal.

Want to see Undine race Missy Franklin or Michael Phelps? We do too, but unfortunately she hasn’t been wound up in quite some time. We did, however, find some modern takes on the swimming doll — no winding required — she takes AAA batteries and has a built-in sensor!

Cast Me a Samovar

Cast Me a Samovar

Like many miniature artists, Pete Acquisto transferred his skills in a full-scale craft (for him, jewelry making) to miniatures. After selecting and researching classic antique silver styles and forms, he uses casting to create each work. He likes to choose increasingly difficult pieces, such as this samovar, or beverage dispenser, in the T/m collection. Samovars were used in Central and Eastern European countries to heat water for tea.

Can’t imagine how someone can make something so intricate, so small? Check out this video from the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures to hear Acquisto talk about his work. Then, see more of Acquisto’s miniature reproductions of antique silver in 1:12 and 1:24 scale online at the Acquisto Gallery of Fine Art.

“When You Were 10, What Did Your Imagination Tell You To Do?”

“When You Were 10, What Did Your Imagination Tell You To Do?”

Have you heard of Caine’s Arcade?! This little boy’s imagination not only created an awesome cardboard arcade, but sparked a movement, and a foundation, to foster creativity and entrepreneurship in kids. The Imagination Foundation’s second annual Global Cardboard Challenge aims to engage 1 million kids in 70 countries in creative play. What will you make out of cardboard on October 6?

After his TEDxTeen talk, Caine is moving on to his next entrepreneurial project: Caine’s Bike Shop. But no fear, TOMS Shoes, in partnership with the Imagination Foundation, is taking Caine’s Arcade on the road. We’re looking forward to seeing where Caine’s imagination takes him next!

She Looks Just Like You

She Looks Just Like You

What little girl wouldn’t want a doll made to look just like her? American Girl Dolls can be customized to match their owner’s hair, eyes, skin tone, and even hobby (gymnastics anyone?!). While ordering dolls online may be a 21st century idea, custom-made dolls are a trend straight out of the Victorian Era.

19th century doll artist Izannah Walker began creating hand-painted cloth dolls in the 1840s. By 1873, she patented her process for doll construction, which covered molded fabric with paste. Walker’s dolls were an unbreakable counterpart to the popular china or bisque dolls of the time period. As you can imagine, these dolls were often well loved, so many of them haven’t survived. We’re lucky to not only have Miss Mary in our collection, but also a photograph of her and Mary Estelle Newell, the doll’s original owner—and in matching outfits no less!

Where it all began…

Where it all began…

T/m’s large fine-scale miniature collection began with this three-inch rocking chair. One of our founders, Barbara Marshall, came across the subterranean storefront of Eric Pearson while shopping in New York City in the 1950s. Pearson began making miniatures twenty years earlier after a successful career as a full-sized cabinetmaker.

He had many loyal customers: Narcissa Thorne contracted him to make several pieces for her European and American rooms now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. And he produced numerous custom-made furniture pieces for Eloise Kruger now housed in the Kruger Collection at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Pearson is often credited as the first professional fine-scale miniature artist in the United States.

What is a fine-scale miniature? Miniatures are accurate, scaled artworks of full-size pieces. Often they are made out of the same material as the full-size works and operate in the same way! Most of our collection is in 1:12 scale, meaning one inch in the miniature equals one foot in the full-scale piece.

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