Small Talk Archive: March 2014

An Art Nouveau Spring

As everyone begins dreaming of warmer weather and flowers blooming, we thought we’d take a look at Linda LaRoche’s jardinière. Your gardening plans may even involve a jardinière, a large usually ceramic flowerpot holder. Jardinières, from the French feminine form of gardener, tend to be highly decorated like LaRoche’s replica of Flora Marina, Flora Exotica by Emile Gallé.

Flora Marina, Flora Exotica was presented at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and now resides in Musée de l’École de Nancy. Devoted to the Nancy Art Nouveau movement founded in 1901 by several artists (including Gallé) in Nancy, Lorraine, France, the museum has over 400 of his glass and ceramic works. T/m houses the miniature version of the work that was 14 years in the making; see just what went into this specially commissioned piece over the next several weeks.

From Adversity to Prosperity

Margarete Steiff was born in a small town in Germany in 1847 to a working class family. At just 18 months old, she contracted polio and lost the use of her legs, confining her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Steiff carried on though, remaining outgoing and cheerful through her childhood. Eventually she was able to take needlework classes and became trained in several forms of tailoring including dressmaking, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery. With the money she saved up from giving zither lessons, she purchased a sewing machine- the first in her village! Because her right arm was weakened by polio, she adapted her sewing machine to work left-handed by turning it around and sewing backwards. How’s that for innovative?

Just for fun, Steiff began sewing felt toy elephants as gifts for children and pincushions for her friends. Her brother Fritz realized that she had a created a marketable product and encouraged her to make more. He took them to toy markets in neighboring cities and they were a hit. The profits from the toy elephants eventually spurred the opening of the Steiff “Felt Toy Factory” in 1893. A testament to Steiff’s perseverance, the company became the largest manufacturer of stuffed toys in Germany, and is still around today.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Furnishing The House That Abe Built

Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd not only searched for information about the cabin structure when they delved into the National Park Service’s archives; they were also searching for information about the interior. Most of the items in the home, with the exception of the spinning wheel, pottery, weaving, and food, were made by Ashby and Jedd.

The corner cabinet in the back, left corner of the cabin is modeled after a piece by Abe’s father, Thomas Lincoln, who was a cabinetmaker. The pegs in the back wall are a homemade ladder that the boys, Abe and his step-brother John, used to climb to the loft where they slept. The artists decided to include the pegs after reading accounts that Lincoln wrote about watching the snow through the roof shingles.

Moving Day

Every day is moving day (kind of like Groundhog Day) when you have 72,000 objects to move! We’ve been busy at T/m preparing for renovations and planning ahead for what comes after… like the new collection section on the museum website, new exhibitions, and new marketing materials. In January, T/m welcomed Darryl Bernstein and Kayte Price to photograph some of our objects. The results look great! We look forward to featuring them here.

Then it was back to packing. While we wish we could throw everything in a box and mark it “Kitchen” (which is totally what some of the staff will be doing with their offices), it takes a long time to carefully and lovingly pack and track each toy soldier, doll accessory, and miniature dining set.

Where can you store a museum’s worth of precious collection objects? Kansas City has some wonderful, natural storage locations with the perfect climate conditions for preserving objects: caves! But, they’re not your typical stalactite and stalagmite, bat-filled, dark, damp enclosures. These caves are spotless and a perfect temporary home for our objects. It’s very sad to watch the display cases slowly empty, but the changes taking place during the renovation will ensure an appropriate environment for the collection’s preservation and enjoyment for future generations.

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