Small Talk Archive: October 2014

Our Skeleton Can Dance

lloyd mccaffery

Miniature artist Lloyd McCaffery began building ship models as a twelve-year-old. And he never stopped! Trained as an artist and sculptor, he uses jeweler’s tweezers, and numerous miniature versions of planes, chisels, and custom made knives to craft his fine-scale ship models.

Like many fine-scale miniature artists, McCaffery found inspiration in a museum, though not a history or art museum but the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. While looking at the suspended skeleton of a dinosaur, McCaffery realized the similarities between the spine and ribs of a skeleton and the keel and frames of a ship. Articulation was one of the first skeletons, human or animal, which McCaffery carved. And this skeleton can dance! Each bone, or set of bones, is crafted separately out of boxwood and joined with bamboo tenons or pegs. The 1:12 scale Articulation is joined in the T/m collection by another McCaffery skeleton, a velociraptor.

Papier Mâché Child’s Play

Izannah Walker wasn’t the only 19th century doll maker experimenting with new materials to create lighter, more durable dolls. In Europe, German manufacturers experimented with an abundance of inexpensive leftover materials. Local bookmaking factories made paper pulp an accessible alternative for doll manufacturing. The pulp was recycled and evenly pressed into greased molds to create a papier mâché doll.

With this papier mâché method, German doll makers could create intricately detailed, fashionable hairstyles like the one this doll from T/m’s collection is modeling. Molds were used for many years after their creation, even if the hairstyle went out of fashion. Today, we can actually study a doll’s hairstyle and determine when its mold was created.

Artwork for the Floor

petit point miniature rugs

Every stately New England home needs its share of sumptuous floor coverings. The Boston Beacon Hill House is no exception, even if it does measure 13 x 12 x 9 inches. Seattle needlecraft artist Ethel Forbes Harding designed and stitched the 40 count petit point rugs found gracing the floors of the minuscule mansion. Some of the carpets were even reproduced from designs found in the home of Claire Bagley Hammons, the art patron who owned the quarter scale house.

Like carpets in full-size homes, these creations add warmth and depth to each room. We wonder how long it took Mrs. Harding to complete each of the miniature floorings. That’s a lot of square feet, er, inches to cover!

Happy Birthday to Us!

Thirty-one was a big year for the museum, and we are confident that thirty-two will be even bigger! Although the museum didn’t get married (that’s just silly talk, institutions can’t get married), we did legally change our name to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. The name change reflects the quality and scope of the collection and the future direction of the museum’s exhibits, programming, and research.

During our thirty-second year, we’ll be re-opening The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures with new exhibits, including a brand new museum introduction and a two-story toy sculpture in the museum lobby. We’re pretty excited and we hope you are too. Stay tuned here, and on Pinterest and Facebook for sneak peeks as the progress continues!

Little Doll on the Prairie

presbyterian rag doll

While dolls come in many different shapes and sizes, some of the oldest dolls are made of fabric or rags. Cuddly and comforting rag dolls were easily and cheaply made with scraps out of the family sewing basket. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder carried her rag doll Charlotte on her family’s adventures across the American West.

When the women of the First Presbyterian Church of Bucyrus, Ohio decided to start a church fundraising campaign in the 1880s, they turned to rag dolls. The women began making and selling what are now known as Presbyterian rag dolls. These dolls had muslin bodies and beautiful hand-painted faces and each wore an ankle-length dress and bonnet. Generations of church women made these dolls through World War I and again from the 1950s to the 1980s. Luckily, some of the original rag dolls have survived the years by being passed down through the generations. Try your hand at making your own rag doll to create a lovable family heirloom!

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