Small Talk

An Optical Spectacle

An Optical Spectacle

For those old enough to remember a teacher using an overhead projector as a visual aid for class lessons, isn’t it hard to imagine that device being used for entertainment? Projection technology in the 18th and 19th centuries, however, brought a sense of wonder and enjoyment to the age-old art of storytelling. Invented in 1658 by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, the magic lantern earned its name due to projections seeming supernatural.

The contraption uses a candle or oil lamp to project a variety of glass slide images through a lens onto the wall. During magic lantern shows, a lively orator or “lanternist” would use a series of slides while telling an amazing tale to audiences in a dimly lit room. Eventually, smaller toy versions like this Magic Lantern were developed for use at home. Ultimately, the projection technology used in magic lanterns and other optical toys was adapted for early “moving pictures” at the movie theater.

The Giving Brick Gives Back

The Giving Brick Gives Back

The wonderful thing about T/m’s collection is that it reaches beyond socioeconomic barriers; everyone played in some way, whether it was with the latest, flashiest toy or a hand-me-down stuffed animal. A new Kansas City nonprofit is working to make sure that every kid has the chance to explore the limitless possibilities for imaginative play, cooperation, problem-solving, and creativity found in LEGOs. The Giving Brick takes boxes of long-forgotten LEGOs out of closets, basements, and attics and into the hands of kids in the foster system.

The Giving Brick accepts donations of used LEGOs, and not only cleans and organizes them, but rebuilds complete LEGO sets based on retail LEGO sets and packages them in a nice red box complete with reprinted instructions for building the set. Have extra LEGOs lying around? Don’t step on them, drop them off at one of the organization’s many partner drop-off sites or mail them in today!
Photo: The Giving Brick.

The Birth of Bye-Lo Baby

The Birth of Bye-Lo Baby

With baby dolls going on adventures to the playground, being lovingly squeezed through scary, dark nights, and transported in backpacks, strollers, and tricycle baskets, it’s hard to imagine that they were ever anything but newborn look-a-likes made out of plastic. But they were! The first truly realistic baby doll, the Bye-Lo Baby, was produced in 1920. Before then, dolls were mainly little girls and stylish women made of stiff, hard materials.

Creator Grace Storey Putnam modeled the Bye-Lo Baby after a three-day-old sleeping infant at the Salvation Army Day Nursery in Los Angeles. And her doll couldn’t have come at a better time; plummeting birthrates after World War I meant children had fewer siblings, so parents sought out realistic dolls that could encourage nurturing skills. The cuddly doll had a hand-painted bisque head, a cloth body (the cuddly part), and glass sleep eyes, and was dressed in a white christening dress. Bye-Lo Babies were a commercial success, produced until 1952 in various materials: bisque, composition, celluloid, and rubber.

Micro-miniature Marvels

Micro-miniature Marvels

There are miniatures, and then there are micro-miniatures. Yes indeed, the smallest of the small works of art are best viewed through a microscope or magnifying glass at the Museum of Miniatures in Prague. This mind-blowing museum features the works of professional microminiaturists Anatolij Konenko, Nikolai Aldunin, and Edward Ter Ghazarian.

Visitors to the museum can expect to see super-small works including a flea wearing horseshoes, a caravan of camels in the eye of a needle, and a grasshopper playing a violin. Like miniature artists working in a variety of scales, microminiaturists create many of the tools they use to get the precision necessary for these super-small works. Amazingly, Konenko creates his work between his heart beats in order to account for the small tremor that occurs with blood circulation in the fingers. Now that’s a finely tuned artistic process!
Photo: leiris202/Creative Commons.

Have a Seat

Have a Seat

These three chairs might look like they’re auditioning for a part in Goldilocks and the Three Bears; however, they’re actually miniature replicas of historical full-scale chairs. With green silk upholstery and an urn motif splat, the New York Sheraton side chair on the left was inspired by a c.1800 chair from the Kaufman Collection at the National Gallery of Art. The Shield Back Hepplewhite side chair on the right also takes its full-scale inspiration from that same collection. The claw-footed Cadwalader side chair in the center is based off a 1770 design by Thomas Affleck and features a canary yellow jacquard cushion.

Artist Linda LaRoche received a commission from T/m co-founder Barbara Marshall to create a series of works showcasing her skills. Specializing in hand-carved wooden furniture, LaRoche researched measurements documented in the Kaufman Collection catalog. For the Cadwalader chair, she was granted special access by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to photograph and measure the full-scale chair. Using that research, LaRoche was able to precisely scale down the designs and determine the best approach to carving the delicate details. Unlike Goldilocks, we think all three of these chairs are “just right!”

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