Affairs of Toys and Gifts

Whoa! It's the Bennett in the flesh, at Toy Fair 2011
I logged in some serious miles at the recent New York International Gift Fair and the Toy Fair, which both took place at the Javits Center in New York City in the past few weeks. These major events are open to the trade (and press, which is how I got to attend), and showcase the latest trends in design, playthings, house/home wares, and (many, many) related products. Major companies, small businesses, and individuals from all over the world attend to show and sell their products--it is a bonanza of ideas, people, wheeling and dealing, and its takes window shopping to a whole new level.

If you have never been, the shows are organized in long numbered rows, which hold booths that are grouped together by category; the aisles look like this:
Toy Fair

Gift Fair

So, this gives you a sense of the magnitude: multiply these pictures by about 100 and that's how much there is to see! The purpose of my visits to both was to see the offerings through my "mini goggles," but I had to be selective since I only had one day for each fair (both events run over a period of days). I will say that I got some *very* strange looks when I said I blogged about modern miniature design, but at least it was a good ice breaker.

The ice breaker was not needed at the brinca dada booths, however, and I had the pleasure of meeting owner Doug Rollins at the Gift Fair and architect Tim Boyle at the Toy Fair to see their latest wares. Let's start off with Doug, who had the prototype for the new collapsible Dylan on display (I blogged about it here). Doug demonstrated the Dylan and answered a few questions for me as I drooled....please excuse my inadequate use of my kids' Flip camera (I need to get some tips from them!)

It was great to see the Dylan up close and imagine its potential (the scale is still undetermined, but likely will be close to 1:16). Doug let me know that originally there was to be a drawer that would hold a set of paper furniture, but that was abandoned in the interest of making this as light and portable as possible. The paper furniture will still be done, though, and Doug and Tim promise great modern fun. I'm intrigued!

When I met Tim at the Toy Fair, he, too, was kind enough to indulge my lame Flip work, and showed me the gorgeous, gorgeous 1:16 Bennett House. I was happy to see it there, and Tim admitted that it took some late night hours to get this lovely prototype into shape for the Fair! First, a video of Tim and this gem:

Fantastic, right? I really do love the lines and structure, especially the play possibilities when it is both open and closed. As Tim notes in the video, there will be a new line of furniture for the Bennett that will be sold as a group, as with the Emerson furniture. By the way, Tim did note that they are working with a new manufacturer for the Bennett and Dylan, and are confident that the quality woes encountered with the Emerson are behind them. Price on the Bennett: $500-600. Timing for the Bennett: Fall 2011.

Care for Some More Highlights from the Gift Fair?
The Jonathan Adler booth had a lovely showroom space, prominently situated at one of the main entrances. I enjoyed speaking with the staff there, including Starrett Zenko, who heads up marketing and PR for the brand. Will there be more minis from Jonathan (you may recall his line for Barbie's 50th Anniversary)? Not likely, at least not in the near future, but I noted that a shrink gun would come in mighty handy! I did notice Adler's "Junior" display of smaller items for the home...would LOVE those pillows in 1:12!

The "Accent on Japan" section was a real treat, and not surprisingly, there were lovely things to see. I was intrigued by mini paper instruments by Inatome, known as PePaKuRa, or the phonetic Japanese pronunciation for "paper craft." The instruments are laser cut, made out of a single sheet of paper, and they were amazing to see up close:

More paper craft in another booth:

And a mini garden!

Umbra was next on my list. I have many Umbra products that I use in my 1:1 life, but my mini use has involved the ingenious "Fish Condo, " which I enjoyed setting up as a sleek beach pad. Their booth had a storage cube that has serious mini potential:

Even some nice picture frames that could serve as a backdrop, or two could even be used to create a little minimalist environment:

This wall decoration is fantastic as well -- many possibilities here, for flooring, a wall divider, even a ceiling in a room box!

Nearby, there was a fantastic gathering of iconic mini chairs at Karen Alweil Studio's booth, featuring the Australian company Little Nest:


The AMAC booth was like a candy store for us modern miniature collectors...
Little gems!

White opaque sleekness

OOOH! Black opaque!

Owner Steve Catechi was very intrigued and happy to see my open-mouthed reaction to the sea of beautiful plastic boxes, some gem colored, some shiny and opaque, in all shapes and sizes. HUGE mini potential here. Haven't we all used these boxes in some shape or form? The company has been around since the 1960s, and is recognized for its pure design by the Museum of Modern Art. I hope to share more from AMAC very soon!

Other Toy Fair Tidbits

One of the four major trends at this year's Toy Fair was "cent-sational," or the "pennies-per-play" model of mini collectibles and mini versions of toys already on the market at mini price points. Anyone else collect those LEGO action figures??? Speaking of LEGO, I thought of my buddy Pubdoll when I saw this LEGO car from the movie Cars, which was situated on the main floor. Over 100,000 pieces needed for that one!

The HaPe showroom was a highlight. The Sunshine Bamboo Dollhouse was on display, along with all of the funiture; while I have admired it on other blogs, it was nice to see it first hand. I had a long talk with the marketing head about the fun and challenges of producing and promoting these houses. I took some pics of the one they had on display, and admired the smooth, durable quality of the pieces.

We also discussed their new All Season Dollhouse, from their Educo division, which is a more straightforward structure, but still with an eco theme. I liked the hanging mod light and rocket ship accessory!

On to Plan Toys...we're all familiar with the Green Dollhouse, and I liked handling the furniture and seeing some new items, like the flower bed.

Cute, huh? I love how the felted flower buds are fashioned.

Along the way, another company caught my eye, Maxim Enterprise. They do make an eco dollhouse, the 3 Level Rotating Dollhouse, which has some potential, but I was intrigued by their new wooden modular rooms that you can fit together to create a dollhouse. All eco friendly as well.

They also were showing a barn that I thought could work as a studio to a larger house (sans the stalls), as well as a cute tree house that sprouted leaves! The Micro Timbers were pretty neat as well.

Some final eye candy that I love to use in my scenes: Tynies and the Beanie Eraserz, a line of new collectible erasers created by Ty and in partnership with the Japanese company Iwako. I love Tynies and am so glad my local toy shop carries them; it was good to see all the varieties here. Not just for kids, folks!

The Beanie line with Iwako is incredibly cute, and they feature "Beanie" colors. The eraser samples were on view in an enticing row of plastic dispensers, which attracted a lot of attention!

If you have read this far, thanks for your interest and patience! I had a blast at both fairs, and look forward to attending the next ones. If you went to any of the fairs as well, I'd love to hear your feedback!

Oh, a reminder to log in a *daily* vote for me in's Reader's Choice Awards! I'm up for "Best Miniature Blog." I've received emails from some of you out there wondering why Call of the Small is in last place (or close to last place). If you don't vote daily (once per IP address), then I will stay there, folks! I appreciate your support! VOTE HERE! Voting ends March 8.

Toys, Toys

Reconstruction of cutouts for "Noah's Ark," by Antonio de Lara, from the catalogue Toys of the Avant-Garde

In a few weeks I will be headed to the Toy Fair in New York City to check out the latest and greatest in toys, with an eye toward products for adults and kids alike that are dollhouse-related or are items that can be used in modern dollhouse environments.

My first stop at the Fair will be the brinca dada booth. As many of you know, brinca dada is the toy company behind the 1:16 scale Emerson House, which premiered at last year's Fair and has ended up in many of your homes. I heard from owner Doug Rollins (whose partner is architect Tim Boyle) that not only are they aiming to have their gorgeous Bennett on display at the Fair, but they are also unveiling a new house, the Dylan. Doug shared a preview of this new creation, which is...collapsible and extremely cool-looking!

Check this out this demo:

video courtesy of brinca dada

Amazing, right? Doug said that the house is ideal for the "modern doll house lover and apartment dweller" and can easily slide "under a bed or behind a couch."  The house will carry a price tag of between $149-$179, according to Doug. The house has design elements evocative of the Emerson, such as the flooring and style of the roof. I do love the walls of windows and the bi-level design. And, of course, I love the idea of a collapsible house, having seen the potential of my 1940s pop-up, my 1960s Instant Doll House, and even my new 1960s Bodo Hennig school house. Doug and Tim are still working on the specs, so they could not yet share materials or scale, or details like whether or not there will be stairs. I look forward to talking more with Doug at the Fair, and will fill you in soon!

On a related note, I wanted to share some photos from a book that accompanied an exhibition of Toys of the Avant-Garde, which is on view at the Picasso Museum in Malaga, Spain until January 30.

It is a lovely catalogue of children's toys, books, posters, dolls, furniture, and many other aspects of play in the avant-garde style from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book features essays by curators and other experts on the stylistic influences of play in different countries and cultures, highlighting the designs of artists including Picasso, Klee, Calder, Duchamp, and many others. Here are some of my favorite pictures (it was difficult to choose!):

Any surprise that this a high chair by Gerrit Rietveld?

Now THAT's a cradle!

The catalogue, which was printed in separate editions in English and Spanish, retails for about $40 through Amazon or Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. I acquired mine through Barnes & Noble and with my membership and a coupon, it was $35. Well worth it!

Browsing through the catalogue reminded me to share a little toy that I recently purchased: a boxed wooden train marked "East Germany." It is such a simple, timeless design, and will hopefully work well in one of my 1:10 scale houses; I put it next to a 1:10 scale chair for comparison:

Lastly...I have a few special mini vintage "toys" in my collection that are lovely, but I am finding that I will likely not use in my houses. I wanted to offer them up to my readers, in the hope that one or a few of you might like to add them to your own collections. They are very special, and I wanted to offer them here first before trying eBay or something similar.

They are:

A vintage boxed set of Brio Mobilia dining room furniture, 1:16 scale:

The box is a bit worn, especially at the corners, but is unopened and the furniture looks to be in mint condition. As you can see, it is labeled "Djursholm 38380." I believe it is from the late 1960s or early 1970s.

The other two pieces came as part of a lovely lot of 1950s German furniture that I bought back in spring 2009, and are closest to 1:10 scale. I found out that the pieces came from Haus Kathrin (you can see my post here), a stunning 1950s era house.

A  wooden television set, missing a leg, but easily fixed. The wiring and plug is completely intact, but I have not been able to test it.

A corner-shaped fireplace, covered in litho paper and also wired. There is a red bulb behind the wires, so I have to assume it is meant to light up to simulate the heat of a roaring fire!

If you are interested in any of these gems, please email me an offer at call-small(at)call-small(dot)com. First come, first served. Thanks!