Monday, October 26, 2009

Toy of the week, Monday, October 26, 2009

Sometimes the best toys are the ones you make yourself-- and I'm not talking about paper airplanes here.  Nine years ago I entered the live-steam hobby and it helped me cultivate an interest in toys that are nothing less than miniature working replicas of real machines.  In the past nine years I have amassed a pretty respectable collection of miniature machinery.  Many of these pieces are rare models that I purchased-- much like the tiny table saw.  An ever expanding area of my collection is made up of scratch built machines of my own design.  Some modelers enjoy creating an exact replica of a historic machine that actually existed.  For me the thrill comes from creating a credible model of a prototype that could have been.  Some times I will start with a concept drawing-- other times a vision of what the model should look like appears in my minds eye and I simply begin fabricating parts.

A few years ago I envisioned creating models of some small industrial equipment in large 1:12 scale.  Inspired by various pieces of mining equipment, none of these models replicate any specific piece of hardware.  Today I present a working model of a small railroad crane.  Cranes like this one would have been used around a maintenance shop for lifting heavy parts and pieces.  I built this hefty little piece in the same way that real crane would be built.  There is no glue or plastic parts.   This model is 100% crafted from metal parts-- primarily machined aluminum and steel, and everything is fastened together with miniature nuts and bolts.  The crane is also fully operational.

This is one of my favorite creations so I invite you to step into the Machinery gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities and check out the details of the scratch-built 1:12 scale railroad crane.

Full steam ahead...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Toy of the Week Monday, October 19, 2009

Hayo Miazaki is a legend in the animation community.  Pixar's John Lasseter called him "the greatest animation director living today."  His hand drawn feature animations transcend traditional and simplistic good and evil struggles featured in most movies.  Instead they feature wildly creative visions of internal and spiritual adventures.

Miazaki's film Howl's Moving Castle premiered in 2004 at the Venice film festival.  It went on to gross over $230,000.00, making it one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history.  Miyazaki's films are known for their incredible art direction and vastly imaginative depictions of alternate worlds.  In my opinion the star attraction of Howl's Moving Castle is the castle itself.  The castle looks like a monstrous assemblage of medieval structures held together by riveted iron plates.  It is powered by a steam belching, semi-magical, internal power plant and it wanders around the countryside using four stubby legs that look like gigantic mechanized feet from a claw-foot bathtub.

In 2007 I visited Miyazaki's museum in Japan.  Named after his animation studio, the Studio Gibli Museum is expertly art directed itself, and looks as though it was plucked from one of Miyazaki's movies.  Japanese are huge consumers-- I have never seen a more tchotchke driven society as modern Japan.  When my wife and I stepped into the Gibli Museum gift shop we decided to do as the locals do and bring home a few items that are more difficult to find outside of Japan.

Today I bring you this tiny but gorgeous metal model of Howl's Moving Castle.  Every detail of the castle is rendered on this pewter finished masterpiece, but there are some secret moving parts and surprise details on this little sculpture so I strongly suggest a trip into the Artifacts gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities to tour your way through the Howls Moving Castle Metal Sculpture.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Toy of the Week Monday, October 15, 2009

In the reserved and private culture of modern Japan there is one group of people, like brightly colored flowers in a barren desert, who stand in stark contrast with the bustling crowds of businesspeople. 

While most people on the streets of modern Japan simply keep to themselves, this group is boisterous and vivacious-- they smoke, they swear, and they approach random tourists to offer directions-- they are schoolgirls.  It could be claimed that schoolgirls should be a national symbol of Japan.  Any search online will yield thousands of results that sexualize Japanese schoolgirls, seeking to make money off of pedophiles and perverts around the world, however Japanese schoolgirls often fetishize themselves by rolling up their skirts at the waist.  This not only makes the skirts often absurdly short, but it makes the iconic pleated skirts flair outward.  The rest of the uniform has become iconic as well; from the sailor top and knee high socks to the tiny backpacks.  

Schoolgirl culture and fashion fascinates so many that it has spawned countless movies, comics and animations.  Perhaps one of the most famous is Battle Royale, a Japanese movie which depicts a group of teenage Japanese students who are sleep gassed on a field trip.  They awaken on an island only to discover that they are unwilling participants in a sadistic experiment which will force them to battle one and other to the death.

Today I present some vinyl statues that depict infamous sailor schoolgirls in the style of Japanese fantasy artist Shunya Yamashita.  Yamshita's illustrations feature seductive poses and alluring eyes.   The sculpting and paint is very well done on these toys so hitch up your skirt and grab your tiny back pack and go take notes on the Shunya Yamashita Vinyl Statues, found in the Figures gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Toy of the Week Monday, October 5, 2009

For thousands of children in the 1930's the top shelf toys in the local toy shop were tiny but fully functional live steam engines. Steam power became the life blood of industry for over 100 years. Showing up in europe in the early 1800's in the form of stationary pumping engines, steam power persisted until the late 1950's when massive, powerful, high speed locomotives ruled the rails.

Toy steam engines have been around as long as there were real steam engines. Made from cast iron, brass, stamped steel and pewter, these toys reflect the construction of their full size counterparts. While simplified, the operating principles of toy steam engines is identical to a real engine. The vast majority of toy steam engines produced in the United States are of the stationary configuration. Stationary engines being fixed to a board or base reflect the design of steam engines that were used in factories and mills around the world to power various machinery. When I was growing up in the 1980's I obtained my first live steam engine, a rare WWII era stationary model-- but it will have to be added to the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities later.

Today I bring you an even older engine complete with accessories. This engine was produced by the Weeden Mfg. Co. of New Bedford Massachusetts between 1935 and 1940. I purchased the engine in 2000 from an eBay vendor. It came with three accessory tools that can be run by belts from the flywheel of the steam engine. This is an attractive piece of industrial history so put on your engineers hat and high-ball it on into the Machinery gallery and take a closer look at the Weeden Live steam Engine and Accessories.

Full steam ahead...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Toy of the Week Monday, Sept 28, 2009

They are cute but prickly, meek yet menacing . Italian artist Simone Legno has created a world of cute and creepy characters. His characters are the equivalent of an adorable puppy bearing it's teeth and growling at you; you instinctively have the reaction "awwww, he's trying to be mean and scary". With different series of characters ranging from the sharp and prickly "Cactus Friends" to the bullet brandishing bovines of the "Moofia" and the cuddly but morbid, skeletal characters of "Til Death do us Part", Simone calls his world Tokidoki. A mysterious but sexy tattoo clad woman is often portrayed interacting with the world of cute characters. Tokidoki has become somewhat of a phenomenon, showing up on clothing, toys and designer hand bags. His work is popular enough that counterfeit products now appear in Asian street markets.

Today I bring you a hand full of Tokidoki vinyl figures. I made my first purchase of Tokidoki figures for a very specific purpose. I ordered a set of Cactus Pups in 2008 so I could use them as cake toppers for my wedding. Since then my wife and I have added a few additional figures to the collection. For a closer look, take a peek inside the figures gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities at the Tokidoki Vinyl Figures.

Full steam ahead...

To learn more about Tokidoki, visit the official website.