Illustration Daily – Day 133: Dollhouse

Dollhouses were originally called “baby houses” and weren’t intended for children, instead they were elaborate display cases for carefully crafted miniatures made and collected by adults. However, in the 17th and 18th centuries workshops in Germany began to produce dollhouses for children, and dollhouses have enjoyed a popularity with both groups ever since. My favorite dollhouses are those created by Frances Glessner Lee. Lee’s doll houses called the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” are crime scenes in miniature, designed to train investigators to observe, evaluate, and ultimately discover the cause of death. They are extremely intricate and delightfully macabre.  

133Dollhouse

Dollhouse, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 132: Top

The spinning top is another toy that has roots that stretch into antiquity. Used as a toy, a gambling device, a tool for prophecy, and as an alternative to dice; the simple spinning top, has certainly earned its’ place in children’s toy boxes. Honestly, though most tops don’t spin for that long but craftsmen in Japan have recently created a top that can spin for almost 20 minutes. Which is impressive, but perhaps a bit too long to still be entertaining. 

132Top

Top, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 131: Roller Skates

I love museums and I am particularly amused by highly specific museums. So, if I ever make it to Lincoln, Nebraska, I’ll have to see the National Museum of Roller Skating. The museum houses exhibits that feature the evolution of the roller skate wheel, 19th century patents, and “holds the largest, most varied, and unique collection of antique roller skates in the world.” Roller skates can be a lot of fun (unless you get a scraped knee) but they aren’t just toys. For the Amish they’re a form of transportation, giving them more speed and freedom than they get from simply walking. 

131RollerSkates

Roller Skates, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 130: Teddy Bear

The Teddy Bear is named after President Teddy Roosevelt, who while on a bear hunt refused to shoot an old, captured bear that had been tied to a tree. This incident was memorialized in a political cartoon, which in turn sparked a candy-store owner to brand his wife’s stuffed bears as Teddy’s Bears. An instant success, the Teddy Bear quickly became a beloved toy. Manufactures hoping to extend the trend took an a unusual direction when William Taft was elected to office. They presented the “successor” to the teddy bear, the ‘Billy Possum‘ an animal chosen to honor one of Taft’s favorite meals. Sadly, the Billy Possum never made the lasting impact the enduring Teddy Bear has, but it is a fun bit of trivia.  

130TeddyBear

Teddy Bear, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 129: Stacking Rings

I really tried to find an interesting fact about stacking rings, but I just couldn’t turn anything up. So here’s what I got. The Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack version of the rings was listed as number 42 on Time Magazine’s list of 100 All-Time Greatest toys. The simple stack of colorful rings does provide great stimulus for infant development as they learn fine motor skills and sorting. They also provide a great centerpiece for this illustration. No puppy!

129StackingRings

Stacking Rings, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 128: Clay

Unsurprisingly, a lot of my favorite toys growing up were art supplies. And the clay I played with was Play-Doh. Originally, Play-Doh was not a toy. It was a wallpaper cleaner that was formulated to clean soot. When sales dropped due to the introduction of a vinyl wallpaper and the decrease in coal burning in homes, a family member discovered an alternate use for the product. By removing the conditioners and adding dye and scent the cleaner became a play-thing. The popularity of the clay was boosted by endorsements from Captain Kangaroo, Ding Dong School, and Romper Room and cemented the Play-Doh as a favorite toy for generations.

128Clay

Clay, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 127: Toy Boat

Three facts about boats today. First, the oldest toy boat company still in existence is the OGAS workshop that was founded in 1898 and is still owned by the same family. Second, a toy boat sailed by a class of elementary school students made it from South Carolina to Wales earlier this year, the boat traveled 4,000 miles. Finally, “toy boat” is one of the shortest tongue twisters. How many times can you say it before you get tripped up?

127Toyboat

Toy Boat, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 126: Baby Doll

The baby doll, which was introduced sometime in the mid 1800s, has become almost a standard toy for little girls. Before then, dolls were typically either fashion dolls or companion dolls. But the baby doll has certainly found its place in the hearts of children. However, a lot of adults find dolls to be just a little creepy. I’ve spent too much time working around them to be really creeped out by most dolls anymore, but the response isn’t uncommon. Experts surmise that the phenomenon of “creepiness” that dolls have is due to the fact that they are look both too human and not human enough at the same time. This makes a lot of sense when I consider the extremely life-like “re-born” baby dolls, which are just freaky to me.

126BabyDoll

Baby Doll, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 125: Hoop and Stick

The hoop and stick has gone out of fashion after being a popular toy since ancient times and across many cultures. There is evidence of the hoop and stick in Ancient China (~1000BCE), Ancient Greece, and in African, and Native American cultures just to name a few. The hoop and stick, also known as hoop-rolling or hoop-trundling was particularly popular around the Victorian era. Though the game of rolling hoops with a stick petered out sometime in the early to mid 20th century, the hoop never really went away. Instead the hoop was repurposed in the form of the Hula Hoop which remains popular today.

125HoopandStick

Hoop and Stick, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 124: Jump Rope

Jump ropes also have a long history. Children and adults have been jumping rope for centuries. One of the best things about jumping rope is the rhymes. There are a wide variety, but my favorite was always: “Lizzie Borden took an axe . . .”. The rhyme’s author remains unknown, but the poem lives on (unlike Borden’s father and step-mother.) Hopefully this illustration is creepy enough to match the rhyme.

124Jumprope

Jump Rope, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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Illustration Daily – Day 123: Alphabet Blocks

What better way to transition from children’s literature to toys than through alphabet blocks? We know that these early learning toys have amused children since at least 1693, when John Locke mentioned them as a good tool to promote literacy in children. Alphabet blocks are also helpful in developing hand-eye coordination, and spacial intelligence. Then again, blocks can just be fun to build with . . . and destroy.

123AlphabetBlocks

Alphabet Blocks, 5″x5″, ink and watercolor on illustration board

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