March 3, 2006

I Want An Eames The Toy

eames_the_toy_box.jpg

Ray and Charles Eames sure made some kid-friendly classics--the House of Cards, that Hang-it-All, the RAR Rocker, of course--and watching their movie, Powers of Ten a few times would give a rush of enlightenment to anyone ages 10^0 - 10^2.

eames_the_toy.jpgBut a few of their creations haven't fared as well in the design public's consciousness. Their walkalong-rocking horse, for example, clearly predates the age of product liability litigation. And their first toy ever to go into production is almost as rare. One mid-century auctioneer calls it The Toy, but the box just says "Toy" a couple of dozen times. [Until I hear otherwise, I'm with Repo Man: Toy.]

Like House of Cards, Toy is a building toy. Toy consisted of a bunch of dowels, some pipe cleaners, and some shiny paper that kids can assemble themselves into sculptures, structures, walls, or whatever. It looks like a geodesic dome kit, although in 1951, Buckminster Fuller was far away. They were sold at Sears, so they could've ended up anywhere, but a toy made of sticks and paper has a much lower expected lifespan than a fiberglass chair, so vintage examples are hard to come by.

Still, it's surprising someone hasn't done an updated version of Toy. I mean, that Spaceframe Sculpture Kit has gotten nothing but praise from what I can tell. I can't imagine the Eames Estate reintroducing it on their own, though; these days they seem mostly focused on fighting trademark disputes. So I hope someone crafty and entrepreneurial just goes for it; even the possibility of a trademark lawsuit over something called "Toy" makes me feel like a kid at Christmas. If only they'd time it to my next round of jury duty.

Thanks to Mark from Sparkability for the prompt.
"Whimsical Works: The Playful Designs of Charles and Ray Eames" was an exhibit at UPenn last summer [citypaper]
Bonus Charles Eames quote from the press release: "Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are the preludes to serious ideas."
The show's website has more info, just not about why the The Toy failed. [upenn.edu]
Toy sold for $700 at auction in 1999, but one didnt' sell in 2001 for $900-1200. [treadwaygallery.com, wright20.com]

7 Comments

There was also a Little Toy. The paper triangles were only about 5-6 inches across.

Mark, are you going to offering a vintage section at sparkability? Or just building your own kids collection? I see you're scooping up all the Creative Playthings on eBay...

There was also an amazing Bucky Fuller inspired building toy called "Flexagons" made and sold by Creative Playthings.

And don't forget the "Magnet Master" designed by Arthur Carrara and distributed by the Walker Art Center.

Oh snap; there was a great piece at Artists' Space a couple years ago. A geodesic dome made from old cardboard boxes and bolted together for use as shelter for the homeless. I always thought I'd end up making one when the kid was ready. Oscar Tuazon: City Without a Ghetto at Artists Space.

You can't dig too far into anything Eames without running into the brick wall that is Herman Miller (here in the US, at least. I know things are different overseas). I think that their lack of interest in kid's products has really frozen the reclamation/reintroduction of the Eames kid products. Can you imagine the updates that could be made to things like The Toy/Toy with modern materials?

As to my eBay shenanigans, we may offer some or all or our collection online at some point - but I'm buying the CP items for a special project that I'm not even allowed to think about while typing this.

Here is a fine condition, complete and in well-kept box Eames LITTLE TOY on ebay, the auction ends in about 2 days. I can send you more images if you like!
Regards, heavenmoon on ebay

I have a full sized one in the original box, there is some wear and tear on one end of the box but the contents appear to be in original condition, the colors are still bright and vibrant. I would like to know if anyone knows what all the contents were, so I would know if it is complete. I've looked several places but none have a contents list.

Thanks for any help

BTW the one on ebay was the smaller version and sold for $405.00.
David

I designed this "Toy"

Bite your tongue! it was Dick Feynman that was behind "Flexagons"!

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