All the stuff I wrote 2.5 years ago about the New Hotness of eastern German toymaking legend Renate Mueller still stands: the only things different are that R 20th Century has finally amassed enough vintage Mueller to put on a retrospective--and to get the designer a sweet writeup in the design issue of The NY Times T Magazine--and that Mueller's stuffed toy output is now officially tapped out, thanks to the convergence of Japanese-style, high-end collector frenzy and the aging artist's own hardcore insistence on making her own toys herself. Which is all fine, who's gonna begrudge a communist survivor her free market freedom?
Meanwhile, the less Andy Spade-able aspects of Mueller's portfolio remain largely unexamined, at least in English. The Times article says that Mueller designed and built playgrounds and kindergartens, too. And I see furniture:
She spent 1978 to 1989 making outdoor playgrounds with salvaged wood and whatever other materials she could scrounge. "My first order was a playground for handicapped children in Erfurt," she said. "My first time designing in wood. I had two tools, no electric tools, and in the wintertime I was standing every day working on my first figures in this playground." Müller sighed. "Every day was like school."Here's what I've found so far, in chronological order--and mostly in tiny, dial-up-era photos:
[And then there's developing] five local kindergartens with a collaborator, the artist Bernd Ruckert. The latest, a cheerful building with color-coded classrooms and lots of space to display children's artwork, opened in Sonneberg in September.
A waiting room installation including plywood play furniture with some squarish cushions, 1994, location not specified. [img via]
A detail of a kindergarten room & loft in Sonneberg, done in collaboration with Rueckert, 1997-8. [img via]
In 1999, she and Rueckert created some playrooms for the German Toy Industry Museum in Neustadt bei Coburg, sort of the Sonneberg metropolitan area. Though they were cleared out for the second photo, there are what look to be a whole bunch of large Mueller animals. Then there's jute curtains and the play table/stools structure that seems to be a trademark of her and Rueckert's work. [images via]
Here's a children's waiting area in a clinic in Nordinghausen, another colabo with Rueckert, another round play table thing, 1999-2000. Check out those ride-on turtle things. [img via]
Then there's kind of a gap, and this 2008 project which gets a detail photo in the Times, only it's not a kindergarten, but a playtable in the play room of the German Toy Museum in Sonneborg [Sonneborg is the toy capital of Germany, in case you're wondering why all the toy museums].
Here, check out the wedge-shaped cushions, and the soft table top.
Tip of the iceberg, people.
Renate Müller: Toys + Design opens at R20th Century on October 12 and runs through Jan. 2011 [r20thcentury.com, plus image at top]
The Zootopian [t]
previously: Renate Mueller's therapeutic toys