Imagine your favorite teddy bear and or snuggly stuffed animal shrunken down to fit atop your fingertip, and you have the magical creations of Su Ami, an artistic company in Vietnam devoted to creating delightfully miniature crochet animals. The family run business includes only 5 expert craftsman who work to imbue the tiny woven creatures with unique and touching personalities.
Because of the animals’ itty bitty frame, each stitch is noticeable, highlighting the careful handmade nature of the work. In each turn of the yarn, we imagine the delicate movements of human fingers, and each being becomes impossibly precious. Heightening their dearness is the fact that delightful creatures are so easily lost; like microscopic pets, their vulnerability inspires us to cherish them and hold fast to their tiny bodies. In this way, the pieces recall the nostalgic yearning of a child for his toy.
Despite their smallness, each creation has an impressively distinct character. With the slightest opening of the mouth, a gecko exudes a curious and playful attitude; a long-beaked bird stares in awe of her own crochet egg. Two squirrels tell a story, peering up at the sky in unison; similarly, a parent elephant watches over her child, whose plastic button eyes seek approval. A lion turns his head with a poignant frown, as if startled by his own size. All animals great and small, from the littlest snail to the tallest giraffe, inhabit the same magical space, cautiously yet courageously exploring the large world they miraculously inhabit. (via Demilked)
Mike Leavitt is already known for his playfully subversive figures that feature and poke fun at other artists, celebrities, and world leaders. In his newest series, Empire Peaks, Leavitt combines famous leaders and innovators with characters from Star Wars. Comprised of 18 figures sculpted out of wood, and each corresponds to one character from the movie franchise. Albert Einstein’s infamous expression is sculpted into R2-D2, while Steve Jobs is his counterpart C-3PO. Michael Jackson plays the part of the adorable Ewoks. US President Barack Obama is Lando Calrissian.
Inspiration for Empire Peaks came from Leavitt’s experience growing up as a Gen-X’r raised by Baby Boomers. With both his parents working, he had to entertain himself, relying on the cheap thrills of television and plastic toys. Describing the series, he writes:
For better or worse, each ‘Empire Peaks’ non-fictional character is complicit in the world order today. We’re all shackled to our past because of endlessly echoing paradigms. David Sirota argues in ‘Back to Our Future’ for a cyclical 30-year regurgitation of politics and culture. I think it’s an inescapable human nature causing regimes to repeat themselves. ‘Empire Peaks’ are meant to reduce modern dynasties to a sci-fi soap opera of objects.
It’s all about gluttony. Serving desires lubricates civilization. Capitalism fills desire and demand. Development expands. Culture thrives. From religious redemption to material objects, mass coveting is the driving force. (Via ARTNAU)
The Star Wars Millenium Falcon doesn’t exist in real life, but you’d never know it by looking at Finnish artist Vesa Lehtimäki (aka Avanaut)’s photographs. In his work, you can spot a Y-Fighter parked among trees, a clear view of ships in outer space, and action shots of some of your favorite characters . Lehtimäki borrowed his son’s toys to photograph and later Photoshop them into their own believably unbelievable situations. They look so life-like you’d think that these small objects are actually a 1:1 reproduction.
The artist has been a life-long fan of the Star Wars franchise. In an interview with Wired, he talks recalls the impact it had on him. “Two of the great moments of my childhood were the first two original Star Wars movies,” says Lehtimäki. “As a kid I wanted to become a movie director. I made some Super 8 movies but it did not work out that well.” He’s an illustrator and designer, and sees these photographs as a way to explore an unfulfilled career path. (Via Gizmodo)
Brett Kern sculpts these incredible “inflatable” dinosaurs and other objects out of plaster. Kern sculpts his own molds out of clay and uses glaze to emphasize his materials’ depth and details. Pop culture has always influenced Kern’s work, and these faux inflatable sculptures are no exception. One of Kern’s first memories as a child was being given an inflatable dinosaur at the hospital for behaving while his mother gave birth to his sister. It’s this playful, childlike wonder that informs the bulk of his work, and the forging of a balance of fragility and buoyancy. .
“I find that the mold-making process imitates, in a certain way, the fossilization process. Objects are covered in a material that captures their shape and texture and this, in turn, preserves the object as a rock-like representation. Movies, television, toys and games dominated the cultural landscape of my youth. I am a product of this specific time period, and I like to think of my artwork as the fossils that will help preserve it.”
I have to confess I am easily drawn to works of art that resemble or depict toys and other childhood objects. At face value these works are easy, as all of us have some form of relationship or pre-existing association with the referenced nostalgic icons. In other words, the works naturally engage us and draw us in. However, these works, specifically those featured here, use the familiar imagery to interject layers of conceptual content, moving far beyond catchy into heavier implications, through expert usage of scale, quantity and context.
Context is key in these pieces. Maurizio Cattelan is a conceptual master of context, as demonstrated in his piece Daddy Daddy, which features a large drowned figure of Pinocchio floating face down in a pool inside the Guggenheim. The result is ironic, tragic and flawless. As well, the practice of significantly altering scale such as Jeff Koons‘ balloon animal sculptures, Urs Fischer‘s Untitled (Lamp/Bear) and Yoram Wolberger‘s life-size sculptures of toy and trophy figurines, allows the objects to become monolithic, dwarf us and alter our sense of reality.
Pablo Picasso once said, “every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” The owners of Oh’ My Neko take this quote to heart, honoring children as artistic masterminds behind some pretty unique dolls . . . and this goes for everyone, not just a select few, as this would negate the purpose: each young vision is valuable and translatable. For only 35€ each, your child’s hipster princess, lunatic lady monster, or clowny bug can spring to plushy life. Check out the gallery after the jump to see some more pretty adorable examples.
Photographer Gabriele Galinberti‘s series Toy Stories is a simple concept revealing a complex story. Over the course of 18 months the artist photographed children throughout the world with their most prized possessions. He would often play with the toys along with the children prior to arranging them for the photographs. It is surprising how much the toys can reveal about each child. Often children would prize toys that reflected the occupations of their parents – a large collection of cars for the son of a taxi driver or rakes and shovels for the daughter of a farmer. Also, Galinberti relates that poorer children’s play focused more on friends and activities rather than possessions. He says:
“The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them. In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”
Illustrator, graphic designer, and artist Jordan Speer created his own action figures (or at least illustrations of them.) Recreating the familiar packaging of childhood toys, Speer fills each one with a unique figurine. While nearly nostalgia inducing, each toy is also slightly sinister featuring warnings such as “slightly toxic”, “forbidden”, and “highly illegal”. Speer’s figures are enigmatic characters, unfamiliar and unwilling to reveal much beyond their name and accessories. Which would you collect?