Meticulous Flat Lays of Vintage Toys and Miniatures Celebrate the History of Play and Design
“There’s a feeling I remember which has to do with the seriousness of play, when you were completely absorbed in playing a game with your toys and fully believed in the world you’d created, and it really mattered,” Jane Housham says. “I look longingly back at that imaginative space.”
A writer, artist, and self-described accumulator, Housham continually returns to the engrossing joys of childhood through a vast collection of found objects. Stickers and plastic doll hands, a pantry of non-perishable goods, and a menagerie of animals on wheels are the catalysts for her flat lays. Precisely categorized by color, shape, or theme, each composition highlights the varied styles, functions, and contexts of similar items and becomes a useful and approachable entry into the history of design. “If I’ve acquired a new (to me) little object, that often nudges me to revisit the category it belongs to—a new tiny seahorse or radio will subtly alter the pre-existing set, and the arrangement is always fresh in any case. Seahorses and radios are particular favourites of mine,” she says.
Housham’s mother was a dollhouse enthusiast and passed on her love of miniatures, which inspired the artist to keep a box of treasures as a child that she would frequently sort and arrange. That early experience is the root of her current practice, which is the result of rummaging through massive stores—she estimates there are thousands of objects in her possession at the moment—of vintage toys and tiny items.
Because many of the pieces in her collection are antiques and sourced secondhand, sometimes they’re rusty, scratched, or broken, and a considerable number are made from plastic. Housham adds:
I’m not really interested in new plastic things as I don’t want to encourage the continued spewing out of unnecessary plastic bits and pieces, but I like to save old plastic toys and other secondhand bits and bobs and to celebrate their colours and the ingenuity of their design. Although it’s now understood to be so bad for the world, plastic was a beautiful material in its heyday.
Housham shares a trove of miniature finds and color-coded compositions on her Instagram, Found and Chosen, and sells prints of the flat lays on Etsy. As she amasses more objects and engages with the childhood curiosity and imagination she so deeply values, she does find herself asking one recurring question: “Where will all this collecting end, I wonder?”
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Daniel Agdag’s Playful Rollercoaster Takes a Miniature Approach to Monumental Amusement
Although riders aren’t able to board Daniel Agdag’s rollercoaster, the Australian artist (previously) ensures that his recreational design is structurally sound. Agdag recently completed his largest project to date, a nearly ten-foot big dipper with an elaborately cross-hatched base that mimics the rides. Created during a two-year period, “Lattice” is a miniature rendition of the monumental pastime, built from vellum and “897,560 individual hand-cut cardboard members in the truss section alone,” a component that took about eight months to complete.
The intricate sculpture—which was a commission from the New York City Department of Education and NYC School Construction Authority Public Art for Public Schools in collaboration with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art program—references Luna Park, a now-defunct chain that began in Coney Island before expanding to locations worldwide. “In fact, the Melbourne Luna Park still has one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters in the world, and this work was very much inspired by a wooden rollercoaster. I thought that was a nice way to link the work’s origin and its destination,” Agdag shares, noting that the “House of Mirrors” section is an ode to the Peter Wiederer Mirror Company that originally occupied the Staten Island site.
Now permanently housed at the Evelyn Lewis Campus—given its location on school property, there’s no public access to view the work—”Lattice” engages with the metaphor of life as a rollercoaster, perpetually moving forward through a series of twists, turns, dips, and peaks. “But this is but one metaphor,” Agdag tells Colossal, explaining that the piece also references a collective spirit. He says:
To me, the representation speaks of systems hidden within the amusement, a considered structure. Constructed of many individual stems and beams, I interpret it as the many people that need to contribute to making society not only function but thrive. The individual structural elements laced together to form a beautiful lattice of strength. Independently they carry little weight, but together they are strengthened and resilient against the forces that try to tear them down.
Agdag shares glimpses into his process and studio on Instagram, where you can follow along with his latest projects.
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Construction Goes Small Scale with Mini Materials’s Tiny Building Supplies
Building a tiny home gains new meaning when working with Mini Materials. The U.S.-based company invites craftspeople and masons to think small for their next projects, offering pallets of cinder blocks and lumber ready to be slathered in mortar or nailed into position at either 1:6 or 1:12 scale. From construction supplies like road signs and barriers to kits for creating a backyard firepit, Mini Materials offers a vast array of products intended for minuscule fabrication, all of which are made of the same concrete or wood as their life-sized counterparts.
Shop the small supplies on the company’s site, and find a variety of projects and how-to guides on its blog and YouTube.
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Miniature Ships Sail Atop Asya Kozina’s Extravagant Baroque Wigs of White Paper
Artist Asya Kozina is known for her elaborate paper wigs that soar into the air with scenes of miniature metropolises and various botanical frills, coils, and pleats. Referencing the ominous tale of the Flying Dutchman, Kozina’s latest collection transports wearers to the sea with fleets of ships that sail across the cut-and-folded headdresses. The legend states that seeing the vessel portends imminent danger, a sense of mystery and hazard the artist juxtaposes with blossoming botanicals and butterflies full of life.
Kozina is based in Ukraine, and in a note to Colossal, she shares that Russia’s ongoing aggression has necessarily paused her practice as she focuses on volunteer efforts and caring for her family. “We are in a state of more or less stress,” she says. “My attention is focused on air alarms and news and correspondence with relatives in other cities of Ukraine. At the same time, we pretend that we have a normal life… It’s completely surreal.”
You can find more about Kozina’s work and support her practice on her site, Behance,and Instagram.
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Expressive Eyes Painted by Robyn Rich Peek Out from Vintage Tins
What does it mean to see? To be seen? Artist Robyn Rich (previously) examines these questions in her practice as she paints realistic eyes that peer out from vintage tins and small vessels. The tiny works harness physical particularities to relay the emotions and idiosyncrasies of the subject, whether through thick brows, wrinkles, or mascaraed lashes that frame the delicate organs. Intimate and unsettling when displayed in large collections, the miniature pieces explore various aspects of the gaze and perspective and ask who is watching whom.
Rich’s solo show Optics is on view through December 23 at Beinart Gallery in Melbourne. Find more of her work on Instagram.
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Ride the Emotional Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship in Siqi Song’s Series of Stop-Motion Animations
Los Angeles-based animator and director Siqi Song has a knack for capturing the nuances of relationships and social situations. Her critically acclaimed animated shorts like “SISTER” and “THE COIN” tap into family histories and personal stories from the relatable perspective of stop-motion, felted wool characters. In a new series of shorts commissioned by It’s Nice That for Mailchimp Presents, Song dives into the world of entrepreneurship in All in a Day’s Work.
Song directed six of the series’ twelve episodes, which run between two to three minutes each and feature a cast of six small business owners who find themselves on an emotional, enterprising rollercoaster. A florist’s new employee struggles with hay fever in “First Hire,” a baker working through the night resists falling asleep in “Unstoppable Rise,” and a finely-tuned Zoom setup comes crashing down during an important call in “Silicon Valley Legends.”
To make the films as internationally relatable as possible, dialogue was removed entirely. “Without language, the characters can only express their emotion in the stories through body language and facial expressions,” Song explains. For anyone who has launched a product, grappled with time management, or stepped outside their comfort zone to pursue a dream, Song’s animations demonstrate the universal ups and downs of a courageous journey.
You can watch all of the films, including an additional six episodes by creative studio BUCK, on Mailchimp Presents. Find remarkable behind-the-scenes footage on Song’s website, and discover her painstakingly crafted miniature sets, storyboards, and characters.
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