As interest in analog entertainment for children grows, a new collection from ESNAF Toys prompts kids to piece together giraffes, foxes, and T-rexes from simple, wooden blocks. Each geometric shape is handcrafted and color-coded. To create an anatomically accurate animal or dinosaur, simply match and connect the magnetic joints.
Helmed by architects Bistra and Anastas, ESNAF Toys was born out of the duo’s desire to provide their son with higher-quality entertainment. “Our home became cluttered with baby toys, and we didn’t like it. Looking at all those toys, we realized that very few of them were made with natural materials that would last for decades. Few were what we would call ‘smart’ toys, objects whose use could evolve together with our child,” Bistra says. This dissatisfaction inspired Anastas to utilize old floorboards to create the prototype for the minimal toys that the company offers today.
Check out the video below to dive into ESNAF Toys’ history and see more of its new dinosaur collection, which recently surpassed its fundraising goal on Kickstarter. Until that prehistoric line is released, you can pick up some of the mammalian designs from Etsy or its shop.
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When photographer Jean-Luc Feixa moved from Toulouse to Brussels, he began noticing the cultural, linguistic, and architectural differences between the two cities. “It may seem anecdotal,” he tells Colossal, “but the windows here are much larger than in France and easily disclose the house interiors.”
On his commute, Feixa often would pass the glass openings displaying robust collections, family mementos, and items for sale. “One day, I came across a group of children who seemed to be fascinated by a LEGO construction. It was quite captivating to see them commenting on this installation for many minutes. That was the trigger,” he says.
In the seven years since his relocation, Feixa has captured dozens of windows around the Belgian city, which he recently compiled in a book titled, Strange Things Behind Belgian Windows. Each provides not only a glimpse into the residents’ lives but also the objects they both intentionally and accidentally display. From a panda bear collection to a taxidermied fox to the finish line of a bike race, the objects encompass the cutesy and the odd and are always idiosyncratic. One display in particular—the homage to Elvis Presley (shown below)—has been exemplary of Feixa’s intention.
I talked for a long time with the couple. They are absolute fans of the King, and they were very moving. They decided to share their passion from behind their window. They really represent what I tried to convey with my series, that windows can be a perfect showcase to communicate a passion, send a message, reveal a part of oneself.
Since Belgians have begun quarantine, the photographer says windows have been transformed into a more intentional form of communication. “Whether to sell masks, encouraging people to stay home, or congratulating the medical staff, I see a lot of objects appearing, and it’s great to be able to continue the project,” he says. Feixa is hoping to chronicle this unusual period in a second volume.
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Sydney-based artist Mechelle Bounpraseuth crafts life-sized ceramics that explore her identity as a first-generation daughter of Laotian refugees. Her small and glossy ceramic artwork, which ranges from drink cans to widely known sauces, explores her connection with her past and how branded ingredients are rooted in culinary culture and rituals.
Bounpraseuth was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and despite many fond memories of her family and childhood, her religion discouraged her from pursuing artistic pursuits. She left the religion in her 20s and got married, realizing that her dream of becoming an artist was possible and that she didn’t have to succumb to the person her religion had wanted her to be.
Her creativity initially began from drawing and creating zines, before Bounpraseuth enrolled in a ceramics course and began crafting functional objects. Noticing her talent for the medium, her tutor encouraged her to pursue work with more artistic flair. She began to expand on her drawings of household objects by recreating them in clay and glossy bright colors.
One of Bounpraseuth’s ceramics is a Heinz Ketchup bottle, a condiment found in many family fridges and cupboards throughout the world. For the artist, the sauce represents the memory of her family eating pho together, a ritual in which they would come together and make the recipe from scratch with a dollop of ketchup. These sculptural forms are meaningful symbols to Bounpraseuth as the pho was a labor of love and would take her family all day to make.
Through the creation of these domestic objects from her past, Bounpraseuth uses her artwork as a way to reflect upon and process her childhood memories and as a way to navigate her old and new identities. These pieces illustrate how some values remain passed down from generations, like Bounparseuth’s reference to her family’s shared domesticity, while some core aspects of family, like religion, are not always.
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Tomohiro Yasui is best known as the creator of the paper robot wrestlers called kami-robo, but that’s not the only medium his imagination has conquered. Using wire and cheap rubber duckies, squirting frogs, and plastic hammers, the Japanese artist builds posable action figures that deserve their own Saturday morning cartoons and comic books.
Having spent the past 35 years designing paper robots and plastic toys, Yasui is an expert when it comes to humanoid anatomy in dynamic poses. Multiples of the same donor toys were used to create the chiseled physiques, which means that all of the pieces match in texture and color and did not have to be repainted. If the fantasy figures were packaged and displayed on a shelf in the toy section, no one would be able to guess that they were cut, reconfigured, and assembled by hand.
To see more of these unlikely heroes come to life, follow Yasui on Twitter.
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A new kit asks users to test their design abilities by constructing complex obstacle courses with a goal of having a marble fall seamlessly into its final destination. Created by MakeWay, the buildable set features eight different tracks, twelve tricks (which include a canon, universal joint, and spinner), a lift, and connectors to attach each component to a magnetic surface. The adjustable designs are supposed to be used vertically, causing the marble to be launched, spun, and catapulted down the tracks. Each kit is available in either gold or silver.
MakeWay is headed by Reuven Shahar and Elyasaf Shweka, two industrial designers with backgrounds in engineering and woodworking, respectively. Conceived of in 2016, the project opened on Kickstarter earlier this month and has been wildly popular, meeting its $10,000 goal within the first day and surpassing it tenfold since with more than 50 days to go. Head to MakeWay’s page to back the modular kit.
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Moscow-based artist Nastasya Shuljak transforms packs of wool into sculptures of small animals and other whimsical creatures. Plants sprout from the heads of smiling trees and other natural spirits. Polar bears, foxes, hares, and other critters stare through inquisitive eyes applied to their tiny woolen faces. Shuljak’s toys are an exercise in the flexibility of the material and also a way to bring joy to all who meet them.
Shuljak, a former theater artist and art teacher, tells Colossal that the practice of making creatures began when friends gifted her some wool. With that first bag she made a bear and a hare, and the menagerie has been growing ever since. “I saw children’s sonorous happiness in an adult man holding in his hands what I did,” says Shuljak. “Until now, it touches me, causes surprise and peace.” Commenting on the purpose of the figures, she added that her animals “do not aspire to the exhibition hall, do not claim to be art. These are just small lumps of joy, carefree second smiles.”
Shuljak teaches classes in Moscow on how to create the toys and also sells them via social media. For more information on upcoming workshops and to meet more of these adorable wool creatures, follow Shuljak on Instagram.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.