toys

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Art Craft Design

Imaginative Cartoon Characters by Yen Jui-Lin Express Playful Moods in Carved Wood

September 8, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images ©Yen Jui-Lin

Sporting waggish smiles or wide grimaces, Yen Jui-Lin’s wooden carvings are expressive characters that appear straight from a storybook. The Taiwanese craftsman (previously) stretches quirky figures, slices their bodies in half, and sprouts plant-like growths from their heads, exaggerating their cartoonish qualities in a playful and whimsical manner. Whether a character or plant, each work is evidence of his imaginative style and skillful process, which starts with a pencil sketch and gnarly hunk of wood—he shares more about his technique on Instagram—before becoming fully realized form. Although Yen originally began carving the smooth designs for his children, they’ve become collaborators on some of his pieces, like this wide-eyed monster.

 

 

 



Art Design

Delightful Characters Spring to Life in Hand-Cranked Wooden Automata by Kazuaki Harada

May 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

Japanese woodworker Kazuaki Harada (previously) has spent the last few years designing these playful automata that activate with a simple hand-crank. Watch miners work in tandem, a figure cackle with unparalleled enthusiasm, and the devil aggressively play the fiddle, and make sure to turn your volume up, too—Harada often pairs an audio component with the mechanical movements for an additional dose of whimsy. For more of his quirky designs, which include many of the character-based works shown here in addition to more elaborate, abstract pieces, check out his Instagram and YouTube.

 

 

 



Design

Create a Kaleidoscopic Coloring Experience with goober's Stackable Block Crayons

April 1, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © goober, shared with permission

goober’s brightly hued crayons are designed for mixing and matching, creating unique kaleidoscopic marks with every use. The Seoul-based company manufactures natural bean-wax tools shaped in LEGO-like forms that can be stacked into firetrucks and trees as easily as they can draw them. Pick up a four-pack of cars or seasonal color palettes in the Colossal Shop.

 

 

 

 

 



Art Design

Demented Toys by Obvious Plant Confront Harsh Realities and the Mundanity of Life

February 2, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Obvious Plant

Unless you want a distraught child, double-check the packaging of your next purchase in case you accidentally snag a one-off toy by Jeff Wysaski, aka Obvious Plant. For years, he’s been littering supermarket and drugstore shelves with his action figures and small games that cleverly comment on capitalism and the harsh realities we all experience, from a birthday for one—it “includes one party blower because that is all you will need”—to a “childless couple” riding matching jet skis. Sometimes parodying pop culture, the elaborate designs are paired with witty copy and a slew of intentional spelling errors, including warnings that “everybody dies, even bird.”

Many of the subversive products, shirts, and other goods are available in the Obvious Plant shop, although they sell out quickly. To stay up-to-date on the latest designs, follow Wysaski on Instagram.

 

 

 



Craft

A Woolen Menagerie of Miniature Creatures by Natasya Shuljak Exudes Joy and Whimsy

December 23, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Natasya Shuljak, shared with permission

Adorable, cheery, and slightly dazed, this eccentric ensemble of miniatures is the latest from Moscow-based crafter Natasya Shuljak (previously). Made from raw fibers felted together, the expressive characters are imbued with whimsy and play. Flower petals sprout from ambiguous creatures, while other pudgy animals emit a calm and joyful air.

Because Shuljak’s style of dry felting emerged in recent years, she shares that her current preoccupation is with finding new ways to create without the help of tradition. “There is a lot of abstract in my work, and I want to enhance this feeling,” she says, noting that she might seek inspiration in other art forms like sculpture and architecture. “These spheres are united by expressive language: the character of the line, rhythm, texture, color, etc.”

Follow Sjuljak’s latest creations on Instagram, where she also announces news about releases in her shop.

 

 

 



Design

Mix and Match Magnetic, Wooden Animal Parts to Invent Bizarre New Creatures

July 24, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © ESNAF Toys, shared with permission

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.