Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tiny Bubbles

I have met my people, and they are tiny.

Okay. They’re really not tiny, but the medium in which they work, play, create, design, and live in their imaginations is.  They are the folks who are enthralled by miniature modern design.

The article in yesterday’s New York Times has plucked at a dormant interest of mine: modern design I can hold in the palm of my hand.  As someone who admires the minimalist approach of modern architecture and design, but who lives a richly cluttered life, I appreciate the wide open and naturally lit spaces offered by the petite modern house I can afford to own.

This appreciation led to my eventual purchase of a modern doll house for my daughters in 2002 – the Kaleidoscope House (tour here).  After eyeing it for a year at a local art museum gift shop, I decided that we they would really enjoy it.  I was right – they did and sometimes still do (most recently, it was featured in a school video of a Spanish soap opera as reenacted by Playmobil).  It is the only interactive art installation in our modern room addition.  And then there’s this:

Particularly sought after by serious collectors is the Kaleidoscope House, designed by the artist Laurie Simmons and Peter Wheelright (sic), an architect, in 2001. Back then, the colorful modernist dollhouse with its $250 price tag wasn’t exactly a blockbuster. Indeed, the company that made it, Bozart Toys, went out of business two years later. But today, even a used and tattered Kaleidoscope House can sell for as much as $2,000.
This makes me feel smart – even if I did recently chuck out the always broken wooden sculpture, affectionately referred to as the “little big dody” (that’s a long ‘o’ sound as in Dody Goodman, reserving the name “Big Dody” for the giant, rounded, raisin-looking thing outside of the MFA), that Mel Kendrick designed specifically for the dollhouse. We still have the magenta Ron Arad chair (albeit a little gnawed on by a once teething puppy), and green Karim Rashid couch (just not attractive enough to eat, I guess), but the rest of the House is in pretty good shape.

If modern design or miniatures float your boat, please pace yourself when viewing these crazy cool flickrstreams of modern miniatures!   

All this excitement over miniature modern design makes me wonder if there is a special, tiny place on the Nerd/Geek/Dork Venn Diagram (via Gus van Horn) for those of us who find these scenes compelling. In case you were wondering, I took the test and was categorized as a Modern, Cool Nerd. Even though I said I could dance!  Heh. I’ll take it.

As you can tell from the photographs, for these modern mini enthusiasts, it’s not just about design, but also about getting the best pictures of the design.  Laurie Simmons, who, with architect Peter Wheelwright, designed the Kaleidoscope House, is actually famous for her staging and photographing miniatures.  I think that I can learn a few things from these tiny scene recreations and am eager to try my hand at it.

Dollhouses: they’re not just for kids, anymore.

Wheelwright designs in a contemporary mode, so there was no question of getting what Simmons calls ''a heavy Victorian thing your grandmother made by hand,'' but, as the architect explains, ''it wasn't just the style that needed updating.'' Most dollhouses, Wheelwright says, are accessible from only one side. So he and Simmons addressed the problem by devising transparent sliding walls that are accessible from all sides. Wheelwright also took pains to make the house as architecturally ''real'' as possible, even down to its structure, which includes a molded one-piece floor, and which stood up to numerous stress tests. ''This isn't a 'toy' house,'' Wheelwright emphasizes.  (from a NYT 10/08/2000 article).

When I started writing this in the wee hours of this morning, Tiny Bubbles made perfect sense as a title. Perhaps it was watching Peter Schiff talking about the housing bubble followed immediately by looking at these tiny houses whose values not only increased, but also remain in that bubble! What I do know is that since the age of 5, when I did the hula in my first dance recital, that Don Ho song has haunted me. I finally have a place to lay it to rest. Hopefully.

No comments: