Toys of the Avant-Garde

My new favourite book is Toys of the Avant-Garde, an exhibition at the Museo Picasso Malaga last year I think. So I have only managed to dip into it so far, it’s a big read so I’ll have to find some serious time to explore it further. For now I can enjoy the pictures and this quote,

‘ especially interesting to my mind is the theory that genre crossings, so characteristic of modernism, are valued as a revolutionary act when carried out by male artists, whereas involvement with applied art is riskier in the case of female artists as it already has feminine connotations.’

Toys & Art, interdependency in the Modern Age, Medea Hoch p.122

This is an area I am very interested in as I choose to explore the craftier end of art, and dolls/ toys in particular, I have always felt  it a slightly dangerous path if one wants to be taken seriously? (an attitude cultivated at art school) but I seem to enjoy high risk! it is also why I call my work ‘small art’ as this seems to fit the work I do as opposed to ‘High Art’, this isn’t to lessen what I or others in this genre do but a fun slightly tongue in cheek label. It’s like being the naughty younger sister who can get away with so much more because everyone’s expectations are lowered, she can zip under their radar and launch a surprise attack!

It could also be a get out clause, I may be afraid of getting hurt if I play with the big boys? but I’ll save that head crunching thought for another day and for now share some pictures.

Hermann Finsterlin, 1922


Alexander Calder, circus, 1926-31


Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, wooden dolls, 1924


Joaquin Torres- Garcia, two men, 1929-30


Tono( Antonio De Lara) cut outs for noahs ark 1932-34


Luigi Veronesi, princess & ballerina 1942


3 thoughts on “Toys of the Avant-Garde

  1. This has gone straight onto my wishlist for Christmas (though I find it hard to believe there is a book about toys which I don’t have!). I love your work, and was very interested in your Liberty experience; I almost went myself, when they first started, but after watching the TV programmes covering the open days, I came to a similar conclusion about my own pieces – very good to read about your day, even though it wasn’t what you hoped for.

    1. Hi Gretel, I was so pleased to find this book, I’m guilty of way too many books as well! The Liberty experience was quite scary but I’m glad I went and would probably give it a go again if I felt I had something that was more suited to their criteria, maybe something more functional or more easily produced. If you ever decide to go my advice is be super prepared, don’t take too much, three minutes is a very short time, rehearse your essential information, cost & retail price, production times, where your items would fit into Libertys, they mark up by 2.5 which is worth knowing when thinking of your cost price.

  2. Hi Jess – yes, that was the deciding point for me, seeing the TV programme and the artists having to ramp up production – I simply can’t produce needle felted toys in quantity; they take 20-30 hours each, and there’s only so much I can do. I sell a few through a collector’s catalogue and I wasn’t prepared at the time that they would put well over a 100% mark up on my work – I was expecting 50%. As they had no problem selling them it taught me a lesson, so I started raising my prices and now I’m making 2-3 toys a month to order and getting good prices for them, so I’ve gone in the opposite direction in a way. And frees up my time to get on with making other things. I think I work better as a lone wolf, too. 🙂

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