Archive for the ‘toys’ Category

Peter Nencini

Published April 12, 2010 by Molly

Nencini Werk Box 27

Nencini Werk Box 18

Peter Nencini’s Hand Werk boxes are sets of materials and forms designed for abstract play. The components—made of wood, plastic, ceramic, rubber and fabric— are “mostly designed and cut to combine with counterparts sourced from school science lab suppliers for example, have a character that sits somewhere between board game bits, measurement tools, ambiguous accessories for clothing, for eating.”

The object of the sets is to encourage truly imaginative play; that is, play free of rules, goals, guidelines or restrictions. Nencini provides forms that beg to be touched and stacked and rearranged, then lets viewers do the rest. Each kit is boxed in a plain brown container and comes without instructions. Brilliant.

The Bill Tracy Project

Published April 2, 2010 by Molly

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Apropos of our post on the Theme Park Maps archive, WLYS reader Hugh kindly pointed us in the direction of the Bill Tracy Project. Reader, if you are interested in spelunking down into your most fearful childhood memories, we’d recommend you start paying attention right now.

According to its manifesto, the Bill Tracy Project is a website founded in order to “consolidate all known Bill Tracy information into one dedicated resource, thus, creating the largest official source of information pertaining to this subject in existence.” Um…who is the Bill Tracy to whom we owe such a fervent resource? Good question!

As for an answer, hmm. Where to begin. Tracy was a master of dark rides—theme park rides, that is, designed to convey guests through an indoor space. Early dark ride technology centered around things like ultraviolet lights and fluorescent paint and moved onto mechanically complex systems designed to give the illusion of, say, a female victim being severed in two by a circular saw.

Tracy’s hallmarks included complex facades and detail-oriented creepiness, and some of his most famous rides included the Whacky Shack at Joyland Amusement Park in Wichita, Kansas and The Haunted House at Trimper’s Amusements in Ocean City, Maryland. Check out the site’s insanely comprehensive biography as well as the section full of rad concept drawings and ride layouts. Spectacular!

Partners & Spade

Published March 11, 2010 by Molly



Partners & Spade is a store-cum-gallery-cum-studio-cum-performance space in Lower Manhattan established by Andy Spade and Anthony Sperduti. How to describe the storefront? It’s a bit like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse for creative adults— a place where you can look at art, browse and buy neat things, and generally soak up the conceptual shenanigans of the two founders.

Along with hosting art shows, the two are fond of hosting one-shot events in the vein of ping-pong tournaments, avant-garde preschool classes and, for two memorable weekends, a fanciful French bakery with treats baked in-house by artist Will Cotton. The macarons were impeccable.

It’s to our great delight that Spade and Sperduti have recently launched a website worthy of their space. If you’re not in the neighborhood, an online tour makes a fitting substitute for the store experience. Be sure to check out the custom fixed gear bike, the backdated confidence trophies, and the Stacy Wall skate deck!


Published March 10, 2010 by Molly

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If you were able to magically return to your ten-year-old self and make a list of all the things that fascinated you, it would probably look like a diagram of Radio-Guy’s obsessions. We mean this as the highest possible compliment.

Radio-Guy is Steve Erenberg, who collects and displays old anatomical models of the brain, dental mpression tray wall hanging displays, portable operating chair circa World War I, old radio batteries, vintage space-age looking televisions, steam engines, salesman samples, old x-ray tubes and tons of other stuff. Oh, the best part? YOU CAN BUY IT ALL! The result would look like the dream bedroom of a very precocious and science-minded 19th-century kiddo.

If the phrase “nickel-plated” revs your engine, consider a tour through the site. And start saving your pennies.

Joshua Ben Longo

Published December 31, 2009 by Graham

Joshua Ben Longo

Joshua Ben Longo’s monsters weave together the darling and the disgusting. These hand-crafted creations beckon to you for a hug, in spite of their viciousness. Longo’s Monster Skin Chair looks like something Max might feel rather comfortable lounging about it. Students at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn have the privilege of studying in Longo’s three-dimensional design classes, where they basically learn how to make the raddest halloween costumes ever.


Recreation for Geniuses

Published November 24, 2009 by Molly

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Really, it’s no surprise that the 1800s produced people like Rimbaud, Tesla, Freud and Darwin. When those guys were kids, they weren’t messing around with portable gaming consoles or mini-robots or NERF guns designed to look like semi-automatics.

Nope. They were doing stuff with balls, hoops and sticks that we probably can’t even imagine. When you consider the creativity and determination it takes to entertain oneself with a stick for, say, fifteen, years, it suddenly becomes easy to see how things like experimenting and making discoveries would be child’s play as an adult.

Not saying we can recapture the magic of boredom in these fast-paced modern days, but it’s worth a try. Start with a sock monkey and work your way up to a spinning top. If that works out, considering graduating to a balsa plane or (whoa) some Lincoln Logs.

Science Toy Report

Published November 9, 2009 by Molly

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There’s something seductive about toys that have to forcefully announce that they are NON-TOXIC. Such is the allure of the Amazing Do-It-Yourself Magic Tree—which, indeed, is a distant cousin of the Magic Garden.

This delightfully bizarre toy involves assembling a cardboard Christmas tree (complete with faux cranberry garland, glitter and gold tree-topper ornament) and squeezing an included “mystery liquid” into the base. In six hours a vibrant chemical fuzz will spread across the branches, replicating the appearance of a healthy Douglas fir. Voila: an economical and festive decoration in less than 360 minutes.

Finally, a culmination of our interests in chemistry, DIY, and the holiday spirit. Next up: Magic Menorahs!

We Love: Field Notes

Published October 26, 2009 by Molly


Photo credit: beaucolbern!

When we did a post on the tools of the trade a while back, some of you commented that your notebooks of choice were Field Notes. After investigating the matter, we agree that their products are a necessary addition to the notebook arsenal.

An honest memo book, worth fillin’ up with GOOD INFORMATION is what the company calls their notebook; inspirations include “the vanishing subgenre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list.”

Say no more! Well, maybe a little more. Field Notes are durable, naturally, but more importantly: they’re pocket-sized and flexible. In other words, they’re built for the road, and there’s no excuse not to carry yours around everywhere. Available in all the standard denominations––ruled paper, graph paper, plain––the books also include suggestions on how to use them, for those at a loss. Examples: Road Trip Mileage, Shady Transactions, Crop Predictions. You’ll find that you probably won’t need the suggestions; in these fast-paced modern days, there’s always something to write about.

Magic Garden

Published October 22, 2009 by Molly

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Remember these guys? They’re like the equivalent of Transformers for individuals with a softer, more fanciful imagination.

Those with sharp memories will recall that the Magic Garden kits included little cardboard cutouts of mountains, trees and grass (treated with a mysterious solution) that you could set up on a tray. After dousing the cardboard with magical liquid, bright blooms began to grow. Soon you had a fuzzy Japanese garden, complete with nuclear-pink cherry blossoms, acid-green grass and a snowy mountain peak. Now it reminds us simultaneously of The Point!, cotton candy, toxic waste and clown hair. Awesome.

3D Doodle Kit

Published October 21, 2009 by Molly

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There’s a reason why everyone in 4th grade math doodled cubes, barns and bubbly letters: creating the illusion of 3-dimensional objects satisfies some basic human urge. There is probably an evolutionary cause for it––some sort of adaptive benefit obtained from cool shading techniques and eye-popping shapes. For now, we’ll just call it fun.

Luckily, the feeling of sketching a sweet 3D shooting star can be recaptured. Not only recaptured, in fact, but improved upon! These days you can get 3D drawing kits that include a pad of stereoscopic graph paper (intersecting red and blue lines) and 3D glasses. It works like this: first, you sketch with a regular black pen. Then you put on the glasses. The filters in the 3D specs allow each eye to see only the opposite color on the graph paper, and as the brain melds the two images together our focal point is pushed backwards. Voila: the illusion of depth. Really, it never gets old.