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Clowns tell us a lot about ourselves and our lives. The best of them reveal some sadness or strangeness or both while doing their best to amuse us. The overall message is: you might as well laugh because, well, life isn’t always a piece of cake, sometimes it’s a pie in the face.
Clown figurines of tin or ceramic seem to carry an extra layer of sadness and oddness after a few years. Maybe there is a contradiction between what we see now and the smiles the little joker was meant to induce. Crawling clown toy, 1900, from here
But for all the contradictions, we can’t stop smiling at this little gang of kidders.
According to Tracey’s Toys:
“The Rolly Dollys first appeared in 1902 and were produced through the 1920s in over 70 different styles. Some were based on advertising or cartoon characters like Buster Brown and Foxy Grandpa, while others represented children, clowns, police officers, and more.”
Is this him?
All in all, the clown whether he is a comic actor, a circus performer, a tin toy, or cookie jar (above) has a long history and a continuing important function in human society. Is there sadness underneath it all? Is there misery and madness?
Well…maybe. But we all have a choice to see the soda spray bottle half empty or half full. Is the whoopee cushion a cry for help? Or just a perennial boyish prank. We come down on the side of mirth. Release the clowns!!!
Play on fellas. Do you know “My Funny Valentine?”
Everyone should live alone–at least for a while, we think. It teaches you how to take care of yourself and your cave. It will make you a better roommate when the time comes. If you make the choice–or it is made for you–to live on your own, you mostly have to make do with a place designed for two or three or seven. Unless you get lucky.
A few designers have, luckily, turned their heads to solo living. Above dwelling (“close to transportation”), is in Tokyo (of course) and is a solo abode designed for a 60-year-old woman above a tobacconist shop. Architects : Hideshi Abe / Avehideshi Architect and Associates. Photos by Hiroki Kawata. Viewed at dezeen here
The cost of land being what it is, the building has a small foot and lots of stairs to climb–beautiful stairs in this case, so take your time.
This drawing shows where the living quarters (or eighths) are, but how the solo householder has arranged it all is her secret.
Nor is this little lady telling us how she arranges her life and her bonnets inside this tiny red place. Chances are it’s either neat as a pin or a spectacular mess.
If you want some space around your home alone, here’s a nice little cube among the trees and rocks to call your own.
This is a tiny onesy tucked right into the woodsy countryside for the winter. Fits right in (“Maybe I should have the Birches over for hot chocolate”). Seen here.
Back to the future, this prototype for one is designed to supply food, energy, heat and oxygen to its occupant. Its maker calls it Oogst 1 Solo. Sadly for us, no mention of it providing wine and potato chips. Seen at polychroniadis on tumbler.
This is Piiri house, mostly wood, just for one, good for thinking about where you are and where you aren’t.
And if you aren’t yet sure where you want to live, consider the mobile option. This one in Lego colours folds up into a trailer and folds out into different rooms. More here
Mmmm. Designed for one, maybe but surely occasional sleepovers are allowed. APH80 tiny home designed by the Spanish design team at Abaton,
Once you start looking, it turns out there are more people than we thought, professional designers and just plain soloists, who have considered the uni-dwelling:
Blob VB3, Designed by Belgian architectural firm, dmvA above.
A bit of a cliffhanger, by Front Architect
These little fellas help us get our act together all day, until we undo them in the dark. While we dream, they wait, wide eyed, for the start of a new day. For most of us, it’s a kind of unacknowledged mutual dependence, like those birds that live on the backs of rhinos. We know they’re there, but we act as if we don’t.
Of course, some people are different, and some of those people are not at all indifferent to their buttons.
These are the pint sized offspring of London’s Pearly Kings and Queens, who gussy up their plain clothes with as many pearl buttons as they can. The results are fabulous, fun, and a little tragic, like much of life for those on the lower rungs of London living. More recent pics in this article.
Truth be known, while we often admire displays of a great big bunch of stuff, we are generally more partial to those who celebrate the individual unique thing, be it a bungalow, a backless dress, or a button.
Aaaww, look at that, cute as what it is.
And this one, well now we are way beyond cute into the country of art and design. This has an idea, and this was executed with skill and craft. It’s from the collection of the National Button Society! Along with more, below:
This black glass button is as stormy as a Canadian winter sky or a late-night argument that just won’t end.
The above nifty trio, each a fine bright thing, live in the Pennsylvania House Museum, which is not in Pennsylvania, apparently.
But buttons aren’t just a North American pleasure. Look at the above fistful from Birmingham, the one in England.
These gems up there, from here, tell us that button making and button wearing was once something special. Today, we think we are the most interesting people who ever walked the face of the earth, but how many of us pay any attention to our buttons? Maybe that will change. There is lots of encouragement…
This great little book is a catalogue for an exhibition/celebration of buttons in Paris at the Mona Bismark gallery Many were from the collection of Loic Allio, who has his own book (hard to find and pricey). First seen here.
Some have been woven from cloth, many more punched from mother of pearl shell
A few made it to the vest of the little emperor himself and left their mark.
Coco Chanel knew her buttons and put her mark right there, out front, in classic fashion below seen here
Of course, it’s really a question of style and personal taste, whether you go plain above or bravura below.
The thing is you have a choice, it’s up to you. Don’t leave it to chance.
This is one of the oldest buttons ever found. Simple, yes, but made with care, not like any other. See its story here.
If you want a bit more history to go with the eye candy, Slate has this. And if you want to shake up your daily life just a little, go to your closet and check your buttons. Are they YOU? Well, you can change that.
We are big fans of small at the republic of less. We just are. So we keep our eye peeled for little joys in every season and every where.
Above little guys are were found in a local store specializing in things Scandinavian. From Kosta Boda, maker of eye-catching things in glass since 1742. More here.
Big time artists have been known to work at times on a small scale, particularly in three dimensions. Above is a little dancer sculpted by Edgar Degas, found here.
Aristide Maillol is the man behind those large bronzes lying around in unexpected poses in the gardens adjacent to the Louvre. Not far away is the Musée Maillol, a great little museum with lots to like, including the small figure above we saw there.
This we found closer to home base. It is a lovely small figure by Antoniucci Volti (1915 1989) that lives at Vancouver’s Gallery Jones.
In our view, no artist of the 20th century was bigger than Alexander Calder in either imagination or output or playfulness. He too could work small, producing amazing portraits in wire and, as a present for his wife Louisa, a swell set of miniature mobiles in a cigar box, seen here .
Making art large or small is not a modern invention. Humans have been at it for ages.
This pre Columbian terracotta cutie was found in Columbia and is said to date from ca. 600-1200 AD. She’s about 5 inches tall in her bare feet. See more here.
Strike up the band: these little fellas are from Cyprus and they are even older–600 BC. They are now performing at the MET in NYC. We first featured them in a post called Small is.
What’s cuter than a doll? Well, a doll created by the guys and gal at Winnipeg’s own Royal Art Lodge, gone but never forgotten around here. Top group done by Michael Dumontier and Drue Langlois (see here) and lower group by Mr Langlois single handed. Small wonders.
Another doll, no less sweet for being made of clay, we found at the 2011 Venice Biennale. It was part of an exhibit by sculptor Dominik Lang which he called The Sleeping City, a tribute in part to his father Jiri.
Sometimes you spend time looking at children’s books because there is a child in your life that you want to please, and sometimes you just want to please yourself. Above is from an edition of the Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lizbeth Zwerther seen here.
Happily, books are alive and well in stores for kids, and if you go looking, you will find in these little books the work of some of the most gifted and imaginative artists/illustrators/cartoonists from around the world. Above is from a recent book called ICE written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert who is very fond of little pigs, as are we. Read more here.
Above three books are just a sliver of Mr Geisert’s shelf of wonderful work, which has plenty of pig tales, but plenty of pigless wonders too. See more here.
Once you start down this path you will find yourself with a lot more than you bargained for. If you could only have one, how would you choose between a pig tale by Arthur G or a rabbit tale by Komako Sakai?
Ms Sakai is certainly something special. Her simple stories and beautiful way with line and colour will fill your eyes and pinch your heart. She has worked in the textile industry in Japan, they say. More about her books here.
Bears of course have a solid place in children’s stories too. Thanks to Jon Klassen, there’s a new bear on the block and he wants something.
Nice review of Mr Klassen’s book in the NYT here
Along with creatures of the farm and the woods, book artists have found plenty of inspiration among the critters that become part of the household.
Like the wonderful Max brought to life by the wonderful Maira Kalman. Go here
People who love picture books love them as much as other people love chocolate or ABBA–i.e. totally. There are many wonderful websites with tons of these books to show you, including Children’s Illustration, which you’ll find and feast on here.
To send you off, we selected Paul Thurlby an artist from England who, among lots of other things, has made an amazing alphabet, which you’ll find on his site here. Books and pictures, sentences and pictures, letters and pictures, they all go together like summer and running through the sprinkler.