Saturday, February 19, 2011

Affairs of Toys and Gifts

Whoa! It's the Bennett in the flesh, at Toy Fair 2011
I logged in some serious miles at the recent New York International Gift Fair and the Toy Fair, which both took place at the Javits Center in New York City in the past few weeks. These major events are open to the trade (and press, which is how I got to attend), and showcase the latest trends in design, playthings, house/home wares, and (many, many) related products. Major companies, small businesses, and individuals from all over the world attend to show and sell their products--it is a bonanza of ideas, people, wheeling and dealing, and its takes window shopping to a whole new level.

If you have never been, the shows are organized in long numbered rows, which hold booths that are grouped together by category; the aisles look like this:
Toy Fair

Gift Fair

So, this gives you a sense of the magnitude: multiply these pictures by about 100 and that's how much there is to see! The purpose of my visits to both was to see the offerings through my "mini goggles," but I had to be selective since I only had one day for each fair (both events run over a period of days). I will say that I got some *very* strange looks when I said I blogged about modern miniature design, but at least it was a good ice breaker.

The ice breaker was not needed at the brinca dada booths, however, and I had the pleasure of meeting owner Doug Rollins at the Gift Fair and architect Tim Boyle at the Toy Fair to see their latest wares. Let's start off with Doug, who had the prototype for the new collapsible Dylan on display (I blogged about it here). Doug demonstrated the Dylan and answered a few questions for me as I drooled....please excuse my inadequate use of my kids' Flip camera (I need to get some tips from them!)

It was great to see the Dylan up close and imagine its potential (the scale is still undetermined, but likely will be close to 1:16). Doug let me know that originally there was to be a drawer that would hold a set of paper furniture, but that was abandoned in the interest of making this as light and portable as possible. The paper furniture will still be done, though, and Doug and Tim promise great modern fun. I'm intrigued!

When I met Tim at the Toy Fair, he, too, was kind enough to indulge my lame Flip work, and showed me the gorgeous, gorgeous 1:16 Bennett House. I was happy to see it there, and Tim admitted that it took some late night hours to get this lovely prototype into shape for the Fair! First, a video of Tim and this gem:

Fantastic, right? I really do love the lines and structure, especially the play possibilities when it is both open and closed. As Tim notes in the video, there will be a new line of furniture for the Bennett that will be sold as a group, as with the Emerson furniture. By the way, Tim did note that they are working with a new manufacturer for the Bennett and Dylan, and are confident that the quality woes encountered with the Emerson are behind them. Price on the Bennett: $500-600. Timing for the Bennett: Fall 2011.

Care for Some More Highlights from the Gift Fair?
The Jonathan Adler booth had a lovely showroom space, prominently situated at one of the main entrances. I enjoyed speaking with the staff there, including Starrett Zenko, who heads up marketing and PR for the brand. Will there be more minis from Jonathan (you may recall his line for Barbie's 50th Anniversary)? Not likely, at least not in the near future, but I noted that a shrink gun would come in mighty handy! I did notice Adler's "Junior" display of smaller items for the home...would LOVE those pillows in 1:12!

The "Accent on Japan" section was a real treat, and not surprisingly, there were lovely things to see. I was intrigued by mini paper instruments by Inatome, known as PePaKuRa, or the phonetic Japanese pronunciation for "paper craft." The instruments are laser cut, made out of a single sheet of paper, and they were amazing to see up close:

More paper craft in another booth:

And a mini garden!

Umbra was next on my list. I have many Umbra products that I use in my 1:1 life, but my mini use has involved the ingenious "Fish Condo, " which I enjoyed setting up as a sleek beach pad. Their booth had a storage cube that has serious mini potential:

Even some nice picture frames that could serve as a backdrop, or two could even be used to create a little minimalist environment:

This wall decoration is fantastic as well -- many possibilities here, for flooring, a wall divider, even a ceiling in a room box!

Nearby, there was a fantastic gathering of iconic mini chairs at Karen Alweil Studio's booth, featuring the Australian company Little Nest:


The AMAC booth was like a candy store for us modern miniature collectors...
Little gems!

White opaque sleekness

OOOH! Black opaque!

Owner Steve Catechi was very intrigued and happy to see my open-mouthed reaction to the sea of beautiful plastic boxes, some gem colored, some shiny and opaque, in all shapes and sizes. HUGE mini potential here. Haven't we all used these boxes in some shape or form? The company has been around since the 1960s, and is recognized for its pure design by the Museum of Modern Art. I hope to share more from AMAC very soon!

Other Toy Fair Tidbits

One of the four major trends at this year's Toy Fair was "cent-sational," or the "pennies-per-play" model of mini collectibles and mini versions of toys already on the market at mini price points. Anyone else collect those LEGO action figures??? Speaking of LEGO, I thought of my buddy Pubdoll when I saw this LEGO car from the movie Cars, which was situated on the main floor. Over 100,000 pieces needed for that one!

The HaPe showroom was a highlight. The Sunshine Bamboo Dollhouse was on display, along with all of the funiture; while I have admired it on other blogs, it was nice to see it first hand. I had a long talk with the marketing head about the fun and challenges of producing and promoting these houses. I took some pics of the one they had on display, and admired the smooth, durable quality of the pieces.

We also discussed their new All Season Dollhouse, from their Educo division, which is a more straightforward structure, but still with an eco theme. I liked the hanging mod light and rocket ship accessory!

On to Plan Toys...we're all familiar with the Green Dollhouse, and I liked handling the furniture and seeing some new items, like the flower bed.

Cute, huh? I love how the felted flower buds are fashioned.

Along the way, another company caught my eye, Maxim Enterprise. They do make an eco dollhouse, the 3 Level Rotating Dollhouse, which has some potential, but I was intrigued by their new wooden modular rooms that you can fit together to create a dollhouse. All eco friendly as well.

They also were showing a barn that I thought could work as a studio to a larger house (sans the stalls), as well as a cute tree house that sprouted leaves! The Micro Timbers were pretty neat as well.

Some final eye candy that I love to use in my scenes: Tynies and the Beanie Eraserz, a line of new collectible erasers created by Ty and in partnership with the Japanese company Iwako. I love Tynies and am so glad my local toy shop carries them; it was good to see all the varieties here. Not just for kids, folks!

The Beanie line with Iwako is incredibly cute, and they feature "Beanie" colors. The eraser samples were on view in an enticing row of plastic dispensers, which attracted a lot of attention!

If you have read this far, thanks for your interest and patience! I had a blast at both fairs, and look forward to attending the next ones. If you went to any of the fairs as well, I'd love to hear your feedback!

Oh, a reminder to log in a *daily* vote for me in's Reader's Choice Awards! I'm up for "Best Miniature Blog." I've received emails from some of you out there wondering why Call of the Small is in last place (or close to last place). If you don't vote daily (once per IP address), then I will stay there, folks! I appreciate your support! VOTE HERE! Voting ends March 8.


  1. Thank you for doing all this hard work, man! It is so great to see the Dylan being put together--AND to see the Bennett in action. Very cool! Was there still a swimming pool on top of the Bennett? I know you had fun! I also dig on the mini garden you found. And your video skills were just fine!

  2. That looks like a lot of fun!

  3. Dear Chris
    Thanks for a very detailed and interesting report.For mini's like me its impossible to be there- Its all so far away from my little village...

  4. What an absolutely wonderful informative post. It will take me a while to get through it all. You are awesome! So much fun! PS. I keep voting. Hugs, Amy

  5. Wow - great photos! Thanks for the peek!

  6. What a blast! Looks like you had an amazing trip. Thanks for sharing so many details, I feel like I got the highlights of the shows. The videos were great!! Many many thanks!

  7. O`my, O my...I wish I could have been there :)
    Thank You for this introduction!

  8. Hi, MC! Thanks! Seeing the Bennett for real was a highlight, and Tim was so gracious and funny. I did ask about the roof, and I recall Tim saying that it would have a solar panel like the Emerson, but I could be wrong. I do know that the prototype did not reflect the final. Thanks for your compliments on my video skills -- I had to open a You Tube account to link them easily here, so I can put more of my lame attempts up there! The mini garden is way cool, and could definitely work as a outdoor element to a larger house.

  9. Hi there, Neomi! I am glad you liked my report, and that I was able to share the fairs through my eyes with you :)

  10. Hey, Amy, thanks! I know it's a long, long post, but I really wanted to cram everything in! And thanks for voting, you're sweet! I'm hanging onto 4th! ;)

  11. Hi m gudlewski! Thanks -- glad you enjoyed the peek!

  12. Thanks, Mini Dork! Glad you liked the tour and the videos. There was an overwhelming amount to see and I feel like I missed some things, but I hope I stumbled on the right stuff too.

  13. Hey, TSS! The mini goggles helped... ;)

  14. Thanks, Kikka! Wish you were there too, but glad you got a view into at least some of it!

  15. WOW!
    Does anyone know where the most enexpenisve place to buy the Reac Designer chairs is?
    Or where you buy them,

  16. Hi, Payton! Manor House Miniatures has a very small selection of Reac chairs, and they run $8.99-10.99 and shipping is way cheap. The selection is very limited though. Toy Tokyo has a wider selection, but their shipping is more pricey. Of course, eBay is an option, but I recommend some pretty thorough searching to try and get the best combo of price and shipping. Good luck!

  17. Wow. wow. wow! I really need to see about visiting the next toy fair. The bennett house is awesome. *drool* I also need to look up the tynies too! Thanks for sharing this post with us!

  18. Thanks, Ann! The Fair was incredibly fun, and seeing the Bennett was pretty great. Check out the Tynies -- some are smaller than others and work really well in 1:12. ;)

  19. wow what a fabulous post!!! I've been reading your blog for about 6 months now, and LOVE it!! You have inspired me to launch my own blog on minis today. I'd love you to check it out;

  20. Hi there, Trish! Thanks for your comment. Congrats on launching your blog! I took a look and love those scenes you've set up -- best of luck to you!

  21. Cool room!!
    What Reac "Designer" Chair set do like the best and which do you think would be the best for a begginer?

  22. Hi Peyton, I really can't pick a favorite, since I like individual chairs from each set. It all depends on your style and what you like -- have fun!

  23. Great coverage - thanks!

    I have to admit to being a little less in love with The Dylan now that I see it. 1:16 scale, no stair? Hmmm.

    I am curious: do you know if Umbra and AMAC were at a toy fair because they acknowledge that their products get repurposed by miniaturists? Or were they there moreso as toy storage vendors? Interesting.

  24. Thanks, Uyek! The Dylan is more of a raw play space, rather than a play jewel like the Bennett. Umbra and AMAC were both at the Gift Fair; I don't believe they were at the Toy Fair, or at least I didn't see them there. I was trying to cram both fairs into this post, so sorry if it was confusing how I separated them out. The AMAC owner was definitely aware that miniaturists love their stuff, and I think he is very interested in exploring how to reach collectors and hobbyists. I did not get to speak with the marketing rep at Umbra, but the sales rep did not seem too surprised to hear of my fish condo exploits!