Toy museums in general are like magical places to me and are cherished in my heart, but a museum like this one in particular gives me so much joy and inspiration (painting and drawing/tattoo) and I wonder; why does it effect me so deeply? Is it nostalgia for my lost youth and innocence or have I really not matured much at all to be attracted by such infantile pleasures? Not to mention why all this obsession of mine with the past and what that might represent? I must admit that faced with the reality of the world today I rather just pass by or ignore so, when I enter a place like this I know that the reality I’m searching for does exsist. Maybe an artist creates their own reality. I seek something that matches my vision. After I find it I want to put that vision down in my own words/colors. Now, let me paint you a picture of the Toy Museum in Brussels, Belgium.
A.S.B.L. Musée du Jouet
Rue de l’Association, 24
1000 – Bruxelles
The museum is installed in a hôtel particulier, a grand 4 story mansion that would have housed a large bourgeois family. The house itself is an enormous toy box, a treasure chest filled with plastic balls, metal trains, wooden horses, tin robots, paper dolls, and cardboard houses. The museum is also a portal to another demension. Enter, turn the corner, step back in time and be dazzled by the dome in the atrium. Step up to another level and marvel at a train set in its own contained environment. Climb the stairs of reverie. Discover if you are lucky the open door of the workshop, where a thousand repairs are going on. Find the favorite toy from your childhood or of one from a past life’s. A collection gathered over a lifetime and assembled with love by a big kid. I was lucky enough to meet that big kid, the founder, André Raemdonck. Later, reading the catalog I could hear his voice and imagine his enthusiasm. He fought to create this enchanted spot where children are allowed to run, yell, play and explore. The museum can even be rented for birthday parties. One began as I arrived on the day of my first visit. “Don’t dirty your party clothes!”- I see a father, mother and little girl. I can’t understand their language but the father is scolding l.g. for getting her tights dirty. Funny how they expect her to be thinking of her clothes while she is having fun in this place dressed in her best!
The Brussels Toy Museum feels kind of haunted. Perhaps by the hopes and dreams of all the little children that loved these toys? Little sister loved that doll now she is all grown up and can’t remember. Little brothers who were growing up during wars, who played with soldiers and lilliputian castles, in their innocense didn’t grasp the reality of the symbols of their games or maybe had the beginings of understanding; an oblivious initiation, a foundation of sorts. Here are grouped the mechanical objects for manufacture of industrial reveries, it’s an imagination/dream factory. Construction games for example, where one gathers the parts, finds the place that fits, building something to see how it works. Seeds planted for a future architect?
What is a toy for an adult? A key to return to the past with the feelings, memories, sweet nostalgia. There are perhaps new lessons to learn from my younger self. What would I do different? What was lost that we are trying to tap back into? Why do adults collect toys? Because we can! Adults value toys for many of the same reasons children do, because they bring an enormous amount of joy. Handmade wooden toys vs. Plastic, shiny or tintoys, a point of difference; let’s compare. What is their value? Time invested vs. Industrial technique. Handmade toys are sincere in their charming simplicity, sturdy and natural. The child may see more value in the seduction of streamlined “better” “new” mass produced toys that are more detailed with smaller moving parts, precise and realistic. But the inverse could be true for both and for other reasons. An adult may appreciate more, later. How can one possibly decide in any case? I want them all! Why do we have impulses to hoard and not be happy with what we have? I want that toy they want mine. Maybe the lessons are dangerous, we learn to want “things”.
What is a toy for a child? A dream to be BIG, to imagine, to practice, to learn for the future, skills to function in the world. A toy is an useful tool, a catalyst towards working on one moment of joy, a story, a game. The child engages in the Zen practice of living in the moment (at the same time projecting on tomorrow but with no concept of the future); innocent preparations. Start with the basics: Imitation of mommy in the kitchen organising her pantry, shopping, and cooking. Mimic the doctor, examing the teddy bear, taking his temperature. Our primary interests are perhaps the debut of talents that will embark us on a future career. Games and toys are gateways to introducing young ones to all the metiers. We too can take cues from children when preparing to take on a new path/challenge. How? Remember to dream, imagine, practice, learn, prepare and emulate. With toys the child’s fantasy is propelled into action, an accessory for the fantasy to make it more real, acting out, trying it on, searching. There are parallels to be found with my art – exploring who I am, creating something that is me. To capture intangible feelings, explore unknown emotions and why I was so inexpliquably moved. Expressing what I cannot put into words.My work is very much about play and maybe that’s my deep connection to places like these. The reality I’m searching for is magical, utopian, positive and marvelous. I hope that comes across in the results of my labor.
Masked bandit or carnival clown in Harlequin hat and play-suit, ABSTRAKT “hot dog” on wheels, Teddy bear school where the fine arts of cuddling, comforting and amusing are taught along with child psychology. And the sketches they inspired…
Spooky dolls quietly disturbing.
Nun doll with tiny altar, tapestries, a pillow with an embroidered immaculate heart, candle stick, bell, and challis. The museum catalog mentions a requisite parental supervision while playing with these objects to prevent sacrilege! Toys as a means to introduction.
The dome. This museum is housed in a large ancient residence. This room was probably used to entertain.
Homemade hand painted wooden toys.
Pantry or well stocked grocery store.
Impressive variety of rocking horses.