About a year ago, my husband and I were visiting our favorite antique mall in KC, the River Market Antique Mall. Like many other trips we've made there, we were there for about 2 hours looking at all sorts of stuff. Sometimes we find lots of treasures, sometimes one or two and sometimes nothing. Stuff turns over quite frequently there so we like to check back when we can. In the last year, because I've been making wooden robots again, my eye tends to look for wooden toys and wooden blocks. I've always loved wooden blocks, wooden alphabet blocks and wooden toys but it's funny how when you're making something using a certain material, your eye becomes keener. It becomes a mission to find those things and see how the material has been used and how many different ways it's been used.
We've found some great blocks but never before had I seen anything like these wonderful wooden animal puzzles. They are so charming and simple. At first, I wasn't even going to get them (can you believe it?), but my husband lovingly snatched them up for me. I've been enjoying them ever since.
The more I looked at the puzzles as a whole and the animals individually, the more I wanted to know about them. The boxes that they're housed in are very nondescript and in trying to research them a bit, they still remain a complete mystery. I have no idea who made them. The only thing on one of the boxes is a little label that reads "Made in Japan / ART ORIGINALS / New Canaan, Conn." Did Art Originals make them? Is that the name of a store? Who knows. What I do know is that it would be fun to get a scroll saw and play with some of my own animal (and robot!) designs. Seeing these blocks has me thinking of possibilities.
As much as I love the design of the puzzles, I love the individual animals too. For as simple as they are, they're also very expressive. My favorite is the jaguar, crouched down, looking at whatever is in his paws. The dolphin is also a fave. It looks as if he's mid air, jumping in the waves. I also love the snake. It looks as if he's getting ready to curl up and warm himself. Lastly, the elephant makes me smile. It looks like he's just sat down to have a chat, and I've interrupted him mid-sentence. Or, maybe he's just laughing. :)
As I was researching wooden animal puzzles, I came across the wonderful work of designer Enzo Mari. The Sedici Animal Puzzle, pictured above, was designed by Mari in 1957 for Danese. The puzzle is comprised of 16 different animals which, like the puzzles I found, also stand on their own. Did Enzo Mari influence the design of the puzzles I found? If so, when were the ones I found made? Or, did it happen the other way around? Did the japanese puzzles influence him? I'd love to get my hands on one of Mari's puzzles, but at $600-$700 a set, I'll need to save up for it! Luckily, Danese issues 300 of the sets every year, each one numbered. How cool! (Mari also made a Pesci (fish) Animal Puzzle that's worth checking out, here.)
Now.... to research scroll saws...!