Sunday, December 31, 2017

To the stars!

If only we lived in the happy world propaganda paints.
Ah well, I can still rally to wish us all a Happy 2018! 
Soviet-era ^ "Happy New Year" postcard, found on Pinterest

I've been looking at the work of "teddy bear artists"--humans who design and hand-make modern, one-of-a-kind, stuffed bears.
I'm usually not keen on new bears artificially distressed to look as if they're old and worn, but I have liked some bears of that type made by Russian teddy-artist Olia Mayorova.
She photographs them beautifully; here she dressed one of her bears as a cosmonaut for this New Year, in her Instagram, Olga's bears:

That's Yuri Gagarin behind the bear, you know––first human in space, in 1961, the year I was born. I like him––he was a lovely looking guy with a radiant smile. [Oh, huh, I see I even have an index tab on him.]

I decided to see if there were any affordable Gagarin things on eBay. Of course there are.
Of course!
I was thrilled to find this batch of 5 Soviet pins commemorating Gagarin's spaceflight, for $10. I especially like the blobby depiction of his ship, Vostok, because it looks like a space capsule out of Star Trek (Nomad, specifically).

And then I found this little rubber, squeak toy--below, left, with a clouded and scratched helmet––listed on eBay as "Yuri Gagarin Doll, from Czechoslovakia, 1962".
You cannot rely on eBay for the full story, so I googled it.

I found pictures of the cosmonaut without his helmet (far right),
and, while there's nothing that says he is Gagarin per se (there are none of the usual signs, like his orange spacesuit), the toy has got a very cool backstory:

It was part of a bunch of squeaky-toy workers designed by Czech toy designer Libuše Niklová, one of the first to use plastic in toy-making.

In fact, this little spaceman was in the "Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900–2000" exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 2012 [exhibit slideshow]

along with other Niklova toys, including her most famous--an accordion cat, below, on her shoulder.

She got the idea for the accordion toys from a bendy plastic part used in new flush toilets of the era. MoMA calls the toys "artistically conceived and technically ingenious."

Originals of Niklova's toys are expensive online ($50 to $500) and, as far as I can see, not very common, so I was pleased to buy this one on eBay for $9.50.
He's probably barely been able to see out in decades:
I look forward to popping his helmet off. 

Once again, I wish you a great big HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


Annika said...

Happy New Year, Fresca! I'm trying to stay awake until midnight (one hour to go) and am really sleepy now - but what a lovely post! I imagine that there's tons of Gagarin memorabilia hidden away in grandparents' drawers all over the former Soviet region, just waiting to be discovered.

Are you familiar with the Gagarin biography, Starman?
( If you don't have it already, I'll send you my copy - the first item I bought in London upon moving there in 1998, but never re-read in 20 years, so I'd love to pass it on to somebody who would appreciate it.

Frex said...

ANNIKA: How wonderful to see you!!!
I'm so happy I wrote about SPACE for you to stumble upon.
I have not seen that book, no, so if you'd like to send me your copy, I'd love that--thanks.
I hope you and the little ones (and the big ones) are well.
On we go... XO Fresca

Frex said...

P.S. And yes, lots of the Gagarin memorabilia listed on eBay comes from former Soviet satellites.
I kind of want to order something, just to get mail from Estonia...

deanna said...

Happy, happy New Year, Fresca!! My best wishes for you in 2018 (Tim's, too!). Some of my Russian friends may well remember these toys. Thanks for sharing. Keep warm!

Fresca said...

DEANNA: Thanks, and best wishes back to you!
I'd be interested to hear what your Russian friends say about Gagarin---one young Russian woman told me her mother had had a crush on him. (I can see why.)