Wee Toaty Annual Report

On July 30, last year, I found myself in a cycle of travel that was really driving me nuts. Back in those days, I worked for a company that expected pretty much 40 hours of billable time even while traveling, so a two month gig in Topeka, where I flew out there on Sunday night and home on Friday night, was painful. (These days, I'm traveling to more places, but never for an entire week. It's a nice change.)

I had been reading through the pictures on Little People: "Little handpainted people, left in London to fend for themselves." You should take a look; he takes tiny plastic figures -- smaller (I think) than model railroad people -- reconfigures and paints them, then sets up scenes around London. The best part, in my mind, was the idea of leaving them behind for someone to come upon randomly and either get a smile or a new thought.

So, I went out and got some Play-Doh, and I made a little skateboarder who crashed while grinding on a bank's wall. I took pictures and scuttled off, hoping that someone would come along and find some enjoyment. I thought it was fun and a good way to whittle away the time while on the road. And here we are a year later: 36 wee toaty explorers are (were) in three countries on two continents; in 13 US states.

My favorite thing is when I get a picture of someone walking by the explorer without even glancing its way. I know I'm pretty oblivious to the world around me, why shouldn't others be?

I think my figures are a good 8 times larger than Little People, but I can't really carry around paint and stuff. Play-Doh really didn't work out. It was soft and did not hold together well. The figures sometimes melted before my eyes. I tried Makins clay for a while, but it was hard to work with and expensive. So I finally settled upon Crayola Fusion, which hardens pretty much overnight and is very light. (Keep in mind that I'm in hotel rooms, so any of those clays that harden in an oven are out of scope.) Sometimes I need a little glue to keep the arms on the next morning, but I'm pretty happy with the results. I have been trying to shrink my work down a bit, but it's taking time for me to get any skills here.

I hope you've enjoyed the explorers. You can go back through them all by hitting this link. I didn't really think I'd keep it up for a whole year, but it seems to have lasted. I'll probably keep going until I start repeating cities. I don't tend to put them in Boulder any more, for example, because my company's HQ is there and I visit often enough it's boring. I also don't drop them here in my town. (There was an early one before this area was our home, but that's down the hill in Grass Valley.) Here are my three favorites. What are yours?

traveler on the platform at Topeka I have a soft spot for Topeka Traveler, one of the earliest ones. I really like the feeling of emptiness on the longer shot of the platform.

I like the Grants, NM, Prisoner because of a story my mother told me. She went over a few days after I left and sat in her car while a group from the men's prison was out doing litter patrol around the women's prison. She watched them gather around the sign when they noticed the sculpture. She was sure they were going to throw it away, but one of the men bent down and picked something up. He put it back on the sign and adjusted the plate maker. The ball and chain had fallen off. They seemed to have a laugh and went back about their cleaning duty, leaving the woman there on the sign.

apples chasing doctor And my favorite is this group of angry apples in Austin. I'll probably return to the apples because they're so much fun to make. It was raining for days, so I kept putting off this shoot, but I had to fly home eventually. So I found a creek running under a bridge, which meant the site was pretty dry. And I think this is the best set of pictures to come out of the set.

5 thoughtful messages from friendly readers:

morninglight mama said...

I truly adore this project, and I really look forward to each new entry. Not too long ago, you posted one that I loved-- the "nontraditional family" of the rhino, hippo and unicorn. The adorable animals had fabulous details, and in my daughter's eyes, unicorns are the BEST EVER, so I guess I have a soft spot. :)

AbbotOfUnreason said...

Thanks MLM! Just thinking about Hutto, TX, makes me hungry for a BLT with fried green tomatoes.

Anna Haynes said...

More ideas here -
(Book Review: Urban Interventions - Personal Projects in Public Spaces)

AbbotOfUnreason said...

I like the lion drinking the McDonald's drink.

HereBeDragons said...

I really do like the apples. They're so fun - and unexpected.