Ottawa Citizen — A Retro Story

By Nathalie Atkinson

Gary Taxali and Indigo revive vintage wooden playthings in style.

The beginnings of Indigo’s latest exclusive came to Trevor Dayton, vice-president of Kids & Entertainment at the company, during a buying trip to Hong Kong last January.

“I was in the showroom of a manufacturer, a big mess of a room with toys everywhere, and we were walking around, and slowly, I just started seeing these really classic wooden toys — a Jacob’s ladder, things that,” Dayton recalls. “I hadn’t seen anthing like them for years. They were very plain design in wood, no adornment, no graphics, no thoughtfulness in terms of graphic presentation.” He brought samples back and started thinking about a way to reinvent the classic toys for a contemporary audience.

By serendipity, someone had left galley’s of This Is Silly!, Canadian artist and illustrator Gary Taxali’s new children’s book with Scholastic, on his desk. “I realized it was exactly the look and feel I wanted applied to the toys. It was just such a great fit,” Dayton says.

The result is Indigo’s new collection of Gary Taxali wooden toys — six in all, from that Jacob’s ladder to a squeeze monkey on a trapeze to a hand-held chalkboard. Even the packages, for which Taxali created a new typeface called Chumply, conjure 1950s retro in a palette of aqua, butter yellow, teal and orange.

“I didn’t create them with children specifically in mind,” Taxali says. “I don’t design for anybody but myself. The end user just happens to be the end user. Once I start thinking about making things for other people or demographics, then I start second-guessing myself.”

His toys actually began as sculptures, he explains, from “some bronzes” created for Luminato — although those bring his characters to life in a fine art way, with a price tag to match. Less expensive (think $75 to $300) are the collectible vinyl figures and toys created by his company Chump Toys or licensed with Kid Robot and Qeedrophonic.

The low cost of the Indigo collection was a boon (they’re priced from $4.95 to $12.95, in store and online at chapters.indigo.ca). “That’s another thing that really made me happy,” Taxali says. “This was my first time creating toys with a really accessible price point.”

“That’s the way it should be: toys should be affordable, and they should be played with.”

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