Every now and then it becomes my privilege, as your personal Major FUN, to bring you news about a toy or game company that has found a way to transform the commonplace into the extraordinary. See, for example, my story on a renewed approach to connect-the-dots puzzles. Note especially how enthusiastically you found me waxing.
Today I find myself once again waxing my enthusiasm.
You have, of course, heard of the anamorphoscope, and all the various wonders connected thereto, ranging in wonderworthiness from the, shall we say, “mirror-aculous” works of Leonardo Da Vinci to the many photo-marvels of cinematic illusion?
Have you by any chance also heard of the toy company that has brought this most delightfully illusion-prone technology to the hearts and hands of children – a company called, now say it with me, “OOZ & OZ?”
Like the artist/developer of those transformed connect-the-dots puzzles, Myrna Hoffman, the founder of OOZ & OZ, has managed to make a common coloring-book-like activity into something wonderfully new and deeply engaging. Again, like the connect-the-dots artist, she has explored this new visual twist in great depth and with equally deep devotion.
The technology centers on a thin sheet of mirrored Mylar, which, wrapped around a paper cup, becomes a kind of anamorphoscope – anamorphoscopic enough to make it possible to view and create anamorphs. The art is in the remarkable variety of packages and activities that Ms. Hoffman has created.
To get a feel for that variety, take a look at the Circus Kit. It comes with two mirrored cups, a box of crayons, and 32 pages of anamorphic images to color. Coloring an anamorphic drawing is a challenge in itself. If you try coloring the image without referring to the reflection, you can’t really tell what you’re coloring. If you try to color the drawing while looking at the reflection, you have an eye-hand coordination challenge of significantly amusing profundity. I called Myrna and asked her what she recommended: to do the coloring while looking at the reflection or just to look directly at the paper. Her answer: “yes.”
In addition to the coloring activities there are drawings where you color-only-the-spaces-with-two-dots, incomplete drawings that you try to fill in by connecting dots, other, even more incomplete drawings that don’t even have dots to guide you, and mazes – all transformed by the anamorphic challenge.
The kit itself comes in a cleverly designed box that can be used to transport the entire collection as well as a portable, laptop desk for that anamorph-anywhere experience.
Another, and even more affordable package is designed for parties – you get eight large anamorphed placemats, eight mirror wraps (Mylar sheets that you wrap around a paper cup), and instructions for “bonus activities.” These are very reasonably priced, and perfect for an art class, a session of therapeutic art for seniors, or a family gathering. My wife, who has taught art for many years, noted that the anamorph activity is an excellent way to help teach novice artists to learn to “draw what you see, rather than to draw what you think you see.”
You can even get a custom morph of pretty much any image you send them.
Ms. Hoffman’s sensibilities, to affordability, to children, to play, to art, science and learning; to ecological concerns, are everywhere evident.
We’re talking Major FUN.