Monday, 20 March 2017

Kristin Baybars and her Incredible Shop

If you have read my previous blog post about the exhibition of children's television artifacts at Coventry in 2015 you might remember that I mentioned Kristin Baybars. 

Kristin was the woman who designed Humpty and Jemima on BBC's Playschool (1964 – 1988). Previous to this, Kristin was the toy buyer at Heals department store in London, and the inventor of the Ostrobogulous.

Ostroboguli – if that’s the plural - were a range of suitably 1960s-looking soft toys such as owls, hedgehogs and clowns, which looked like psychedelic precursors to Playschool's Humpty.

Ms Baybars has evidently made a magical contribution to many people's lives: for adults who remember Playschool and for those who have visited her shop over the years.

Anyone entering Kristin Baybar's shop needs to forget about time. You might think time has stood still here, but on the contrary, time passes very quickly in this shop. I've been involved in a conversation here with Kristin or one of her colleagues, and three hours have passed. You should allow for 90 minutes at least. Remember, you may be in a space only 7' by 5' but this is equivalent to Harrods department store, Fortnum and Masons, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Academy all in one... but in miniature form. Imagine how much time you would have to spend walking around those, and converse with a guide at the same time. 

One of my favourite memories of visiting this place was when I sat on a small chair looking through drawers of miniature pottery whilst Ms Baybars sat opposite me looking in an address book for the name of a ceramicist whose name had slipped our minds. A quiet quarter of an hour passed in contemplation… and we both found what we were looking for: Duncan White.

Imagine for a moment that you have shrunk to the size of a Borrower and you need the following:

A Swiss Army knife
An egg slicer
A rattan chair 
A slipware wassail drinking vessel
A shoe house to live in

From this list you will get an idea of what you might find here. All mostly in 12:1 scale. (1 inch = 1 foot). Kristin likes to quote a visitor who once said that 'Aladdin never had it so good!'

Not everything is for sale here however, and the customer needs to respect this. 

The customer might visit the shop to buy something but comes away with much more than a miniature item. They might come away having learned something about art history, the top quality miniaturists of the past few decades, or about Kristin's father, Blair Hughes-Stanton, the artist and book illustrator. All of it enriching and incredibly fascinating.

Kristin’s shop can be found opposite Gospel Oak Station. Knock on the door and wait to be invited in…

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