March 4, 2011
Kim Vandenbroucke is one brainy chick. And she’s made quite a career out of it, creating and developing innovative gaming ideas for some of the biggest names in the business, including: Mattel, Hasbro, Cranium and Pressman Toy. Vandenbroucke, who will share her story this Saturday, March 5 at the American History Museum, in an interactive presentation as part of the Lemelson Center’s Innovative Lives series, spoke with ATM’s own Madeline Andre.
So you develop toys and games, are you just a big kid?
Ha ha! Actually I’m not. In fact, more often I’ve been accused of acting “more grown up” than I really am—not so much now that I’m in my early 30s, but in my 20s I got that all the time. I am, however, a very competitive but fun-loving person, which definitely helps. I think to be a good inventor and developer of toys and games you need to be able to see the humor in a wide variety of things but you also need to have a realistic filter to make sure your ideas are creative but strategic concepts.
What does it take to think of something entirely new and different?
An open mind. Too often people shoot down ideas before they even have a chance. I like using “bad ideas” as a jumping off point to think other ideas. Sometimes it may take you to uncomfortable places or areas that are even more absurd, but in reality it’s never your first idea that’s your best. Your brain needs time to explore before it’s going to find an idea with merit.
I’ve read that you have a mind that is always “on the go.” What makes you tick?
Coffee. I’m kidding. I really don’t know what makes me tick. I think I’ve trained part of my brain to always be looking for things that provide a spark—or an initial seed of an idea. Back when I started in the invention business a co-worker of mine suggested I always carry around a little notebook in case an idea popped into my head. It’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given because you never know when or where inspiration is going to strike. Just remember to bring a pen.
You got any tips for future inventors and innovators?
Don’t give up. You need really thick skin to be an inventor because there will always be people who are quick to shoot down your ideas and it hurts because they are YOUR ideas. Don’t let the negative criticism get to you; ask for constructive feedback to improve your idea. Sometimes they might be right and it is a dud. So let it go and move on to your next great idea. Trust me, if you have one great idea in you then you definitely have two great ideas, so keep going.
Innovative Lives: Kim Vandenbroucke takes place Saturday, March 5 from 4-5 PM. Free, but first come, first serve. Spark!Lab, 1st floor, National Museum of American History.
March 2, 2011
Have you ever wanted to hold a 95-carat yellow diamond in your hand? There’s an app for that.
As a bonus to the new exhibition, “Set In Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels,“ the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum yesterday released an iPad app. Can’t get to New York City to see the show? Download the free app and take an armchair tour and get an intimate view of 65 of the exhibition’s 350 exquisite pieces. The app, which includes interviews with curators, a timeline of the firm’s history and design innovations, a comments section and a zoom tool, is available for free from the iTunes Store.
“Set In Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels” is on view in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum until June 5, 2011.
February 25, 2011
“We didn’t need dialogue, we had faces!” Norma Desmond, the forgotten movie star, famously snarled in the 1950 film noir classic Sunset Boulevard. And come Oscar night, we really want to hear fewer words—especially in the form of overextended acceptance speeches—and instead revel in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s biggest night of the year. But you don’t need one of those coveted seats at the Kodak Theater to get in on the fun. Instead, come get star struck at the National Portrait Gallery with these pieces pertaining to some of the greatest faces of the silver screen.
1. Katherine Hepburn
Hepburn, known for playing very independent-minded characters, was nominated 12 times and with four wins, she still holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscars. She took home the gold for her performances in Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981). You can get an up-close look at her statuettes on display on the museum’s third floor, along with a 1982 portrait by artist Everett Raymond Kinstler.
2. Grace Kelly
For all those fashionistas out there, you absolutely must familiarize yourself with the indomitable aesthetic of Grace Kelly. The 1983 bronze sculpture illuminates her timeless beauty and effortless style. Kelly is perhaps best known for her roles in films like The Country Girl (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955) and Mogambo (1953), for which she received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Hollywood royalty became real-life royalty when she married Prince Ranier III of Monaco and was given the title of Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco, or more familiarly, “Princess Grace.”
3. Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor is regarded as one of America’s greatest actresses. Starting out as a child star in films such as Lassie Come Home (1943) and National Velvet (1944), she was able to make the often-difficult transition to grown-up roles where her talent and rare beauty were allowed to shine. Taylor won two Best Actress Oscars for her roles in Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966). You can find her in the “20th Century Americans” exhibition on the third floor by way of a 1955 photograph by Sid Avery.
4. Tom Hanks
There is no contemporary actor more widely recognized and respected than Tom Hanks. Though he received early recognition for his ability to play average people in extraordinary situations, it wasn’t until his portrayal as a lawyer with AIDS in Philadelphia (1993) and his astounding role as the title character in Forrest Gump (1994) that he received his back-to-back Best Actor Oscars. Located in the National Portrait Gallery’s “Americans Now” exhibit on the first floor, this portrait, a digital print by Dan Winters, speaks to Hanks’ ability to portray the average Joe.
5. George Clooney
George Clooney personifies style and masculinity to the point that women want him and men want to be him. Clooney has been acting in film and television for more than 30 years with a successful turn in the 90s series E.R., which he followed up with the Ocean’s Eleven films and an Oscar-winning performance in Syriana (2005), for which he won the Best Supporting Actor statuettte. In a state-of-the-art video installment of multiple American figures in the “Americans Now” exhibit, artist Lincoln Schatz plies his craft to create an unconventional video portrait of the actor.
February 18, 2011
Some significant bling went on view today at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City. It’s not just glitter either, there’s some fabulous celebrity glam to behold, as well. There’s a diamond encrusted platinum tiara worn by Grace Kelly, an amethyst, coral and diamond bracelet of Elizabeth Taylor’s, Eva Peron’s bracelet and necklace, and another bracelet once owned by Marlene Dietrich.
The exhibit, “Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels,” represents the first time that the jewels, timepieces, object d’art and other fashion accessories will be examined from the perspective of design. The show features some 300 stunning pieces accompanied by design drawings, commission books, fabrication cards and other imagery collected from the Van Cleef & Arpels’ archive.
Sarah Coffin, the museum’s curator of art and head of the product design and decorative arts department, says that Van Cleef & Arpels has long been known for innovations and imaginative designs in the art of jewelry making. The pieces in this exhibit, Coffin says, “give us an opportunity to look at how they relate as part of a broad history and through the whole process of jewelry making.”
The much vaunted firm has been the face of handcrafted jewelry design and innovation since its opening on the Place Vendôme in Paris in 1906. During World War II, the design house moved to New York and embraced a new era of American style and taste, attracting the wealthy and elite trendsetters of the 20th century. Known for its pieces that transform from one design to another and a patented unique “Mystery Setting,” in which concealed prongs hold the gemstones, the company has long set a premium on highly skilled craftsmen and specialty settings.
Some of the more unique pieces in the exhibition are pieces of jewelry that transform from one piece to another. A necklace zips up to become a bracelet. A brooch of a bird that holds a 95-carat yellow diamond in its beak can be disassembled so that its wings turn out to be earrings. The exhibition is on view until June 5.
Visit our photo gallery of some of the pieces from the exhibition.
February 17, 2011
Tomorrow, a new IMAX film, “Arabia 3D,” debuts at the National Museum of Natural History’s Johnson IMAX Theater. The immersive, 3D-experience delivers breathtaking aerial views of the Kingdom Tower of Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia and the Grand Mosque in the Holy city of Makkah (Mecca), where every year some three million Muslims make their sacred pilgrimage. Narrated by the Academy Award-winning actress, Helen Miren, the 40-minute adventure offers some spectacular cinematography of desert camel caravans, Red Sea shipwrecks and the ancient ruins of a lost city. The film’s producers are among the first to be granted access to more than 20 locations across Saudi Arabia.
Last week at a sneak preview of the film, 24-year-old Hamzah Jamjoom, a Saudi citizen whose story is told in the film, discussed how Arabia’s past golden ages have inspired the Saudi people of today. Jamjoom, who came to the United States at age 17 to study film, spoke about Arabia’s history from the Nabataean frankincense traders and early founders of the scientific method to the modern cities and economy of Saudi Arabia.
Twice-nominated for an Academy Award, Greg Macgillivray, the film’s producer and director, has said that he wanted tell the stories that most Americans will have never heard. “Great care was taken to find the right point of view,” he has said, “we went though more than 50 drafts of the script and everything has been vetted with religious and historical experts.”
Purchase tickets online. The film is offered four times daily, seven days a week.