Behind the Scenes: the Making of the Merry Maker Blocks
When the Mary Blair estate allowed Uncle Goose to peruse her drawings and doodles, we fell in love with three Santa sketches. Your Uncle Goose features them in our Merry Maker blocks.
We carefully restored these drawings from the Mary Blair archives. As near as we can tell, Blair drew these images in either crayon, pastels, or colored pencils.
They were a bit faded, so we restored them as sharply as we could. It was a labor of love.
Our customers love these three little Santas, too. How could they not? The Santas are more than merry, they’re also a classic example of Mary Blair’s signature style.
One marker of Blair’s style is her use of colors. She would place vibrant, contrasting colors right next to each other to create movement and emotion. On the Santa images, you’ll see bold red and orange; white and black.
That’s it. Only four colors. But they’re so bold, they trick the eye into believing there are more.
The second marker of Blair’s signature style is her use of abstraction. Instead of realism, Blair used lines, shapes, and colors to convey movement and emotion.
For example, when many people think of Santa, they think round. They think jolly. But Blair took a different approach.
Mary Blair used a sharp shape — a pointy triangle — to construct the Santa hats, beards, and boots. She used a rectangle and a rhombus to form two of their bodies. And she used red and orange diamonds to pattern their clothing.
Even though her three Santas aren’t realistic or typical, they each display a distinct personality. You can sense the mischief in their side-eye glances. And thanks to the juxtaposition of red and orange, you can imagine movement as they play their instruments.
While we marvel at the understated artistry of the Santas: we can’t ignore Mary Blair’s snowflake doodles. They are typical of mid-century styling.
For the two decades after World War II, designers of the time were smitten with the space race and scientific discovery. They’d work starbursts, atoms, and space age imagery into designs, signs, and architecture. Many of these elements didn’t serve a purpose other than decoration.
Mary Blair’s snowflake doodles resemble starbursts and atoms, too. But unlike many of her contemporaries, Blair's snowflakes serve a thematic purpose. The Santas come out to play their instruments at the North Pole in December, so of course they must have swirling snow.
Notice how each snowflake appears to be in motion. Their lack of symmetry creates this sense of movement.
And lastly, let’s not forget our fifth and final contrasting color. We used a muted green to create the H’s and O’s to form HO HO HO. You'll also see green snowflakes. After all, Christmas colors are typically red and green, right?
But look closely. The H’s and O’s are actually orange and green. We took the orange diamonds from the Santas' outfits instead of the red to create the contrasting H’s and O’s.
It’s another trick of the eye: if you want to believe the blocks are red, then they appear to be so. That’s the magic of Mary Blair, and the magic of the Christmas “red and green” archetype.
You might think that the Merry Maker Blocks are a simple nine-piece holiday block set. And you’d be right. But there’s a lot of history and genius packed into this popular, midcentury holiday themed block set.
We’re glad we spotted the fading Santas in the Mary Blair archives. And we’re happy you love them, too.
If you want to have them in time for Christmas: remember to get them early!