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Queens Chronicle

Channel your inner toy-enthusiast in LIC

Acting as a giant toy chest, LIC Cafe teems with 3,000 Japanese dolls

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Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015 10:30 am

Grumpy cat, a squid, Samwise the Hobbit and a smiling hot dog walk into an exhibit. And, they bring 4,000 of their friends.

The World Amigurumi Exhibition, on display until the end of February at Resobox Gallery in Long Island City, spotlights “amugurumi,” an artistic concept that began in Japan, wherein knitted or crocheted stuffed creatures — many of which are, yes, adorable — are given anthropomorphic traits such as eyes, faces or clothing.

According to Resobox curators, endowing these figures with human qualities gestures to a Japanese philosophy, “Yaoyorozu no Kami,” which suggests that gods live within all inanimate objects, and humanizing them strengthens the bond between the living and the non-living.

Resobox also widens the lens on this art form, including 140 artists from 32 countries.

The thought of thousands of critters — from pirates to happy ice cream cones to bears — being suspended from above, dangling off of walls and perched upon window sills may seem overwhelming. Aside from a rainbow of color, which includes shades of deep indigo to cotton candy pink to wasabi green, diverse textures also abound; some yarn is tiny and fine and some is more frizzy and chunky. It can take a while to absorb all of the stimuli.

The space, like a giant toy chest, must be either a haven or a nightmare for those with attention deficit disorders.

But maybe its the gods indwelling each toy that make the kaleidoscope of color texture a soothing experience, instead of an overwhelming one. The space, which has a cafe serving fragrant traditional dishes such as udon noodles with fried bean curd, sashimi and matcha green tea, satisfies all five senses. Soft music, such as the soundtrack from the Hayao Miyazaki film Ponyo, for example, wafts through the space. Touching and examining up close is allowed, but it takes self-discipline to quell one’s inner 5-year-old and keep from scooping up heaps of amigurumi and fleeing down 27th Street.

The subject matter of the figures ranges from food, such as donuts, cupcakes, carrots, sushi (which are particularly cool), and hot dogs, to plants such as flowers and cacti. It’s a unique space where knitted mermaids mingle with mice, or where a dragon the size of a beagle, valued at $1,000, dangles beside a $1 miniature elephant.

All items are also for sale and have clear indications of whether or not they’re baby safe.

Examining just animals alone also highlights an interesting contrast between realistic representations and more cuddly cartoons: Some octopus figures, which many Japanese people regard as monstrous or scary, according to one Resobox staff member, are rendered lovable or cuddly by some artists, while other versions present them realistically with anatomical accuracy.

Other animals, such as fish, foxes, owls, cats and dogs are also represented as both adorable and realistic. The different viewpoints among artists across the globe are clear.

Fans of Japanese culture should definitely visit, but knitting enthusiasts and even people who can’t sew a stitch would be mesmerized by the gallery, which is right around the corner and up the street from Queensboro Plaza.

The center also offers classes in all-things Japanese culture such as cosplay prop making, anime drawing, jodi stick fighting and sushi or noodle cooking classes.

World Amigurumi Exhibition
When: Monday, Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; weekends, noon to 5 p.m. through Feb. 28.
Where: Resobox Gallery,
41-26 27 St., LIC
Website: resobox.com

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