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Toys’ exhibit showcases handcrafted trinkets

Bridget Feeney | Thursday, December 1, 2011

Santa Claus will have an extra helper when spreading holiday cheer this year as the “Toys” exhibit comes to Saint Mary’s College.

“Toys,” a presentation of handcrafted wooden toys and puzzle pieces, will be on display in the lobby of the Cushwa-Leighton Library from Dec. 6 through Jan. 12.

The exhibit will feature toys created by George Efta, other crafts that were given to him as gifts and pieces that he purchased. Efta is one of the nation’s leading craftsmen of handmade wooden toys and puzzles and is married to Saint Mary’s President Carol Ann Mooney.

Bob Hohl, reference librarian and curator of the exhibit, said the Saint Mary’s community is excited to host Efta’s public debut.

“What is more quintessential of Christmas than a toy handmade and given with love?” he said.

According to Hohl, the Cushwa-Leighton Library is decorated every year for Christmas, and “Toys” will be a nice addition to the Christmas trees, wreaths and other seasonal decorations.

“We are all ‘Gettin’ merry like Christmas,’ as Maya Angelou has written,” he said.

A press release from Saint Mary’s said Efta has been designing, building and selling his handiwork for more than 35 years. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1972, Efta was inspired to create his own wooden crafts after he discovered a toy store in a Minnesota mall.

“I thought to myself, ‘I can do that,’” Efta said, “And I couldn’t. But about three months later, I was actually making toys.”

According to the press release, all of Efta’s pieces will be made from wood and include planes, cars and other types of toys.

“What really intrigues me is the whole range of toys and things that are childlike,” he said. “I have pieces from France, Egypt, Italy, England and other countries. Toys are universal.”

Hohl said he expects that the exhibit, which is free to the Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame communities as well as the general public, will serve as a unique way to recognize the holiday season.

“We hope that Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame students will enjoy this exhibit during the next two weeks as the academic semester draws to a close; but we also invite families of the larger community to visit during the holidays to celebrate the special joys of the season,” he said.

In addition to the wooden toys crafted by Efta and the other artists, the exhibit will also include handmade puzzles, some of which are double layered.

“George’s double-puzzles are a delightful surprise ⎯ two puzzles in one and when you remove the top puzzle, there is another underneath,” Hohl said. “My favorite is the fishbowl with two curious and hungry red cats underneath.”

The Cushwa-Leighton Library will also host a reception with Efta open to the public Monday, Dec. 12, from 4:40 p.m. to 6 p.m.