Mel Birnkrant's
Mel Birnkrant's
All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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          “Hair Balls,” on the Universal Scale of Bad Taste, fell somewhere between Clever and Repulsive.  Clever, in that the name was such a natural!  Like the term “Monster Trucks,”  Hair Balls was one of those names, just screaming out to be discovered; a common expression that taken literally, becomes a toy product, readymade!  In fact, I was amazed that no-one beat me to it, before or since!

On the other hand, I also realized that the image the name Hair Balls called up was complicated, a combination of gross and disgusting.  But I hoped that once one actually saw them, they would realize they were just balls with hair on them, and not something that the cat coughed up!  Bottom line, one had to see them.  Even with the category of objects expelled from  catguts  eliminated, “balls with hair on them” sounds bad enough!  Like the Weenies, there was a naughty factor that was eliminated, once one realized what the actual object was.

A Hair Ball was was simply an ordinary ball made of vinyl that, like a vinyl doll head, would be covered in rooted hair.  And, in its most basic form, a Hair Ball would be just a friendly fuzzy ball of fur, somewhat weird, but fun to toss around.  In a world, where pet rocks can become a fad, who knows if hairy balls might not catch on?

          The drawing, below, explores both the limitations and some of the possibilities of Hair Balls.  I could immediately see that just a drawing of a ball of hair was boring.  So, I began to play around, capturing various personalities, based only on their hairstyles. 
         In terms of production, these would be merely doll heads, without faces, the rooted hair would cover the entire surface, or in some cases be applied selectively to ordinary balls.  I found I was instantly bored.  Hair Balls needed something more.  The following pages trace the search for that missing element.  The first attempt is characterized by the page below, basic balls, covered in hair, with just a little something extra.
         What I came up with next might be an answer to what would not have been a problem, but something told me that balls made of vinyl, like doll heads, had to be extracted from a mold by means of, in the case of doll heads, a neck hole.  So I hypothetically envisioned balls, into which hair could be rooted, just as it is on doll heads, in a series of stitches, but with a hole.  And then, a molded vinyl plug could be glued in place to seal the hole. The plugs could be fashioned to express a variety of themes.
          The drawing, below, indicates my usual lame attempt to incorporate sports themes.  Nonetheless, a hairy eight ball somewhat amused me, and struck me as something that might be an iconic object.  Last of all, in the lower right, is a ball I thought I didn’t need to label.  Can you guess what it might be called? 
          Answer: “A Screwball.” 

  Browsing through a catalogue, I came across some “Dinosaur & Animal Noses,” items as intrinsic to the cultural enrichment of humanity as Hair Balls.  These photos made the thought of adding animal snouts to Hair Balls, which was an idea that I had already been contemplating, seem all the more logical and possible. 
          Here is a page of Dinosaur and Monkey balls.
          And, I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually work myself up to combining Hair Balls with eyeballs!  You might be able to assess, from the lackluster quality of these drawings that my interest in Hair Balls was already waning.
         Then, this drawing picked my interest up again.  These scary, realistic, and, somewhat, menacing mouth plugs were registering with me.  I checked off the ones I liked.  KISCOM liked them as well.  So, I set about making a model.
          A few days ago, I found this prototype, under the floor downstairs.  It was in a mailing box, sent back to KISCOM from a company, called, Multi Toys. Also in the same container were a couple of large balls, covered in professionally rooted hair, curly and tightknit, that clearly did not work.
Although, I came across the above drawings, weeks ago, in the ongoing search for items that fall into the category of lost toys, I cast them aside, at the time, deciding not to add them here.  But, upon discovering this prototype, which, frankly, I forgot I ever made, I changed my mind.  There is something about this object that is curious and creepy, but also fascinating.  Unsettling and powerful, I’d feel more comfortable if this Hair Ball was displayed in a cage.