Lucia Contreras, is obsessed with paper toy theater, also known as "model theater". To learn more about these delightful paper items, check out her Paper Toy Theater blog. (That's how I found her. And that's how the following interview came to be.)
ephemera: How did you become interested in toy theater items?
LC: In my house, there was always a toy theater of my father, Damian who is 85 years old. His sister and he, invented many stories with this toy during the Spanish Civil War. Miraculously, this toy survived to those terrible years and also survived to my older brothers and me. Besides, for years, I was also linked to the theater, as I've been producing shows nearly for 20 years. It was a work that fascinated me and to which; unfortunately, I'm no longer engaged, so I guess that this, coupled with my tendency to not throw anything, did the rest.
ephemera: Did you begin consciously, knowing what you would collect, or did you just one day discover what you were doing?
LC: I did this same question to myself when I was proposed to show my collection and I had to write the text for my first great exhibition in the Museum of the illustration and modernity of Valencia. Even my own family wasn't aware of the dimension of my collection and, frankly speaking, I felt a mixture of pride and shame when I realized how many pieces I had collected.
LC: Without any doubt, my biggest challenge right now is to host a space for my permanent collection and I expect to get it very soon. I am totally focused on drafting preliminary project for a toy theater museum for my city. The challenge grows as fast as my collection. A new editor or a rare piece are always coming up... As for obstacles, undoubtedly, the greatest it is never to have been born rich. Some pieces are extremely expensive and there's nothing worse for a collector than not to be able to get a new piece.
ephemera: What are your favorite items in the collection?
LC: I can't choose one. I have too many favorites. Each theater is like a son, a unique piece in which I spent time to find, sometimes a lot of money and hours of research. My father's Seix Barral's toy theater is of course the one I have more affection for what it means and because it was the start of my collector's passion. But I must say I am very proud to have in my collection nine Martin Englebrecht's dioramas of 1740. For a toy theater collector, to have in my hands such pieces could be equated with Picasso's hanging on every wall of my house.
LC: Fortunately, the Internet gives me almost everything I find. In Spain, despite having been the scene of major publishers of paper theaters, there is not any continuity and tradition in what the plays, performances and new editions are concerned. All my contacts, friends, procurements, and information comes from other countries. It is curious that most of the bibliography I have on paper about toy theater has been acquired in the support that probably will end up with the books as we know them. As for storage and archiving tools, we come to the big problem. Paper, as support of art and culture transmitter, is one of the great inventions of humanity, but its weakness is the great enemy. At this point, I must say that my collection is very mistreated, because I have neither the space nor the means to preserve it as well as it wanted. But I try that the storage boxes do not have moisture with silica gel bags. Anyway, I hope the museum will soon become a reality and that each and every one of my theaters may be presented in the best conditions
ephemera: Thank you, Lucia.