Marina D. Ramos, left, and Ana Mirella Gonzalez at Pico Pao's NY NOW exhibitor's booth
Among the more fun exhibitors at this week’s winter 2020 NY NOW home/lifestyle/handmade/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center was Pico Pao, the contemporary and antique game supplier from Zamora in northwestern Spain.
The company’s name means “woodpecker” in a Spanish dialect spoken in the small region between Spain and Portugal. Sure enough, one of its games on display was the Pajaro Carpintero Arco, made up of a wooden vertical arch with a string dropping down from top to bottom, on which a little woodpecker pecks a a tiny wooden block as it descends. It’s part of the Ludus Ludi (“to play” in Latin) collection of “experimental” games, all, noted designer Marina D. Ramos, “balance and pressure related.”
Such games are often solitary and require minimal rules—if any—encouraging abstract thought and random discovery via manipulation of artistic objects.
Also on display, Nirvana, like Pajaro Carpintero Arco, features a vertical arch and a suspended string—this time attached to a dangling, spinning top (or any other object). The game employs objects of varied weight, volume and position in demonstrating the relationship between gravity and balance as relating to the arch and object.
“It’s like a magic trick,” said Ramos. “You need to be very Zen.”
One Ludus Ludi game, La Pita (named for the pita plant), is featured at the Museum of Modern Art--and won the Live x Design Award last year at the Tokyo International Gift Show. It consists of wooden leaves that require balancing in order to fit them together in limitless configurations on a tabletop base.
Meanwhile, Las Sillas (“the chairs”) is a free-standing stacking game using tiny chairs. Art Block is another stacking game, the pieces fitting together for storage in a Mondrian-like block of colored rectangles; it’s based on a painting by De Stijl artist Theo van Doesburg and is in Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum.
Spanish fashion designer Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada conceived a new heart-shaped cutout, with small solid hearts balanced within it. El Notas appears to be a stick figure of a man, with clothespin hands for holding notes or other objects.
Also on display, El Leñero (“the woodshed”) is a two-player log storage strategy game featuring light- and dark-colored mini-logs, each player trying to remove logs from a log stack without moving the rest of the them.
In addition to Pico Pao’s Ludus Ludi collection, the 30-year-old company has an antique games line, Juegos de la Antiguedad (“antique games”), featuring traditional games from Europe, Africa and Asia, such as Chess, Chinese Checkers, The Game of the Goose, and The Royal Game of Ur—perhaps the oldest known game, first played in ancient Mesopotamia during the early third millennium BC.
Ramos noted, too, that Pico Pao is big on social responsibility.
“We work with a foundation [Fundacion Personas] supporting functional diversity,” she said, adding that the company employs people with functional diversity in its production processes.”