We've all seen the Grimm's Stacking Rainbow in Montessori, Waldorf and other homes around the world. I Iove the Stacking Rainbow, I love to see how my children use it. It's bright and colourful and ours is often found on our nature table or simply on our work shelves. It is so popular and I understand why but I didn't know it's history until recently.
The boys and I recently discovered this life size Steiner Rainbow (pictured above). It was beautiful. I loved listening to the artist and her interpretation of children's or kindergarten toys. This is a little about the above works 'Steiner Rainbow' by artist Emily Floyd.
"As a spectrum of vibrant colour, Emily Floyd's Steiner rainbow has considerable physical presence in space, unlike the natural phenomenon it recalls. Rainbows are cultural symbols often associated with alternative political movements, signifying utopian ideals and a desire to do things differently. With this in mind, Floyd took something humble - a popular wooden children's toy - and scaled it up to adult height.
The toy she references was first manufactured in the 1970s, inspired by the educational ideas of the Austrian Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), in whose name the Steiner movement continues today. The stacking toy is designed to encourage open-ended play and Floyd's interest is in its modular character: a child can use the coloured components as building blocks, or to model worlds of their own invention. Like the toy, this sculpture comes with an instruction that is suggestive rather than didactic: the work can be 'played with' (exhibited) in a variety or ways. Floyd suggests this is similar to the way artists work, to imaginatively envision the world as a different place."
Also from Emily Floyd; "One of the toys that I am particularly interested are these stacking Rudolf Steiner toys, because they speak about ideas of open-ended learning. That it's a puzzle in a way with an infinite number of possibilities but it does have a kind of restriction, so it's a closed system but you can approach it in all these different ways, in a multitude of ways. In that way I think it's a really interesting toy. And it speaks to what contemporary art is, something that's open-ended play. But it also speaks to all these kinds of different forms that you find in that Steiner pedagogy or alternative education." She also makes the connection between Steiner, the stacking rainbow and Goethe colour theory. It's fascinating.
Is it art or is it a toy? I say it's both. And it's beautiful and interesting. It's maths and it's science! It's based on the concept of play, building and discovering spatial relationships through creativity and sensory experiences.
I love it's open-endedness, there is no right of wrong way to play with it. Have you seen this life or adult sized Steiner rainbow or do you have a Stacking Rainbow at home?
Edited to add (16th Dec): Wow! I was looking to provide some links to the comments and I found this furniture sized Grimm's Stacking Rainbow. Children can build and climb all over it. It's lovely!!