Following a recent article on Toothpick City (a city made up of famous buildings from all over the world constructed from toothpicks), we caught up with the man behind the project, Stan Munro, for a chat about his influences, his creations and his future plans.
Bulb in Blue: Hi Stan. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us. So, how did you get into toothpick model making?
Stan Munro: Hi, you're welcome. I think it’s probably the same for anyone who gets hooked doing something creative... they enjoy working with the material, for some reason they’re good at it, and people liked to see what they can do with it. For me, it all started because my 5th grade art teacher asked us to make something out of toothpicks. That’s “how” I good hooked.
BiB: When you were younger, did you ever think that making models from toothpicks could become a fulltime career for you?
Stan Munro: I NEVER thought toothpicking would become a career. Back in 2003, a period of unemployment forced me to consider other options. I was still looking for work, so I kept working on this “Toothpick City” idea. It eventually sold to a museum in Spain, and I kept going with another exhibit. Now that my wife is ill, I have a job where I can stay at home and take care of her needs at the same time. I’ve always dedicated my work to her.
Stan in his office working on Toothpick City 1
BiB: What inspired you to create the Toothpick Cities?
Stan Munro: Besides my wife who inspired and supported me, it was kind of a childhood dream (yeah, I was a messed up kid who dreamed of toothpick cities). I would always build one building at a time. Then I would either give it away or destroy it in some fashion I deemed worthy (i.e. explosives, fire). But I always thought it would be neat (someday) if I had enough patience to build a whole city out of toothpicks--just to see what it would look like.
BiB: When you started to make each of the Toothpick Cities, did you have a vision of how you wanted it to look and a set number of buildings in mind, or did you just plan it as you went along?
Stan Munro: I always have a general idea of what I want a city to look like. With Toothpick City 1: History of Skyscrapers, I knew I had to have every building that ever held the title: “tallest building in the world” starting with the Great Pyramid at Giza. After that, I just kept going... I always need a bridge (in this case, the Brooklyn Bridge), and a bunch of other cool buildings like the Sydney Opera House. But I wanted to stay away from religious buildings because I didn’t think it would be fair to include one or two religions. That gave way to Toothpick City 2: Temples & Towers. Now I could include famous religious buildings from all around the world and EVERY religion. I liked the addition of tall towers next to religious buildings, because I’m fascinated with the dichotomy of science and religion. I don’t think one can survive without the other. (I know, that was pretty deep--sorry, won’t happen again).
Stan's Model of the USAF Academt Cadet Chapel
BiB: Did the second city present a bigger challenge to you than the first?
Stan Munro: It’s a much bigger challenge. But that’s the whole idea, right? I hate doing buildings I’ve already done before (even though it’s necessary sometimes), and it’s nice to know that my “Mount Everest” is still out there (it just happens to be in Barcelona).
BiB: How do you prepare to build each model?
Stan Munro: The process involves research, calculating, planning and finally implementation. Research involves gathering information on the buildings ang getting anything I can get my hands on. Then I calculate my 1:164 scale to find out how big MY model is going to be. Once I have several sources confirming the width, length, height, etc. of a building, I can start to plan how to build it. Each building has it’s own “skeleton” and I can start working several sections at the same time and start bringing them together--that’s the really cool part... (again, no need to remind me that I’m a geek, I’m ok with that.) I wish I could say there was an “average” time, but each building comes not only from a different country, but a different style of architecture from a different time period. In general, towers take a week, temples take a month or two.
BiB: How do you construct each model?
Stan Munro: I use only toothpicks and glue in every model and use mostly household tools. In the beginning, I started out with just white household glue, masking tape and scissors. Since the glue doesn’t dry quickly, I use the tape to hold each segment together until the glue dries. Then I take the tape off and glue the segments together (also holding them with masking tape until the glue dries). So a big part of it is the planning phase. I have to know what each segment is going to look like, that way I don’t have to sit around waiting for the glue to dry.
Stan working on Toothpick City 2
BiB: How do you go about deciding which buildings to turn into models?
Stan Munro: In the beginning, it was easy: Eiffel Tower, Burj Khalifa, Vatican, Mecca, etc. But as people started to write into my website, I realized there were a lot of interesting buildings out there. Now I just go off a list of suggestions, and chances are, if it’s from a country or religion I don’t have represented in my exhibit--it’s one of the next buildings on my list. If you have an idea, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
BiB: Which model are you most proud of?
Stan Munro: I’m proud of every single building I’ve ever made. Not because I made it, but because of what it represents: to that country, to that religion, to that architectural style. Not everyone will agree on what “beauty” is, but there’s no denying the cultural significance of any of these buildings--that’s what keeps me going. I
BiB: Finally, what are your plans for the future?
Stan Munro: My plans for the future are to finish this interview... Really? OK, I guess I have to figure out my next plan. I’d like to take TPC2 on tour next year. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on it. I get suggestions everyday. I’ve had several offers from China and India that I am considering. Nothing definite yet.
For more on Stan Munro and the Toothpick Cities, visit his website : http://www.toothpickcity.com/