|My thanks to Chris, Roy's son for taking the photos seen here, which I have removed the backgrounds from to enhance what I think is a machine of pure elegance of form. I don't normally include details with machinery just the pictures, but I know there are a lot of people out there like myself who may not have known Roy, but certainly new about his creations, its a trip down memory lane to read his obituary, so please take the time to do just that.........
Master toymaker who brought joy to millions with his Heraldic Miniature Knights and plastic figures
Such fame as the toymaker Roy Selwyn-Smith, who has died of cancer aged 82, has been accorded is mainly due to the Selwyn miniature knights he created in 1951 for adult collectors. These were described in Peter Greenhill's Heraldic Miniature Knights as the world's finest set of metal knights. But he brought happiness to millions of children through the plastic figures he designed for Herald in the 1950s and for Britains Ltd from 1959.
The Herald figures are masterpieces, grounded in realism but full of poetry. They were moulded in polythene which, because of its flexibility, was ideal for Roy's adventurous sculpting style. Fine detail was achieved by engraving into the brass moulds. The figures were handpainted using exquisite matt finish colour schemes. The range at its zenith included dancers, Antarctic explorers, farm animals and Trojan warriors as well as the obligatory soldiers and cowboys and Indians.
As well as being a great sculptor, Roy was a man of practical ingenuity, as demonstrated in 1958 by his Swoppets. Swoppets had moveable and exchangeable torsos and heads. Standing 54mm (2 ins) high, they were crammed with inventive details such as the Swoppet cowboys' perfect Colt pistols which could be removed from their holsters. The Swoppets represent Roy's most dramatic and influential contribution to the toy industry.
Born in Walton on Thames, his father, a proficient artist, ran an African leather importing business and died suddenly when Roy was eight. His mother, a former ballerina and choreographer, supported the family by giving dancing lessons from the Streatham flat to which they had moved.
Roy attended Roborough boarding school in Eastbourne and enjoyed evening art classes there. Often obliged to stay there during holidays in relative solitude, he taught himself to make model ships in bottles. He also came under the spell of the composition figures made by the German firm Elastolin.
During the war Roy was a merchant navy radio operator on the perilous Atlantic convoys. He was also on a tug towing a Mulberry floating harbour for the D-Day landings.
Back in Streatham in 1947, Roy got a job as a trainee model-maker with Myer Zang's Modern Packages, whose products included composition figures for the Timpo company. Roy learned sculpting, devised mechanical toys and took part in plastic moulding experiments. Then in 1949 he joined Willmore & Sons, who made figure moulds for Timpo for its lead production.
Roy established a sculpting style at Willmore's which was more German than British in its lyricism and individuality. During this time he began courting his future wife, Mary Elizabeth Harby, and she is portrayed in the Timpo railway figures series as a glamorous woman resting nonchalantly against her trunk. In Timpo's catalogue she is "Mrs Smith".
Then in 1951 came Selwyn Miniatures, backed by Otto Gottstein. But then Gottstein committed suicide, and Roy sold the Selwyn Miniature moulds to Britains. In the Britains range they became Knights of Agincourt.
Back with Zang in 1953, Roy developed the Herald range. Then came Swoppets. Britains decided that they needed Roy. They also had to get into plastic. Both ends were achieved in 1959 with the purchase of Herald from Zang. Roy eventually became joint managing director. He continued to initiate imaginative projects. Perhaps his most notable achievement after the takeover was the devising of the Britains' Floral Garden, a plastic model, with flowers that sprung up when inserted into the (plastic) flower bed.
Even after his retirement in 1985 he immersed himself in creative projects such as watercolour painting and slipcasting clay models. Although shy, modest and unimposing, he was deeply respected.
There was bound to be a postwar plastic toy industry, but there was no guarantee that its products would be of a high standard. Herald and Britains figures were things of wonder, exploring the potential of the new material. Although many other able people were involved, the figures remain perfect expressions of Roy's personality - his inventiveness, perfectionism, sureness of artistic judgment - and his ability to be at once serious and playful.
He is survived by three children, Chris, Jo and Katy, and three grandchildren.
Roy Selwyn-Smith, toymaker, born September 22 1923; died June 16 2006