Czech national treasure and world queen of toys. A world-renowned designer and innovator who created over 230 original toys, many of which were produced in many color variants. Her legendary work is represented in the collections of museums around the world, for example in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, in the Museum of Decorative Arts in the Louvre in Paris, in the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo or perhaps in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. In 2012, on the occasion of the annual Czech Grand Design Awards, she was the first female designer ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
She was born on April 1, 1934 in Zlín as Libuše Kyseláková. In the years 1949 to 1953, she studied, then a new field, the shaping of plastic materials at the „Zdeněk Nejedlý State School of Applied Arts“ in Zlín and Uherské Hradiště, under the guidance of professors Luďěk Havelka and Jiří Jaška. After graduating in 1954, she joined the Gumotex factory in Břeclav, where she worked until 1964. In 1958, she married the painter František Nikl, a classmate from high school. In 1960, they had a son, the Czech painter, writer, and theater artist Petr Nikl, and in 1968 a daughter, Veronika. In 1961, she started working in Fatra Napajedla. In the course of her career, she obtained patents for nine inventions and three national industrial designs. She died prematurely on June 5, 1981 in Gottwaldov (Zlín).
At Gumotex Břeclav, where she worked after graduation, she mainly designed rubber squeaky toys. These were mainly figures and animals. They were first made from pressed and foam rubber, then from blown PVC, and in the 1960s, cast from PVC. Hand dyed with latex paints. She also created souvenir toys, made for example on the occasion of the 2nd Czechoslovak Spartakiad or the Brno Fairs and Exhibitions.
After the birth of her son Peter, she worked in Fatra Napajedla from 1961 to 1980. Among her most famous creations are a black accordion tomcat, a ram, and a crocodile. When creating them, she was inspired by a bendable pipe from a „newly made flush tank“. She also designed the packaging in which the unassembled toy was sold. The child assembled it as a construction kit. She also designed toys for the smallest children, both inflatable and squeaky, which had very simple shapes. From the 1970s, she began designing larger inflatable and sit-on toys that were lightweight and washable. The Horse, the Rhinoceros, the Caterpillar, the Giraffe, the Lion, and the Polar Bear were among the followers of the Buffalo, whose prototype was created in 1971. Serial production began in 1973.
Libuše Niklová approached the toy as a whole, shaping a child’s personality. She was aware that the child learns, gets to know, and is educated through the toy. To top it all off, she elevated a functional object to art. Her toys had a nice shape, color, decor, unforgettable smell and sound. The toys could be used by children from one year of age without problems. The goal was to design a flexible, flexible, colorful toy that would immediately interest the child, and her toys fulfilled all of that. At the time, the toys were also very affordable.
„Against foreign products, which are mostly decorated regardless of the shape, my designs try to harmonize the simplicity of the shape with the decor.“ year 1963
„Sound effects are very much in demand in toys for children of the lowest age, as they attract the child’s attention to the toy. The solution to this toy (Micka the Cat) allows you to make a sound when you squeeze any part of the body. the coloring of the toy is distinctive and the decoration is simple, focusing only on typical characters. The shape stylization meets the artistic and at the same time technological requirements, because a small number of welds achieves a relatively detailed shape.“ year 1963
„When designing the individual animals, I took into account above all that the child would have the opportunity to play with the toy as creatively as possible. As the animals are flexible, the child can imitate crawling, stretching, and meowing as he observes in nature, as if he were playing a theater with puppets, unlike other toys that move either on friction or a wind-up system, where the child is only a passive observer.“ year 1964
„Development cannot be stopped. In the future, people will be surrounded by plastic products as if they were air, and they will become a matter of course. Natural materials will increasingly be a luxury and an object of admiration, but the future belongs to plastics.“ year 1971
„During my work, I mainly base my work on the possibilities of the material, I look for the optimal technology, and at the same time I solve the product from an aesthetic point of view. Anyone who thinks that a designer … can afford anything would be wrong. Each plastic material has specific properties that must be well known and respected. Plastic is repulsive only if it is violently used and processed.“ year 1972
Libuše Niklová has won many awards. Her toys have been awarded many times, for example, the title of Outstanding Product of the Year and many times the designation Selected for CID (Czechoslovak Industrial Design), which was awarded to the best Czechoslovak products.
Other honors received by Libuše Niklová and her toys.
Inventions and patents
Libuše Niklová obtained patents for nine of her inventions during her career.
Libuše Niklová also had three national industrial designs registered.