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Stool of Thought

It’s not uncommon for men and women to look back into the past of their given professions. Lawyers look to prior precedents, doctors examine medical journals, and businessmen analyze successful case-studies. I’m certainly not a doctor, nor a lawyer, and I would consider myself an amateur businessman at best.

The truth is, I studied advertising at my alma mater. Don Draper, coincidentally, had just begun his tenure on cable TV. So even before graduation, things looked promising. I soon realized, however, that the floor-to-ceiling windows, designer furniture, and beautiful secretaries I was used to seeing in the halls of Madison Avenue were just a metaphor for the hum of fluorescent lights, beige padded cubicles, and co-workers microwaving broccoli for lunch. The camera really does add 10 pounds of BS.

So after some arm twisting, I decided to move on. Not because I don’t love good advertising—I do. But I hate bad advertising. Perhaps it was this paradox I couldn’t stomach. The best ads and ideas are typically hidden from the public—accessible only in yearly award show publications. While the worst fare is fed to us by advertisers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Instead, I became obsessed with the idea of doing the work I wanted to do without the input or constraints given by clients. But as it turned out, that business strategy was also a piece of Hollywood fiction. I told you I was an amateur. There is always a client. So now, I hope to simply be considered a good designer—finding the balance between what I want, or what I think others want, and what others actually need.

For the past few years, I’ve chosen to work with wood—a craft with a rich history indeed. As I’ve looked to the past of this trade, I’ve become enamored with traditional Japanese carpentry techniques and philosophy.

The Japanese believe a tree acts as a link between the heavens above and the earth below. They have a spirit and one can give it a second-life as a piece of furniture. Care must be taken, however, not to work against nature. This often means meticulous attention to details such as simplicity, waste-reduction, growth direction, and joinery.

In that spirit, we designed the Kyoto stool. A large piece of lumber is dissected, hand-planed, and shaped into the individual pieces of the stool. Two dovetail keys hold the bookmatched (mirrored pieces) seat together atop a branching base. Once assembled, the stool relies on the end user for added stability—it’s that idea of nature and man working together.

So it seems that by looking to the past that we find roads to the future. Or maybe I’m just a mad man.

Entertaining Kids Indoors

Recently I noticed a friend ask on Facebook how others keep their kids entertained when indoors. We agree, the outdoors is an easy form of entertainment and the best one at that, but we're also glad that our girls play really well indoors without needing much guidance from us. Here are a few of our favorite indoor activities.

Project Books: Recently our friend Merrilee gave us this hand illustrated card and not only did we think it looked awfully familiar :) but we were reminded of her amazing book, Playful. Project based books are great for pulling out when your child needs something new & exciting and the best part is that you most likely already have the needed items on hand. One project we loved from her book is making zoo animals out of paint chips. Our oldest always stash's them away in our cart when out shopping, do your kids do the same? 

Kinetic Sand: Our kids spend hours playing with this. We keep a bag of cookie cutters, plastic utensils, and play dough toys for playing with the sand. The sand strewn around the house is worth the 2 hours of happy kiddos.

Art Supplies: Our girls are very into art and so an accessible stash of watercolors, paint markers, stamp paints, canvases, construction paper, decorative tape, pieces of wood, glue, crayons, blank books, etc. is top priority in our household. 

Role Playing: One of my favorite activities as a child was lining up my mom's food storage and playing store. I'm a bit surprised she let me do such a thing because I'm sure nothing ended up back in the same place, but, role playing is such a huge part of childhood play that I'm glad she did. Your kids can turn just about anything into a mimic of something they see in real life. Pull out books and turn the living room into a library, cook up something tasty with water and rice and age appropriate tools from the kitchen, take those stuffed animals to the vet, or the classic school classroom!

Other: Puzzles, Spirograph, Toys that require assembly like a train track or legos, Dry erase board (for some reason this is more exciting at times than paper!), and even the unexpected Photo Album (our girls love to sit and look through photos of their early days), Dancing to music (dressing up or dancing in front of a mirror is a bonus) or making musical instruments from household items, and lastly, pulling out an old Camera and letting them play photographer. 

The biggest thing I have learned to help promote good indoor play is to make things easily accessible. Several months ago, we moved a shelf with art supplies, small toys, etc. into a more high traffic area of our home so that our girls would be inspired to pull things down on their own and come up with their own options for entertainment. I also switched out our methods for storing toys. I changed from bins with clasped lids to open baskets which allow our girls to see their options as well as clean up more easily. Tossing into a basket is so much easier than sorting and organizing into separate lidded bins. Rotating toys/activities is a great way to keep your kids inspired and to make play exciting. 

What ideas can you share?

Recycling your Stendig Calendar

As has become quite popular, we're big fans of the Stendig Calendar. Its classic and simple design is right up our alley and we see it as a functional art piece, which makes it all the better. However, it's hard to just throw away those big beautiful pages month after month and so besides it being a desirable photo backdrop, we've come up with a few ideas of how to recycle this piece of art, as well, collected a favorite idea from the web.
1- Wrapping paper. This isn't a new idea, we've seen it dozens of times before but it is definitely worthy of the need and just looks cool don't you think?
2- Framed art. Here on our wall, the individual numbers represent the birthdays of our daughters as well as our wedding date.
4- Gift tags.
5- Table covering. We recently used ours as a solution to an odd shaped kitchen island that needed covering for food for a party. It added a cool artsy element and was perfect for a mans party. Not to mention, easy clean up!

Valentines Project | Cardboard weaving with kids

Our daughter spends most of her free time immersed in some sort of art project; which we love and fully promote, but we were a little stumped to find something that didn't involve paint when she asked to have an art themed birthday party. We found a tutorial for cardboard weaving on the Art Bar Blog and we jumped on it. After the fact, we wouldn't recommend such an activity when you have to help ten 6 year olds at the same time, but one on one, this is an awesome kid friendly and even fun for the adults, project.

With Valentines day quickly approaching, we thought it would be fun to make a weaving in valentine colors that could then be given away.

We simplified the process a bit by not being too picky about the measurements and by substituting the plastic needle with a wooden stick that was then also used to hang the weaving on. The best part is that the main piece of equipment for this project is a piece of cardboard!

How to:

  • Cut a piece of cardboard (the wider or longer the piece, the wider & longer your weaving) and either measure or eye, to cut consistent slits across each end. 
  • Cut a small piece of cardboard the same width as your first piece of cardboard and glue to the bottom of your slits on each end. 
  • String yarn into each slit, leaving a tail on the end and then tape down all of the tails to the back of the cardboard.
  • Choose your first color of yarn and tie to your stick or attach to your plastic needle and follow a pattern of over, under, over, under or vice versa. Pull the yarn through and keep a short tail on the end.
  • On the next line, do the opposite of what you did before, so under, over, under, over and repeat on each line, pulling through and adjusting to the tightness that you desire. The tighter you pull, the thinner the weaving will become. 
  • Switch yarn colors as often as you desire, always leaving a short tail on the end.
  • When finished, pull the string out of the slits, tie one knot in the top and leave the bottom out to hang. Tape all of the loose tails to the back.
  • Connect the tied portion to your stick and wahlah you're done!