There is nothing I like better than to build things for my 6 year old daughter Frances. As an artist and designer I spend much of my time making things, or helping other people make things. In making these things for her I feel like I am putting these skills to good use.
Mindlessly swinging a hammer and cutting wood is always fun and, unlike a wobbly homemade bookshelf, with these things it really is the thought that counts. I built her a tree house the cherry tree in her grandparents back yard, but I didn’t want to hammer any nails into the tree. If I had planned it out the measuring and complexity of cuts would have taken a long time…days. Instead, I made it up as I went along. It was improvisation, a tree house, built as the tree grows. It looks like a hobo shanty, which actually makes it look more fun, not less fun. And fun is the goal of all these things.
Frances loves most of the things I have built for her. Which, of course, is the reward; watching your daughter enjoy something that you made. But there is also something deeper that comes out of the experience. The sensation I get when making these things feels the same as when something I am doing in my studio is going RIGHT.
Simple, improvised, handmade, mindless things made in the spirit of fun for someone I love… the things I make for my daughter are maybe just a pure form of the things I try to make in general.
1. Clothes drying rack 2006. With this I had to go to the hardware store to buy the dowels. Ideally the things I build for Frances are made of the many piles of scrap wood I keep in our garage. This was not actually a big hit, It ended up a bit too tall for her, but now it is making a comeback as she gets taller.
2. Recent random drawings 2009. I make something next to her and we take turns coming up with what will happen next. These were little collage drawings. I love to see how she interprets what I do, it is a bit like seeing something through a kids eyes, which is mindblowing. On the right are a couple of snowflakes and a little guy with a black beret she made on her own.
3. EZTP 2007
This was a really fun project we did. Frances was really into making forts and we came up with this design for making a Teepee out of a quilt. You put it together on the bed then throw the quilt over top. Frances would sit inside her teepee and have a snack or look at books.
This is Phoebe. She is less than 1 yrs. old here. She is going to be fun to make stuff for, she is a bit young still. I am sure she is going to have some great ideas.
4. Frances art table. My wife bought this table on ebay. It is an old school table from ohio I think. It is sad that they surely replaced all these nice wood tables with plastic crap. You could park a car on this table it is so solid.
5. Reading Chair 2007
Frances and I went to see Barbara Bestors house being built. Frances was really inspired to see it and started to gather up scraps of wood that were lying around. As we looked around she kept asking me “Dad, can we build a house?” I said “yes” and she kept gathering the scraps for the house we were going to build.
When we got home we put all the scraps in the back yard and I told her that with the wood we had the house was going to be small. She was really dissapointed by this bad news. She was no longer interested in the project.
I suggested we build something else. She started aranging pieces and we would nail them together. Soon this reading chair took shape. She came up with the little stopper that holds the book open and in place. That blew my mind. She was 4! Believe it or not she used this chair a lot.
6. Play Kitchen 2004
I made this kitchen out of a piece of our real kitchen that I ripped out. So this mini kitchen exactly matches our real kitchen. I love the grain and color of aged plywood. This plywood is 50 years old. To finish it off I bought a real tap and a real burner, the knobs are just plywood though. I like that some parts are very real and some are very fake. Your imagination is sparked but you have to take it the rest of the way.
The picture in the background is by frances, it is of an old house that is an art center in Chicago. I love it because she had to do it with her left hand because she broke her arm this summer.
7. Step Stool 2004
I think every kid needs their own step stool. They are so short but desperately want to be a part of the action. With a step stool they can be self sufficient. Frances can help make dinner or do projects at the table, or wash her hands. It has gotten a lot of use. This is also made out of the old pieces of our kitchen that I did not use for the mini kitchen, so it also matches as well. It has wobbled a little since day 1, but it does not seem get worse.