When I was little, my mom made many toys for my 3 siblings and me. I fondly remember a stuffed turtle, a stuffed goldfish (which I still have!), a puppet frog and some marionettes with wooden heads. But it wasn’t just toys we made at home. My grandmother, formerly a seamstress in Hong Kong, would sew much of our clothes. And I remember one night before a project was due at school, when I realized I needed a tub of glue but it was too late to run to the store and buy it, my grandmother said, “Well, let’s just boil some rice down. That’s how they did it in the old days anyway.” A common response, from my mother and grandmother, if I asked to buy something, was, “Well, we can’t buy that. It’s too expensive [or insert some other reason here]. But… we can make it!”
It was many years before I realized what a gift that was to my growing and impressionable mind. The idea that I didn’t have to be confined or limited by circumstance if I had the power to think and create my way out of it. So, I guess I have a very conscious agenda when making toys for my little boy. I want to pass this powerful idea down to him by example.
He’s both the best and the worst client. He gives vague creative direction, yet is highly specific in his expectations and his turnaround times are ridiculous. But when he’s helping me cut out parts or tape things together or ultimately holding or using the finished product, the look of joy on his face is priceless. And actually, from my adult professional designer standpoint, his standards for quality are not that high. What a huge relief to me that he doesn’t really care if it’s a bit rough around the edges or has flaps hanging open and only lasts a week before falling apart. Our cardboard dollhouse has undergone numerous renovations and the paper towel tube rockets have been augmented with parachutes and boosters. He’s more of a process-driven ideas guy, and under his direction I am learning to step back from perfection and take the the “fail early, fail fast” mantra to heart.