June 30, 2011

Top 10 list - Nursery Design Notes

Given that I design sets for a living, it seems only a natural progression that I would eventually transition from making art for children’s rooms to actually designing the rooms that the art goes in.  Creating a room that looks good is easy.  Making it function for the needs of a new parent and young baby has all been an interesting learning experience.
 1.  Baby furniture is simple and minimal.  Crib + Dresser/Change table.   However, the choices in style and price points are extensive.  It’s easy to get carried away.
2.    A comfortable chair is important.  Important = doing your research and splurging a little to get something decent.
3.    It’s always best to find your focus pieces first (carpet, window treatment, bedding etc) and then mix your paint to compliment.  It’s much more of a challenge to paint first and then try to match your accessories.
4.    The 4 piece or 7 piece bedding sets are a bit of a rip off.  They look so cute and seems like an easy matchy matchy solution, but you don’t use half of the stuff in them. 
5.    When you make your baby registry include “clues” to your décor theme.  Some people will check the registry for ideas but then buy from other sources.  For example if your room colors are blue and green and brown, included items of that color.   If you have decorated around elephants, include elephant related items.  You can always return/exchange the “clue” pieces later for things you actually need.
6.    The crib mobile is not a decorative object – you can’t choose it based on how well it matches your décor
7.    You need multiples of things – crib sheets, change table covers.  You can buy all of the same one but it’s more fun to mix and match for different looks.
8.    It’s not all about the baby, there needs to be a place in the nursery for “Mommy’s things” – A soft light, books, breast pump etc.
9.    Make sure things are easily cleanable – Babies produce projectile liquids of all textures and colors.  Consider things that can be wiped down, thrown in the laundry or have patterns that hide splatters.  
10. A babies needs are simple to start, but they grow pretty fast.  You need to plan from the start how the nursery will change with your child.
Airplane art available at Skårtshop.com

June 29, 2011

Duck Hunting Season


           One wouldn’t think it would be all that terribly difficult to find rubber duckies in NYC. In fact, one wouldn’t think it would be all that difficult to find rubber duckies just about anywhere. One would think that rubber duckies would be everywhere, populating the shelves of novelty shops and children’s stores alike. They have their own song, for God’s sake, and a pretty famous song at that. It’s certainly as famous as the Itsy Bitsy Spider’s or London Bridge’s or That Guy’s who’s been working on the railroad for quite some time now (although, if we want to be entirely forthright, That Guy’s song probably should have been written in Mandarin and sung by a stereotype in a triangular hat and a Fu Man Chu mustache). So naturally, one should be highly surprised, and somewhat suspicious, when learning that rubber duckies are surprisingly difficult to locate in the wild.

This is the story of my pursuit of the notoriously elusive rubber duck.

The idea was simple. My wife wanted a rubber duck for my, at that time, future infant daughter’s bathtub. It was the last thing we needed. We had everything else. As a way of feeling as fully prepared as it is possible for first parents to possibly feel, we had accumulated a mountain of supplies, and now all we needed to complete our collection, and make us feel properly equipped, was one simple rubber duck.

So off I went, on the hunt.

I was optimistic at the outset. I expected the hunt to be a simple one. I pictured myself as Ernest Hemingway after a wildebeest. Point, shoot, bag a few, and then head on back to the bivouac for a trophy photo and a nice cognac. See? Simple.

Alas, t’was not to be.

Refusing to resort to the Canal Street shops or the Internet (the former, because Canal Street on foot is a veritable living nightmare; the latter, because, well, that just seemed too easy), I went to locales where I would assume rubber duckies might typically hibernate. Novelty shops, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Party City, et cetera, et cetera. Nope, nope, nope. Helpful employees at places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond suggested I try Party City. Helpful employees at Party City suggested I try Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Helpful employees at novelty shops suggested I might have more luck in the Spring. With much effort, after internally noting that it was already April, I refrained from asking these helpful employees what Spring had to do with anything. For days I searched, leaving the office job I had at the time, sometimes literally for hours, to go and scour the City for rubber ducks.

I searched and I searched, but those damn duckies, they eluded me.

After a few weeks of no success, I began to believe that rubber duckies didn’t actually exist, that they were a myth, a hoax perpetrated upon the rest of the world by Ernie, Bert, and the rest of the motley Jim Henson cabal.

Finally, in a supermarket of all places, my hunt took a turn for the better. I found one. A yellow one (not shockingly). Plus, this duck served other purposes besides providing floating amusement. Through apparatuses this author surely would fail to understand, this duck could tell whether the water in the bath was too hot, and subsequently could inform the bather of this discovery. The word “HOT” would become visible, in white, in all caps, upon the ducky’s underside if the water temperature was determined to be too elevated.

Well, as it turns out, this ducky was broken, malfunctional, worthy of serving only as a floating amusement. The word HOT always glowed in white upon his underside, whether he was in hot water or cold water or on dry land, continuously, at all hours of the day and night, his underbelly always, to this day, glows HOT.

All the same, I kept him.

Ultimately, as can be witnessed through the photographic evidence provided, at a variety of locations all over the City, I was eventually able to locate a plethora of duckies, some identical (or as identical as rubber duckies can be), some eclectic, interesting, or downright weird. After making a gift of one of these aforementioned weird ducks to my neighbor’s four-year-old, when she asked me what this strange thing was for, I was unable to conjure up any sort of reasonable response.

Even now, weeks later, but still a time weeks or months before my daughter will be able to swim with them, her duckies are ready for her, sitting en masse in a crowded fishbowl, patiently awaiting their chance to join her in the tub. They are sure to get scratched, stained, peed on or worse, and ultimately, most likely, they will be discarded.

But then again, maybe not. After such an exhaustive hunt, as any intrepid huntsman might do, it might be nice to keep a couple around as trophies. Hang their heads over the fireplace. Just to prove that they ever actually existed in the first place.

June 27, 2011

Behind the sets: Target Toys Summer Catalog

Have you gotten your catalog in the mail yet? If not you can view the whole thing here.  I got such great response to the behind the scenes pics from the winter catalog that I thought I would share some of our tricks from the summer one.

The summer catalog's design involved lots of simple shapes and cut outs to make the background scenes, mixed with some super sized "real" objects imposed later on with digital effects. 

For example we shot this amazing 8 year old pro skateboarder on a ramp in the studio.  And later they superimposed a clam shell over the ramp to make it look like she was actually going down the side of the shell.
Where it looks like the kids are holding something.  We gave them a cardboard or "placeholder" object so it looks like they are carrying the "real object"

The hardest set to create was the "Backyard" where we had a working sprinkler and water slide.
To capture this we first built a base pool pretty much the entire size of the studio to act as a catch for all the excess water.  Next we made a small platform for the floor to sit inside the catch pool and then covered that with our green vinyl "grass".  The back walls we painted blue and hung our clouds.  We had mini trees in the background to give the illusion they were farther off in the distance than they actually were.  A little water heater, and hose hook ups and Voila:  Backyard water fun ready to go!
The slip and slide was interesting.  We padded underneath the slide to simulate a softer surface to slide on, but it was still not easy or safe for them to take a running leap to get the power needed to generate a good slide and splash.  We ended up having to physically push push the kids down the slide.  After much trial and error the 'ole curling throw stance seemed to work the best.  Of course they photoshopped the "slider helper" out so there is no evidence in the final picture. No kids were harmed in the making of this catalog.  They were having a blast.  In fact for the most part so was the crew.  (YES, I tried the slide ... someone had to make sure it was safe!)

June 23, 2011

Summer started and we need to freshen things up around here.  So for the next week we are offering free shipping within Canada and the US on all items listed in Skårtshop's Etsy Shop.  Check it out, click on the link below and when prompted at check out, enter the coupon code "SUNNYDAYS" to take advantage of this special offer.

June 22, 2011

The Toys You Buy - Are They for You or Your Child?

I can admit it. I’m not ashamed. I am a grown man who likes dollhouses.

Now, I don’t like all dollhouses. I feel that I should point that detail out at the very beginning. Nor do I own any dollhouses. I’m not some eccentric heir in a Robber Baron holed up in my 24 room mansion filled to the gills with antique dollhouses of every variation. There’s not a miniature of the Biltmore Estate in my living room or Victorians gracing the carpet of my parlor (I don’t even have a parlor). But in recent months, while browsing the Internet for all things baby girl related, I have consequently stumbled upon the surprisingly unexpected dollhouse that struck my fancy.

Typically, when I thought of a dollhouse in the past, which admittedly was not often, or frankly ever, I pictured a square boxy Colonial or Saltbox with an open back—two bedrooms, no baths, with maybe a rumpus room, a satellite dish, and an attached garage (but only if you’re lucky; otherwise, you have to park on the street). Not exactly something to excite the adult imagination, in my view at least.

Then I stumbled upon a thing that can only be referred to as being of a decidedly “contemporary” design. As far as architecture goes, “contemporary” is not one of my favorites. But when I came across a dollhouse that looked like it could’ve been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it made me want to run out and get one for my daughter, and she’s not exactly dollhouse age. She’s not even doll age. She’s barely diaper cream age, and I am certain that she could care less about the quintessentially American named “Emerson” flat-roofed glass and river stone house at 1:18 scale with L.E.D.s powered by working solar panels, also at 1:18 scale, but fully functional all the same. Which might lead one to the assumption that I actually wanted to run out and get the dollhouse for me.

And, naturally, there are available furniture packages that come with the house, in addition to other miniatures which the interested buyer can find for purchase from multiple “modern” living design retailers, small Eames chairs for example, both the molded plywood one, with cowhide (for the study) and the lounge chair with ottoman, in black (for the den).

Then later, in my online searches, I came across my daughter’s future doll summer house. I’m not entirely certain that these structures were intended to serve as playthings, but instead simply as miniatures for people who collect that sort of object, but apparently they can be used as dollhouses, all the same. They’re converted “sea containers” (clearly for those of the environmentally minded population) that you can picture on a bluff in Montauk overlooking the Atlantic. Nothing too fancy, nothing ostentatious, not a competitive sort of property to put up against the shingle-sided Traditionals with gunite pools and tennis courts, but just a little place to get away from the City on summer weekends.

And somewhere else out there, for my daughter’s “mountain place” in the Adirondacks, there’s got to be a mini Airstream or a mini Prefab with a mini boathouse for her mini mahogany Christ Craft runabout for those late October weekends, a nice little place complete with working wind turbines and a water harvesting system for the miniature greenhouse…

The notion must be entertained, even by this red blooded American male, that dollhouses are no longer just for little girls.

June 21, 2011

Argyle Nursery Progress - Decoration & Accessories

When I first designed this nursery my vision involved mixing and matching patterns to create an exciting and stimulating environment for baby.  However, now as I piece the elements together in a visualization rendering I am wondering if all the pattern is OVER stimulation.  What do you think?

Pattern vs Plain - Which do you Prefer?

June 20, 2011

Happy Day After Father's Day

Papa and Baby Lion available in custom colors  at Skartshop.com along with the rest of the prints in the Safari Baby Series. If you need it fast, check out the set that is in stock and  READY TO SHIP in our Etsy Shop

June 16, 2011

Look at this blog ...and smile

During this morning's procrastonation  research session, I happened upon this blog post by Beth  at The Modern Home that just made me smile.  So I thought I would share. 
If I was having a girl (but I wanted a boy so I’m stoked this little guy is joining us!), I’d get these super girly lolita pendant lamps.

Except that I wouldn’t get them.

Because they’re $800.

And that’s insane.

But they’re still cute.

So I’d be tempted.

But not really.

Because like I said they’re $800.

And that’s still insane.

But guess what.
I’m having a boy.

So problem solved.


The end.

To see the original post click HERE
and check some of the other great posts at The Modern Home

June 15, 2011

Are Monsters appropriate Nursery Decor?

     What kind of person wants freaks in their bedroom? Who thinks having monsters in the closet is a good idea, particularly in a nursery? Well, I do, for one. Because who can turn away a freak made of plaid and corduroy? Who can evict a monster full of stuffing with a ridiculous look on his face?

     There’s something about an odd-looking misfit with a good button nose that tends to get to certain susceptible persons. And, it would appear, this recent paterfamilias, J.D., is just that sort of person. Not to suggest that I’m a sucker for button noses. I’m not. Even the best button nose can store evil intentions behind it if given the time, the inclination, and, oftentimes, the organization of fellow like-minded button noses to cook up a particularly nasty idea.

     But all the same, I would suggest that most people should offer the occasional button nosed freak a roof over their head every once and a while, even if for only a short time.

     Recently, my most favorite freak is Monsieur Ratos (a rat from the French company Deglingos). Not that my infant daughter could give a damn one way or the other about said Monsieur Ratos, or, for that matter, Monsieur Kitschos (a fox, which we have also recently acquired). To date, she has found her own fingers and the act of napping to be considerably more engrossing than any corduroy covered weirdo in a hounds tooth vest and tweed short pants. But still, I find these strangely designed, semi-piecemeal freaks to be nearly endlessly entertaining.

      Now, I have a confession: initially, I did not “adopt” Monsieur Ratos the rat out of an appreciation for interesting design or a penchant for the eccentric, nor was that pattern-eared abnormality granted access beyond my front door simply out of the goodness of my own heart. No, unfortunately, this was not to be the case. Ratos the rat (a squeaking baby teether) was brought home within the parameters of a very specific ulterior motive. I wanted to annoy my sister-in-law. A noble intention, I am sure many might admit, although perhaps not in quite so public a forum. But alas, many a cooler head exists in the world than that which lies upon the shoulders of this recent paterfamilias. All the same, Monsieur Ratos didn’t make it into my shopping bag on the merits of his originality. I picked the rat for the enjoyment of watching my sister-in-law look in my bassinet, see my baby daughter clutching her beloved toy to her chest (an action she has yet to perfect), and then look at me with an incredulous look, the type of which only my sister-in-law is capable, and then say, with all the scorn and tone one might expect from an Upper East Sider, “You gave your baby a RAT?” Like it was an actual one I’d plucked from the trashcan on the corner. 

      But Monsieur Ratos grew on me. His fabric ears and X-marks-the-spot-dead-eye are somehow endearing. Maybe I have a weak spot for the Underdog. 
       Now we have a whole collection of these weirdos. The Fox I mentioned before, a big, a cow with an enormous udder, and a weird looking chicken. There’s a lobster and a hedgehog I want to get, too, but a person can’t just go running around spending all his money on plush toys. 
        So, it would appear that sometimes abject antagonization for members of your family can occasionally culminate positively for the antagonist. And when what you get for all your pains turns out to be a few freaks bedding down with your infant child for the foreseeable future, it seems to be a good ending for all involved. 

June 13, 2011

First prints in the new studio

We haven't even unpacked boxes yet and the orders are rolling in.  We had a custom request for Pop bot in orange so I dug out the paint and paper I needed and did a few quick prints.  Like what you see? Check out Skartshop's Etsy page and order one of them hot of the press!

June 08, 2011

It is perfectly ok to hack apart children’s mobiles with a pair of scissors

Let me explain.  

My wife and I were doggedly determined that our nursery not resemble anyone else’s (a noble, yet common desire, I am sure; if you, the reader, are interested in piecing together an entire room from one single source, then I am afraid that these notes may not be of your liking; however, do not let that deter from continuing reading; a new reader, even if they be an antagonistic one, is always appreciated).  My wife and I also have rather limited space with which to work (see: 650 s.f. NYC 1 BR, 1 BA).  Using a professionally installed curtain from the Shade Store, we have split our living room in twain to create an 8x14 foot nursery (more than enough room for a five-and-a-half day old, although I wouldn’t want to have to store a teenager in the same square footage), while still leaving ourselves ample space for a living room (although many non-New Yorkers might be hard-pressed to use the adjective “ample” upon initial inspection of said living room).  Our original plan was to have a translucent sliding glass wall installed by the Sliding Door Company, but alas, our apartment building management company nixed that idea, leaving us to ransack our imaginations and finally alight up on the soundproof curtain idea (although categorizing the curtains as “soundproof” is a bit of a stretch).  The detail of the nursery with which this Note is concerned is what I managed to do to the back of the curtain in order to further enhance the overall design esthetic of the room. 
Picture a mobile.  The kind that connects to a crib in order to entertain a baby while you are out of the room doing dishes or taking a nap or running rabbits out of your herb garden.  Now, picture a pair of scissors.  Now, using these scissors, cut the hanging pieces off of the mobile proper and then throw the rest away.  Now, using light-colored thread, sew the mobiles onto your fabric item (a curtain, for example). 
Naturally, it is advantageous to use a mobile (or in my case, three mobiles) that you find especially eye-catching.  The three I used (sheep, penguin, and bunny) were all designed by Flensted Mobiles from Denmark for MoMA.  My original intent, I suppose, in addition to giving someone, baby or otherwise, something to look at on the otherwise empty back of a nine-foot floor-to-ceiling curtain, was to create a field effect where animals came to graze in peace, far away from the bustle of the business world.  Now, granted, penguins as a species don’t tend to graze (and thinking about it, neither do bunnies), and besides, sheep, penguins, and bunnies are probably almost as worried about the bustling business world as babies are, but as far as the design aspects of the room are concerned, I think that the overall effect was rather successful. 

June 06, 2011

Look at the Canadian TV show ...and smile!

See,  I knew the new blog title would translate itself well.

We "cut the cord" and got rid of our cable last week and now I'm hooked on internet TV. This weekend was spent watching episode after episode  of a great show made in Canada (no, there is no Degrassi in the title!)  I just ♥ this show.  Maybe its the fact that it takes place in Toronto, the city I grew up in.  Or maybe it's because the lead character is my age and I can relate to so many of her experiences.  Of course there is the time travel element. I never could resist a good parallel dimension story.(Think Quantum Leap meets Touched by an Angel)   It's a happy, feel good, moralistic, lesson learning, drama of a show that just makes me smile episode after episode.   Of course the roster of uber hot leading men doesn't hurt the enjoyment factor either!

If you haven't heard about it you can check it out in the US at Hulu.com/being-erica and in Canada at cbc.ca/beingerica 

I only have two episodes left -- Any suggestions of shows to watch next?

June 02, 2011

The new studio space

First a new blog name.  Next, new blog contributors.  What more can I have up my sleeve?

Well... drum roll please....

Today I got the keys to my the studio space.  Woohooo.

It needs a bit of work (shelving, furniture etc)  and I still have to move the rest of my stuff in.   But the space is great, the light is nice and the location is fantastic. Not much to look at yet, but I snapped a few pics so you could see. 
white walls = blank canvas of creativity

Lots of natural light, a bit o fluorescent and some A.C for those hot summer days

June 01, 2011

Note #1 from a Recent Paterfamelias

As I write this, my daughter is almost exactly five-and-a-half days old. As a new father, I have had little time of late to do any writing, which is unfortunate, as I am an author of fiction, poetry, and now, apparently, entries upon the metaphorical papyrus of the blogosphere, entries which I would like to call “Notes from a Recent Paterfamilias,” a title which is admittedly as pretentious as anything upon the face of the earth except for possibly celebrity baby names (this is particularly funny, as my own daughter is named after a Jane Austen novel and an ancient Greek emperor; pretensions abound!). An earnest promise from the author at the very beginning: I will ardently attempt to tone down any and all pomposity.

Being a new dad makes it impossible to guess what the next Note from a Recent Paterfamilias might be about. It might be about how I used an Eero Aarnio puppy as a guard dog for my nursery. Or how, if I had the property, I would have an entire herd of Eero Aarnio puppies in my back yard. Or it might simply be comments and confessions on fatherhood. Or it might be an examination on how amazing the Brinca Dada “Emerson” dollhouse is. Or it might be about my new series of Pop Art Cupcakes. Or it might be about shooting Nerf golf balls at Mark Wahlberg, Steve Coogan, and Will Farrell for an entire afternoon on the set of The Other Guys. Or how glitter and confetti on a film set in Chinatown will stick around on the streets for literally months. Or my next post might be purely design oriented. Like I said, it’s hard to tell. Maybe I’ll let the nearly six-day-old pick a topic (although, admittedly, it is often difficult to discern what, precisely, it is that she’s talking about; personally, I like to think she’s rehearsing her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; heaven forbid it be the one for Literature; nobody in their right mind wants their child to end up as a writer).