Saturday, January 23, 2010

Enzo Mari, toys as art, children as consumers, and subliminal healthfood messages

I mentioned in my first posting here that one of my "loves" is legitimate furniture and art in children's rooms. To clarify, I don't mean that you need an Eames La Chaise and an original Rothko hanging in the nursery (although I am now imagining such a nursery and it's faaabulous). But, when and why did "kid's furniture" start to mean "toxic plastic crap that won't last a year"? If anyone needs something solid, something sturdy, well-made, tactile, and visually pleasing, it's the little ones with such rapidly developing senses.
So, what I was trying to express is this: kids should have real things-real literature, real food, real music, and real furniture. And art. Enzo Mari got this. The Italian industrial designer/artist/craftsman wore many artistic hats. If you already know of him, you may associate him with his very iconic La Pera and La Mela graphic art prints. Bright, simple, appealing, and subversively pro-fruit, they make for extremely child-friendly art.
But his most notable and most collectable design was a set of 16 wooden animals (called Sedici Animali, designed for and made by Danese), carved to be individual works of sculpture art, and to interlock in innumerable ways. I recently had the great fortune and pleasure of obtaining an original circa 1972 set. It took three of us adults an hour to put the entire puzzle together, and we were literally squealing like children at each new find ("the pig!! the crocodile fits with the pig!!). Appealing across all age-groups, endlessly entertaining, and an iconic piece of art/design history. And really, really real.



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