Creative design for kids – Interview with Michael Neville about his colonial turd


Please tell us a bit about your rockers and play furniture colonial turd…

The Colonial Turd Series is a group of rockers designed with natural and recycled materials for the enjoyment of young children.

What was the inspiration behind?

I wanted to work with cardboard in a new and unexpected way. The idea occurred to me that I could process the material into a pulp. This material is ubiquitous and free and when it is transformed into a pulp, it can be used to create organic form.

I’m curious about the production of your Colonial turd. Do you produce the rockers by yourself?

I produce every aspect of this product. I gather post-consumer cardboard from my region, process it into a pulp, and hand shape the form of the rockers.  I build the wooden handles with indigenous hardwoods and even produce the color of the rockers from natural materials.


Tell us ab bit more about the material…

The material is a paper pulp made of post-consumer cardboard boxes. Every material used to create the product is recyclable or biodegradable with the exception of a single rubber collet that allows the wooden handle to adjust and rotate smoothly.

What is your background? How did you get into designing play furniture for children?

Soon after I left my undergraduate school with a degree in fine arts, I was hired as an exhibit designer for a children’s museum. In this position, I designed and fabricated hands on and interactive exhibits for children of different ages and different developmental abilities. I was creatively inspired by my work at the museum and realized that children are fundamentally underserved by contemporary designers. This experience motivated me to develop my ideas surrounding design for children in graduate school. I enrolled at the Cranbrook Academy of Art and created an entire body of work dealing with children’s furniture.

Can you tell us a little bit about your personal relationship to your colonial turd?

The Colonial Turd series is the first suite of products that I have ever designed. I created a crude prototype when I first arrived at graduate school that I called the “Rocking Turd”. It was meant to be simplified rocking horse built of recycled materials.  I sold that piece and began to wonder if I could produce the “Rocking Turd” serially. I had a summer residency at the Talking Dolls studio in Detroit and decided that I would use my time to create a series of rockers. This project allowed me to explore my interest in natural dyes and to refine the form of the product.

What does the term ‘meaningful design for kids’ mean to you?

I have mixed feelings about this term. Adults are the producers and consumers of goods marketed to children. These products are inherently coded with the expectations of an adult society, for better or for worse. As a designer, I feel that it is most valuable to observe and learn from children at play. Children determine what is most suitable for their needs every time they play. It could be a wood stick or it could be an XBox. Designers can empower and innovate their practices by learning directly from children and how they choose to play.

Remarks Michael was also a participant on the competition “future of kids design” in September at Kind + Jugend Cologne 2014.


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