Child’s Play With Lora Appleton

Q&A | Jul 2016 | BY Alexandra Oshinsky

 This week, kinder MODERN partners with Gallery Diet on Wrap Your Arms Around Me, a collaborative exhibition in their Miami space. Here, we speak to kinder MODERN founder Lora Appleton about the Brooklyn Museum’s recent acquisition, the future of child design, and the unique challenges of the genre.

It’s been a few years since kinder MODERN made its Collective Design fair debut. What have been some of your greatest surprises so far? What has been a highlight?The fact that kinder MODERN, as a child design focused gallery, was able to exhibit implied design erotica illustrates just how open people are to not only genre-bending work, but also to seeing design in the art world and vice versa.Another highlight was showing our life-size set of Design Chess at Sight Unseen OFFSITE during New York Design Week where we created a giant 20 foot rug out of our kinder GROUND modular luxury carpet, and had five contemporary designers create chess inspired child chairs. To top it off we ran live celebrity designer chess matches throughout the fair.

What led to the creation of kinder MODERN? Have your intentions or goals with the gallery evolved? Kinder MODERN was born from necessity. As I designed my son’s nursery, I became very frustrated with the lack of beautiful pieces for kids. As a longtime design addict and collector, I began researching vintage pieces and became fascinated by the history and  beauty of these original historical pieces for children. I had always intended to focus on the vintage/historical side of child design, but I also knew there was the possibility of developing a contemporary side-and we did! We have carved a clear path for collaborating with designers from all over the world to design and produce gallery-quality design for children.

LORA_APPLETON_kinderMODERN

Lora Appleton

Kinder MODERN is co-curating an exhibition at Miami’s Gallery Diet, opening July 9th. The show presents art in response to child design objects – how does design open a conversation not only with art, but also with behavior in a space? As this is a collaborative exhibition, I asked Gallery Diet director Nina Johnson-Milewski to answer this one. She said, “Design helps us activate space, particularly in the case of these objects which are intended to be used by children, there’s a very present sense of intentionality and movement. The artworks in the show provide a more meditative approach to the theme by looking specifically at two artists who are inspired and work with ideologies often associated with development; gesture and language. We hope that the viewers experience will move between these worlds and stimulate an alternative understanding to the mind of a child.”

What is your favorite item from your childhood bedroom?  I had an amazing Tommy Parzinger etagere that I used to stack all of my favorite things on. My Raggedy Ann doll, my faux-telephone . . . it was my kiddie ladder of loveys.

What do you think of contemporary children’s design?  I think the current climate of contemporary child design is super exciting. We have worked really hard to spark the conversation, keep it flowing, and grow the need for creative, innovative furniture and objects for children.  Since we launched kM, we have seen huge growth in the niche. For example, this year at Salone Del Mobile in Milan there was a sizable representation of contemporary child design. Major players such as Magis, Kartell, Thonet and more, are realizing that focusing on the home is essential to meet the needs of and be part of the lives of families.

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Henner Kuckuck White Future formica 1990’s Chair

Obviously children can be wild and want to touch and play with everything. How does the need to create more tactile pieces lend itself to innovation in design?  I believe innovation in design for children is about overall function, not just the tactile element. Anything created for a child has to considered differently, as children do touch, explore and play with furniture in unique ways, depending on age. It becomes imperative to consider children’s mental and physical development. How will they use that pieces in 2-3 years? and so on. We are looking to create items that last for years, becoming beloved heirlooms.  As we develop our own in-house design line, this is one of the key factors in the connecting phase.

How do you feel about the role technology is playing in children’s objects and toys?  I think the role tech is playing in children’s objects and toys is super exciting. Technology is a part of children’s lives in much larger ways than ever before. I think finding ways to show kids how tech works and how it can enhance an experience, rather than be simply a distraction, is key. In addition I think it helps prepare kids for the future, opening their minds to engineering, building, and movement. Technology encourages them to consider the world they live in, while providing them with tangible ideas about the work they may want to pursue as adults.

Walkee_kM

Walkee Tricycle, designed by William B. Fageol, USA, c. 1945

The Brooklyn Museum recently purchased the Amalgam Stand from kinder MODERN for its private collection. What is the significance of this acquisition to you?  This is a huge acquisition for us. As a gallery dedicated to the exciting world of historical child design we have made it our mission to engage the design world as we archive the work of the past and discover that of the future. In this quest we are bringing light to amazing unknown designers and encouraging designers who have never worked in child design before to design with us for children. The Amalgam Stand is an excellent example of our entire process.  Choosing to work with Christian Swafford & Lauren Larsen of Material Lust just solidified this process, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the piece that was acquired. As the Brooklyn Museum also acquired the Bamboozler, this is a great story of child design and its trajectory from the 1950s to 2016. It is a perfect example of where we are headed and we couldn’t be more proud of Material Lust to have their first piece acquired by such an amazing museum. Barry Harwood, the Decorative Arts curator there, is a huge champion of ours, and, as a fellow child design lover and collector, the acquisition was a win-win for everyone.

Black Plastic Hand Chair, 1960s

Care to predict who some of the future collectible designers in this genre may be? Or a particular object?  Lucas Maassen is very much a collectible designer. Having exhibited at MoMA New York, Grand Palais Paris, Vitra Design Museum, Museum of Art and Design New York, and many more, his design is referencing and examining scale, validation through perception and play. He is creating lifetime heirloom pieces with his children at Lucas Maassen & Sons.

Who is your dream designer to collaborate with?  Kwangho Lee is someone who’s work I am very attracted to. His play with material and the challenge he exhibits in his work would lend itself so amazingly to child design. I like that he has a serious bent with a tongue in cheek nod through material discovery. I would die to experiment with him. We’re also working with Chen & Kai for the upcoming Pulse Miami, so we’re headed towards working with more of our dream collaborators.

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