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Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Designer Interview: Clark Davis from Sprout

Becky

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Today we’re sitting down with Clark Davis, creator of Sprout, a company that creates wonderful interactive furniture for creative kiddos.

Please tell me a bit about your background – what led you to creating Sprout?

I feel that my childhood had a huge influence on me as a designer/inventor/entrepreneur.  I grew up in rural Utah, in a small community called Genola.  I am the third in a family of eight.  We didn’t have any close neighbors until I was about 10 and we didn’t have a TV growing up, so as kids we learned to entertain ourselves. This does great things for your creativity.  All summer long we would build huts, bike trails, and rope bridges in the stand of trees down the road. Then come winter our free time was spent our time making lego empires.  My mom would tell us that legos were made to make and break, meaning that the value was in the learning and creating processes more than in the final product.  I think it is true.

As I got older I went from hand tools to power tools.  I worked at my dad’s cabinet shop where I gained alot of experiences in wood working. We also taught myself to weld and work with metal.  I think it was my junior year in high school that my younger brother and I made steam engine out of old machine parts that we found around the cabinet shop and entered it into a science fair.  I was very blessed with a great developmental environment: Lots of stuff (junk) to work with, parents that modeled a desire to learn, and the freedom to try with out mom freaking out.

I realize that not everyone has the same opportunities but I feel blessed that I did.  I want to give some of that opportunity to kids growing up.  So while every kids mom won’t let him use saws and welders at a young age, I think I can bring the thrill of building your furniture (or at least having a part in it) to them.  That is what legos did for me.  Think about it.  Legos let a 3-year-old kid become an inventor.  They lower to barriers to creativity and allow real exploration.  Not just role playing with stuff, or using stuff.  But creating the stuff.  How amazing is that?  I love learning.

The world is the best classroom, if you learn to see it that way.  As a child this is the natural and only way we learn.  We shouldn’t loose this ability to learn from everything around us.   Overcome the fear of being wrong.  We don’t learn by being right, but trying, making mistakes and adapting.

Why the name Sprout?

I love the color Green!  But really, sprouts grow – I love the imagery.  I hope this product will help little sprouts sprout. Also, our products are designed to be eco-friendly. Recycled  and local materials, little waste, made in the USA, smart cardboard packaging, compact shipping.  I think there is beauty in simplicity.

I find nature absolutely inspiring and try to mimic the simplicity of nature when I design.  One example is the way that our furniture assembles.  While most designers use screws or nails, Sprout uses the natural flexibility of the wood to keep the parts together. We try to take advantage of the inherent properties of the materials we are using.  Another example is the natural raw edges of the furniture.  I wouldn’t paint them if I could.  I think that they naturally add to the aesthetic of the product.

How did you start Sprout and where is it going from here?

I first had the idea for an easy to assemble student desk about 2 years ago – at the time I couldn’t make a desk at an accessible pricepoint for students so I started doing kid furniture. But in the future, we might (wink wink) have some student products coming.

What’s your workspace like?

Just a few months ago I moved from the basement office gig to a studio and I love it.  What a difference.  It also makes it a little easier to bring on some other people.  There are a couple of us working together and what a difference it makes.  The studio, but has a skylight.  Absolutely love the natural light.

Thanks so much to Clark for taking the time to wax philosophical with us today!

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Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Flickr Faves on Fridays: Reclaiming and Repurposing

Becky

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Today’s flickr fave comes from our industrious and creative pal, furniture designer Thomas Wold. Thomas collects and reassembles cabinetry and other furniture and creates spectacular assemblages. I’m especially loving the mix of colors and shapes in this one, and the fact that I can squint at the picture and get a peek at what else is going on in Thomas’s studio and try to guess what’s coming next!

thomas wold-rock candy

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Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Environmental Tuesday: How’s Your Energy Efficiency?

Becky

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It’s getting chilly outside. Winter is the time of year where it’s too easy to waste all kinds of energy and it can cost you a lot of extra dollars. There are a few quick and easy things you can do that will save you a big bucks. Start with an online survey from The U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver. If you have a few more bucks set aside now to save a lot later, consider having someone audit your house. The Building Performance Institute Inc. can help you find a local contractor who has been certified to audit your home here.

If you are raring to put a few items on the honey-do list this weekend here are a few quick and easy energy saving moves you can do yourself:

1) Install a programmable thermostat.

2) Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket (this will run you about $20). Make sure your water heater is at a low setting (usually a little lever near the bottom – even I was able to find this sucker, and I’m terrible at this stuff).

3) Add weather stripping to your windows and doors where needed (you know where you’ve felt a draft coming in – every time you feel it, imaging the dollars slipping right out those cracks.

4) Have your HVAC equipment serviced. Last time I had someone out, they let me know that some shrubs around my A/C unit were making it work twice as hard and once they were gone it saved me a ton.

5) Purely a money saver: If you are not locked in at a good per-therm rate and you use natural gas, call the gas company to lock in a good rate per-therm. Call around to a few to find out their best deal – if you don’t want to switch, your current company will likely match the lowest rate you find in order to keep your business. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t locked in last year; when I finally locked in a rate, I cut my gas bill by 50%!

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Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Environmental Tuesday Links: “You’re Washing Your Hands on the Top of the Toilet?!?!”

Becky

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1) I related so much to this New York Times article last week about feeling guilty about our green failures. Sometimes it feels like you can’t win, or you have one habit you know is not very good for the environment but you cannot give it up. The author, Joyce Walder really hits the nail on the head with this article, it was a really fun read. Oh, and the title of this post was my favorite quote from the article.

What not-so-green habits are you feeling guilty about? I can start. After being very serious about water conservation, thinking about every dish that would need washing and not even giving my poor cat her beloved fresh water from the sink faucet, I am addicted to taking a bath in a really big bathtub. It uses lord knows how many gallons. Even worse than that, while I’m in there, I read People magazine. It’s shameful. Please begin public flogging now.  And/Or join in and tell us your not-so-green shame.

2) Another link: Here is The Greenwatching Index, so you can try and keep track of what’s really green and what’s just using the term for marketing purposes.

3) Finally, I wanted to share an interview I did with architect Christian Dauer on another website. In this Mission District renovation, he reused as much of what would have otherwise been construction waste as possible, and it added to the beauty and spirit of the house. Even this gorgeous kitchen table was constructed from on-site reclaimed wood:

image via houzz.com

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Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Environmental Tuesday: The 30 Day Low-Car Diet

Becky

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Yesterday I was reading about The Zip Car 30 Day Low-Car Diet. This, in addition to being a brilliant marketing ploy, is a great idea. Participants from around the U.S. agree to give up their personal vehicles for thirty days. In exchange, they are given a year’s worth of Zip Car use for free. I remember the then-Dean of the Architecture School at UVA, William McDonough, describing a shared car transportation plan for a sustainable town he was working on over ten years ago, and I remember cynically thinking that such a thing would only work on a commune. I’m glad Zip Car has proved me wrong. You can follow the participants here.  Last year, 61% of the participants realized they were ready to give up their personal cars and stick with bikes, public transportation, and the occasional Zip rental.

Could you do it? If you sat down, looked at the cost of your car payments, maintenance, insurance and gasoline and realized it cost you about 20% of your income would it sway you at all? Do you have any sort of ample public transportation and/or good bike trails? I don’t use my car much, but honestly, it’s to ingrained in me to have one that I don’t know if I could give it up. I remember this same conversation going for Campbell Scott whenever he tried to sell his idea of the Supertrain in the movie Singles. The response was always “people love their cars.” When the temperature drops below 80, I do tend to walk on a lot of my errands, but it sure is tough not to hop in the car when it’s 100 degrees or when the weather is bad!

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