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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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Friday, January 28th, 2011

Flickr Faves on Fridays: A Mod Modular

Becky

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kitHAUS K1+K2, Santa Barbara

I couldn’t help but notice the new additions to our Fresh New Spaces Group from kitHAUS.

kitHAUS K1+K2, Santa Barbara

It made me want to know more about this project, like is it prefab? What green technologies were used? What is the rest of the context of the site? So I popped on over to their website, and recognized their smaller shed instantly, I know I’ve been in one a few times at different shows and exhibitions and such. This house is so much bigger – kitHAUS, we want to know more; you teased us by adding this to the flickr group, now come chat with us about how these modules are designed and how you put them together!

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Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Environmental Tuesday: A Family Strives for Zero Waste

Becky

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I’m so happy this article is up online from Sunset. It’s an inspiring story about a family (The Johnsons) who cut out so much of their stuff and try hard to live the Zero Waste life. A commenter on their site named Stephanie summed it up pretty well “This article has stuck with me, challenged me, frustrated me, and inspired me.” Seriously, you cannot win; I remember reading about their compostable toothbrushes being sent from Australia and thinking “well, shipping from Australia kind of cancels out the fact that they are compostable.” Also, the wife mentions that she sends the little sticky strip from Netflix back to Netflix so it won’t go in her own trash. O.K., but you haven’t eliminated it. But these are the words of a cynic. The greater point is that these people are trying very hard to live smaller, produce as little waste as possible, and spend less. Their tips regarding toys, food, and wardrobes is great, and overall, if you can pick up just one good tip from the Johnsons then it was worth reading.

Speaking of working with a small budgets and small wardrobes, here is another article that will help you cut down from The New York Times this year. It’s about going a month on just six pieces of clothing and includes links to some fun blogs where people share what they come up with.

image by Thomas J. Story for Sunset Magazine

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Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Environmental Tuesday: Planning for the Holidays

Becky

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O.K. now that Halloween is over, the stores are filled with Yuletide tunes, people are buzzing about Black Friday insanity, and the stores are filled with all kinds of Holiday decorations. Here are a few quick tips to decrease your holiday carbon footprint.

1) Consider sending holiday cards over the interwebs. I hate this idea because holiday cards are some of the only good snail mail I receive all year long, but it will save on paper and the energy used to deliver your cards. If you can’t stand the thought, at least use recycled paper, and be sure to recycle the cards you receive.

2) Use reusable or recycled wrapping paper. If you’re like my grandparents, you neatly folded up every piece of wrapping paper you ever used and put it in a drawer, and never used it again. You can use newspaper, recycled paper, cloth bags, or a pretty extra piece of fabric you have around the house to wrap up your gifts. Here’s a fun video with some good ideas if you want to get super-crafy:

3) If you do the tree thing, don’t feel too guilty. Christmas tree farms are not the enemy. Just be sure to leave your tree out for mulch composting after the holidays. You may also consider a live tree to plant later (though honestly, in most parts of this country, January 1st is not exactly prime dig-a-hole-in-the-ground-and-plant time).

4) E-cycle: If you’re expecting to upgrade some of your electronics via some killer gifts, make sure you dispose of your old ones in a recyclable way. If they are not fit for donation or resale, check the EPA’s guidelines for E-cycling them.

5) Buy eco-friendly gifts. I love to shop handmade, and from the green sections of retail websites. I’ll be working up a list of what Design Public has to offer in this arena in the coming weeks.  Here’s one of my many faves, the k studio Birds Pillow:

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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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