A few days ago I got to spend some time at the Portland Art Museum on my birthday.  I hadn’t been there in awhile and was really inspired by the Native American exhibits.  Dance wands, totem poles, jewelry. So I came home and dreamt up the idea for this toy.  A kind of interactive art sculpture that can be assembled many different ways.  It’s like a cross between building a mobile and decorating a Christmas tree.  The kids are loving it.  It’s kind of challenging for them too which is good.  I purposefully made some of the hook rings on the “tree” swivel and spin around, so you almost have to use two hands to hang the object.

After putting all the objects on, my son keeps asking, “Can I do it again daddy?” and I keep telling him, “Yeah, as many times as you want.”

I painted different designs on the fronts and backs of the blocks so there could be more variation.

Here is the midnight sketch I made on my iPod Touch while lying in bed. I ended up following it pretty closely.

47 Responses
  1. Andrea

    I love the idea that the kids are challenged! New to your site and I loove picking into your brain. You have fantastic, simple yet marvelous ideas. Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. Joel Henriques

    Thanks everybody. And I use an old scroll saw for cutting my wood pieces. It's very handy. I actually used to have one in my bedroom when I was a kid. Good thing I was pretty clean, cause that could have gotten very messy.

  3. Dolores

    kind of a Calder movile… love it!
    I have to go to the PAM! I love their exhibition on native american art… maybe next week.. we´ll see.. thanks

  4. Ivana

    That's wonderful, Joel! Every one of your posts is such a treat…
    p.s. Love how the little one is using her tongue for help with concentration in one of the photos… I still do that myself! : )

  5. evie s.

    This is awesome! I'm new to your blog and I think it's incredible what you are doing for/with your kids to expose them to art and creativity. Very inspiring!

  6. Golubka

    Perfection! Definitely reminds me of Calder's stuff as well. How cool it must be to have a dad like you, what lucky little ones.

  7. Samone Bos

    Hi Joel,
    This is awesome.
    Absolutely love your posts – I am also a parent of boy/girl twins (Saffron and Jasper are almost 18 months) and your posts totally have my partner Tim and I inspired. Your art and activities are amazing, and we're also enjoying a glimpse at what life might be like when our tiny toddler whirlwinds (though loads of fun) settle a little to enjoying projects.

  8. Amy

    Wonderful! Man, you are amazing…I would love one of these too–not only is it an amazingly original and engaging toy, but it's beautiful. I think you are an incredible artist and dad. Really.

  9. amberlee

    I can see MYSELF playing with this all day! My little girl is only 13 months (and we live just down the road from you in Salem) so I find myself starring a lot of your posts in my reader for later. Your posts are all so inspiring!

  10. Joel Henriques

    Thanks everybody. And yes, Samone, it gets way easier when the twins turn two, so you're almost there. Now that Jack and Tess are 3 it's even better. They have a blast playing together.

  11. Tina

    WOW Joel, I love it!! I reckon you can start making retirement plans, 'cause if this gets out, you are sitting on a fortune! I love your creativity and find it so inspiring! Congrats on a great interactive sculpture, love it!! Hope you have a great weekend ~ Tina

  12. Kickcan and Conkers

    Oh, I want one too! This is brilliant – reminds me of Calder a bit. My kids would love playing with this and so would I. "Bravo" for so much inspiration !)

  13. Lisa

    I'm very impressed by your work. I agree with Isa you should sell the idea to HABA so every one could get one (me included)

  14. orngpikkle

    LOVE this!!!. I would love to make something similar for my daughter Finley if you don't mind.

    What gauge wire did you use?

  15. Joel Henriques


    orngpikkle – the welding rod I used is ER 308L. It's pretty sturdy stuff. You could use whatever you felt like bending. It's so cheap you could get a couple different gauges.

    Holly – Yes, the whole thing is from wood scrap and reclaimed wood. Pretty much everything I make is from scrap. Sometimes you can find great bargains on ebay for nice pieces of solid wood leftover from furniture builders etc…

  16. Joel Henriques

    Marta, ¿Puedo publicar fotos de árbol de su estudiante de diseño en mi blog? Por favor, hágamelo saber si eso está bien. Gracias.

  17. Stephan

    Hi Joel, congrats on a superb sculpture. Your work has inspired me to get my year 8 (grade 8) students to create their own ‘Design Tree’. We hope to take it a step further by “living out” a school goal that asks student to seek ways of caring for our environment. There’ll be a “Dump ur junk” box into which could include anything that would usually end up in the rubbish bin.
    I request your permission copy images from the blog into a PowerPoint.
    Thanks in anticipation