March/April 2017: Partners in Design
While playing with action figures with his son, David Weeks had an epiphany. The Brooklyn-based designer, celebrated for his modernist kinetic chandeliers, was looking to move into other mediums. He had already designed a best-selling chair for British retailer Habitat and a line of upholstered furniture for Ralph Pucci. But Weeks, who’d trained as a sculptor and painter, was still restless. He found himself studying the toys’ joints to see how they were fashioned. Then it clicked: He would create a line of wooden animals.
“It was cathartic,” Weeks says of hand-making the first creature, Hanno the Gorilla. More mammals followed, each increasingly complicated in form and function. When the project turned from escape to burden, the designer pivoted: He dreamed up CubeBot. Based on traditional Shinto Kumiki puzzles, the blocky figure has a blank expression and the ability to strike a pose—many a pose, in fact. The toy was an immediate social-media sensation.
With SquareBear, Weeks evolves yet again. The fold-up beechwood figure, manufactured by Kikkerland, has gentle curves and a searching look: “a face, a personality, and an attitude,” explains Weeks. It’s also the first installment of his BlockBeasts collection, in which he plans to explore volumes beyond squares, such as cylinders and pyramid shapes.
The toy celebrates the 25th anniversary of Kikkerland, which is fitting since company CEO Jan van der Lande has known Weeks about that long. “David has a good sense of shape and design,” says Van der Lande of the attraction. It also was a practical decision: “We are doing a lot of wood projects, so his fit in well” with the brand’s roster and production abilities, he adds.
In the near decade since creating Hanno, Weeks has expanded his repertoire, designing rugs for Christopher Farr, wallcoverings for Flavor Paper, and a limited-edition tabletop collection. But the toys stay close to his heart. “They’re visceral,” he says, “and very satisfying.”