Last year, I met Todd Oldham at Crafting Community— a brilliant family art event held at the ACE Hotel in Palm Springs. In anticipation of Crafting Community’s sixth year, I want to share this conversation I had with the iconic designer.
It offers a glimpse into his super artsy home life as a child and inspires me to keep striving for creative time and space at home with my kids.
When I first met Todd, he was patiently helping children with their projects at his Kid Made Modern for Target table. Rainbow-colored tape, pencils and crayons made it a dreamy destination for crafters of all ages. He helped my 5-year-old make an awesome wallet. And when my 2-year-old expressed her frustration with fireworks, he assured me, “She’s a true designer.”
His Kid Made Modern for Target art supplies are everything good and wholesome and fantastic about childhood. It is the big multi-faceted crayon gem in a sea of wax stubs. Kid Made Modern, the book, is full of gorgeous, easy-to-make crafts. Each project is inspired by a specific artist, Eames, Matisse, etc.
While chatting, we discovered that we had something unusual in common— we had both spent our childhoods growing up in the Middle East. (Me in Saudi Arabia, he in Iran). When the chaos of crafting community was over, I got to ask him a few questions. Maker to maker.
Hi Todd! It was so great meeting you at Crafting Community!
So nice to meet you! It sounds like we are long lost brother and sister!
What was your childhood home in the middle east like in terms of design and decor? I’m wondering if it was a hodge podge, like mine.
I loved our home in Iran. It was, like yours, a great mix of worldly treasures from our travels or inherited from fellow travelers that were moving on. I come from a very crafty family so we also had stuff we made, often from garbage found on the street. We made a great room divider from an abandoned display case from our local market.
Garbage! I love garbage! But not everyone in your family was an artist. Your dad is a computer programmer, right?
My dad is the linear thinker in a sea of non-liners and we love him for it. He is really creative and my mom is a great artist.
Were they supportive of your decision to become a designer?
They would have been distressed if I would have become a stock broker, which, thankfully, never crossed my mind.
In Kid Made Modern there’s a page listing different occupations that fall under the design umbrella. When I was a kid, art was understood as child’s play, and not a legitimate career option. Were you aware that you could have a career in design at a young age?
I have been making and designing things since I could walk, which was at 9 months. It never entered my mind that I would be anything other than a maker. My family is the best and was so supportive of my artistic efforts. They taught my brother and sisters and me everything they knew and they know a lot of stuff!
Now that you’re grown, what is your work space like? Is your studio decorated, or do you prefer a blank canvas?
I like a vivid environment around me so my office is beautifully decorated. It is full of our own designs and art from others we admire. A blank canvas is not very inspiring to me so I always enjoy some visual chatter. You are most welcome to visit on your next trip to NYC!
“Visual chatter”! I am so using that! And, yes, thank you for the invitation! Speaking of visual chatter, I’m planning on yarn bombing a private park in my neighborhood. What do you think?
Please do send me the pics! I love knitting and yarn arts so much. I am knitting my dog Eve a new sweater currently. She’s a great model.
In the meantime, the kids’ workspaces are stocked with supplies. And of course, the lid to the recycling bin is off so there’s easy access to tons and tons of garbage.
Today’s art fuels tomorrow’s careers!