Child's Play

The Simplicity of Joel Henriques’ Toys

I've always been fascinated by color, shape, and craftsmanship. I spent most of my childhood drawing and painting, building things out of wood, and figuring out ways to turn objects around the house into fun activities. I also learned a lot from my grandmother, who was an artist. She spent a lot of time showing me the art of Matisse, Picasso, and many others. She also made artistic paper crafts with all of the kids in our family. It was a wonderful environment.
Now that I have children, my love of art and making toys has increased again. As soon as my twins were able to hold a toy, I was intrigued by how they interacted with objects around them. And while watching my kids play, I began to see that a simple toy allowed them to use their own imaginations and creativity, whereas a more complex toy could only be played with in one specific way. The concept of simple toys also fit perfectly with my love for minimal design and modern art.
I began to focus on fun, simple toys, and found that it was just like being a kid again. Pretty soon I was back to taking miscellaneous items from around the house and finding ways to make toys from them. Turning cereal boxes into marble runs and shoe boxes into pull toy pets.
It's great being able to entertain myself and the kids all at the same time. We were having so much fun making things I decided to create a blog so I could show my friends and family who also have kids. The blog turned out to be a good idea. It's now reaching people all over the world. It's very warming to see parents and kids enjoying the toys and crafts and sending me emails and comments. It's like having a huge play group. And it certainly is fun to play.
Joel Henriques is an artist and toy designer who lives with his wife and three year-old twins in Portland, Oregon. He is author of the blog Made by Joel ( and is currently writing a modern toy/craft book that will be published in Autumn 2011 by Trumpeter Books ( His paintings can be seen at



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