A little story about some big ‘cubbyhole lockers’
A boy turned, said two words.
He understood it was made for him, for them.
Every part of it was put together thinking of the
This was more than a piece of furniture. It was
something else, and he knew it.
It happened like this.
Mia said the three-year-old group needed new ‘lockers’. They did. The old particle-board ones were
tired, mismatched, dowdy. They looked unloved.
She sought quotes from commercial cabinetmakers, who specified commercial veneers and make
perfect cuts for furniture that would look at home in a new commercial development. Slick,
polished, on trend.
Then she asked if I might consider the job.
They’re storage for the children’s bags – for
all that is found and created on a busy day
of being a child – but they’re also much
They’re ethical. Used plywood sheets were
sourced through a friend, Andrey Devicc,
Handy man: Andrey, with a clipped wing from a mountain bike spill.
who knows about recycling, about doing more with less. He’s a
cyclist, a chef, an artisan builder, the father of two young boys. He
heard I needed ply, he gave for the cause.
A sheet of black concreter’s form-ply was used as the backboard.
Made in China. Shipped here, used once on a house reno in
Armadale, tossed in a skip. I spotted it on my bicycle ride to school,
to pick-up one of our boys. It was waste, a certain selfishness, a
throw-out consumer mentality. As a community, as responsible
citizens, we ought to do better than this.
This form-ply has been given another, happier, life.
Warren said the children would often hide in the old lockers. Children like intimate spaces. They feel
safe in them. Under stairs, between table legs, beneath a bed. Places to make their own.
Why not incorporate this into the design?
This cabinet – I’m calling them the ‘cubbyhole lockers’ –
have two voids at either end in which little people might
seek shelter, respite, a place to daydream, re-charge. One is
adorned with found objects. I’ve left the other bare,
deliberately. It’s for them to shape, to create.
I love yellow; its vibrancy, cheer.
Our response to colour is shared. These ‘locker’ boxes are
little private spaces for the children in the public realm of a
kindergarten. Yellow might spark even more joy.
I had thought to paint the entire backboard yellow. Reconsidering, I
highlighted only chosen squares. Less is more. It saves on paint (an
environmental consideration), highlights the honest use of materials (the
printing on the form-ply becomes a feature), and I’m keen to see how the
children respond to the pattern, “a dance of interacting parts”.
The plywood has old drill holes, each a story of another use. And I’ve
left pencil marks – the workings of the making – as clues to a process,
to a human hand and thought. Imperfections are not hidden from
Make it ethical, honest, functional, safe, and make it beautiful.
And a boy said thank you.
My thanks are, again, to Ilana and the committee at St Kilda
Balaclava Kindergarten. They could have chosen a
commercial cabinetmaker, but instead they put trust in me.
I am honoured to shape the lives of children in little ways.
Bowerbird Gardens, my business, a social enterprise, is
about resolving spaces in holistic ways, about respect for
materials, consumption, for people big and small. It’s a
philosophy, a way of thinking. It can only work with trust,
with mutual respect. It is also a questioning. Are there other
ways to do things?
Andrea at the kindergarten questions always what I do!
Which is appreciated. It shows care.
I’m making two more cabinet ‘lockers’ for the younger children at the kindergarten. Each will be
different; for a different role, place, maybe even a different message.
Inspect them. Engage with them. Question them. Talk to your children about them.
And know also they have been made with only one thing in mind.
The children and teachers at Nelson Street kindergarten.