Toy Fair 2012: Areaware – Fun & Functional Artwork For The Masses

Just when you think you’ve seen everything, along comes someone who shows you a cool wooden robot that folds away into an equally cool-looking cube or a silver baby rattle that can double as an art piece. These were just two items at Toy Fair from Brooklyn, NY-based Areaware, a producer of some really interesting products from a wide range of talented artists and designers. It’s impossible to take a look at their web site or online catalog without a smile crossing your face thanks to the selection of everyday objects given a fresh and often amusing spin.  A quick (and goofy) example: Say you’re allergic to pet hair, have too many animals in your space but crave more, just like collecting unique pillows or any combination of the three. Well, say hello to a few pieces from Ross Menuez’ Fauna line:

That’s only a few of the about 40 currently available designs (and you’re grinning already, right?)…

Remember when IKEA was the coolest place to go for more than BIY tables and cabinets? Well, Areaware manages to outdo the Swedish giant by a few thousand miles when it comes to oddball goods you’ll appreciate for their solid construction and pure usefulness. What’s great about the Arenaware lineup is the overall sense of familiarity and whimsy that blend perfectly with all that functionality on display. Just poring over the website’s kids section is enough to make your wallet lighter within seconds (and you probably won’t mind one bit). I’m a fan of the wooden alligators that stack in numerous formations (that would be the Croc Pile), the aforementioned Cubebot (in three styles and sizes) and baby rattles (even though I don’t have a kid to pacify with its harmonic chiming). Many of the hand-crafted products are made from assorted sustainable wood and/or found and recycled objects that also manage to successfully poke fun at themselves with how and why they were created.

Even the non-toy stuff is awesome. A wooden flashlight or iPod dock/”old school” alarm clock from Jonas Damon, Harry Allen’s found objects such as a single roller skate, bowls cast from a bunch of bananas or fruit and even a piggy bank cast from an actual piglet (!) and other fine quality products that bring affordable art to a wide range of collectors (or regular folk who just want something really unique for themselves or as a gift). But don’t let me keep you away from the Areaware website at all – head on over and snap something up directly from them or check out their store locator and see who’s got that set of beeswax light bulb candles or one of the coolest new bicycle designs you’ll ever lay your eyes on (more on that particular slice of amazing in an upcoming article).

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