Klara Veer is a Cluj based architect and designer who, after 7 years of office work, decided to claim her sabbatical year and PLAY.
Among her many projects, she created LUtOPIA, a wonderland inhabited by hand-made toys invented by children (and adults) of all ages. Here she explains how LUtOPIA came about and why LUtOPIANs are so treasured by their lucky owners.
I grew up in the last period of communism, when good quality toys were rare and hard to find. We spent a lot of time drawing and painting on the white walls of our apartment and on the first and last white pages of any book at hand. I remember how much I treasured our Russian game called Masha & Dasha, two pretty cardboard girls wearing only underwear who were so needy for my help to dress them up and provide them with hand-made cardboard houses. I really enjoyed and treasured these toys which I could tweak after my own will and taste.
We were also quite proud of my father’s flea-market finds. For example, our LEGO-set which even had roof-tiles and beams! We would spend long evenings building an entire zoo for our plastic animals. My father enjoyed helping us, we never had to beg him for too long. Recently, at his funeral, I found out from his friends that in the 50’s after the war, his favorite activity was to build wooden toys for the children in the neighborhood. I still own a wooden ship that he carved.
The idea to make toys from hand-drawn doodles came to me ten years ago. Capitalism’s “fleas” were arriving into our country with pink-lipped blue-eyed Barbie dolls and serial products. When my sister showed me her two and a half-year old son’s drawing of a birdie, things connected like in a puzzle. Christmas was coming so I cut up my old woolen pullover and a striped sock that had a hole in it – and the Tombird, the first LUtOPIAN was born. He is a Sagittarius it seems.
I think my nephew is a talented observer of life. He went on drawing, and I continued to give life to the lovely creatures that live in the world of his mind. I was quite glad to discover a new passion, though creating all kinds of things was always a way of life for me. I am really grateful for my sister, Renata, who lovingly collects and dates all his drawings, just like our daddy used to do with ours.
The word spread fast. Many nice drawings were sent to us with requests to create LUtOPIANs out of them. One young lady had this cool idea to send in her boyfriend’s drawing which he made 23 years ago as a child. With the help of his mother, she scanned the picture and kept it a secret till Christmas. She said no money could have bought his surprise when he looked under the Christmas tree.
Basically I invite my friends and fans to sit down and create together with me. Sometimes I take over their long forgotten creations, but it always starts with a drawing. Children and adults alike are, without exception, deeply moved to see their creations brought to life. According to parental feedback, the children have an incredibly strong relation to their own LUtOPIANs. I am quite proud to be the last piece in this production line.
I once read that children generally loathe huge stuffed animals. Many parents pay huge amounts of money to buy at least one of these, just because they match what they would like. It’s all about reacting to scarcity. Parents strive to provide their children with toys they didn’t even dare to dream of. In spite of many warnings, consumerism touches children through its desire and envy for material goods and the status they embody.
My mission is to celebrate the child that still exists in every adult. I want to build up a community of people connected in joy and playfulness. With its numerous ways of interaction, the internet provides my playground, and I try to turn it into a source of comfort and creativity for all. LUtOPIANs are born from human imagination, and not reality. Sometimes I find myself in the unpleasant position to reject certain types of drawings: the realistic ones. They have nothing to inspire me with. But I simply cannot refuse any LUtOPIANs who want to live.
Klara Veer brings new LUtOPIAN ‘Kry’ to life.
“The true object of all human life is play.” G.K. Chesterton