PLANKS are dynamic technical building blocks that are designed to inspire creative minds. They were created by Melbourne school teacher and father Cameron Lee after experimenting with similar materials in the classroom. They have since become popular among budding (and fully grown!) engineers who use them to build almost anything they can imagine…
What made you decide to turn a teaching tool into a business? I wanted to create my own job and eventually my own business, customised to my own interests, with all the good things about teaching that I enjoyed and none of the rubbish.
What’s Green Hat Workshop’s philosophy in a nutshell? At Green Hat Workshop we value thinking very highly. Edward de Bono’s creative Green Hat, which we take our name from, dispenses with habitual thinking and restrictive frameworks and focuses instead purely on creative ideas. We manufacture, source and popularise products which are without restrictive frameworks, are open-ended and intuitively appeal to all abilities.
What do you particularly love about PLANKS? Because each face of a plank construction block is cut so exactly, I love that builders can easily do things that look difficult. People constantly amaze themselves with what they can build. I love watching kids who begin every task thinking that they ‘can’t’ and realising as they work that they ‘can’. Once they have seen that, they can’t ‘un-see’ it and it leads them to experiment in ways that they don’t normally. They leave the workshop buzzing with energy and possibility.
How are PLANKS different from traditional building blocks? They are identical and have a precise shape. This means they are not simply a chunk of wood, but are rather pieces to a delicate puzzle or precise elements to a design, rather than simply stackable. The length of each piece offers a wealth of counter balancing opportunities and the exact faces make balancing them easy – I’m often asked if they’re magnetic. They may seem small, but if stacked the right way can easily be taller than the builders themselves.
How important are toys that inspire creativity? It may seem a little far-fetched to some but, to us, toys that inspire creativity are essential tools for Australia’s future and therefor extremely valuable. Except in some extreme cases, we all play. From pilots making up rhymes while going through their safety checks, musicians and athletes visualising a success in front of an audience, to any number of people who are intuitive or problem solve; they are all engaging in a form of creative play. Studies have shown that children possess greater creative problem solving ability than adults, and play is a great way to move from things and experience we are familiar with into realms of the unfamiliar. Toys are instruments of this movement.
What do you love the most about what you do? I enjoy getting feedback from kids and parents that PLANKS are the toy that they keep returning to over-and-over again; that it’s the thing they most like to play with friends and family, and that they too are finding new things they can do with them all the time. I love engineers rediscovering joy in construction and parents rediscovering play. I love the fact that their children can easily and authentically be a part of this experience.
What are you working on now and what can we look forward to? Now that would be telling
What do you do outside of Green Hat Workshop? Spend as much time as possible with my busy little family. I also play with ideas and experiment with new products for Green Hat Workshop and I spend time with the youth organisation Lord Somers Camp and Powerhouse and Mirabel — a great kids’ charity.
See the PLANKS range on our website.