Àngel Soriano: ‘it is necessary to balance commercial toy supply with a kinder and more sustainable toy supply’

Little Wood creates sustainable toys to put them in the service of imagination. Natural raw materials are transformed into experience tools in favor of quality games, which are invented and directed by children themselves who draw their own adventure. All Little Wood toys are handmade in a small workshop at Empordà, Only ecological and non-toxic products are used, in order to respect the environment. Àngel Soriano, who is in charge of Little Wood, is an illustrator, day nursery teacher and toy craftsman.

Would you please describe Little Wood toys?
I could not tell. They are pretty naive. I try the trends not to interfere too much in the whole process. On one hand, I like the warmth and simplicity of the wood; on the other hand, I am passionately fond of Mid-Century aesthetics. I use very diluted colors, which become almost vintage on wood. A good friend of mine would say that they are classic and modern toys at the same time. I would say they are 21st century toys with vintage soul.

What led you to create toys like that?
It was a very slow process, it happened almost without noticing. My training on illustration led me to day nursery teaching. While working in child education I was highly interested in games and toys as learning tools. Each time I wanted to work something with children I spent a lot of time creating new game proposals for kids. That was how the first toys were created, step by step, just testing different materials.

Is there a demand for this kind of toys in nowadays society?
Although it may seem odd, there is, more and more. There is a very big interest in this kind of toy. Both parents and teachers, we all seek for balancing commercial toy supply with a kinder and more sustainable toy supply. We try to let children grow playing with all kinds of toys.

What is the process followed when making a toy? As an illustrator, child educator and toy craftsman, are you in charge of the whole process?
The process is usually as follows: first of all I draw the toy I want to make, secondly I try to adapt that drawing to the player’s needs, and finally I start with mock-ups, prototypes and testing. Thousands of testing and modifications. Until the definitive toy is got I often make a lot of toys, which seem all the same but they are not; they slowly evolve until the final result. This is perhaps the best part to me: the ‘laboratory’. I am in charge of the whole process, designing, wood cutting, painting, graphics and packaging as well.

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Do you work custom made? How do you choose the toys to make?
No, I do not work custom made. I make the toys by watching the children playing, observing closely how they use toys. First of all, even before the first sketch, I always think about how a 1-year-old-kid manages to roll a car, or how a 2-year-old kid plays with a doll. I also think very much about what I want to pass on with each toy, which values I have to put together in order to make adults be part of kids games. To me toys are not only objects used by children. Parents, who are the ones who choose the toys, give a lot of hidden information to their children through their choices. I get a lot of information watching children play and watching how adults offer the toys to kids as well.

What are the profits of Little Wood toys for children?
Ha, ha, ha! My toys have many profits! Like any other toy, indeed. I’d like to think that Little Wood toys make game easier, that are intuitive, promote interest in aesthetics and encourage curiosity, because the toys stories are always conducted by the kids. My dolls, for example, they have no arms or legs, they are organic shaped and easy to handle. There is an approach behind each doll which lets adults introduce topics or stories but that does not interfere too much in the kids’ game.

Why is it important to you creating sustainable toys?
For one reason mainly, to counter the consumption model that prevails in our society. To achieve a more responsible and more ethical consumption that not only involves the final object but keeps in mind the production chain as a whole, including materials and people. Obviously, thinking this can be changed from one day to another is a bit bold, but if we contribute our bit from all fields, I believe we will be able to balance the situation. If we educate our children in those values we will still have a chance and they will live a better life, right?

Are there toys ‘for children’ and toys ‘for girls’?
There should not be in my opinion, but unfortunately some toys are still made with this intention. From my experience I have realized that there is a slightly unequal gender equalization tendency, which is based in taking ‘boys toys and games’ as a model. That is why girls playing with ‘boy toys’ are well seen, but boys playing with ‘girl toys’ are not yet. We have to understand that toys must not contribute to reproduce gender stereotypes. They do not have to subject boys and girls to those so-called social gender roles.
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What a wooden sword made by Little Wood would be, another open door to imagination or only a war toy?
What a difficult question! It might be both a door to imagination or it might favor aggressiveness as a war toy. That sword should be accompanied by the symbolic representation of a fictitious and peaceful character. If the sword was not accompanied by peaceful role models, then it could be considered a war toy. Aggressiveness and violence stereotyping cannot be promoted by someone using that sword to reinforce violent behaviors. Whenever I talk about war toys it comes to my head The Greeks’ video ‘Is Tropical’. This topic seems so contradictory to me! :))

How did you play when you were a kid?
I often played imagining stories with my Geyperman and my sister’s dolls. I drew all the time and I played many hand games. I loved tinkering with anything in the kitchen just to make experiments, which usually meant mum’s grouse. We also built huts with old wood and we decorated them with some junk found at home. We played playground games like hide-and-seek, thieves and police… We used to play in the street very often!

How do you think kids will play in a hundred years?
I guess it will be all very nice. I imagine that console games will have disappeared to be transformed into more interactive games with the places where they will be played, no screens. I believe games will be more pacific, more mental, the same old games will still be played: hide and seek, hut building, dolls and simple cars. Although we will control technology much better than now, in a hundred years we will be the same, maybe a little wiser, and perhaps we will play in the street again. I hope so.

Little Wood is membership of the ethical production and responsible consumption community Thentics.com