Katarína Trnovská

The idea of starting a systematic new mass production of Slovak toys, which would rouse interest by their authentic design, emerged at the beginning of 2013, when under the umbrella of the civic association just plug_in, o.z. we brought the hravo brand into existence. As curators we are interested in testing the potential of a variety of creative approaches. Equally, that is the main reason why we have collaborated from the beginning not just with product designers but also with selected Slovak architects, graphic designers and visual artists. Thus a platform has emerged where experience gained from tasks completed within 2D limits is mixed with the experience of designing and manufacturing 3D objects, and even with the architectural resolution of a residential complex or urban structure. As the primary material we chose wood, since hravo upholds the principle of drawing upon local sources in terms of available raw materials as well as using the manufacturing technology available in our region.

For hravo’s first collection we called on the graphic designer Ondrej Gavalda, product designer Michala Lipková and the architect/graphic designer Karol Trnovský. The task was: „to design and realize prototypes of wooden toys which by their form stimulate children to experimentation and creativity“. All three designs ultimately work with the child’s imagination and offer children (and adults) a variety of levels of play. hravo’s first collection had its premiere at a children’s workshop in design factory college in December 2013. Since then it has been tested by almost 200 children aged from 4 to 10 years. The aim is to find out the opinions and real interests of customers, addressed to the potential manufacturers whom just plug_in is currently seeking.

hravo’s collection was complemented by two new designs in 2014. Igor Marko explored the potential of the international marine Sign Flag Alphabet applied to wooden cubes, and Ján Šicko gave further proof of his feeling for folk ornamention, which he brings into play in a rotating object resembling the toy that many of us know as the „wolf-cub“.

A further dimension of the project is to open up discussion of the significance of the high-quality toy in the life of the pre-school child. hravo therefore offers a forum to experts, established designers and manufacturers, where they may contribute their knowledge, experience and opinions on the given theme and thus help to realize a viable product. Among the contributors to the catalogue are the curator of the Slovak National Gallery’s Collection of Applied Art Viera Kleinová and the designer and teacher Tibor Uhrín. Having a distributor participate in the process of developing new design should be a matter of course if the new toy is to be viable even in the home market, let alone in the world market. Oliver Fodor, proprietor of the retail network Vnímavé hračky, was therefore also involved in the project right from the beginning. As consultant he has offered valuable insights on the originality, prospective competitiveness and price formation of the proposed designs.

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