The Woodworking Studio for Budding Baby Designers

San Francisco's the Butterfly Joint kickstarts creativity at a tender age.

The cofounders of the Butterfly Joint with their daughter, Orion.
The cofounders of the Butterfly Joint with their daughter, Orion.

Whether or not we choose to admit it, we parents all have hopes and dreams for our children: doctor, lawyer, future Internet entrepreneur, whatever. Me? I just really, really want my kids to be able to make something beautiful with their own two hands—a feat that's getting harder to pull off in the screen-obsessed world we live in. That's where the Butterfly Joint comes into play. Thanks to cofounders Danny Montoya and Erin Feher, the two-month-old San Francisco woodworking and design studio is a fun and modern way to keep those old-school skills alive.

Age-appropriate versions of aprons, work gloves, tools, and more are neatly displayed.
Age-appropriate versions of aprons, work gloves, tools, and more are neatly displayed.

The story couldn't get more aw-shucks inspiring if it were a made-for-TV movie. With a background in early-childhood education and more than a decade teaching kindergarten and first grade—which included developing a curriculum emphasizing hands-on skills—Montoya decided to put his teaching skills to work by sharing his love of woodworking. (Side note: the guy taught his entire class of kindergarteners to ride a bike without training wheels. My hero.) Months of preparation and a successful crowdfunding campaign later, the Mission District studio was born. 

The Woodworking Shop for Budding Baby Designers
Little hands at work under adult supervision.
Little hands at work under adult supervision.

Dovetailed floating shelves, redwood cutting boards, pint-size mallets: just a few of the projects that kids ages 18 months and up can make. The little woodworkers learn traditional joinery techniques in a variety of settings—one-day workshops, summer camps, birthday parties and private events, and family classes with active parent participation. "The benefits go so far beyond just being able to build a proper box or hang a shelf," says Montoya. "What I love most about the whole experience is how it teaches values like patience, problem solving, and attention to detail. Teaching them to build teaches them that they have the ability to create things, not just consume them."

Montoya in his Mission District studio.
Montoya in his Mission District studio.

Perhaps most impressive of all is the Butterfly Joint's emphasis on personal responsibility. The routine of cleaning up and caring for the tools and the shop are just as important as the projects themselves. After all, as Montoya says, "If you take care of your environment, your environment will take care of you." It's a life lesson we can all learn at any age.

The Woodworking Studio for Budding Baby Designers
I'm the former Executive Editor of Lonny.
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