Toys for Christmas - PlayPlax
PlayPlax was originally designed in1966 by award-winning toy designer, Patrick Rylands and had sold over one million by 1970, being on sale in more than 30 countries.
This architectural way of thinking introduced by PlayPlax encouraged children to use their imagination and introduced them to ideas of structure, form, colour and balance.
Lucy Baring loved PlayPlax. “As a child I loathed games but loved design. As an adult, when visiting my parents with my own children I always dug it out of the cupboard. To me, it always was and probably still is the best designed toy ever,” she says.
PlayPlax is a box of 48 vibrantly coloured squares that interlock, allowing children to create all manner of objects from planes to castles, to towers and ships. Children can create something different every time they play with it, which means they think more and use more creativity.
Lucy founded Portobello Games Ltd in 2001. “I had been working as a journalist and feature writer for Marie Claire magazine. Once I had my first child I found it more and more difficult to meet deadlines and felt under pressure. I stopped writing for a while, focused on motherhood and had my second child.
“Looking for a more family friendly way of life we moved from London’s Portobello Road out to the countryside. I felt inspired to develop a business that I could operate from home whilst bringing up my children.
“My journalistic skill and interest in the English language saw me redevelop an old Victorian word game into its modern-day equivalent, Snatch, where you make words.”
Following Snatch, Lucy launched Olive’s Garden a girls’ game and was keen to see the revival of her all time favourite PlayPlax. She contacted designer Patrick Rylands to seek his advice and Patrick felt there was still a market for the toy and encouraged Lucy to go for it.
Lucy then contacted Howard Webster, who had worked in the toy industry for years, who said although it was a costly project and hit and miss in terms of success, he was 100% behind her.
Lucy wanted to exactly replicate the first edition of PlayPlax and with Howard’s help tracked down the factory that originally made the game, which was based in Cheshire. They then developed new tooling, the moulds for the components used in the toy, as the originals no longer existed and then found the original dye recipes.
“Howard has been a great help and support to me,” says Lucy. “I could never have done it without him. We wanted the finish to be perfect and his long-time friend and design guru Brian Webb designed the box for PlayPlax, something he had always wanted to do.
“Running your own company is highly motivating, although there are moments when you feel locked away on email. I have help from a couple of friends who work part time and occasionally it is all hands on deck.
“I find the family/work split easier now the children are all at school, although as you can imagine the winter holidays are a nightmare as 90% of Portobello games sales are in the weeks running up to Christmas.
“I have a distributor for Snatch, but for PlayPlax the margin is so tight that the majority of sales are through Amazon in the UK – such a great site, simple to use and no delivery charges.
PlayPlax now holds a place in the permanent collection of the V&A, and looks as fresh and modern as if invented yesterday.
For more information go to www.portabellogames.com
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Where is PlayPlax made?
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