When Amy told me about the feature for this month, I was immediately struck with the desire to share how bricks and building with different mediums, has influenced my life on many levels. It has made what we do here in Polk County make more sense and hit the nail on the head, in a Manifest Destiny sort of way.
I grew up with a (still existing) sawdust covered woodshop in my basement. After getting degrees in Fine Arts and Woodworking, it was only natural that my raw talented parents had a full-time furniture making business (until they had me). They then moved on to careers in Building Design, Engineering and Sculpting. Needless to say, my mom was not one to let me paint her fingernails and my dad preferred to build birdhouses with me in the shop for playtime.
They did however, indulge me in wearing the elaborate paper clothes and shoes I created for them when I was five to attend the movie theatre that I had transformed our living room into.
Returning from my first day of Kindergarten, mom asked, “Sal, What did you learn?” I said, “So and so had on two different socks, Johnny’s T-shirt was on inside out and I didn’t like the teacher’s shoes.“ My formative years, I was pretty much focused on clothing but I also adored building with my Airport LEGO set. I also spent my weekends in the woodshop where I did a lot of pencil drawing on scrap wood with Buzzy our shop dog by my side.
Dad had made the move from being self-employed to working for a major construction company in Pittsburgh. One snowy Saturday morning, the company was having a competition for the kids of the employees. The competition was building with LEGO and it was called, “Kids Build.” At the workstations, each child was provided with the same amount of LEGO and other mediums to work with. We got aluminum foil, string, paper, sawdust, popsicle sticks and rubber bands. Two hours were allotted to create. “Use all your Legos and three additional materials, build an innovative playground that can be environmentally friendly.” The clock started ticking.
When time ran out, judges went around the room interviewing us and rating what we had created. Then, they came together and decided whom the “Expert Builder” was. I was up against the company owner’s two sons (that were destined to become the next “engineers of the world” and LEGO fanatic children that had every LEGO kit sold by Toys R’ Us, they were mostly boys.
Two hours of building and two hours of judging later, the results were in. Who won the “Kid’s Build” competition that snowy Saturday afternoon in 1993?
I won. I beat ‘em all. I’m not quite sure that I had built the best structure but what I can tell you is that I had built the best concept and story. The judges probably spent the longest time with me listening to my “vision.” Being an only child, playing often alone, we tend to get overly creative ending up building and overbuilding something different than others.
Can’t remember what I won but… I remember being proud of myself but more so for my dad in front of his coworkers. I could see a peek of him grinning through his beard. Something even bigger had come out of that day. Besides the fact that my parents probably had restored hope their daughter would be an architect and the whole, “girls rule boys drool” thing… I’d won my first commission.
A week later, the head of the “Kids Build” committee called up my mom and said that the judges were really impressed with my building and they had also made a note of something else. The foil clothing that I had tailored for my “mini-figure environmental park goers” was top notch. Highlighting my design diversity, they’d decided that they would like to hire me to design the T-shirt for next year’s LEGO “Kids Build” Competition. Fast Forward… I designed the T-shirts and won the competition again the next year! (The owner’s sons were still just as shocked) especially since they had been practicing to beat me.
I eventually took more Architecture Classes and tried to love it, but ended up getting a degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising. To make up for it, or in an attempt at balance, I married a fashion model that is also a carpenter like my parents. Nando and I create, incubate, design and decorate together. We design a variety of items from T-shirts and apparel to interior decorating and working on Films.
The point of my story is the boomerang. We had managed to make our way back to Winter Haven where Nando grew up and start an apparel company embracing the town and the history. (Clearly, I’ve never gotten the T-shirt designing thing out of my system!) One afternoon, we were hanging out on Central Avenue. Two women came up to us and said, “We love your T Shirts.” We said, “Thanks! They are our designs and our local brand.” Their response was, “Wow! Well, we are the buyers for LEGOLAND Florida Resort and we love Local. It would be great if we could have y’all possibly design some T-shirts for us to sell at Legoland.” I got chills, was kind of speechless and then managed to say, “I love LEGO! Oh my gosh, that’s awesome. You know, I already have a design that I’ve been working on for a very long time now…”
24 years later… Nando and I found ourselves presenting a T-shirt to LEGOLAND Florida Resort that says “KIDS BUILD” and another that said “I BUILD.”
Hence the Boomerang… We are right back where he grew up and I was right back designing LEGO T-shirts again.
From Paper to Wood to Cotton and Back Again….
Xo Sally & Nando DC “Builders of our Destiny and Dreams to Reality”
winnerhaven.com follow us on insta! @winnerhaven
Next time you go to LEGOLAND FLORIDA RESORT… You can buy one of our T-shirts in the Big Gift Shop! -Proudly designed and printed right here in Polk County!