Reinventing Play: Cas Holman’s Possibilities of Design



Cas Holman

Reinventing Play: Cas Holman’ s Possibilities of Design

photography by Jae Hyun Kim

There may be no greater instance of living in the present moment than in childhood when we are free to create and imagine as we please. “We should support children in exploring who they might be, and how they will exist in the world,” explains revered designer Cas Holman. So, how can we go about achieving this? Much of the answer, according to Cas, lies in unstructured play.


On a rainy day, we traveled to Rhode Island to meet renowned toy designer and academic Cas Holman. Upon arrival at her studio, we were struck by her generosity, greeting us with a joyous and friendly spirit. Cas is the founder of the toy company Heroes Will Rise and a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. After discussing how the magazine came about, Cas was surprised that it was just the two of us present; without any bulky photography equipment nor a throng of videographers to assist us. We laughed a lot, sharing stories that instilled us with a sense of comfort—despite her achievements, Cas emitted warm energy where no boundaries sit between you.


Even more discernible than her generosity is her passion and dedication to her work. Just by talking to her, we could feel the love for what she does, which is to inspire children to be creative thinkers through play, experimentation, and cooperation. After a quick tour of her home, we went to her studio directly next door. The inventive atmosphere of the toy-filled environment made us nostalgic for our own childhoods: a time of fantasy and creativity. “Children are instinctive designers, I just give them the tools to design with,” she says with a smile. “It’s important to me that they understand they have agency and direct their own play and making.”


“Once we embrace that our perspectives are influenced by race, class, and upbringing, it’s easier to dismantle false binaries.”