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Meet the Maker: Jill Archer of Bilderhoos

Here at The Grommet our mission is to put an end to nameless, faceless business and highlight the people and the stories behind the products we launch each day. And it's in that spirit that we're continuing this series to further share the stories of our Makers with you. Get to know them better, learn more about their journeys as Makers and entrepreneurs and learn how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better.

In this installment we're catching up with Jill Archer, the Maker behind the family business BilderhoosWhen the Archer family saw the wooden play sets popular with children in Denmark, they knew they had to have one at home. Back in the Pacific Northwest, Jill's sons Kieran and Sean Lavelle handcraft the notched boards out of sustainably sourced, marine-grade plywood. The notches make it easy for kids to fit the boards together; like Lincoln Logs but on a grander scale.

We recently caught up with Jill to learn more about how this family business got started and learn more about her journey (and future!) as a Maker.


Tell us more about your design inspiration.

Bringing Bilderhoos to life was a group effort for sure. My husband David saw a similar one in use in a Copenhagen playground a dozen years ago when his sons were small. He was there on a sabbatical, and and when he returned to Chicago he built one in his basement, board by board, because his sons had enjoyed the Copenhagen version so much.

The wooden set that David built was the one that inspired me to find a way to get more kids playing with a set like this. Together, over the last year, we redesigned the whole thing to use less wood while enlarging the scale and keeping the design intact. I'm a graphic designer, so I always listen for that silent 'click' that happens when something looks and feels well designed. That's what we were going for in our design iterations.


How do you get around creative blocks?

I once had a mentor who said to just 'roll into it' when you feel unable to start. Like starting a stick-shift scooter by jumping the gears. I've made that a habit and it works for me. As for my husband, I don't think he's ever experienced a creative block! He gets an idea and cannot stop until it's finished.


What three personality traits have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?

I'm persistent, action-oriented, enthusiastic.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I've always wanted to be part of creating big public art, maybe using bulldozers and boulders. Before that, I wanted to start an airline and call it Wild Blue Yonder. In retrospect, wild may not be the best airline name for marketing reasons, but I still like the word yonder. I've scrapped the airline idea, but the big public art is still looming in my future. I'm saving up for a bulldozer.


What Maker tool can you not live without?

Our CNC router. No more cutting out boards one by one!

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

Pretty much everything you're doing now will help you realize the life you've been imagining, even the dull stuff. Don't rush it.

To learn more about Bilderhoos, watch our video here.


  • Deborah Says:

    My kids are long grown but if they were young I'd be first in line for these. Toys like these fuel the imagination rather than supply it.

  • Lizanne Stephenson Says:

    Is there any potential for housing for the house less/homeless?

  • Edd Barnes Says:

    Good advice, Jill. At 83 I'm continuing to follow it.

  • Jill Says:

    Lizanne, Using a similar building principle, along with some design alterations to take weather and other factors into account, I think there might be, yes.

  • Sarah Carroll Says:

    I've been looking into building my own "tiny" house for quite a while and this looks like a brilliant way to build it. If you ever go into making real home building kits I'd be he first in line to buy one! :-)

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