Growing up in a Maker House

February 14, 2014

This is the story of a son paying tribute to his dad, and the maker culture he cultivated in their home. It’s a story of creativity, resilience, and mad amounts of innovation. And we couldn’t love it more.

Instead of talking about myself and the work that I do, I'm going to talk about my dad, and how he made me into the maker that I am today.

Growing up, Jonnie Hallman learned to hold still in front of a camera from a young age. It wasn't for modeling in the traditional sense; his face would never appear in catalogs, and he'd never pose in the latest fashions in children's wear. Rather, he would dress up in, say, a jacket and scarf, swished around his neck and over his shoulder just so, hold still for a few minutes, and then head outside to play.

With the photo acting as a reference point, Jonnie's father would translate the pose into the latest book cover on his roster. As a freelance book cover illustrator, Tom Hallman would receive very rudimentary sketches from a publishing house’s art director, and with the help of his childrens’ poses and his own incredible talent, would turn those basic sketches into covers that would arrest the eye and compel you to look a second or two longer.

"He worked from home," Hallman, a designer and developer, says during this CreativeMornings talk, "so we got to see everything he worked on, right there in front of us. And instead of hiring models, he actually would use us to pose for him."

By watching his father create book covers — first with paint, than via Photoshop — Hallman, the creative force behind the designs for Artsy, 53, TeuxDeux, and A Book Apart, learned what it meant to dedicate himself to his craft (including working the 14-hour days that for his father were a staple) and elevate his creations to true works of art.

But for his father, Hallman says, his true passion isn't in his work. It's in making model airplanes, from scratch, using balsa wood for the frame, tissue paper as the outer skin, and rubber bands as the power source. There is no template for these planes, no assembly manual to refer to. Just his father's imagination, ingenuity, and drive.

"My dad’s airplanes are more than just airplanes," Hallman says. "Each one is a piece of art and an extension of my dad. Though these planes don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, they mean the world to him. He taught me everything I know about craftsmanship and what it's like to be truly passionate about our work. And, I'm passionate about my work because of my dad."

He taught me everything I know about craftsmanship and what it's like to be truly passionate about our work. And, I'm passionate about my work because of my dad.

Watch Jonnie Hallman's CreativeMornings talk, check out his website, and comb through the covers and artwork of the Tom Hallman Studio.

All photos by Jonnie Hallman

By Lisa Merlini

Tag: Exploring Education

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