Video by Caroline Spivack and Mary Kekatos
Tucked away in a studio on the third floor of a former ammunition factory in Long Island City, Ken Como, 47, handcrafts toys from recycled and regional woods. His business, Noli Noli, produces a wide range of items from whale pencil holders to water towers to race cars, all made from wood sourced in the Bronx and Brooklyn. March marks Noli Noli’s fifth anniversary.
Como studied sculpture at the University of New Orleans; as a student, he traveled to Japan where he learned about a traditional technique of woodworking that treats wood as a living material and believes it should be handled with respect to its role in nature. Como’s designs are created with the dual purpose of being toys for kids and handcrafted works of art to be placed on a shelf, once the kids have outgrown the toy.
The name for the business was born out of a trip to Noli, an Italian fishing village in Liguria, where Como was inspired by wide-eyed fish that lined the beach market. He settled on naming the company Noli Noli after a popular Japanese phrase that is used to express happiness.