"What do you do with your imagination?"

At Active Imagination events, kids are encouraged to play out the vivid contents of their imaginations using play acting, animation, costumes, props, model-making, creative movement, storytelling, and film-making. Unlike many programs that introduce children to hands-on visual arts and digital media, Active Imagination focuses on interactive group activities and inspires kids to use pretend play and technical problem-solving as a means of making friends and building self-esteem.
KID TRANSLATION: "The stuff we do is AWESOME!"

AI offers families a supportive environment for your children to play, express themselves, and build lasting relationships.

Current & Up-coming programs:

Current & Up-Coming Programs:

CIIS-EXA alumni meet-up
Sat. 5/11, 10am - 1pm
- reunion of graduates of the Expressive Arts program at CIIS.
Family welcome; great opportunity to re-connect, meet new folks, network & play

Kid-powered hands-on activities, like obstacle courses, toy re-construction, & storytelling, selected days/times after school and during breaks

COMING SOON: Family Movie Matinees
Screenings of family-friendly and homemade movies in the driveway
Please contact Phil via email or phone for details:
(415) 939-4743

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

(Re)Create & Animate Your Toys

Break the chains of franchise toydom!
Become a (literal) hacktivist 
& express yourself through 
custom toy-building and animation!

It's simple (and really FUN!):

STEP 1) Break your old toys. YES, rip/cut/snap/chew...well, maybe don't chew, but take your old toys and break into raw materials for fresh, original characters. Perhaps you already have some broken toys around the house ; )

STEP 2) Compose new figures by combining parts from the old. Try hot glue (with adult supervision), tape, string, foil, etc. In my studio, we also spray painted some of the new figures to give a uniform look...and make them look AWESOME!

Here are some examples:

3 ) DOCUMENT/SHARE your creativity! [This is too exciting to keep to yourself]
Camera phones work great...you might want to macro lens (like this) to capture the tiny details
& use your new characters in original screen plays and puppet-style shows (Click here to see the short film "Commando Barbie versus the Shark")
Use a stop-motion app, like Frameographer (Click here to see an 8-second mutant fashion show)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Robot Artists!

Inspired by a the Scribbling Machines at SF's Exploratorium's Tinkering Studio, I built this robot artist (hacking parts from last summer's electric model car).

The Artist
He's a genius!
My studio mates think he might be drawing a map to...or from an alien world.

His most recent piece

The Artist at work

 Find The Exploratorium's PDF how-to for this project here:

...it's just a matter of time before these robots take over the (art) world : )

EXA Alumni: "Come Play in Phil's Garage"

Brought to you by the EXA Alumni Council, CIIS
come play in phil's garage

Sat. 5/11, 10a - 1p

All EXA alumni and their families and friends are invited to Phil’s open studio space to play, commune, and discover new connections.  Spend the morning with us, or just drop by and say hi!
Juice and pastries will be served. Other offerings welcome.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Toy Stories

Put the "Action!" back in action figures by photographing or shooting videos of your original stories using all toys. Use recycled cartons/bottles/boxes/etc and some fabric to create your story's world (always a fun project!), place your figures, and begin shooting. Read captions below for hints.

The Zombie horde approaches! (Try cool angles to get more dramatic views)

Go Big! (I hang a fabric for sky & set up several layers of tables...don't forget about caves/Underworld space!)

Introducing "Commando Barbie" (Modify your toys by swapping parts)
My production team for "Commando Barbie vs the Shark" (I use iPhone/iPad to take photos and iMovie to compose & share the results; 2-min episode conceived, shot & edited in 60-mins)

"Macro Lens, your my only hope" (you can get special lenses for phone/tablet cameras for that essential toy close-up)
Check out this incredible therapeutic art project, having kids living in war zones tell their stories using drawings and toy re-enactments:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Go Girls! (book & camps)

I can't say enough positive things about the creative, emotional geniuses behind Glitter & Razz Productions: Allison Kenny & Lynn Johnson.

...& Now they've outdone themselves!

Check out (& buy) their brand new chapter book Starring Celia, great reading for both girls & boys:
Inside, you'll find all kinds of wonderful moments (and people) inspired by real-life Glitter & Razz programs, including AI teacher, Kiona, introducing the "Tower of Oops," an interactive sculpture and group ritual of embracing and learning from mistakes, which originated at the AI summer camp 2011 that has since taken on a life of its own, thanks to the enthusiasm of Allison & everyone she works with. She honors me with a credit for its "invention" in this wonderful book (Thanks, Allison! You Go, Girl!)
Go Girls summer camps can be found all over the Bay Area - details here:

Dads Can Do!!!

Just found this wonderful website with tons of great, hands-on projects -- complete with step by step instructions. Check it out!

Here's a quote from the page, reflecting the same beliefs that help guide Active Imagination groups:
As Erika Cosby (Bill’s daughter) famously said, 
. . . “… fathers have a way of putting everything together”. 
. . . It helps that as dads we have experience in planning, more confidence and finer motor control than our kids, as well as the ability to buy more materials or better equipment if and when necessary once a project gets started, just to make sure that it stays on track. On top of all that, dads are a child’s first port of call for learning how to assess and tolerate a certain amount of risk, an important life skill and essential in the creative process, allowing ideas to be developed to their conclusion, rather than challenged or even ruled out by apprehension of the unknown in the early stages of an endeavour. However, the benefits of spending such quality time with your children run deeper than just turning them into competent model makers. Long-term research has shown that a father’s role, and specifically the quality and sensitivity of play between a father and his children, is the most important factor in determining a growing child’s ability to form and maintain normal relationships and feel secure in themselves. 

Friday, February 22, 2013


  1. something to use as TURF, in this case the plastic grass carpet (approx 3'x6')
  2. something to use as a HOLE, in this case: 2" PVC, placed in cut-out in turf
  3. something to use for a CLUB, in this case: 1" PVC tubing &  connectors
+ lots of IMAGINATION!

Players design and test their putting green, using things to change the HEIGHT/SLOPE of the green & include OBSTACLES on top (e.g., toys/found objects)

Play in turns
Hole 1: with customized Ninjago figure obstacle (spray-painted t-shirt drying in background)

Hole 2: Mountain Range