My interest in squatting began in 1991 after five months traveling through Asia and using the squat toilets there. I even looked at buying a squat toilet and taking it home with me. Being interested in complementary medicines I knew about the health benefits of good elimination ⎯ and that is what I was achieving with the squat position, and the curries!
On a building site in central Australia, perched high, squatting on the rim of a sit down toilet, I figured that some support under my feet would make the whole squatting experience more stable and comfortable. I guess this was my “eureka” moment.
Back in New Zealand I made my first Lillipad. I naively thought that within two months I would have some ready for sale, and that the complementary health community would snap them up. Sadly this was not the case, my rudimentary design probably explains why : ) However, some intrepid souls did purchase the Lillipad and one friend still uses her’s 25 years on ⎯ thank you supporters of fledgling ideas!
How could I make an environmentally friendly product to fit all toilets? This design puzzle obsessed me but I had to get on with my carpentry to pay the bills. The Lillipad's design evolved with my carpentry and joinery skills. In 1997 I went to Munich, Germany, where I helped build sets for industrial fairs and learnt how to use templates to make curves ⎯ a new Lillipad design followed.
Two years latter I was back in New Zealand, and with the help of a government start-up grant I produced a number of Lillipads which I sold with modest results at a music festival. At the same time I was offered a “leading hand” job building sets on the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films so Lillipad went into hiatus. I had a hand in all sorts of sets — mostly dark cavernous ones like Shelob's lair, but my favourites were Weathertop and Hobbiton. It was an exhausting job but I did manage to take time to stand back and reflect on the awesomeness of it all.
In 2003 I resurrected the Lillipad business using the internet and found a discrete and effective way of reaching my market. The business continued to grow organically and I added plans to build your own squatting platform to the website.
Life is for living and not getting too bogged down, so for two years, my wife Katy and I pursued our dream of doing development aid work supported through Volunteer Service Abroad New Zealand.
During that time I advised the Ebule Rural Training Centre Workshop in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Training was given to students in carpentry, joinery and small business management. The Lillipad slotted into that environment and gave the students the opportunity to produce a quality product for export. All profits from Lillipad sales up until July 2009 were fed back into the workshop — contributing to wages, student allowances, maintenance and improvements to facilities.
In May 2009 I started another assignment, establishing a rehabilitation programme at a local prison. With the help of detainees we built a wooden workshop and I trained those interested in carpentry and joinery, we made a lot of bunk-beds. I loved it, never a dull moment! Katy taught art techniques to detainees.
Our contract in Vanuatu came to an end in December 2009 when we returned to New Zealand and got back into family life, art work, home renovations, and continued producing and developing Lillipads.
In late 2013 we returned from a six month assignment with VSA. Once more assisting with furniture design and production, but this time in a Bamboo Centre near Dili in Timor-Leste. Katy mentored at the Gembel Art Collective.
It was fantastic experience, the people were very welcoming and generous. After their independence from Indonesia they are eager to rebuild their houses, basic infrastructure, communities, and their lives. The Bamboo Centre aims to provide employment through cultivating, processing, and making bamboo into plywood and then into furniture for local people.
I was surprised to find that making bamboo plywood is an energy and labour intensive process. My simple designs started from using the resource economically. I tryed to mix in local timber, a splash of colour, and a few curves! I put a website together for them at bamboocentre.wordpress.com (cut and paste the address into your web browser) you will find photos of the people and their work there.
It was a privilege to pass on the joinery skills I’ve learnt in my quest to produce a product I am proud of. I throughly recommend volunteering, and I link to the organisation we worked for on the “links & videos” page.
I would like to thank all Lillipad customers who have invested, through their purchases, in the Lillipad’s development. The Lillipad range of products will continue to evolve with your support and ideas.
We appreciate your interest, and look forward to hearing from you.
© 1991 - 2019 Robert Wait, Lillipad Ltd.