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Is it a waste of time to…


no sun, only its rays
Even though I could not see the sun, evidence was all around.


Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

-John Lubbock

I was thinking about all the many times that I have been told I am wasting time.  What does that even mean?  Is it possible to waste something that doesn’t really exist? What is time anyway?

Time:  The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, the present, and the future regarded as a whole. (Thanks google)

So if time is indefinite, how can we waste it?  Yet people have a keen sense of when they are wasting time.

Is it a waste of time to…

Stare at a starry sky and ponder the universe?

Is it a waste of time to…

Enjoy the crisp clean air of a mountain top conquered?

Is it a waste of time to…

Sit in a cubicle and stare at a computer screen as you mindlessly work and attempt to not fall asleep?

Is it a waste of time to…

Watch hilarious cat videos on YouTube through your Apple TV?

The more I think about it the less I believe that there is wasted time.  Every single action, every single inaction, and every single choice is a measure of time being used.  Those who “waste” their time, are really learning the value of time, which is invaluable.

Those who “waste” time will eventually regret it.  Why is this so?

The human race is a creative force that must act or be acted upon.  To create is to use time to our best advantage.  To create is to use time to help others. To create is to oppose destruction.  There is a saying I found on Brainy Quote that I find profound:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

In my opinion this quote defines “wasting” time.  How can a person do nothing though?

Going out in the hills and sitting – contemplating creation… You are doing something.

Looking at the immense vastness of a starry sky – contemplating creation… You are doing something.

This may be considered a waste of time by shallow minded folk, but it is not.  By contemplating you are creating questions and connecting dots.  Contemplation is a necessary force of creation.   This force is wasted in abundance in our society of noise filled everything.  Our phones interupt it, radios interupt it, social media noise interiors it.  I am sitting in my living room at four in the morning – and my clock on the wall is ticking so loudly, that it has interrupted it.  Just a simple click, click, click.  Passage of time measured, click, click, click.  Forever telling me that infinite time is passing to history.

I have been reading Henry David Thoreau recently and he has some very interesting ideas of time.  In his book Walden, Thoreau expresses how we in the present rest between two eternities.  The eternal future and the eternal past.  I love this concept.  It really places emphasis on now, the present.

Our choice of how to use our time is exactly that.  Our choice.  Since we stand in the middle of two eternities, those choices are very important.  The present if not acted upon goes into the eternity of the past and cannot be attained again.  Looking to the future eternity you can realize potential only when we act.

Inaction is a “waste” of time.  When you see evil progressing in the world, you can matter-of-factory know that there are good men doing nothing.  Sitting on the stage of the present and doing nothing. Not progressing, not doing, not creating.  To paraphrase the wise turtle in Kung Fu Panda: Do not waste the gift of the present that you have been.

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What is education?

baymax in forest
Summer is winding down as we enter the coming school year.  We are getting our kiddos prepared for school by reading a bunch of books to them.  Each morning we read where they repeat us to help them with speech.  My oldest boy Craig is getting ready to start Kindergarten and boy is he excited!

I have been thinking about what education and schooling is all about.  The definition I found and agree with most is that the word educate means “from within”.  When you think about it, all education really does start within our minds, mixing with our past experiences and our talents and abilities.  In my research I also found a great article on  It seems that there are many definitions depending on context.  Context here is key.  The article above talks about basically to be educated means to be smart.

Smart in what way though?  Many folks that consider themselves dumb are actually extremely smart. They have just been measured according to a set standard or measuring stick that does not apply to their personal traits. They may not be educated in the sense of schooling but their experiences have given them an education that is specific to them.

This little comic is a fantastic representation of trying to “fit” everyone into a certain mold.

The monkey here will excel on the test and will be looked at as smart. Everyone else will feel different levels of dumb, and look at themselves as not very smart. Especially that goldfish. If the test was to swim the fish, penguin, and seal would excel.

I would not write yourself off as not very smart. I am sure your experiences in life have taught you many things that others do not know. You will excel as you take what you are smart in and run with it.

Henry Ford was thought to be dumb because he only had an eighth grade education. In fact many newspapers wanted to show how dumb he was so they setup a meeting where they would interview Ford and they put together some difficult questions and asked if he would be willing to answer them. He said sure. During the interview when they asked Ford a question he did not know he called someone who did know it. His belief was why fill my mind with all this information if others already have it. He focused on what he was good at and he excelled.

Life is about finding out what talents you have been blessed with and how you can make the world a better place using them.

I have been blessed with a talent when it comes to thinking 3-dimensionally.  I enjoy 3D puzzles like Rubiks Cube, and working with clay through sculpting.  These talents have led me to make the Wowflute and have led to this blog.  I enjoy creativity and I believe it is the key to enjoying your work and education.  Learning is an ongoing process that continually happens throughout life.  I am glad for the opportunity to be a father and to see my children develop and grow in their learning and talents.

The Wowflute is an excellent little flute that is perfect for learning music wherever you may be.  I have found that having a portable instrument I practice much more consistently.  I can currently play over 100 songs that I have memorized on any Wowflute product.  I believe that learning an instrument should be intuitive.  This is why I have designed the Wowflute in a particular fashion.  It is not designed to a standard musical notation because I feel this can impede the creative process.

So rather than the standardized ocarina fingering system I have developed a unique system based loosely on the Native American Flute.  This makes it easier to play by ear.

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View of Summer

Summer 1995 I was ten years old.  The Summer was something of a dream to look forward to.  A dream of freedom. A dream of warmth.  A dream of long lazy days laying in the grass.  A dream.

Summer was like the epitome of being alive and acting on impulse and finding fun things to fill those endless days.  Summer was a blast.  Summer was filled fixing and riding bikes. Summer was filled with exploring the world around me whether it was the university nook and crannies or the mountains or desert.

All places were familiar and new at the same time.  There were the spots that were traveled often such as the penny candy store and the swimming pool that we traded cheez-its for entry.

Summer gradually turned from neverending days of exploring and wonder to passing quickly as if in a dream.  The days suddenly were gone and school was creeping up much too fast.

As I grew the feeling of summer changed.  It turned from wonder and freedom to striving for money and a job.  It turned to less freedom than school and eventually was no longer looked at as a dream.

At this point life started to speed up.  High school ended, college started, seeking money drove many decisions. Time kept whirling by.

I look to my children and oh how I wish that their summers could be extended indefinitely.  Wonder extended.  Joy extended. Freedom extended.  The time when money means less than experience.

I strive each day to return to that wonder and awe of those dreamy summer days.  Sometimes when I leave work I head out to the desert where there is only sagebrush and dirt and long trailing power lines.  I take the moment to capture pictures of toys and pursue my hobby.  These are the moments that feel again like the summer days of boyhood.

I take my boys hiking and we search for geocaches and I see the wonder and excitement in their faces and I feel again those days of summer.  I take them to the store with me and it is wonderful to feel their little excited wiggles and happiness that can not seem to escape them.  What a joy it is to have my kiddos.  I have found my return to summer.  I have found my return to dreams.  It is through my family that the days start to slow down and become fun again.

Life is a joy and every time is a wonderful reflection of our past experience.  I want my children to find the wonder in the world and seek to keep those experiences close so that they can make good choices based on them.

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Ideas are Things

This Blog is devoted to awesomely designed toys.  I define toys rather loosely to include dual-functionality products that have a fun aspect to them and could be considered toys for the bigger kids (myself).

I absolutely love to inspect and admire well designed products.  I also really enjoy toys.  They make life fun for everyone.  Who does not have a toy that they played with and remember most from childhood?  My favorite toy growing up was Lego because of all the possibilities from just a simple set of snapping bricks.

Some folks think that when you grow up you should not play with toys anymore because they are for children…  Well, to be brutally honest, they can go be sad grownups who work their lives away hoping to save for some kind of retirement so they can enjoy toys again.

Toys do not just appear out of nowhere.  They are being designed and created and tested and manufactured using highly detailed engineering techniques and practices which include various high-tech technologies in manufacturing and design.  It never ceases to amaze me when I look at a clever toy such as an action figure or puzzle that has numerous joints and detailed parts.  Each one of those parts were thought of and sketched out then taken through the conceptual design phase.  Then being created individually inside an injection mold and assembled with skill to achieve the proper movements and quality.

Through my experiences as a product designer I have learned every aspect of this process.  My own cool toy – the Swirl Wowflute has been such an enjoyable experience to work on.  It has been in the research and development phase for nearly fifteen years and may not ever leave this phase – there are always ways to improve upon an existing design.  I find it rather interesting when I compare some of my year old handmade Swirl Wowflutes with newer ones I made last week.  They are completely different!?  I did not intentionally change the design, but it gradually morphed into what works better and better.

I finally decided to make a manufactured version of the Swirl Wowflute in 2012 as part of a University capstone project.  I spent many long hours attempting to use Autodesk Inventor to make a digital replica of my popular handmade flutes.  I look at the design process as a form of art – even when you are designing a manufactured product.  That product was a concept, an idea – that suddenly becomes tangible in the real world.  This is the purpose of art, is it not?  Producing some kind of physical product from an idea.

I got to use the $10,000 3D printer on my project to print out prototypes for testing.  In this capstone project I was not able to produce a working prototype that was tuned because the time was limited in class.  I did get a functional prototype that whistled though and played it as part of a presentation.  It was not enough for me to just make something that was just there.  I like interaction, and dual-functionality.  I wanted an end product that would build on someones creativity.

Onward and upward.  After I graduated college I had the desire to make this manufactured Wowflute a reality.  I could see the prototypes that were once just simple ideas in my hand – it gave me a sense of excitement and awe.  Ideas truly are things!  It was an ah-ha moment I will not easily forget and it’s worth repeating – Ideas are things.

During my final semester at Southern Utah University I had decided to throw out all my required classes and took what I wanted to learn about.  I took a marketing class from a talented Professor Ellen Treanor who knew how to make a subject interesting and exciting.  I always looked forward to her classes.  One class she introduced us to a website called Kickstarter.  The opportunites I saw almost made my head explode!  I saw the potential to make the manufactured Wowflute a reality in a simple project based platform.  After graduation I took a boring job to make ends meet all the while selling my handmade Swirl Wowflutes on the side.  I soon felt the urgency to quit my well paying salaried + commission job and pursue the dream of bring my Wowflutes to a much larger audience.

I acquired some investments from an awesome friend of mine and started on the process in making a quality manufactured version.  I spent the next five months finding a manufacturer and a product designer who knew how to design for injection molds.  I created a high resolution prototype using the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) method and tried it out.  It worked well but was way out of tune.  I asked my designer to make the walls thicker and the holes 25% larger.  This would effectively reduce the chamber size and increase the change between holes.  I had another SLS prototype made and to my great astonishment – it sounded better than expected!  It was in tune perfectly.  The many years of making the handmade Wowflute (30,000 of them) had paid off.

I then took that prototype and ran with it on kickstarter.  My kickstarter project was a success and the Tritan Wowflute was brought to life.  This did not appease my appetite – for I had tasted it, Ideas are Things!

So as you pa-ruse my website, know that I am passionate about design in general and I beleive in making ideas reality.  Optimism is key in anything great.  You will always have the naysayers and the haters who are really just jealous.  You can feel sorry for them.  You can use their negative energy to instill what I call “the Oh Yeah Factor”.  The “You wanna make a bet?”  The “I’ll show him”, this is powerful stuff.  I use it all the time.

Thanks for taking the time to read to this point.  Now I will reward you with some pictures of awesomely designed toys that I like:

The Creepy Face Woody Doll:

woody - ebe whistle wide

The loveable, babylike Baymax:

Endurance is patience concentrated. – Thomas Carlyle 

A photo posted by Joseph Cowlishaw (@joecow) on

Pixar’s Carl Fredricksen from UP:  

Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees. – Thomas S. Monson A photo posted by Joseph Cowlishaw (@joecow) on

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Action – Go Do It – Go To It – Get it Done

Action at the Tuacahn

Today on my drive to the Tuacahn I had a bunch on my mind.  The sunrise was a great sight and I decided I want to see more of those.  I guess ever since I heard the saying “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese…”, I felt that maybe getting up early and being early doesn’t always pay.  But I think the second mouse is the exception.  I have accomplished a lot in my life because I decided to take action and do immediately, rather than wait and see.  Sometimes it can seem impulsive, but when I get inspiration to do something I do it, I take action.   I have learned that when I act quickly, good things happen.  “Procrastinate Later” – I read that on a bumper sticker when I was a kid and it has just stuck with me.  If you are not going to take action at least put-off procrastination.
My family and I were supposed to head out of town down to see family in Mesa, AZ on Wednesday but I just didn’t feel right about going at the last minute and my wife and I decided to leave after the Saturday Tuacahn sales.  We took action.
This morning I nearly sold out of my Swirl Wowflutes at the Tuacahn Saturday Market. The Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George brought in lots of new visitors and the Tuacahn must’ve done some heavy advertising because it was packed!  The weather was perfect and I had a new marketing strategy to implement.  It was busy from start to finish.
I reflected on how I almost missed my personal best sales day at the Tuacahn if I hadn’t chosen to stick around for the market and take action. I believe that God inspired us in small ways and promptings, the more I listen and do the easier it gets to hear and listen.

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NYC Wowflute Story – One of Many




I woke up from the dream super excited and ready to face the noise and frustration of the New York City subway system. Then I remembered that I was still in Yorktown, New York working in the small town of Peekskill that bordered the Hudson. My dream was so vivid, it was like I was actually there. The subtle squeaking sounds as the subway rocked back and forth on the tracks, the rushing wind of close walls that solidified the illusion of speed. The smells of strong perfume that kept the other raunchy smells at bay, but one could still sense them. The details of the lighting were bright, too bright for being deep under the city. The shifty movements of people trying to look comfortable but still cramped and annoyed was amusing. We were about to break the silence with a song. My friend with me was the only missionary that would ever dare to sing along as I played hymns on a pocket flute that I had developed while on my mission. All of these details were strong afterimages from my eyelids when I woke.

I was working as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and had been for the past twenty months. I had come out here from a small town in Southern Utah called Cedar City where the stars turned out to be real instead of suddenly blinking and slowly turning into airplanes. The past months had been the most amazing adventure, it felt like a whole other lifetime. I had met some strong people and the depth of my understanding of the human condition, struggles, and life had broadened. I felt truly energized when going over the dream again in my mind. Life didn’t have to be as hard as some of the ones I’d seen. Lives broken from drugs and violence, the young straddled with huge responsibilities when at the same time in my own history I was wondering which lawn to mow to get an extra $10 bucks for junk food. I thought on the dream. In that dream I had played hymns on the little pocket flute that I had developed while serving up in Danbury, CT. I had never learned hymns on it and suddenly it dawned on me that I needed to learn some.

I snapped back to my room. My alarm clock would be going off in about fifteen minutes and I reached over to shut it off. I didn’t want to wake anyone else too soon. My apartment was the basement of a home in Yorktown and we drove into Peekskill each morning to contact people and knock doors. We would park the car and hoof it to each house, which if you’ve ever been to Peekskill you will know it is no walk in the park. All the roads are very steep with stairs leading to older remodeled victorian homes that stand tall and are painted fancy colors on the trims. People were very nice in Peekskill and just when I felt comfortable that is when everything seems to change.

I had been planning on finishing my remaining four months of my mission in Peekskill because I had just been transferred here a couple of weeks ago. That is why my dream felt so weird. It felt real. I felt I was going to be in the city – just because of that dream. Since that dream I had sounded out many familiar hymns on my pocket flute and was in the process of perfecting them. But reality was. I was in Peekskill.

An evening a week later abruptly ended my time in Peekskill. I was at our apartment finishing planning the following day and had just spoken to several of our appointments. I answered the phone when it rang and my mission president, Nelson Boren, was on the other line. He said I was just the person he wanted to talk to. There was a missionary in the city that needed to be emergency transferred and he wanted me to take his spot – in the city. Harlem to be exact.

I was so excited! Hands down the city was the place to be – Manhattan was where I had started my mission nearly two years earlier and now I had the chance to go back and see the changes. See the people I had helped in finding happiness and peace in their lives. I hung up the line and told everyone in the apartment that I was transferring to the city in the morning and needed to pack. The next morning was a blur. A missionary couple came to pick me up. I said by to my roommates and by to the hudson and by to Yorktown and Peekskill and hello to the Bronx, then Manhattan and then I arrived in my last and final service area – Black Harlem!

My missionary companion was a Scott Alger who was quite new and had just transferred to Harlem from the Bronx. He was an easy going fellow who was optimistic of the future – Just like me. We had worked in the same zone in the Bronx and I was glad to be able to work and teach with him. I made missionary work fun, because I figured if it wasn’t fun, I wasn’t having fun and I couldn’t share the happiness I felt if I was always drained of fun. We came up with clever ways to teach the gospel including chess contacting in the parks. We would just join in on a tournament and would start up conversations with everyone. Not religious conversation. Just casual conversation to let people know that we were people too and weren’t always there to convert them to our way of thinking and ideas. We would join in on the corner with the flower guy beating drums and I’d play my flute and follow along.

We got up very early each morning and hit-up the subway to catch all the family oriented folks that were commuting to work. One morning as we were sitting on the subway Scott whispered to me that I should start playing a hymn on my flute and that he would sing along. So I started playing and he was singing along and the light was bright even though we were deep underground. There was subtle squeaking sounds as the subway rocked back and forth on the tracks, the rushing wind and close walls that solidified the illusion of speed. The smells of strong perfume that kept the other raunchy smells at bay. The shifty movements of people trying to look comfortable but still cramped and annoyed… I went silent.

I will always remember that moment. It was then that I knew I was exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. It involved a small little flute that my mission president encouraged me to make and a vivid dream that I wrote down in detail.

I have been back from my mission for nearly eight years now and life has been a blast.  I have a wonderful wife and five kiddos who support me in all that I do.  I decided to pursue a life as the Designer / Founder of Wowflutes because there is more to the story than just making a cool pocketable instrument.  Sometimes it feels strange doing something that everyone else seems to be opposed to.  I get that exhilarating feeling again and again and the inspiration just flows when I focus on Wowflutes.  Life has a way of being exactly what you want even if it’s a dream.

One of my first Wowflutes made out in Manhattan – Spanish Harlem.


Art is everywhere in New York City!