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Friday Feature with Fairiesnest

Tell us little about yourself!
I am a wife, mom of 3 boys, toy maker, believer in fairies, fiber addict, avid gardener, devourer of books, owner of too many pets…or maybe they own me, and doll artist!

What do you make and how long have you been creating?
I have always loved dolls and my sister and I spent much of our childhood making up elaborate stories for our many dolls. I made my first doll when I was 6; it was a simple cookie cutter shape with yarn hair and one button eye. For some reason that’s all the face that doll ever had but we called her “one eye Susie” and played with her all the time! My mother, an excellent seamstress, taught me sewing and knitting, and I had a very “crafty” grandmother who was always trying some new technique and then passing it on to her grandkids. I definitely learned a lot from both of them, and I’m pretty sure I also inherited my mom’s acute fiber addiction in the bargain. I learned costume construction in college where I majored in theater, and it was there I started making cloth masks for mime performances. Being a fiber junkie, I took classes in all sorts of needle arts along the way but curiously none in doll making. I really got into making dolls again when my sons were small, creating a cast of occupants for a castle my husband built. It was so much fun I just had to keep at it. I started out making Waldorf style dolls and my dollhouse dolls developed from this technique. Later, I tried a few patterns by other doll makers, but I couldn’t find a style that fit the dolls I saw in my head. It was after reading Suzanna Oroyan’s wonderful book, Anatomy of a Doll, that I was inspired to develop my own designs. It’s been very much a process of trial and error, but I have learned so much along the way.

What inspires you?
Other artists definitely! Wendy Froud – I love her fairies so much- and I find doll artists like Jane Darin, Akira Blount and Akiko Anzai very inspiring. I also get a lot of inspiration from books, contemporary and traditional fairy tales, and of course Mother Nature. There’s nothing like a hike on a mountain trail to bring out the fairies! I seriously always have several fairies knocking around in my head waiting to get out…it really gets crowded in there!
Of course I love being able to create toys that are natural for kids! There is something so much more magical in a handmade doll or stuffed animal, a perceptible feeling of love in every stitch. And the knowledge that you’ve made something that is environmentally friendly to boot?! Now that’s priceless.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I had to go look and see! I joined February 16 2007, so I’m coming up on my 3 year anniversary…wow! It’s been one of the best things for me in so many ways. My business has really done well and I’ve met so many wonderful, encouraging, and inspiring people…many right here on the Natural Kids team.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?

It takes more work then you think to have a successful business on Etsy. You really need to step outside of Etsy to advertise and promote. I know everyone says that, but it’s true! Start a blog, find on line groups, hand out cards, and join a team…or several! Some teams are much more successful and active then others so it really is worth the time to try several out…I highly recommend the Natural Kids team of course. 🙂 And be open to change! I find lots of great ideas for improving my shop all the time. Read the forums and the Etsy blog, but also take the time to look at successful shops and see how they are set up, what kind of tags they’re using, what their pictures look like. Always be willing to learn.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?
I’ve been a member of The Natural Kids team since it’s beginning – through all the many changes, holding a variety of positions, and I have always found it to be an amazing group! There is no other team that is so encouraging and caring and it has been wonderful to see the team grow and become so active! I hope to see that growth continue and to help in any way that I can.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?

With all the over stimulation that children are exposed to in our modern culture they need the time and the tools to connect with the natural world in a peaceful and harmonious way. This is how we learn to think creatively and critically! Natural toys are a part of this because they allow for open ended play that requires imagination. And just getting kids outside is so important…let them make up their own games, build forts, and find treasures like acorn tea cups and magic stick wands. This is the stuff of magic!

Your items can be found where:
In galleries across the country and my shop http://fairiesnest.etsy.com
You can also see my online gallery here; http://fairiesnest.deviantart.com/gallery/#_browse

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

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Friday Feature with SewnNatural

Tell us little about yourself! 

Hello there. We’re Jane & Jen.  We’re a mother-daughter team, well, actually we’re both mothers now (and that new little person reminds us every day of how important it is to be kind to our planet).  Originally from Montreal. Jen’s lived in Ottawa for the last decade or so, in between time away for postgrad in Europe and lots of travel. Jane moved nearby when Jen and her husband started a family. Creating beautiful things at her sewing machine makes Jane very happy, and Etsy makes it possible for her to do what she loves most and earn living income from it. Jen squeezes in time for working with her hands, running the business side of the shop, photography and listings when her daughter is asleep, or in those little snippets of time. Jane’s an amazing baker. Jen’s almost as good a cook. Jen has no TV. Jane’s originally from Minnesota. She has also explored weaving, spinning, knitting and fashion design.


What do you make and how long have you been creating?
We make baby and child gear from scratch, including bedding, sleep bags, toys and apparel, and we also make pieces for a natural home like picnic blankets and balsam fir sachets. Everything is designed and handcrafted with our own 2 and sometimes 4 (collaborative) hands. We use all natural materials – organic and rescued vintage whenever we can.  The average cotton T-shirt is only 73% cotton fiber – the rest is chemicals and resins. Now imagine a big baby blanket!  So using organic and eco friendly is better for the earth, better for kids’ bodies and better for nourishing their imaginations.

{Jane} I think the creative process can often begin very early in life – noticing the beautiful colors, textures and shapes in nature.  A child hugging the rough bark of a big maple tree in autumn with an canopy of crimson heart-shaped leaves above their head …  Using all the senses and a blossoming imagination in the free flow of creative play leads naturally into the joy of creating useful and beautiful (objects) for our lives.  As a young girl, I was fortunate to have a loving, patient guide along parts of that journey of discovery.  My grandmother sitting next to me at her treddle sewing machine as I created my first patchwork quilt is an important touchstone for me.

{Jen} I think I inherited the “must work with my hands” gene from my mother and have been making things for as long as I can remember. I learned to create with my hands from her, though I never took up sewing until recently (guess I thought I had to do my *own* thing).  I spent loads of time in a pottery studio as an 8 and 9 year old, and then again in my twenties. I miss it a lot, but felting, sewing and embroidery makes a lot more sense with my life now.

What inspires you?
{Jane} My sources of inspiration are still pretty much the same as they always were.  Beautiful colors, shapes and textures, especially in nature that touch my heart, and occasionally take my breath away. The joy of something I create adding a little bit of comfort, ease or happiness to their lives. Sometimes, it’s just an idea, but responding to how something makes me feel is at the heart of it always.

{Jen} Memories and mementos of all the traveling I did – colors, textures and shapes that I try to use in my work. Mid-century modern design. Taking something that would otherwise be thrown away and making it truly beautiful. The slow food manifesto. Black and white photography. Getting really, really dirty gardening in our new raised urban garden beds, or throwing clay on the wheel (I miss that).

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
{Jen} Just over a year, and we’ve met such fantastic people on Etsy who have inspired us, offered us advice, and been really supportive. Thinking of our organic and eco friendly toys, bedding and apparel in childrens’ rooms across the world is a very heartwarming thought, and something that keep us going. Those people would not have connected with SewnNatural had it not been through Etsy – so we feel very fortunate to have joined this community.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?
{Jen} 1- continuously try to improve your branding, your photos (because your photos are your items), and making your listings shorter, catchier, more personal, more genuine
2- figure out what works and what doesn’t because you don’t need – you don’t want – everyone in the world to like your work and pieces (you just want your specific small target audience to connect with your work and not just like, but love it enough to bring it home)
3- give genuinely kind, prompt and generous customer service

{Jane} 1 – do what you honestly love, feel passionate about and do it well, trying not to be discouraged by ideas that don’t necessarily translate into success
2 – be flexible and being aware of what your buyers are looking for, need and find functional is so important
3 – pay really close attention to emails with questions, comments or ideas in them! 

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute
from being part of the Natural Kids group?

{Jen} When we joined Natural Kids, we were thrilled to learn that many others on the team share many of our values and priorities (things like natural parenting, eco friendly living, love for nature, vintage-inspired aesthetic), so we have found being part of the group very affirming and supportive. Sometimes it is hard for parents to connect with information on the importance of eco friendly and natural alternatives for their child’s play, rest, decor, and clothing. We’re excited about working together to help get that message out!

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?

{Jen} Natural toys, bedding and clothing are great for childrens’ health, and great for the earth. They are free of toxic polyester, PVC, plastics and other chemicals that leach onto their skin and into their bodies. When we choose natural products, we also consciously practice responsible buying from companies that are easier on the earth.

Beyond that, kids have a deep need to be connected to living things, and to be in a nurturing environment.

(Think for a moment of your favorite childhood memories. Was it when the power went out for 3 days straight? That week spent camping? BBQs in the backyard? Holiday rituals and delicious meals?) If kids are not that different from seedlings (needing a solid foundation to grow for later transplanting), why not make their home a greenhouse? In addition to the water of love and attention and the soil of family, one of the most important ways we can build them this greenhouse is to give them toys and playthings that will nurture their imaginations and connect them to the nature. Because play is an integral part of how that child – that seedling – will grow.  Mister Rogers said that “play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” That’s so true! Kids deserve the best, most nurturing and natural tools for play.

Your items can be found where:
SewnNatural.etsy.com & check out our {new} blog at SewnNaturalstudio.blogspot.com

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

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Friday Feature with WoodToyShop

Tell us little about yourself!

I have two daughters ages 9 and 12, who help me a lot in the workshop. It’s great having them around and they give me a lot of great feedback for my toys. I have a BS in Finance and MA in Economics. I have worked in many different fields including finance and as a consultant in economics. I have also worked as a software engineer and a flight instructor. I like making toys the best and have been doing it the longest.

What do you make and how long have you been creating?
I started making wooden toys when my first daughter was two and I made her a locomotive. It was a big project and looked beautiful. It kind of lit a spark for me that eventually became a full time job.

What inspires you?
I like to make toys that do things. My favorites are rubber band powered vehicles and catapults.

What got you started working with wood?
I started out taking a woodworking class while in grad school. I made an end table. After that I built my own house, and built the cabinets for it during the winter before we broke ground.

Tell us more about your “off the grid” work space?
My workspace is the basement of our house. So my commute is down the stairs. We aren’t off grid, but we do have thermal solar panels that makes our hot water and photovoltaic panels that produce about a third of our total electricity consumption.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I have been on Etsy for 1 1/2 years and it’s been great. Orders trickle in during the year and stream in at Christmas. It’s a nice place to get exposure both for retail sales and linking up with wholesale clients.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?
Keep at it, your business will build over time and don’t be afraid of nurturing wholesale accounts.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?

The natural kids group has been very helpful. The efforts as a team I think have made a big difference for me. Also there is a lot of very good advice that team members provide.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?
I’m not sure if I have good thoughts on this subject, however I have seen plenty of eyes twinkle when kids(young and adult) pick up a catapult and imagine the trouble they can get into.

Your items can be found where:

http://www.woodtoyshop.com/
www.1000markets.com/users/woodtoyshop/

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

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Friday Feature with Pin Pon

Tell us little about yourself!

I live and work in the Chicago area. When I am not creating and designing toys and fun stuff, I work at a local specialty toy store, and I am on the Board of Directors of the Cuentos Foundation, so I do a lot of community/art projects around Chicago. I’m single, in my thirties, and own a very spoiled weenie dog (spoiled with love not stuff). I studied art at Columbia College and I was certified in Early Childhood Education through the State of Illinois. I love my family and friends and even though she is in California, I talk to my mom on the phone for hours every Sunday.
What do you make and how long have you been creating?

I design dolls and toys made of natural fabrics and materials. I mostly use cotton fabrics and cotton stuffing. I’ve been creating since I was a little kid. I’m the kid that already knew what they wanted to do when they grew up. I knew it and everyone around me knew it and expected it. Yeah, I was a weirdo….. Still.
What inspires you?
Nature, people, memories of childhood, children. I live on the beach and that inspires me a lot. I love my morning walks, I get a lot of ideas that way.

What got you started working with fabric?
I fell in love with fabric 12 years ago, while in art school. I always thought I’d be a painter or illustrator, that’s what I was studying. I borrowed a friends sewing machine to fix some pants or something like that, then I started making little figures and dolls. I never gave the sewing machine back, I still have it. I was hooked! I not only make toys and such but I also sew installations, that I exhibit in art galleries and shows.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I was a buyer for a year, but I have been selling for almost 2 now. Its been good, could be better, but I’m not complaining, its been good.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?
Join a team, have patience, don’t quit your day job just yet, make and sell things you believe in, pay yourself well you deserve it, ask questions, if you are overwhelmed and can’t think walk away breathe and come back to it, don’t take yourself to seriously (you make toys!), be cheerful and helpful to others, treat your customers well, and please don’t copy me! Just kidding with the last one……but really, be you, trust yourself.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?

I joined because it was suggested to do so on some “Etsy How To” list. I’m so glad I did. Its not only about the networking and business stuff, but I love that I’ve met new friends and warm and loving people, who have the same goals as me. To make and sell quality natural children’s products and make a positive difference in children’s lives. I love being a part of this team! I have learned a lot. I don’t know if I contribute much, but I try my best. that’s what great about this team you give what you can. When I can I go for it. When I cant, others lend a hand and I very much appreciate it….team work!

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?
 I chose to use natural fabrics because I have always had skin allergies. It was hard for my mom to find stuff that wouldn’t break me out in a rash. Cotton has always been good to me. Also I learned while working with small children that basic, simple and natural toys lasted longer and had better play value. Children need toys that will help in their development, not toys that will play to them or a distraction. Play with your children, enjoy them, teach them, nurture them. Think of natural and basic toys as tools. They are not junk you throw in a Rubbermaid bin, then put it in the trash later on. Your children are special, don’t they deserve special things, and special time?

Your items can be found where:

http://www.dayanra.etsy.com/
http://www.pinponbydaynara.com/
Indiefixxgalleria
Handmade Galleries, Sherman Oaks, Ca
Abby Brown, Chicago, Il
Big Cartel
In bins at my house……..waiting……..for owners

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

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Friday Feature with Birchleaf Designs

Tell us little about yourself!

We are Mojo, Wendy, Kiah, Milo, and Zora the wonder dog…Benji’s lesser known twin sister. I bet you didn’t know Benji even had a twin sister! Yah, we live 2 miles back dere in da woods, eh? Up dere in da Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We live off the grid and use solar power for all our operations. We homeschool, live, love, work and learn nestled amongst the hemlocks. This may sound a bit weird, but we love to meet new folks and encourage visitors! If you ever need to ‘get away’ from the crazy hubbub, be sure to give us a jingle.
What do you make and how long have you been creating?
We like to make piles of wood in the woods…all kinds of wood; fire wood, slab wood, sauna wood, hot tub fire wood, bonfire wood, cookstove wood, heating stove wood, rotton wood, and oh and we make lots of sawdust in the workshop. We make a lot of ski tracks in the wintertime and a lot of syrup and snowshoe tracks in the springtime and we do lots of festivals and art shows in the summertime. But when we are not working with our firewood or bees or maple syrup, we are making buttloads of swords and shields and steamers and other natural playthings for children and adults. It was all Kiah’s idea to “set up a booth at blissfest (http://www.bilissfest.org) and sell stuff”. After much discussion it was decided that we make children’s toys. At the time, Kiah was 5 1/2, she’s now 9.
What inspires you?
The thing that inspires us most is the burning fire that comes from inside our very souls! Also, Laughter. Love. Nature. Teachers. Elders. and Kiah really wanted to add “being funny”.

What got you started working with ——–?
Well, we don’t work with ——–, but we do work with wood, silk, wool, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (http://www.yellowdogwatershed.org/), some leather, our bees, we work with the tractor every know and then, and we work with a chainsaw a lot (see answer #2). It was all Kiah’s fault to work with the children’s toys (see answer #2)!

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
Our love affair with Etsy began back in December 2007. Etsy’s just great, I tell you, just great! It brings in a much needed income that allows us to be right were we want to be…home.
What advice would you have for other Etsians?
Like, list what you got and, like, don’t list things you are out of. Because, then, like, you get an order for, like. something you don’t have and, like, you have to make it like, right then and there and still, like, ship it out the like, next day. OMG!
What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from be
ing part of the NaturalKids Team?
When I joined NaturalKids, I thought I was supposed to get a pair of *in your best infomercial voice*…”fabulous indestructable, kitchen shears! So strong, so sharp!”
You know, the ones where you can cut through a pop can or a quarter, and still be able to cut through grandmas finest linen with ease. No, really, a fierce sense of camaraderie! Being a part of Etsy’s NaturalKids group is amazing! I feel like we have created a tight bond, as tight as a dread lock, between our natty sisters and brothers! We can bounce ideas off each other and support each other in ways that not only support our businesses, but our new-found friendships as well.
What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?
You can’t get any more natural than nature. Being outside is the most important natural toy you can give your children! Even over our products! Yep. We admit it. But if you really want to replace that stick with a cool sword, we got one.
Your items can be found where:
But more of us can be found at festivals throughout Michigan and locally at our home or farmer’s marquette. It is at these places (or by phone) that you can find the stuff we don’t have listed online.
We have to tell you that this interview was so fun to answer! It was an entire family affair…all uf us gathered around the computer, our faces a-glow, trying to come up with the most goofiest answers. Much giggling and laughter was had by all! Thanks for the fun! But if you want to read our more standard, serious BirchLeaf Designs side, please go here: http://birchleafdesigns.blogspot.com/ Thanks for reading!
Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard
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Team Blog Challenge Winners

To the NaturalKids Team Member’s blog that brings in the most view to our website, NaturalKidsStore.com, will receive a item from there shop feature on the Team Member Page!

Drum Roll……..
And the winners are:
1st place:

http://www.plainandjoyfulliving.blogspot.com/ 25

2nd place:
thefairiesnest.blogspot.com / referral 20
3rd place:
polarbearcreations.blogspot.com / referral 14
Great job Everyone!
Posted on

Friday Feature with Rumpos

Tell us little about yourself!
My name is Mary Ann Hudson. I have been married for over 10 years to a nerd with horn-rimmed glasses and have a funny red-haired little boy named Gus. I have an MFA in poetry and am in school to be a pediatric nurse practitioner. I live for when the mail comes and for stolen time where I can read for pleasure.

What do you make and how long have you been creating?

I make playscapes from a variety of natural materials–wool, linen, cotton, and vintage. The construction is similar to quilts–except with 3D elements. I also make quilts, bags, and housewares (for a “grown-ups” shop auntierumpos.etsy.com), and lots of the stuff we need at home (clothes , housewares, and utility items). We’re the original “make do and mend” family and are highly resistant to buying anything new when we can thrift or make it. I also make poetry, which is necessary to life. I’ve been writing since I could, and I’ve been sewing for a few years (but have always had my hands in some kind of making).

What inspires you?
Nature, and how people and, especially, kids use things.

What got you started working with playscapes?
A friend’s magical daughter got me into playscape making. This little girl has the biggest imagination and sense of narrative play than anyone I’ve ever met (including some famous writers). She and her beautiful family are very inspiring, and my first playscape was created for her and in honor of her ideas for it. I think all the best things start with wanted to do something rad for someone you love.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I became a buyer in early summer 2007, looking for a handmade amber teething necklace for my son, and made my first sale shortly after I opened in February of 2009–so I’m not even a year-old business yet. As a buyer, etsy is the most accessible way possible to get my hands on handmade for gifts and living I can think of–it’s that accessibility that has added a real stone to the foundation of this wonderful handmade movement we’re all a part of. We all part of a long human history of making and the commerce of it, but after mega-industry took over the commercial world and somehow convinced us to adapt disposable lifestyles, making became relegated to county craft fairs and something your great aunt did instead of something you thought to do first before you ran to the closest big box store. Etsy creates ordinary accessibility to both extraordinary and everyday things. Fine art and reusable paper towels are all in the same place for anyone with an internet connection. It’s something big that allows an individual to stay small enough to run an ethical, thoughtful, and sustainable business. I opened on etsy, in part, so I could participate in what it’s trying to do. I’ve met some truly remarkable people, been able to grow a satisfying micro-business, stay busy and creative, and have the kind of freedom to be exactly the kind of business I could never be in a brick and mortar, or even in a stand-alone web business. I can barter and trade, change up my inventory at will, price fairly, and source my materials with other micro-businesses.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?

Be patient with organic business growth. I started with a single, well-thought out listing because I didn’t have any other stock to photograph. When it sold, I had two sets of photographs and so another listing–and so on. Word of mouth (or word of blog) really does work, and often much better, than paid advertising, so treat every customer like they have the ability to communicate with 1,000 other eager buyers. Do only what you love, and would love to do for those who you love. Pay attention to what your people want–I realized, after creating a set of ready-to-ship stock that was slow selling (and so now, very much on sale in the shop), that what my customers really liked about what I offered was that it was so custom and could be created for them at a personal level.
That said, I did open a sister shop of housewares and bags that is all ready stock–but I did it to have fun and from a place and theme very dear to me. That experience is starting slow too, but it doesn’t matter because the process has been so rewarding for me. I know that I have kindred spirits out there and they will find my shop in time. It really does have to be fun or you’ll start thinking like a cigar-smoking, suit-y, business stiff. I don’t think they have fun when they raze farmland, cripple local businesses, and build big box stores.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?
Some of the most loving and creative mentors I’ve ever had are business people in this co-op. I learn something everyday from the forums; I have changed inefficient business practices based on personal communications with partners in the co-op; I have
improved my skills and products based on inspiration I have received looking at partners’ products and trading and buying from partners; and I have, overall, become more professional and focused due to my membership in this group. I think it’s important that like-minded people with similar values in the world of commerce support and network with each other–it’s a kind of personal-level strength. I am always ahead of the curve in terms of practical considerations like labeling, sourcing, and documenting. My membership is utterly invaluable. More, the imaginative, kid-friendly, mama-positive vibe is perfect energy for creating.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?
Putting on my pediatrics hat, remember that when *you* think that a toy must be boring because it is gently colored with “only” the colors that come from nature, that children see a wider and much brighter spectrum of colors than adults. When you’re confused by a toy that doesn’t seem to *do* anything and doesn’t have a place to stick a battery in, understand that children’s sensory system is indescribably more sensitive than your own and that the grain of sanded bees-wax rubbed wood, and fuzz of felted trees, and the enigmatic face of a simple doll is incomprehensibly stimulating to the hands and face and mind of a child, who, after all, hasn’t been here so long and never expected to have to encounter and process hard, stinky plastic that makes loud noises with crazy light shows for no conceivable reason.

We don’t give children the credit and respect they deserve–their narrative understanding is deeply rich when given the barest of tools (a knitted donkey, a wooden boat), and has a greater reign when unconfined by pre-designed, corporate characters and specific uses for play. Natural toys have both breadth and depth–a well-made doll that feels good and warm in the hands is a companion, a co-pilot, a character to work out personal dramas, and a pillow. Honestly, kids don’t really *need* toys when they have daily access to loving people and the outdoors, but toys can be an important tool as they play their way through the lessons that they need to grow. The best tools, we know, are well-made and no more complicated than needed for the job at hand. Toys are not magic, children are magic. Toys are not the source for entertainment and learning, we are, people are. The best toys celebrate the normal, everyday magic of children and are easy tools for play between people. And you know, kids are totally impressed by handmade, love to see and touch things they know someone has made themselves, and are encouraged to make things, too.

Your items can be found where:
kids: rumpos.etsy.com
“grown-ups” : auntierumpos.etsy.com

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard