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Friday Feature with Willowbaus

Tell us little about yourself! 
I am a beekeeper’s daughter, born in a tent, and grew up in the desert and high desert of Arizona and Eastern Oregon. Now I am a mom staying at home with my two toddler boys while my husband goes out to defend the safe passage of wild salmon through the dams and rivers.

We live a stone’s throw from the Willamette River just outside of Portland, OR. Our life is pretty much centered around the river and the woods around our house. Yes, we live in the burbs, but we fantasize about getting back to the country someday soon- a barn filled with rusty objects and a tire swing hanging from a weeping willow are a must for any rowdy boy or girl!

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

I make classic toys with a modern twist. I began with selling bird mobiles like the ones I made for my boys when they were born, and have moved onto sailboats, balls, wagons, and other ideas as time goes on. I like to keep with the idea of wood and colorful natural fabric, and being as eco-conscious as possible. I am a nut about toxins around my children and our beautiful river, and I am perfectly comfortable with my boys licking and chewing on the products I make.

What inspires you? 
Beautiful fabric, my children, other children, elements in nature like wind, water, fire, and as corny as it sounds- innocence! I love that my son doesn’t know the words gun or knife- they are pokers and shooters;) I just want my toys to help children hold onto that sweetness.

What got you started working with fabric and wood?
I have been sewing for years, working as an apparel and accessory designer and dressmaker for a decade prior to having my boys, so the fabric part comes very naturally. The woodcutting is done by my husband, uncle, father in law and a Buddhist monk that is a friend of a friend. I’m pretty much always recruiting woodcutters. I am terrified of power tools, but hope to take a class soon and get over that! That said, I think like a sculptor and love the process of taking a rectangle of fabric and a hunk of wood and transforming it into something beautiful and fun.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far? 
I just had my 1 year anniversary on Etsy. I think it is an absolute God-send for people like me who have the need to be a worker bee and have a creative outlet, but want to be home with their children. I have a hard time thinking about going back to the 9-5 life now that I know I can earn a living on my own. The customers are usually very creative as well, and wonderful to work with. It is a lot less stressful to make toys than to make clothing, toys are pretty much a happy pill.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?
I think it is really important to take your customer feedback seriously. I have greatly improved my product and presentation since the beginning thanks to some great comments and feedback I have received along the way. Also, remember that the customer is always right. Knowing that makes it easier to figure out how to handle situations (lost packages,etc.) when they arise.

  • Another thing is to make something unique. When I have a new idea, I do a search for it first to see if anyone else is doing it already. If so, think of a way to do it differently.
  • Also, make sure to put a fair price on your items- pay yourself and you will be happier doing it. 
  • Last, network by joining teams and doing showcases. Being a part of Natural Kids has been the best advertising for me.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?
I have gained a lot of exposure- to the point that I will be focusing my advertising budget here going forward.
I love having the network of people that are pretty much in the same shoes as me that I can ask questions to, and hopefully answer questions for.With a busy shop and 2 boys 3 and 1.5 I am pretty overwhelmed at the moment, but I hope to give back to the team more in the future.

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

I just took a big stand against the TV when I noticed first hand how my older son would pretty much start drooling on himself while sitting there watching cartoons. Very upsetting to see!

Now that we are TV free, it is amazing to see how he has become much more engaged in the world around him. I consider battery plastic toys to be like the TV- it all spelled out for them, they don’t have to think when using them. With a wooden car or boat- the world is a river or street, they make their own sounds and their brain is doing the work. I just gave my sons the simple wooden horses that I sell with the wagons (from TNT toys, another Etsy shop)and they just love the solid smoothness of the horses and carry them everywhere.

Your items can be found where:

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

7 thoughts on “Friday Feature with Willowbaus

  1. Such a lovely interview!
    Nice to meet you 🙂

  2. So nice to "meet" you too! Your creations are amazing!!


  3. Oh, so wonderful to get to know you and your family more. You make beautiful creations.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  4. wonderful…

  5. Thanks for sharing your world with us! Loved the interview!

  6. I gave one of your boats to my sons this past Christmas. So adorable 🙂

  7. Wonderful interview!

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