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Friday Interview


It’s time for another Friday interview! This time it’s with one of our new team leaders, Dannielle of the shop Princess Nimble Thimble . Dannielle is the head of the Membership committee and has a wonderful shop full of magical little people. So let’s get to know her a bit better…

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how and when did you get started with arts and crafts?
I live in St. Louis, MO, with my husband and two children. We’re a homeschooling family so my focus tends to be on my children. Creating dolls and toys is, for me, a very natural extension of this focus.

What is the main thing you make and sell in your store? What else do you make and/or sell?
For the past six months or so I’ve been pretty much making bendy dolls exclusively. I don’t know if it’s due to the current state of the economy or if they’ve just caught on but that’s where the demand has been. Luckily I never seem to get bored with them.
I also make larger Waldorf-inspired dolls, nature table dolls, felt animals, and I’m working on preparing my felt animal patterns for sale in the near future.

Who if anyone has been instrumental in helping you hone your craft? I suppose I would have to say my husband because he always indulges my desire for more supplies and crafty books.

Where do you get your inspiration? Goodness, I find inspiration so many places. I love a good crafty book. They always get my creative juices flowing. New supplies inspire me, too.
I would have to say my best source of inspiration is my customers. I am sometimes asked to create things that are just outside my comfort zone as well as things that I had never thought to make. My customers have the best ideas!
What are your favorite materials?

I adore wool felt. Hands down it’s my favorite material. And, of course, I love my DMC embroidery floss. They just go together and always provide me with endless inspiration.

What advice would you give other Etsy sellers and those interested in opening up a shop?
Goodness, I could go on and on. I’d start with, “Go for it!” for those interested in starting a shop. I suppose I’d end with, “Always put your heart into it, always be completely honest, and always provide excellent customer service.”.

What advice would you give to beginners in your main craft?
This advice would really apply to any craft but, “Be patient.” is what has served me well. Be patient while your reputation develops and people get to know you. Be patient while you grow in your craft.
If someone is a beginner at making dolls similar to those I make patience is definitely required. They definitely take their fair share of practice in the beginning.

What is your Etsy shop address and name? Where else can we find you? My Etsy shop, Princess Nimble-Thimble, is found at www.PrincessNimbleThimble.com. Right now Etsy is my only venue though I hope to soon join my NaturalKids teammates at our HyenaCart shop, http://hyenacart.com/naturalkids/.

Thanks so much for sharing Dannielle!!
-Cyn
The Fairies’ Nest

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How long does it take to make a German Doll?

Often people will ask me if there is a discount when they buy more than one of my dolls. Then I have to tell them that making a Waldorf style doll takes many hours of work. Most of the work is done by hand. If you know how to sew or have ever attempted the task of making a cloth doll from scratch you may know how hard it is, and how much labor goes into the production of a single doll.
Aside from the fact that the materials I use are high quality, hard to come buy, and mostly shipped to me from faraway places because I cannot buy them at the local store – the price of a Waldorf style doll is mostly explained through the many hours go into making of a doll. Here is a list of the many steps it takes to create a doll:


1. Washing every piece of fabric and materials that goes into the dolls, ironing: 1 hour
2. Tracing and cutting out the body from interlock fabric: 20 minutes
3. Making a shaped doll head : 1 hour
4. Sewing and turning the body: 30 minutes
5. Stuffing the body: 45 minutes
6. Sewing on legs, arms, head: 1 hour
7. Embroidering the face, putting on blusher: 30 minutes
8. Making the hair/wig, sewing it to the head: 1 – 1.5 hours
9. Making the doll clothes: 1-1.5 hours
10. Putting on final touches: 30 minutes
Total: 8 hours
Of course each doll is different. Depending on the clothes and what hairstyle, the production time may vary. But when you look at my list, please understand that I cut no corners. Whether I make 1 or 10 dolls the labor remains the same. Maybe I can save a few minutes if I trace and cut 10 doll bodies and make a number of heads at once. My husband and children find it quite amusing whenever I am having a “ head making day.”
To turn out a high-quality German Doll I must put in at least 8 hours of labor per doll. It also takes time to order and search out materials. After a doll is finished it has to be put on my virtual “store shelf.’ Taking pictures and listing an item is one more step not included on my list. Getting it to the customer all wrapped up and pretty another…
So really when you consider all the hours of labor that go into one of my sweet dolls, my asking price does not seem all that high any more. I have to pay myself at least minimum wage to continue…
Each doll is a little work of art. I enjoy the process of creating each little personality.
I tremendously enjoy being able to stay at home with my kids. I also like being my own boss, manager, advertising agent, photographer, shipper, wrapper, accountant, and and and….
It sure beats working at Walmart…

Your German Doll Maker
Ulla Seckler

www.germandolls.etsy.com

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Friday Interview with MaDau Creations


Today’s interview is with the co owners, Cat and Dodi, of MaDau Creations whose lovely Waldorf dolls have a certain joyful innocence about them that is so wonderful to see. So let’s get to know them a little better….

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how and when did you get started with arts and crafts?
MaDau Creations is a Mother & Daughter Team consisting of Dodi Moody and her daughter Cat Macri. We began MaDau Creations by creating items for Cat’s children for Christmas. Friends and family then asked for similar items, we grew from there and hopefully will continue to grow in the Etsy community. Dodi has been crafty her whole life, she paints, sews, does a multitude of things with fiber arts, scrapbooks and makes cards. Cat dabbles in many mediums; drawing, painting, scrapbooking, digital scrapbooking, desktop publishing, crocheting, knitting and felting. She just likes to experiment with her creativity and searches out new ways to express herself often.

What is the main thing you make and sell in your store? What else do you make and/or sell?
Currently in our Etsy store we sell Waldorf Style dolls and accessories. We have a variety of different sized dolls listed as well as clothing for those dolls. Dodi paints all kinds of decorative items and has another business called Pretty Wooden Plates. Cat knits, crochets, weaves and creates items of magic wool for her children during the home schooling day. We both are very busy creating something most days though you won’t often see our handiwork on Etsy. Currently our Etsy creations are fixated on Dolls.

Who if anyone has been instrumental in helping you hone your craft?
Cat’s children are really instrumental in developing new ideas for our creations. They play and pick up something and request that we help them make say a cat or doll and next week that item is in the project of our home schooling week. If it inspires further creative juices we go from there. Our Princess and the Pea doll was inspired by a game we play at home called “Sleepy Princess and the Pea” we had been reading the fairy tale and the kids asked to play this game we have from Haba toys. Later I noticed them playing with pillows and a doll we had made them for Christmas and acting out the story. Dodi thought Wow what a great doll idea and we ran with it from there.


Where do you get your inspiration?
Books, nature, my children’s imaginative play, other etsian artists. There are so many fellow NaturalKids Team members with grand imaginations they inspire me to work hard.

What are your favorite materials?
Alpaca & Angora! For dolls we stick to wool, cotton and silk. Sometimes we use bamboo and other exotics but we are hoping to make something warm and cozy with Alpaca wool or Angora soon! They are just so soft!

What advice would you give other Etsy sellers and those interested in opening up a shop?
Keep at it. Advertise your shop with your friends and family, through email correspondence just by signing all your email correspondence with your etsy shop name and link. Perhaps join in coop advertising with your team members and relist your items often. That is the advice I have been given by Natural Kids Team member, Blossombabies, and I am trying to keep at it.

What advice would you give to beginners in your main craft?
It is hard work and takes time to get it right but once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to make some beautiful creations. Make mistakes, get your hands dirty, mistakes spawn grand ideas and new ways to do things so don’t be afraid to make them.

What is your Etsy shop address and name? Where else can we find you?
www.MaDauCreations.etsy.com Our dolls can also be found at Butterfly Baby on Congress Street in Portland, Maine. Dodi’s commemorative plates can be found at www.PrettyWoodenPlates.com



I hope you enjoyed meeting Cat and Dodi, I certainly did!
Cynthia
http://fairiesnest.etsy.com


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Waldorf Wednesday is Back! Or why Boys need dolls!

It’s been a while since we had our Wednesday blog entry. From what I understand the original idea was to talk about Waldorf education, natural toys, and living a natural lifestyle. I will try to keep that in mind as I ramble on about my views and perspective of life as a German immigrant in the US. I have lived here for about 12 years now. Scary. I cannot believe it has been this long. But please, forgive occasional spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and a little bit of an accent bleeding through at times. I am still very much German at heart…


The subject I want to talk about today is: Why do boys need dolls?

It is really important to me, and I want to tell a little anecdote to explain why that is. A few of years ago I had a rather strange encounter. I believe it was on a sunny fall day when I took the kids to the park to play at the playground. As usual when I go out, I had one of my projects with me. I am always crocheting, sewing, or have something with me to keep my fingers busy. As I sat there on a park bench a young woman approached me. People are always curious when they see an artist at work. So of course, I end up telling them that I make dolls. The young woman had her 4-year-old son with her. As we got to talking she sighed and told me about her dilemma. A couple of weeks ago a toy catalogue had arrived in the mail, and her son saw a dollhouse in it. Now whenever she asked him what he wanted for Christmas he’d say: I want that cool dollhouse from the catalogue. To which I responded: So, why don’t you get him a dollhouse? She said her husband would have an absolute fit. He thinks boys should play with trucks and “manly” toys and that “Dolls are for girls”!

I was totally stunned and maybe even annoyed. After taking a moment I told her that her husband was so wrong. That there was no reason why her son should not have a dollhouse to play with. Role play with dolls is very important for children. Why would we assign boys to play with inanimate objects such as cars, trucks, and building blocks only? Maybe we throw in an occasional plastic soldier or a plastic superhero. But why not give them a soft cuddly baby? Or a doll family? Some day this little boy will be a dad, have a family, and a real house. I told her to ignore her husband and get the boy the dollhouse anyway!

I get so frustrated when I hear such stories. Often I hear boys, big and small, talk derisively about the “Pink Aisle” in the stores and dolls being “for girls” only.

I think this world would be a much better place if we gave boys dolls and allowed them grow up in a more loving and nurturing environment. Both boys and girls need to learn how to nurture and cuddle a doll because some day they will be a parent. I feel sad for this dad in my story who did not want to give his son the gift he so much desired. It made me wonder how he grew up…

Foto by JustynRebecca, a dear etsy customer of mine

I really wish more people bought dolls for their sons. I always keep one or two boy dolls in my store. Sadly they sit around the “virtual store shelf” much longer than the girl dolls…Sprinkled throughout the text please find some examples of sweet dolls that have found a loving home – nurtured by a boy who will, no doubt, become a great dad!

The boy doll below was made my dear friend and fellow doll artisan Rebecca. Steve is still available if you are looking for a cool boy doll to give to a boy you love.

Steve, a boy doll with spunk, available at Toys From Nature

Take Care! And see you next Wednesday!

Ulla, the German Dollmaker

Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.

 

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Friday Interview with Nushkie

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog you’ll know that every other Friday there is a wonderful article on the Waldorf /Natural playroom. (If you haven’t been keeping up go back and read them now ’cause they’re worth your time!) Well today’s interview is with the author of those terrific posts, Nushkie, and I think you’re really going to enjoy getting to know her.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how and when did you get started with arts and crafts?
I suppose it started in the 3rd grade. I made a puppet with a hand-sewn costume and clay head portraying my teacher, Mrs. Briggs. It was as mean and troll-like as Mrs. Briggs herself. (Dickens could not have penned a more wicked character in his pantheon of unforgiving, switch-wielding school masters). At 8 years old, I suppose I felt rather vindicated molding her so
realistically…I am still redeemed: my four-year-old daughter, Eva, likes to bring this ancient, gnarly artifact from Mommy’s past out whenever she needs something truly scary for a puppet show! Loathsome as my memories are of Mrs. Briggs, it was a time when schools still had arts and crafts as part of their every day curriculum. It is a crime that schools today consider arts, music and theatre as curriculum which is a “nice to have,” but not a “must have.” In addition to choirs, cello, piano, and all the school theatrical productions, I was always writing or drawing and painting. Horses and dancers, mostly, but occasionally some really surreal Dali –type explorations, like a volcano with a cigarette-wielding hand plunging from it into the sky …sort of burning the sky.

My family was very musical, with lots of improvisation going on. Occasionally, we would just jam in the “music room” after meals. My brother Sam would play the drums, my other brother, the piano, my dad, the Lowry organ, my mom on tambourine or just dancing, and me playing the claves or singing. Eventually, I pursued much of my performance and writing interests through poetry, short stories, journaling, jazz singing, political theatre, one-woman cabaret, and even stand-up.

Over the years, I also used my creativity in cooking, and have made my own home décor items, including pillows and curtains, small paintings, as well as clothes. But it was last year when Eva enrolled in our local Waldorf nursery and I started mingling with all these fellow moms who live and breathe wool, that I rediscovered my interest in visual arts and my absolute infatuation with wool and felting!

I had seen these beautiful fairies at one of the fairs and tried to figure out how felting worked. I tried smashing wool together between my palms, needle felting with a regular needle (good luck!), throwing hot water around…etc. G-d forbid I should actually take a class. But I have a certain “I can do it myself” attitude that I now share with my toddler, so no classes for me. But
my friend Amy took one. She showed me a needle-felted pumpkin she made…It was beautiful. I said, “How did you do it?” She said she poked the wool with a felting needle. I said, “Yeah, I tried that with a regular needle. What’s the big deal?” Then she held up her needle. “Did your needle feel like this?” I felt the barbs along the side…and had a real “Ah hah!” moment. And that was it. I placed an order for needles, ordered fleece and proceeded to make pumpkins, fairies, playscapes, etc, for Eva, tapestries for her teachers, and dolls for her friends. I even felted a giant pair of butterfly wings for Eva’s Halloween costume last year. This was before I “honed” my craft. I stabbed them into our now fuzzy ottoman. Then, when they weren’t firm enough, I threw them into the bathtub and poured pots of boiling water on them and put on rubber gloves and massaged them with Trader Joes Purple Dish Soap. When all was said and done, they were beautiful but a little hot for wearing on a warm Southern California Halloween… It was the beginning of a beautiful addiction from which no 12-step program can cure me!

What is the main thing you make and sell in your store? What else do you make and/or sell?
It’s funny. When I first opened my shop, I had started to get really interested in wet felting and I bought baby shoe lasts and thought I was going to make baby booties and other wearable felt mostly and home décor… I started with two clutches…the third one; I made off with myself and
wear to parties! I plan to do more of that as we go along, but in the meantime, I have found myself tending toward needle felted tapestries, dolls, gnomes, playscapes, fairies and all things Waldorf. The natural and soft feel of the wool and the ethereal quality of what emerges in form offsets my darker, writing self, and creates not only beauty, but balance in my life.

As I have made non-patterned “Waldorf” dolls for my little one and make practically all her clothes, I may branch out there as well in the future. Perhaps I will also finally make use of those shoe lasts! I think the felt covered diaries are a step in the direction of practical applications of this beautiful art form, as are the earrings I just posted. I also made her a cute felted light switch plate that I’d like to make more of. Speaking of Eva…the toys I make for her, the dresses, doll clothes, scarves and hats… It really all starts and ends with my little one… Her nickname is Nushkie. That’s why I’m Nushkie Design.

Who if anyone has been instrumental in helping you hone your craft?
Ok, I did just take a Eurythmy class (no, I still can not spell that word!), but don’t usually like to take classes. I have found with acting and singing that I lose myself in trying to please a teacher. I tend to try to conform and try to be the “good student,” even when it doesn’t feel right. So, I don’t do it. I learned this with singing, that when I was studying, I was straining. When I practiced on my own I was fine. A few years ago, before Eva was born, someone my dad met had written an opera. He gave her my number. She called. When she asked if I was an opera singer, I said. “Yes.” I had never sung an opera before. I practiced like a crazy woman and auditioned and two months later, I starred as Anais Nin in a two-person opera to wonderful reviews.

You see, I lost my mom several years ago. But her inspiration remains. She sewed and cooked all the time without patterns. Because she never went to college, she did not often give herself enough credit. She would somet
imes complain, “Please don’t look at my seams!” But she was a huge talent. She made beautiful things and was a wonderful cook. She opened up a successful clothing boutique with no business experience, and when she got tired of that, at 55, she decided to become an actress. Again with no formal training, she had quite a prolific career as a television actress until she passed away. It is really from her that I learned not to follow too many rules and to just follow my heart when creating. I guess I never learned to draw between the lines while coloring. Now I know it was a good thing! Thanks mom.


Where do you get your inspiration?
Again, from my mom, but also my dad. He has a “can do” personality that enabled him to start a retail chain of organ (not internal, but keyboard!) and piano stores after convincing the Lowry Organ company to let him keep one organ and sell it on consignment. He rented a store, painted his name out front and that was the beginning of his becoming the national best seller of Lowry organs in the late seventies.

Mostly these days, however, it is my little Eva. Her waking dream life is so joyful, so boundless in its creativity and, thankfully, so, incredibly contagious!

Artistically, I’m inspired by anything beautiful that surrounds me. It can be writing, the more esoteric music of Kurt Weill; a film like “Wings of Desire”; the movement found in a Rodin sculpture; the emotion of a Van Gogh painting; the expression on a friend’s face; a song my daughter has improvised; an idea that pops into my head; the books of Elsa Beskow (what an incredible artist she was!); other Etsy artists whose work I admire, such as fellow Naturalkids team members or felters from Nfest team.


What are your favorite materials?
Let’s see…Wool, wool, wool and when I can get it, organic cotton…oh, and tree branches.

What advice would you give other Etsy sellers and those interested in opening up a shop?
Find something you love, make a few of them and open a shop. I think Etsy is the best deal in town. It would not be as easy or affordable to design and host a site and have the built-in traffic and promotional opportunities available to you that Etsy has to offer. Also there is this from my dad…I think one of the keys to his success was something he said to his sales folks. And it went like this, “When a customer walks in, don’t look at them with dollar signs in your eyes; Look at them and think, ‘how am I going to bring music into their lives.’ ” My goal is to bring my customers natural and heirloom quality creations that will add beauty and harmony to their surroundings.

What advice would you give to beginners in your main craft?
Invest in a felting needle and some fleece. Then experiment, but watch your fingers or, at least confine yourself to a sound proof workshop, as expletives will fly when that needle veers off into your finger during a rogue moment of exultant abandon!

Take a class if you really need to but don’t get schooled out of your natural instincts.

Try not to worry about how much time you have or don’t have. I do everything I do from about 9-11 pm after Eva is in bed and my inner cleaning elf has made some effort to unearth the bottom of our kitchen sink!

Try not to be so verbose when being interviewed…ahem…and lastly and quite seriously, remove “I can’t” or “I’m not creative” from your personal lexicon and just do it. Get an image in your mind and run with it. “Good is the enemy of great.” So forget about having to be good at something and you will allow your greatness to emerge.

What is your Etsy shop address and name? Where else can we find you?
www.nushkie.etsy.com
http://nushkiesmom.blogspot.com/
http://natural-kids.blogspot.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nushkie/

The other place you can find me is at home with my little sprite, Eva and my wonderful husband, Bob…

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Instructions Not Included Part 2


Two weeks ago I began this blog topic. It is such a powerful idea to me, that children should be allowed to play without parental direction or instruction, that I decided to do the article in two parts. I am focusing on only one of the ways parents can step back and let their children do what they do best and naturally: play. That is, to provide them with toys they can figure out, which are open-ended, meaning the child can use her or his own imagination to complete the toy. It is difficult for some parents to understand this concept and choose a natural toy when they are bombarded by advertising from so many big “name” brands. In the first part of “Instructions Not Included,” I gave several examples from my fellow artisans from Etsy’s Naturalkids Team. I’d like to invite new readers to start with my last post. In this current post, I will continue to offer suggestions in this area with additional links.

Here’s something to consider:I read somewhere that invention is not necessarily creating something new with a purpose, but giving a new purpose and way of using to an existing item. Take the item pictured above from Fairiesnest. Yes it is a wand…or is it? If so, is it for a wizard, a fairy a princess? The answers to these questions will be completed by the child. What new way of using this timeless toy will be invented, what enchanting scenarios may be created? And since it is not licensed or branded by a multinational corporate identity, the possibilities are truly endless.

“Waldorf dolls, such as those made by Bellawinter,
FaerieRebecca,
Germandolls or
Woodcreations’….convey little expression. Like the “Mona Lisa,” they are enigmatic and allow the child to decide their emotional state.

In imaginary play, this aspect of allowing the child to complete the toy by deciding if the baby is sleepy or awake, sad or exuberant, not only exercises the child’s imagination, but may also be therapeutic, allowing the child to work through emotional struggles. When Eva was 2, she slipped off the step in our pool. One second later, I lifted her out. This upset her nonetheless. The next day, she had her baby in the bathtub and was teaching it to swim. Clearly she was working out her feelings about water. Mommy’s only job was to wring the toy out later and allow it to dry!

Here is a gnome by Oritdotan. Who is he? Where did he come from? Is that a shell really a cauldron with stew? This playset does not offer any solutions to these riddle. Instead, it offers endless possibilities for the child to imagine.

Beneaththerowantree‘s gnome is quite different…almost a beehive…is he friendly or shy, abiding or mischievous? The child can decide what adventures to send him on, what his future in their present will be.



And who are the gnome’s or the doll’s friends?
Perhaps a needle felted bird, by Thesingingbird

…or some tiny hedgehogs…by Purplemoonfibers.

How about a snail from Woodmouse?

 

…or Freedomrainbow’s custom order cat…

Is it a really a cat or a woolly forest creature or someone from another universe. this is for the child to decide.

The conversations and adventures these creatures could have with each other are endless, because they come free of history, branding or any other known fact.

There are so many examples I could give from my colleagues on Etsy.com’s Naturalkids Team. But I hope these few examples will give readers a taste of the endless play their children could delight in with toys made from natural materials as they project their fantasies onto them. Like Cozycottage’s strawberries, the sweetness is there, ready to be enjoyed by all the senses, and it begins with the imagination.

In my next blog, we’ll explore another aspect of the playroom. Til then, be well.

By Rebecca Varon-Remstein
nushkiedesign