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WIN a pile of natural kids toys

Pop over to Inhabitots (the fabulous modern eco kids blog) to enter the NaturalKids giveaway!

You can win a pile of natural kids toys worth over 100$, including:
a knitted bunny from The Fairies’ Nest, a wooden car stacker from Just Hatched, an upcycled vintage cotton duck rattle toy from SewnNatural, two knitted acorns in a pouch from Woolies and a set of five tubs of Mama K’s Aromatic Play Clay.

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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:
http://www.willowbaus.etsy.com

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

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inspiration


by Jen of SewnNatural

What are the sources of our inspiration? Where do we, as artists, mothers, fathers, teachers, chefs and community members, find fuel to light the sparks of creativity within us?

image above via Flickr

For one NaturalKids member, Farida (you can visit her magical shop, Alkelda, here) stories and storytelling are closely woven into her artistry, and her life. “I create figures for people to use in nature table displays and in storytelling for folk tales, fairy tales, saints’ legends, therapy… wherever the imagination leads.”

We are thrilled to announce that starting very soon, Farida (of Alkelda) will be regularly posting interesting and delightful book suggestions on this blog. Our new blog bookshelf will be a fresh new feature for our minds, hearts, and imaginations.

image via Flickr

This week, Farida curated an Etsy Treasury based on the inspiration she found in a wonderful story called Sand Flat Shadows – you can read it here. Here is the collection of handmade pieces she put together, a collection you can also see here for the next few days:

Here is one of the lovely dolls in Alkelda’s shop, the Blue Blossom princess, ready for gentle play on your nature table or woven into your stories!

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Friday Feature- The Fairy Ring

Tell us little about yourself!
I am a Toymaker, a Writer, a Dreamer, and an Artist. I am also a devoted, deeply in love wife to a wonderful man and a homeschooling mother of 4. I am a very busy mom who toils away the day in service to my family. I love my life and my family. They are my pride and joy, but sometimes it is hard to find the joy while you clean a toilet after 3 boys. Then at the end of the day I get a few moments to create and bring my little people to life. They make me laugh, down right giggle! We also strive as a family to take care of the Earth and be as GREEN as possible. You could find out more about me here on my blog: http://thereluctantcitydweller.blogspot.com

What do you make and how long have you been creating?
I paint wooden dolls and create wonderful playsets and playboxes for them to have a life in. I opened my first shop on Etsy in September of 2008, but it took awhile to list and figure out what I was doing. I struggled with product photos, and it took some time before I got it right.

What inspires you?
My childhood and the imaginary things I dreamed up while living on Sunshine Mountain in PA are my inspiration. Also, my own children and the things they want to play with inspire me. It is so rewarding to be able to create with them. I love to watch them and see how they use the wooden pieces. One of the greatest rewards for them is to be able to go into my studio and get a bunch of unfinished pieces and play things like, Mars Mission and Super heroes with them. My daughter is always running in and stealing the items I am trying to photograph. You see her in the one photo as she sees her chance and grabs a few to play with.

What got you started working with wood?
I really wanted to create this plastic free environment for my daughter. Other people were painting them, but more as a collectors piece with non expressive faces. I bought a few unfinished dolls for my kids cause I really wanted to make something for them for Christmas. After other people started seeing them and telling me I should sell them, I started thinking they were right. I also started using other wooden pieces to make playsets for them. No one was doing that at the time. I then found these boxes that I could change and paint and make into this little peek into the dolls world where the kids could join in the play.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I was a shopper on Etsy way before I was a seller. We had a lot of Etsy items under the tree this past Christmas. Our kids were left a note from Santa telling them how the very best kids get toys made by the elves. Etsy Elves to be exact! This year all our birthday gifts have been all handmade gifts from Etsy sellers! My son Max is next and he will be getting quite a few wonderful creations from fellow members! I didn’t start selling on Etsy until December of last year.
What advice would you have for other Etsians?
First, you have to know what your goals are. Is it a hobby or will it be a source of income? If it will be a hobby, then enjoy and use the money you make to pamper yourself and have some good mommy time. If it is going to be an income and a business, then you need to research, promote and stay positive. Get help when you need it. There is a wonderful free national program called SCORE. They are like a Big Brother/Sister for Small Business. They will meet with you and guide you through the process to make your company be what you want it to be. You will get a mentor who will be your personal guide. I have 3, I call them my Business Grandpas, and they are great! They are retired successful business people who volunteer their time to help others just like you.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?
I am so excited to be in this group. I also belong to other groups, but being with other toymakers makes me feel like I have found kindred spirits! I hope to learn from those that have traveled these roads before me. Knowledge is power! I hope to gain lifelong friends. I hope to support others and to be supported. I hope to be able to contribute to and promote our group in a positive manner.

My items can be found here:
http://www.thefairyring.etsy.com
http://www.theenchantedcupboard.etsy.com
http://www.theenchantedcupboard.1000markets.com

I am also working with a few gift shops on some consignment and wholesale jobs. Additionally, I am working on getting my own
website. These thing as well as my storybooks for my playsets are in the beginning process. I will have more details in the months ahead.

Interview by Ecoleeko
Thank you Fairy Ring!!!

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Friday Feature with Maple Shade Kids


Tell us about yourself and how you became an artist..

My name is Wanda Hirsch and I live in Derry, New Hampshire with my 4 business partners.
• My husband, who is my patient teacher, providing me with all the skills needed to use saws, drills, and power tools.

• My 8-year old daughter, who is a great source of inspiration and full of wonderful advice. She is still asking for business cards with her name on them. ☺
• My 5 year old identical twin boys, who always provide me great feedback along with lots of wonderful hugs when I am feeling a bit
tired.

Growing Up
As a child, I grew up in rural Maine clim
bing apple trees, skipping stones, balancing on old rock walls, and creating lots of gifts for family members. These gifts ranged from paintings and collages to wood boxes and baskets – you name it, I did it. My most precious creation, to this point, was a painting of my grandfather’s childhood farmhouse (very amateur I must admit). However, it was hung proudly in my grandparent’s home until they passed away and now hangs in my mom’s home. My grandfather used to say he wouldn’t sell it if someone had offered him a million dollars. This filled me with such joy! This is the same feeling I have today when I send one of my products to a mom creating a special nursery or a parent and child working on a “big kids” room.

An Artist? I would call myself a designer and creator. I have a degree in nutrition and worked several years as a Registered Dietitian. First, working in a hospital, then teaching low-income inner city moms, and lastly working on a breast cancer research study. It was 6 years ago that we moved into our 1830’s New England farmhouse and I rekindled my passion for designing and creating. With lots of imagination, a little non-toxic paint and colorful papers, I was able to transform neglected bedrooms and old dressers into creative, fun designs that my children adore. When I started “redesigning” my children’s bedrooms and furniture, I knew it was time to extend my craving for design into products for others. So, here I am designing, creating and loving life!



Tell us about Maple Shade Kids and What you make and sell?

At Maple Shade Kids you will find unique, earth friendly wooden children’s décor and art. In my designs, I strive to elicit joy, nature and love by combining the natural beauty of wood grains along with fun patterns and colors in paper. This combination creates such a happy and organic feel.



How did you become inspired to make your wares?

My motivation to create comes from my desire to bring a little bit of love and happiness to a person’s home. I tell my husband if we ever become independently rich (yeah right!), I will continue to create, but give my products away. It fills me with so much pleasure to know that I can bring a smile to someone’s face. I get excited to take a beautiful piece of wood, turn it into something that is fun and unique and have it placed into a special child’s room.

I’m inspired by beautiful paper, colorful fabric, the beautiful 200 year old maple trees surrounding our home, the little critters living in them and many amazing children’s illustrators. My children have learned that it can take a bit of time to get through our nighttime ritual of reading books as I often stop on each page and think out loud of the how the colors and textures work together. I’ve rubbed off on them as you will often hear them say things like, “Mommy, look how beautiful this picture is. I just love the colors!”

What are the materials you use in your products?

My products are created from a combination of FSC-certified wood and rescued wood. FSC certified wood is sustainably harvested wood coming from well managed forests and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC works to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous people and violence against people and wildlife. Most of the rescued wood I use in my designs comes from a ship builder’s scrap pile. .


Any Advice for anyone interested in starting to sell on Etsy?

Etsy is the perfect place to set up shop and try selling your handcrafted products, vintage items or crafting supplies. It is full of so much support and community! I would recommend that anyone interested check out “The Etsy Seller’s Handbook”. It is full of great information, both for the newbie, (which I still consider myself) and the veteran seller. You can find it at:
http://www.etsy.com/storque/how-to/the-etsy-seller-handbook-all-our-how-tos-about-
selling-2383/

My personal advice:
• Create a product that you love and that makes you proud.
• Learn how to take great pictures. Pictures are so important when it comes to selling on-line. Again, refer to the Etsy Seller’s Handbook for some great picture taking tips!
• Think of the whole package! Packaging is the extension of your product. Give your customers a feeling they are receiving a gift versus just a product. Try to put as much love and thought into your packaging as you do your product. Carefully wrap each purchase, enclose a personal thank you letter or card, and maybe give them a small gift letting them know how much you appreciate their business. I believe this type of care and concern, along with a quality product, is what brings customers back.
• Find balance. Don’t work too hard or too little, write lists, set small daily goals, and have fun!

Where can people find you and your products?

Currently, I am strictly selling on Etsy. It’s perfect for me, and fits into my lifestyle beautifully!

Any easy Earth day tips you want to share?

Avoid harmful cleaning products
• Along with spring, comes spring cleaning (who has time, right?). Well, if you do get the spring cleaning bug, try to ditch the harmful chemicals. Vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean almost anything. Mix in a little warm water with either of these and you’ve got yourself an all-purpose cleaner.
Avoid buying plastic water bottles.
• Billions of plastic bottles are thrown in the trash each year and take up valuable landfill. Save some money AND the environment by drinking from the tap. If you are travelling, use a steel water bottle filled with tap water.
Buy organic.
• Try to buy organic when you are able. It isn’t just about avoiding the yucky pesticides that can make us sick. It is also about helping protect our waters and soil, and about creating a healthier environment.
Use reusable sandwich bags/containers
• If possible, avoid or decrease the use of plastic baggies. There are lots of icky toxic chemicals needed to make them and it takes lots of energy to manufacture and transport them. Instead, opt for reusable containers and/or earth friendly reusable sandwich/snack bags. They are available in so many fun colors! Etsy has some great options to choose from.
Reuse
• Think twice before buying new. I have to confess: One of my favorite pastimes is turning worn furniture, sometime left on the curbside for trash, into pieces I love. Our home is filled with reused stuff. My grandfather’s old wood desk now is my “business station”. An old kitchen table (that came with the house) now works as my art work table. An old buffet from my grandfather’s farmhouse is now painted sunshine yellow and is used to store my children’s school papers, bills, and office supplies. An old window now serves as a unique picture frame. It feels great knowing that I have prevented so many items from being thrown into land fills, plus they are quite unique!
Buy Natural Gifts
• I can’t pass up this opportunity to say buy handmade natural gifts! It’s a win-win situation. We are supporting talented artists AND as a consumer we receive a unique product, full of love that helps preserve our earth by avoiding the mass production of products. This cuts down on global warming in addition to avoiding all that plastic packaging and annoying twisty tags that are nearly impossible to remove!
Together we can make a difference!
• If each of us reduces a bit, recycles a little, avoids toxic cleaners, buys organic/local occasionally, reuses once-in-a-while, and buys natural often, we can make a positive change for our environment and the health of ourselves and families. Happy Earth Day!

Thank You Wanda for a Great Interview!
Visit www.mapleshadekids.etsy.com to see more of Wandas work!
-Sue (Ecoleeko)

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Natural Family Living

Sitting outside today, I found myself wondering what I would write about natural family living. My fingers sifted through the soil, I was planting seeds with my children. Our baby Orion toddled around in the grass while his brother picked up rocks and drove them around in his dump truck. My daughters squabbled mildly over who would do what and when with the pots and soil and seeds and all the while the sun shone down on us and the sweet smelling breeze tickled your neck – one of those beautiful Oregon spring days. I realized then, sitting on a mound of earth with my children and enjoying a moment in nature with my family, that this was exactly the kind of living I was grasping at straws to write a story about. The things that we do, those small choices that we make in our own little families are what create the communities that we are a part of. Connecting with the earth and making natural and sustainable choices is part of a daily impact that we make. The way that we spend our time and what we choose to set as an example is in our behavior. I know that every time I wrap Orion in a soft cloth diaper instead of a crinkly plastic ‘disposable’ I am teaching natural family living: instilling the value by living the choice. From the smallest seed to the biggest tree, choosing to live naturally is a way of life and every decision we make adds up to a whole lot for our own family, the community that we are connected to, the future of our children and of our earth. Every touch of a natural fiber educates us, it acclimates us to what is acceptable to be around us. So every time we expose a child to a wooden truck instead of a plastic car, a wool felted ball or a soft cloth doll, we are teaching a valuable lesson in living naturally. Hopefully by these small choices and changes we will continue to create healthy families and a healthy planet for them to live in and that is natural family living at it’s best. Many Blessings Families, Alyssa of Codilollyskye

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Thursday Treasuries

We have a few new treasuries to share. Be sure to click on the links to find these great items on Etsy!

Natural Star gives us a little taste of Christmas in this Natural treasury…

What is the Natural Kid’s Team?The Singing Bird gives us some lovely examples…

There are also some great examples of Natural Kids Team members included in Felted Fun


This treasury was made by Etsy administrator Daniellexo, after a needle felting tutorial with winsome hollow and little love blue in the virtual labs. You can find the same needle felting tutorial in written form, with pictures as well!

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Thursday Treasuries

We have a very busy team this week again! Take a look at all these beautiful items from the Natural Kids Team…

Mamaroots beautiful treasury, Naturally Hot, gives us a nice cozy feeling on these cooler Fall days…
TheSingingBird captures Autumn Glowing from Within

Cornucopia Muffin, is a very sweet treasury from freedomRainbow

What in the World???… mangopeachwalnut gives us a very fun group to help us ponder this question…
Handcrafted Harvest, is another lovely treasury features fall goodness from some members of the Natural Kids Team and made by lavenderladybug
“Harvest This!”, says mangopeachwalnut, and for a good reason.. they are all so cute!

TheSingingBird, gives us another yummy treasury to savor, Coffee and Chocolate

FreedomRainbow shares a little team love with It’s a Family Affair
Finally, it’s Play Time! Don’t you want to play with all of these items chimera is sharing? I do…