Sunday, February 27, 2011

Childrens Toys Fit for Royalty

One of the few movies I've seen lately that is up for an Academy Award is "The Kings Speech". Great movie, but did you notice the scenes with the Princess, Elizabeth and Margret?  They were always in amazing playrooms.  I especially noticed them combing the long tails (real horse hair I'm sure) on their beautiful hobby horses. Most children I know have rooms full of toys but it made me think:  If money was no object, would you consider some high end children's playthings? I've seen some amazing, but pricey, toys.  Are they too expensive for grubby little  hands? What would you pay for your little prince or princess to enjoy? All below are available to buy, just click on the links.

Riding toys seem to command top prices. This one is amazing.  My babes were all so tall that I wonder how long they could have used this.

 I love this, but the BL Baby boy is driving a truck to school and work that cost way less. Are movie stars children the royal kids of today? 

My grandmother had a green depression ware childs tea set that my sister and I remember playing with when we visited her.  I'm sure it was much less expensive than this, but note that this artist customizes her sets.  This one is a beauty.  Would you let a child play with this art piece?

 Dolls can be sky high expensive but usually aren't for children. (Kind of sad, right.) There are some pricey but wonderful Waldorf type dolls out there that are for kids. Most of them I've found come from Europe or Israel. This maker ships from Russia and the dolls have exquisite clothes - handmade sweaters, beautiful underthings.  My mother made  me a wardrobe for an 18 inch Bride doll I loved that would have cost a fortune.  I played with it for years and my youngest sister inherited the remnants and still has them.

Many parents will spend several hundred dollars on video game systems and games for their children.  These we know will be out of date in a couple of years.  Wonderful, sturdy, hand made toys can be passed on to many children so they could be a much better value. Would it be good or bad for our kiddlets?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Noah's Ark Books for Children

I wasn't someone who "collected" Noah's Ark items.  I just loved the old European style carved ark sets and set out to make some of my own. But now that I've become an ark maker I have acquired a few Noah's Ark picture books.  I confess that I'm a book hound.  I may even need therapy. (Doesn't everyone have a 30' long, 8' tall book case?)  The BL Hubby seems to think this vice a minor one and I think it beats psychotherapy.

Most of the books I've acquired lately have come via thrift stores or the bargain bins at Books a Million.  At my favorite thrift stores I think I see a lot of what children don't want in books.  I can always find several copies of at least two different versions of Noah's Ark books that look like they were done for some Sunday School or a church class for kids.  They have badly drawn cartoon illustrations and the text isn't very inspiring either.  No wonder they end up discarded.  (In the central Arkansas area I see tons of religious books for children in the thrift stores.  We must be giving kids a bunch of them.)  Here are three editions that I have that I love.  By no means should these be considered the only or even the best editions but they are three great ones.
This won a Caldecott Honor book for 2002.  Jerry Pinkney is so amazing I can't give enough love for his work.  I want ALL his picture books and I'm glad I snagged this one for cheap.  Pinkney works in watercolors, and colored pencils and I think his work has an "old masters" feel.  The story is faithful to the biblical version and starts and ends on the book end papers.  See the front end paper two page spread of  "in the beginning" below.
I always think of his work as full of color but most of this book is in subdued tans.
 If you could only have one Noah's Ark book I would get this one. 

Jan Brett is another heavyweight in the picture book world.  She's created a grandson for Noah and we see the story through his eyes. I love Brett's animals.  They are illustrative and child friendly but realistically beautiful.  My favorite style of animal.

Brett and her husband went to Botswana where she saw, in their native habitat, many of the animals she drew for the book.  Her style is well known for the book pages having elaborate borders that complement the drawings and the borders here are painted to look like the paper made from papyrus, also influenced by her African trip.

This gem I almost missed!  At one of my thrift shopping ventures one of the BL kids brought this to my attention as "I know this isn't your kind of art but it's a Noah's Ark book".  Wormell is a well know English wood block engraver.  This book is done in lino-cut prints.  They are spare and graphic and amazing.

His text lists the animals as opposites.  The small opposite the large, fast opposite slow, etc.  At the back of the book there is information about each pictured animal.  If you know a young animal lover this one would be a treat.

His images are so stunning!  I can see these framed in a modern baby nursery.  The above image I would love framed for my spaces.

Anyone know of any other wonderful illustrated Noah's Ark books?  I've still got shelf space. 


Friday, February 18, 2011

Where Do Animals Live While They Are Waiting for New Homes?

In a drawer! 

BLHubby brought home this steel blueprint file a while back. Didn't ask if I wanted it - just brought it home cause it was free. His company used to have rooms full of blueprint files, but now all their prints are stored in digital form so the storage systems for blueprints are now dinosaurs.   I thought I might use it for paper or mat board storage but somehow thought about an animal home.  They fit great!  I put some padded non slip drawer liner down so the critters wouldn't roll about and scratch but they stuck to the liner, matter how long they had cured (I had animals with little purple fuzz)!  I wanted the padding so I covered it with paper towels and now they have a safe bed to rest in all dust free and I can easily see what I have or don't have in inventory.   I keep asking him if they any more. 
The work table is full but our little rent house has a new tenant and I'm off to paint walls.  (Why wasn't it already done?  This is the first week the weather warmed up enough to let paint dry!)  Paint is my life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lessons From My First Year

Just some random and in no order of importance observations after one year.
New Ark Listing

  • I never imagined that I would  love my customers so much. If I could, I would ship myself in with the box just to see it opened.  I could become a crazy stalker lady and peek in the window to see my products in a home.  That someone would shell out their hard earned cash for something I designed and made makes me adore them. 
  • I have the best and most supportive family ever.  They are also talented and have contributed said talents whenever I need them.  Whether it's  BLHubby's woodworking skills, BL SIL's graphic art talents, comments on the blog, shout outs on their blogs, or marketing expertise, they enthusiastically support me. The BL Biggest boy and sweet DIL got me a web site for Christmas!
  • Designing takes a lot of time, even though it's what I love the most. It also seems that I get my best ideas while working on an item, so the products evolve - for the better I hope.  It also means that I know why custom work is so expensive and why so many of my favorite artists don't do it.  I've started turning down custom requests unless they really interest me.  It's really hard to make my vision match somebody else's vision and it takes so much time it's hard to justify the work.  
  • Quitting the day job means less money but more flexibility.  It also means more work but less stress.  Currently I strive to make minimum wage.  I didn't have any benefits with my day job (insurance, retirement, vacation) so I don't miss that.  I don't miss having people call me at all hours either,
    but I do miss office friends.  (Where I worked was a happy group without much "office drama".)
  • I've been pushed to learn so much, and I have. I just want to paint pretty stuff but I have accounting, web design, lessons in pricing, business, marketing, etc.  I never seem to learn it all.
  • Though I'm working on other marketing venues, Etsy has been the gateway to a business.  Some small craftsmen have complained about Etsy but I'm a fan.  Yes, it's huge and you have to work to get noticed but  they've been responsive and it seems to work. 
  • If I get big enough to hire an employee they will be assigned to sanding.
  • My worst day painting beats firing people. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow, Thoughts on one Year and a sneak peak!

Snowy Woods in the back yard
 The Best Loved Household is snowbound.  So is the entire state of Arkansas.  The whole state put out notice last night that it would be closed because a "significant snow event" was coming. It came. The neighboring states are closed, too, so you couldn't get here if you tried.  We've slept in late and haven't started burning the furniture yet but soon we'll run out of firewood. (We have power and heat, no big harm, but if it's snowing you need a fire.) We've passed the 2 -4  inches predicted and it's still snowing.

Tomorrow marks the first birthday for my Etsy shop which launched me into the world of independent artist/craftswoman.  What did I do before then?  I used to fire people. Yup, I appeared with Security and a tissue box, took your badge and escorted you to the gate.  I was an on site HR rep for an international staffing company.  I did more than fire people - but mostly, I fired people.  I lost count of how many.  The client company I was assigned to first moved their plant to another state so I got to hire folks for another client.  That's usually happier, but, everyone in the staffing industry has stories about the bizarre things that happen.  For me the most surreal times were when a candidates mother called to fuss at me for not hiring her child.  (Yes, this happened multiple times.) With the economic decline, that client company quit hiring and I was assigned to the "Client From Hell".  Then I got fired.  I know there are people who would find this poetic justice.  I was relieved.  I had been miserable for a while and unable to satisfy this client (no agency in town before or since could make them happy) but I thought if I just worked harder it would get better.  Getting fired answered my prayers.

I then tried to figure out what to do. I knew that what  I did the best was make things, really great things. I had thought about an Etsy shop that focused on the very under-served area of toys, clothes and decor for boys.   I love tutu's and frilly stuff but I remember being a mom of a darling boy and being frustrated that fancy children's stores had twice the space devoted to girls that they had for boys.  A friend of mine had recently expressed her frustration on finding little cute stuff for her darling boy.  I had started to design and make some special toys that the little ones that visited my house could play with and that I hoped would outlast me.  I wanted my descendants to fight like wild weasels over them (nicely of course).   Thus, the first thing made for the shop was the Noah's Arks.  The little BLGrands got early versions for Christmas.   BL Hubby worked with me on the construction of the Ark.  He's good about putting my ideas into place even though I have different ideas about how thing should look than he does. Now, he usually builds the arks I can build one if I have to but I love it that he will bang out some when I need them.  I then take over with all finishing.  I do all the cutting and construction for the animals.

The wooden toys have taken over the shop, at least for now, but after a year I'm way happy.  That someone would pay me to make stuff that I love to design and make seems like the heaven.  Next post I'll list what I've learned after a year. 

I did get some sun yesterday and got photos of two new Noah's Arks so they got listed today as well as a sale on the oldest Ark in the shop.  I've got a sneak preview below of something new that is coming.  BLHubby spent his snow day cutting and trying to make the wood fit my imagination. Take a look.