Saturday, July 16, 2016

Meeting a Local Wooden Toymaker

As part of setting up our homeschool co-op in Southern Illinois I've been making connections in the community.  I find it is always really inspiring and rejuvenating to plan a new school year!!!  I'm so pleased with what we are coming up with.  The kids will be spending every Wednesday at a biodynamic farm in Anna, we have a potential yoga teacher and a sign language teacher, and I've found a sewing teacher at Flyover Infoshop plus the creative writing classes at the public library...

One of the connections I've made is a local toymaker who specializes in creating natural open-ended handmade wooden toys.  She made her daughter's toys when she was little!  Anna is very inspired by Montessori (she was a Montessori homeschooling mom) as well as Waldorf.  She has even offered to come and lead workshops for parents who want to learn to make toys.  Wouldn't it be lovely to give your child wooden toys that you have made yourself?  And her workshop is JUST amazing.

Anna is the most beautifully organized person I've ever met.  You can instantly tell that she has a graphic design background.  Her home is so tidy that it just makes your mind relax at once.  And her creative space is tucked inside a large closet that spans the length of one room.  When you open the doors it's filled with neatly labeled supplies, palettes of color swatches, toys in the process of being made, and sketches for new ideas.  She has shelves and shelves full of completed toys as well.  If I had a workshop it would look like an explosion... but not her space!

She makes her own polish with local organic beeswax and refined coconut oil, which is safe for little ones to put in their mouths.  (She told me she will be posting a tutorial for how to make this soon; however, if you're curious right now, she gives the instructions in written form in one of her Facebook posts.) The toys are painted with an earth-friendly organic chalk paint, in beautiful pastel colors, with a few touches of gold for warmth.  She hand sands everything before and after painting to soften the edges.  She is passionate about using natural materials and researches all of her toy making supplies and suppliers extensively.

In addition to her wooden toys she has hand-crocheted teething rings (the broccoli one is really cute), stacking ring sets, and nesting bowls.    

As a Montessori mom, she's focused on beautiful organization and presentation.  Many of her toys come in fabric bags or hand-painted cedar boxes.  She even sells very nifty bags for when you are on the go, like when you're waiting for your food at a restaurant, and they contain a variety of toys and a mat to lay them all out on while you are playing.  VERY Montessori.  Her little peg people have eyes but not facial expressions.  So sweet and VERY Waldorf.

I wish I could describe how warm her space made me feel inside.  And it was great to meet her daughter and hear her talk about some of the toys her mom made when she was younger.  It is so different to go to a toymaker's workshop.  What an experience!  It is not at all like shopping from a catalogue or website.  You can really feel the person's heart and how much goes into their work.  Anna spends hours designing, hand-painting, hand-sanding, and finishing these toys with her all-natural homemade polish and they are just irresistible to the touch.  Zac about fell out of my arms trying to grab the teak bowls and painted wooden balls (which come apart in two halves and fasten again with a gentle click via magnets), the curving wooden rattles, and the peg people.  She even gave us a toy to take home with us.

I just loved the blocks which are stenciled with bird feathers.  Such a simple but beautiful idea!  She has lots of sets of wooden blocks and I know some of these will be a must-buy for us.  They are hand-cut, hand-sanded, hand-painted, and come with cotton drawstring storage bags.  She has some interesting and creative matching games as well, sets of hand-turned wooden cups with little wooden peg people.  She wood-burns different patterns of dots and/or paints designs which have to be matched up in pairs.  So simple and sweet.  I cannot wait to take a toy making workshop with this lovely woman!

Anna has lots of pictures of her work on Instagram (her pictures are better than mine -- you really want to see them) and you can get in touch with her too via her Facebook page.  Enjoy!

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