Friday, November 25, 2011

The Beauty of Handmade and Dreams Come True!!

I want to take a moment to talk about our new and growing small business... It has always been our dream to work from home, doing something that nicely accompanies, or is a direct result of our lifestyle. We didn't want our pretty farmstead to be thrown to the wayside to make room for a factory line or anything. Whatever it was, our occupation had to conform to our lifestyle, not the other way around.

When our family made the switch to handmade toys for birthdays and holidays, I was around 10. I remember being ecstatic about my new position. See, as an older kid in the family, that made me an elf! <]:) I always loved giving handmade gifts from the time I was little, but they usually disappeared under the wrappings of the store gifts pretty quickly. The idea of having everyone giving handmade meant a whole new experience leading up to Christmas! We were no longer the bored, impatiently waiting kids--we were the crazy, crafty, secretive, winking little elves! No Santa stopping by our house--it was ALL up to us. This put a whole new spin on the holidays!

For my tenth birthday, Dad made me a rustic horse using little trees from our woods. It had moveable legs, a pokey mane and tail and a cute face. Even though Dad was embarrassed, thought he did a bad job on it and didn't even want to give it to me, that was the best toy I'd ever gotten. The infatuation of the store presents died down after a few days, but I'd hold that horse every time I saw it on the shelf. When my little hands wrapped around the horse's middle, I would imagine Dad's hands on it as he built it. Built it for ME.

From then on, I was completely convinced that handmade toys are the most special kind of gift. Not that purchased gifts aren't bought with love and consideration and often, lots of money (my own dear father has a piece of his history spent walking the aisles selecting our gifts with great picky-ness). There's just something about handmade, when the creator's fingerprints are left on the gift, that makes it incredibly special.

So, my handmade passion is something that I think I've always carried with me. But, a new passion that is rapidly growing in me, is my adoration of all things NATURAL. I immediately noticed a huge difference when I went natural in my fiber crafts (knitting). Of course, I needed to learn on the acrylic, but those acrylic/poly filled dollies never got as readily adopted into little arms like my new wool ones already have been.

Contrary to popular belief, the wool is actually way softer than the acrylic! I've then been stuffing with our own wool, so the sheep have become Donna's friends now that she identifies them as the animals that give that wonderful life, warmth and squishiness to her toys. These toys are the ones she reaches for as soon as she wakes up sleepy and needing something to snuggle, or at bedtime when she's feeling drowsy and wants the warmth that wool offers after absorbing her body heat.

The other thing I've been loving is the 'freshness' in these dollhouses Stephen has been making.

I watched from the window as he hauled some freshly cut young trees out of ravine. When he brought in the finished (beautiful!!) dollhouses, their bark was cool and still damp with the life that had been so recently in it.

Yesterday, the girls were playing with our first log cabin dollhouse that Dad made for Theresa over ten years ago. It's still sturdy and oh so beautiful! The most coveted toy amongst the little girls. :)

Imagine chubby little hands gripping these real, natural materials as opposed to cheap 'made in China' pieces of plastic. Something you don't need to worry about them putting in their mouths. Something real, that God created naturally in nature, as opposed to something man made in a toxic factory. There just is no comparison! I want all my future babies to have exclusively natural toys! :)

So, I just wanted to share something (one of many!) that I am thankful for this holiday season; and that is that our family shops are finally experiencing some sales! I am so happy! It's a huge dream come true for me! :) I am totally passionate and proud of each and every toy in my Toy Barn and I feel so good having the opportunity to support ourselves by offering something that I feel so good about offering to children and babies!

In the shop lately...

Andrew is finishing up a custom order for a very large (2ft tall) Nativity Creche stable. Just needs us girls to stain it now.

Stephen just finished turning out a chess set on the lathe for a customer who wanted just the pieces. Right now half the set is in the wood cook stove to darken.

Michael has been selling a lot of his spin tops and has been getting efficient at turning them out on the lathe.

His Lord of the Rings Aragorn daggers have also been receiving a lot of attention.

Enough that he and the boys are now (very willingly ;) into making wooden LOTR toy weapon replicas!

We also have Legolas' throwing knifes just waiting on me to wood burn and finish, and lots more weaponry in the draft and planning stages! Johnny has been having as much fun with those as Donna has had with all our pony making. :)

Speaking of which... I've sold four ponies now, and I have been ecstatically happy about each sale! I really feel good about selling those for children to play with. I remember how I felt about my own handmade horse and I pour love for the recipient into each pony that comes off my needles. :)

If you've ever read our beginnings page, I could have added a part right after Dad received his pink slip where I remember him telling Mom that he thought he could be a pretty good toy maker, as a profession. That was the first I'd ever considered making a living building toys. Of course, if you can imagine, as a child I thought that was the most fantastic idea in the world!

Well, a few days ago, Dad was loading the van with boxes of our handmade toys to take to the post office and as he lumbered through the living room carrying a big box containing one of Stephen's log cabin dollhouses, he suddenly gave a jolly "ho-ho-ho" and "call me Santa Claus!" I looked up surprised and suddenly remembered him saying he wanted to be a toy maker all those years ago! Wow.

Yes, this year of 2011 has certainly brought with it a dream come true for our whole family! Last night, as I set our shops up for this year's Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale, I thought of that and decided to use "HOHOHO11" as our coupon codes. (And, as horribly tacky as it sounds, I have to add that that coupon will get you a fun 10% off in both our shops!! :) I know 10% doesn't compare very well with all the sales happening out there, but then, the meticulously crafted, natural, handmade goods can't compare with the things those stores are offering. ;)

Anyway, just find myself feeling so happy and grateful as we enter into both the seasons of our own handmade gift making and a busy shopping season and I wanted to share some of the reasons why. :) And unashamedly want to encourage you to support natural and handmade shops! The extra expense is worth it when you're buying for your future; both in a product that will still be in use 80 years from now, and in the environmentally and FAMILY friendly and conducive method in which the product was born.

Happy belated Thanksgiving as well! I'm thankful for every experience and every sip of air, so I couldn't possibly begin narrowing a statement like that down! (Though I've tried.)

Thanks for your support and MERRY CHRISTMAS to the world!!!! :o)


  1. handmade gifts are indeed the best gifts in the world! :)

  2. These are all so beautiful - and I love your philosophy. Nice to have found your blog.

    Dough, Dirt & Dye

  3. Handmade gifts are --as you said-- the most meaningful ones ;) They are also the most exciting to give to a sibling or parent, the excitement of giving something that you know that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into is the greatest! :)


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