toys or collectors items?
I've had a couple of really good conversations lately with friends, customers (friends/customers) about whether or not the toys I make are suitable for their children to play with. It's a totally appropriate question and one I think I should address. I'm going to talk a bit about my feelings on the subject...but this post is just that: My own personal feelings on the topic. If you are a parent trying to figure out what toys are safe or appropriate for your kid to play with you have your job cut out for you. Many things children have enjoyed playing with for ages are now considered unsafe. Many new toys and baby products are sold to us with the assurance that they will not harm our children only to be recalled later. It's frustrating and confusing to me both as a parent and a toymaker.
There are a couple quite legitimate reasons why a person might not want their kids to play with expensive handmade toys. The first is the price. These toys are more expensive than most mas-produced toys. They cost a lot because they are made with good materials in a very time consuming and conscientious fashion. They can't be mas produced and so they are special. It's tempting to want to put them on a shelf to preserve them and keep them from harm. My feeling about the toys I make is that it's okay to buy them and put them on display, but it's better to let them get played with. If a handmade toy is well made (as I believe mine are) they will be sturdy and stand up to a lot of wear and tear. Sometimes a repair might be needed, but that is a battle scar any well loved toy would be proud to bear. I've seen pictures of toys whose owners (well, owner's mothers no doubt) have gone to pretty extreme lengths to give a toy a little extra life. These toys only get sweeter and more charming with age. The purchase price is no longer really an issue...they have become priceless to the child.
The second reason is over concern about toy safety. I wish we lived in a time where we could all just use common sense. Know your child, choose well made toys, supervise play, inspect toys for damage or lose parts, repair or replace if needed. My boys are not especially rough with toys and so as soon as they were over the stage where they put everything in their mouths they received jointed bears with button eyes. The toys are still in great shape and have never been in for repair. They are getting rumpled and worn from love. Perfect.
Some of my toys are bought by adult collectors. I too have a great love of toys and have a hand full of my own that sit on a shelf. They bring me joy just to look at them, so I totally get it. But what I love to make is toys and if I didn't know that many of them are now treasured by children I wouldn't be motivated to make these dolls and animals. I strive to make un-fussy, sturdy and charming toys that are reminiscent of a time when toys were made with care and skill. If you have bought a toy from me, thank you. I hope that you or your child are truly enjoying it.
I just started a Flickr account (another thing we all must have apparently?!) I started a small set of photos called toys at home where I have pictures of some of my own kids handmade toys in their natural setting. If anyone out there has pictures of toys I've made that are receiving love from children I'd love it if you sent them to me for inclusion in the Flickr set! You can email me at foxandowltoys[at]gmail.com.
This is one of Jude's favorite bears, one of the first I made. He has been slept with a million times, scrubbed clean, and dragged around by the arm for the past two years. While nothing lasts forever, I think he will be around for a long time.