If you’re in a need for a beautiful & natural baby gift visit one of my favorite Etsy destinations ~ Smiling Tree Toys shop. This place is a pure wooden wonderland of nature inspired creations made for you and your baby in mind by Kathleen, Justin & Amana. Enter the shop and be prepared for a whirlwind of happy thoughts and good vibes.
Find all sorts of wooden cars, rattles, blocks, wood teethers, stackers, balancing toys, educational toys for waldorf and montessori baby, toddler, and preschooler.
Read my interview with the smiling team behind these gorgeous wooden creations!
You opened your Etsy store in 2010 and named it “Smiling Tree Toys”. What’s the story behind the name?
We created our Etsy shop to support our family by doing something that brings joy to others, is gentle on Mother Nature, and allows us to give back to our community (we donate to Peace Corps youth projects for every toy we sell).
The name Smiling Tree Toys reflects our love of and appreciation for Mother Nature. Our toys wouldn’t exist without her, and so we wanted our name to pay homage to the trees that allow us to transform them into wooden fun for little ones. The gorgeous grain patterns, coloring, and silky smoothness of organically finished hardwoods just can’t be beat! We do everything in our power to keep our environmental footprint very small; we like to think that all of the earth-friendly things we do bring a smile to the trees we use.
(see http://www.etsy.com/shop/smilingtreetoys/policy for some of the ways that we’re eco-friendly
Our Etsy profile tells you more about us and what we were up to before Smiling Tree came to be: http://www.etsy.com/people/smilingtreetoys?ref=si_pr
We love being work-from-home parents! The freedom to plan our daily schedules around play time, story time, and nap time is priceless. And because the first few years of a little one’s life just fly by, we feel very blessed that we can earn a living while not missing a single moment of our daughter’s daily achievements and discoveries.
When did you discover your knack for designing wooden toys?
Justin’s always been passionate about working with his hands and we both hold a deep admiration for trees and natural life. Justin has lots of experience building houses, and over the years he’s gradually taught himself the more detailed work of making toys, cutting boards, and other wooden items.
Your toys are effortless and modern, your materials organic and natural. How do your designs stand out from the competition?
We consider our toys classic, but with a bit of a modern spin. Our designs hint at nostalgic past times when toys were well-built, simple, lasting, and natural. We use only the best hardwoods available, which are either certified as sustainably harvested or grown and milled locally by a good friend. One of the most unique aspects of our toys is our homegrown, organic finish. We coat all of our toys (except for our maple teethers, which are left unfinished) with our own blend of organic camelina oil and beeswax, both of which are grown on Kathleen’s family farm. Camelina is a relative of flaxseed, which in addition to being a healthy cooking oil, makes a gorgeous finish on our hardwood toys. We add beeswax (from beehives on our farm) to the oil to lightly seal the wood and offer protection from water damage.
The cotton drawstring bags we use are woven by an independent family business in the USA from cotton that has not been grown with large amounts of chemicals and pesticides. We re-use packaging materials (recyclable brown paper) that we get from local businesses, and do our best to minimize Smiling Tree’s eco-footprint in every way possible.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Our design inspiration comes to us in many, sometimes unexpected, ways. Often it’s when we’re playing with our daughter, nieces, and nephews. Other times it’s every day household items and the way our little one interacts with them that get the creative juices flowing. (You know, all of the things that aren’t made for kids but that they insist on playing with instead of their toys…)
One of the most important factors behind the designs and materials we choose is our love and respect for Mother Nature. Whenever we’re working on a new idea, we consider how we can bring our vision to life in a way that makes the best use of our resources and materials. If it wouldn’t make Mother Nature happy to see it done, then we rethink, redesign, and recreate until it does!
We are what we eat, and I strongly believe that we have the right to know whether the food we eat and feed our families is genetically modified or not. Unfortunately, it’s often impossible to know what’s in our food. How do you stay informed about your food choices?
Kathleen grew up on a fifth-generation family farm where her parents continue to grow organic grains, grass-fed organic beef, free-range chickens, and lots of vegetables. We’re closely involved with the farm (we live just five miles away) and a lot of our food is fresh off of it: our family grows/raises all of our own meat, eggs, wheat, and vegetables. Every year we also tap our maple trees to make syrup, harvest apples for juice, and keep bees for honey. We buy our milk locally from a farmer we know and trust, and for other staples and food items we shop at our local food co-ops. We truly believe in organic and local food systems and do our best each and every day to play our small part in supporting ours.
Thank you Smiling Tree people . Visit Smiling Tree Toys on Etsy.