Spring Cleaning

March 26, 2007

scan0006-changed.jpg We are spring cleaning in the shop this month, saying good-bye to some items and adding them to the “Sale” page. Some are pieces that are no longer being made; others are going to make way for new creations from the talented folks we will be working with in the next few months. Once the toys listed on the “Sale” page are gone they will not be replaced, so if you’ve been keeping your eye on something special you might want to check and see if it is there.

Q.H. at Flickr

March 25, 2007

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*image from Zoom Away, by Tim Wynne-Jones (picture by Eric Beddows) 

Quiet Hours now has its very own Flickr page. If you’re not familiar with Flickr, it’s an online photo-sharing community filled with great images, people who love to look and people who love to discuss what they see. By creating a page of my own I’m now able to share the work of the people who lend their talents to the shop with an even larger audience – which I’m always happy to do! You’re welcome to check out the photostream or get lost in a little browsing of your own.

Easter Basket Surprise

March 20, 2007

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I’m pleased to announce that we will be offering a special limited-edition Easter Basket filled with handmade goodies from the shop. Each small basket will include 3 colorful knit eggs from Chrissy Brown (That’s her photo above. Aren’t they great?), your choice of a little bluebird or bunny, and a felt hair clip or container of green apple soft dough.  

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You can reserve your basket in advance, note your preferences in the comments section of the shopping cart, and everything will be be-ribboned, be-decked and shipped to you in time for the holiday! Quantities are limited.

Bluebird o’ Happiness

March 18, 2007

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I’d like to extend warm thanks to sisters Deb & Wendy of Circleback Studios for 2 recent blogs. One is a generous plug for Quiet Hours and another, we’re tickled to say, is a love note to Little Elf’s Toyshop’s needle-felted bluebird that first flew in to the shop last Friday.

Deb & Wendy are passionate about seeking out the latest in indie designers and crafters, and share their finds with others at Style Hive, a global shopping community that affords browsers a look at the best in global design. I learned about Style Hive last year and, in a bit of shameless shop promotion, have recently braved some postings of my own. I was thrilled to see people’s response to some of our toys and artists. Style Hive members take pains to support talented folks going it alone, and they know their eye candy. Go see for yourself.

Getting back to our little bluebird, this is just the kind of light-hearted piece I like to see in spring. Holidays and birthdays always have parents scrambling for one big show-stopping toy they hope will light up their child’s life for years to come. While this is an admirable goal it can also be fraught with second guessing and, dare I say it, a slight obsessiveness on our parts. When spring comes along we can let all that go. It’s the perfect time to pick out something small that just plain makes us happy. 

And happy you will hopefully be when we bring you a nest for our feathered friend to call home. (See the picture above and keep your eyes peeled on our Home page for its arrival.)  The pairing will be a collaboration between Kelley Zdziarski, designer of our bluebird and a toymaker for the past seven years, and Patti Michaels. Patti is a whiz at needle felting and designs many Waldorf-style play things and seasonal decorations. I was originally smitten with her “playscapes” which are essentially landscapes in miniature, and look more like art than a child’s play toy. Here are some samples below:

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Spring Babies

March 15, 2007

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Spring has us thinking about babies, so it’s only fitting that I introduce you to some of the adorable little bundles that have made their way to the shop in the past few days. I know many of you share my affection for Waldorf dolls with their soft bodies and simple embroidered features. Until recently, the best have traveled to us from far-off places like Germany and South America. While I love these dolls (you’ll see many of them in the shop) I ‘m thrilled to be able to bring you some truly exceptional creations from closer to home – even better, they’re made by a young mom who considers each and every one a labor of love. 

I’ve been following Christina Platt of Bamboletta for some time now. She takes the traditional Waldorf doll and updates it for today’s modern kiddos in ways that are sweet but never trendy. Her guys and gals are dressed in modern outfits that range from dinosaur t-shirts to funky sweaters hand-knit by Christina’s Nonna, and their tousled bed-head hair reminds me of my own two lads after a good day of play.

“Bamboletta” means “little doll” in Italian and was Christina’s childhood nickname. She makes several types of dolls but the stork has delivered us some of her latest crop of spring-time babies. We’ve got blonde and African American cuties waiting for new homes, and a special edition “Emmett” doll for an older lad looking for a companion in-arms.

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Thanks so much, Christina, for sharing some of your delightful toys!

Site Design

March 15, 2007

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As many of you have been so kind as to write in with compliments about the Q.H. website, I’d like to take a moment to share credit where it is due and direct your attention to the people who created this little outpost on the web.

The design for the site can be attributed to two talented gentlemen in Boston (There must be something in the water.) who, it must be said, probably never imagined they would find themselves playing with toys at this point in their lives.

The technical brain of this operation is Tom Filepp of Paper, Scissors and Glue. As a boy, he started “putting together computers from spare parts before they had any cool cachet.” Years later, he is a graphic and website designer of wide-ranging abilities, as well as a musician with mastery over an intimidating array of instruments. He took this techno-phobe in hand and patiently walked me through every step of the design process, never forgetting that the ultimate goal was to create a site with a pared-down look and streamlined shopping experience. He helped me make the artisan-crafted toys we sell the stars of the show – not fussy, cluttered graphics – and on a limited budget, too.

Tom will be helping me update the site with some new features as time and budget allow, and is in the process of re-designing his website to showcase more of his current projects. In the meantime, you can contact him at this link. If you do, you will be in good hands.

As for the look of the site, I have artist Robb Ogle to thank for sharing his expertise and eclectic design sensibilities. Robb is responsible for illustration and lettering. He has been obsessed with type for some time now and fills his hours working for the renowned Font Bureau in Boston and juggling his own projects. He has a marvelous ability to translate cryptic stylistic directives into magical images, and didn’t bat an eyelash when I did things like this:

1. sent him a copy of a Victorian watercolor of a little girl dressed in a white nightgown with a giant teddy bear tossed over her shoulder and said, “Please make this girl into a logo for the shop. Tone down the nostalgia and make her into a more modern figure with stronger, graphic lines.”

2. told him how much I loved the lettering for the logo but then asked him to “make the “Q” less elongated. It’s a bit angular, cerebral and art-nouveau-ish right now. Could you make it fatter…a little more warm and fuzzy?”

And, of course, he did. What a guy. Robb, too, is building a site of his own, but a sampling of his work and contact information can be found on his wittily named Houndofthe.com home page. (Yes, he’s an Arthur Conan Doyle fan.)

Thanks, guys!

Good Wood and Softies

March 9, 2007

Our Cottage and Farmhouses have just gotten a wonderful mention from Softies Central. Softies, you ask, what are they? “Softies” for the uninitiated (and I was one of you until a few months back) is a term for all items plush and soft. Softies Central bills itself as “a handmade hip experience” and that it is, run by Therese Laskey, a lover of all things softie, who has an incredible eye for the wide range of handmade goodies that are being created in the international crafting community today. Her blog showcases everything from vintage-crafted stuffed animals to pincushions and fiber art. It is also a great resource for crafters looking to connect with others who share their passion for sewing and making things.

Better yet, this year marks the inaugural run of the annual “Softie Awards”. Home crafters have an opportunity to submit images of their work for review by Therese and a talented group of judges who will choose the top five pieces in each category (i.e. Best of the Animal Kingdom, Best Inanimate Object, Best Amigurumi or Best Creepy Yet Still Cute). Those five pieces will then be offered up to the wider community where everyone will have a chance to weigh in and vote for his or her favorite. Today is the final day for submissions and voting will commence on March 19th. You can head on over to Softies Central and click on the “Softie Awards” icon for more information or go directly to the link of Flickr pool entries. It’s fun and informal, and I encourage you to go on over and see what these inventive folks are doing. I’m happy to say you’ll see some Quiet Hours favorites like Ana Paula Rimoli – maker of our Cozy Food, dashing Marco the Pirate and other adorable items. Good luck, Ana! You may also find some new sources for great toys since some of the artists have shops of their own over at Etsy. Here are some favorites:

336424173_48d1b24043_m1.jpg  Humpty Dumpty by While She Naps. Abby makes one-of-a-kind stuffed pieces from vintage and hand-dyed fabrics.

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Two exquisitely-crafted animals by Sweet Nellie. These are not the pieces she entered for the Awards, but she is so creative I wanted you to see other examples of her work.

 385523858_7e8886a6c31.jpg This tea set by Too Cute is made entirely of wool felt. Can you believe this? You’ll find other fantastic play food at her Etsy shop where, if she’s got time, she is happy to take custom orders. Very dangerous.

280109301_5f8b072cdb1.jpg Mushroom houses, gnome finger puppets, happy colors – what’s not to like? Timothy Haugen of Fantastic Toys makes collectible pieces that look like something out of your favorite 50s picture books.

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The house on the left is inspired by everyone’s favorite little pink house from Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House. These are pincushions by Bella Dia. I want them to be toys.

Here are 3 other people who are not entered into the awards pool but who make unique and lovely things:

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Handmade animals and artful objects by Stephanie of Little Birds . She is also co-creator of the photo-journal blog 3191 I mentioned in an earlier post.

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Ponies & Sugar Cookies makes fabric baby blocks with fantastic patterns and original appliques. They are hard to come by as they sell out so quickly, but if you are lucky you may be able to find some at Lily and Agathe or Mahar Drygoods, my favorite shop on the web, and one I discovered shortly after Quiet Hours opened. As I read about owner Robert Mahar I discovered we share some things in common – same age, same art history and contemporary art background, similar taste in artisanal toymakers – but Robert is way funnier than I will ever be.  Treat yourself to a visit to his place and prepare to stay a while.

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Ann Wood – Hand-crafted fabric birds that are not meant to be toys – neither is that gorgeous flying ship – but who says you can’t put a few in the nursery?

Happy browsing, all.

So… after that long tangent, why would Softies Central feature our houses which, after all, are made of wood? Every so often Therese will go off-topic and talk about something that really catches her eye. I was thrilled when she discovered Holzkram’s houses and decided they were too beautiful to pass by, because that is just how I feel about them, and I know many of you do to.

I’ve had quite a few inquiries about when the Little House will be back in stock, so let me just thank you all for your patience. Since the pieces are so heavy it is most practical to order a large quantity only once or twice a year. It takes some coordinating to get those big containers from Holzkram’s two-man shop in Germany to our one-mom shop in Pennsylvania. I will never forget when the very first shipment arrived: A giant tractor trailer squeezed it’s way into the alley behind our house, the driver stepped out of his truck with a puzzled look on his face and politely asked me where my forklift was. Thank goodness for power drills, a tolerant spouse and a genial driver who were willing to disassemble the crate in the back of the truck and help me carry the pieces one by one into their temporary home in the garage behind our house.

I’ve learned a thing or two since then and am working with the gentlemen at Holzkram to arrange another shipment of Little Houses, along with one or two new surprises. I’ve had my eye on a more “traditional” dollhouse that not only has the same great design but is completely modular. The top floor can be removed to make two freestanding dwellings that can be placed side by side. Here’s a picture below. Let me know what you think.

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