Every Monday now through the end of the year I am interviewing other artists and crafters in the hopes of spreading some handmade love and appreciation. You can read more about it here. September features makers of baby/children’s items.
I came across Bright Life Toys about a year ago on Etsy. Of course this was well before I was was expecting my own child, but having worked with young children for years I was instantly drawn to Gail’s handmade creations. I love both the bright, bold colors and natural materials she uses to make her toys. And with all the bells and whistles in so many children’s toys today, there is something so refreshing about the simple yet educational quality of Bright Life Toys. You just know they really encourage creativity in young children!
How did you get started making handmade toys?
I started making toys for my kids in 2006. Not only was I incredibly displeased by the toy recalls of 2006 / 2007, but my family (like most others) was affected by the recession. My husband lost his job shortly before Christmas, and I wanted to ensure my kids had presents under the tree that year. I either made everything myself, or traded my goods with other WAHMs (work at home moms) for their wares.
What is the story behind your shop’s name?
My husband actually came up with it. He’s such a creative person and I’m constantly bouncing ideas off of him.
What do you like most about having your own creative business?
I love being my own boss and pretty much doing what I want to. I love having the flexibility to make what I want to, when I want to.
What do you find most challenging?
Definitely trying to be everything to everyone. It gets very busy for me in the fall and winter (as one can imagine), and I always tell my husband that I go into “hiberation mode”. Finding the right balance between business owner, wife and mother can be very difficult.
What inspires you to create?
I draw most of my motivation from my kids and from nature. Everything in my product line came from my kids at some point. When they were babies, I rolled out things they were interested in. (Loveys, baby safe plushies, etc.) As they grew and started preschool, I introduced toys geared towards older kids. I use nature as my go-to for colorways. Being a gardener, I love being outside and taking photos of the colors that Mother Nature comes up with.
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
Handmade items have superior quality to mass produced items. Also knowing that you’re purchasing a one of a kind item is really awesome.
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
I absolutely LOVE my rainbow coat from Katwise on Etsy. She stocks these amazing sweater coats once a month or so, and you have to be a ninja to get one. They literally sell out in minutes. I got lucky one night, and snagged a rainbow coat. (This rainbow coat, to be exact.)
When you are not designing and creating handmade items, what do you like to do with your time?
I garden! One of my favorite times of the year is the spring when new life is springing forth out of the ground. I love turning over a shovel full of dirt and just sticking my toes in it. When I’m not outside playing in the dirt, I can be found reading. I’m currently working on book 4 of the Games of Thrones series.
What is something people might not know about you?
I graduated magna cum laude from Johnson and Wales University and worked in kitchens once upon a time ago. I left when I had my first child, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss cooking in a hot kitchen. The intensity of the environment and camaraderie is difficult to replicate working alone in my studio.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business?
Never stop learning and never stop being inspired. Take a break whether you think you need one or not. It’s amazing what a little mountain air can do for your soul.
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