Toymaker

Toymaker

Maya

Kansas City, MO

Female, 17

I make dolls and stuffed animals by hand, and I'm learning to do wooden toys also. Sometimes I design my own toys! I've been making them since I was 12 years old, so, nearly 6 years now. I sell them at craft fairs, through word of mouth, and also (soon) online. Ask me anything! :)

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Last Answer on December 02, 2019

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Where and how did you learn to do this?

Asked by jaclyn over 6 years ago

Originally, I happened across the book "Amigurumi Toys" by Ana Paula Rimoli. It showed me how to make basic crochet shapes, how to stitch faces, and how to find inspiration for toys in everyday objects (even cartons of milk)! From there I just bought a few more knit/crochet toy pattern books over time, and mostly printed off patterns from the net. There are a lot of free ones posted by the designers themselves. Over time, I just got a general sense of how to make the little limbs and faces and everything, and I got my start in designing through trial and error. :)

Which toy creation of yours are you most proud of?

Asked by slowgrind over 6 years ago

Ooh, that's a tough one. Honestly, I don't remember every single toy I've made. ... But I am especially proud of a yellow dragon that I made years ago. It was the first crochet toy I ever designed, and I still have it and the instructions to make it. And the first Waldorf doll I ever made, of course, I was very proud of that! Ultimately, though, every toy makes me happy and proud. I do my best to put love into every stitch. I guess my hope is that if I am excited about the toy, then the child who eventually receives it will somehow feel that and love it the way that I do. :)

As a young person, what made you decide to create dolls and stuffed animals as opposed to other teens who obsess over technology and apps and stuff?

Asked by Impressed over 6 years ago

When I got started making toys, I was twelve years old, and living with my parents in an RV. (We were traveling for a year to see the country.) There were a lot of long hours in the back seat, and I had to entertain myself. I already knew how to knit and crochet, and I had the amazing lucky chance of finding a book on crocheting toys in a book store somewhere, so I just went to town! These days, I keep doing it mostly for the joy; a little bit for the money; and also to feel more productive. I make toys while watching television in the evening, while riding shotgun on long commutes, and even occasionally while walking around in public! (I keep my yarn in my bag.) It just feels more wholesome and exciting than playing endlessly with computer games and things. :)

Are you going to college? Are you going to run this as a side business while you're there?

Asked by JSB over 6 years ago

Yep! I was homeschooled all up until now, which did give me more time for toymaking. I am currently in the process of choosing a school, and I plan on becoming a nutritional consultant and holistic health practitioner. I definitely still plan on making toys through college, and through the rest of my life. I may quit doing special orders as school gets more demanding, and of course when I have kids I'll devote more of my toy making to them! :) but I don't plan on ever quitting toys permanently. It's what I love to do.

Do you worry about liability issues when you're making toys for children? Like that you could get sued?

Asked by Jax over 6 years ago

No, not at all. For one thing, many of my clients/customers are grandmothers (or grandmotherly types) who are very kind and forgiving in general; for another, I'm confident that my toys are safe. There's no way a child could get hurt with them. I don't use safety eyes, but rather I opt to embroider the facial features on, so there are no tuggable, chokable parts; I also use durable, mostly natural materials, so that my toys may be dragged, posed, tossed, lost, found, carried, and thrown in the washing machine (inside a pillow case) and laid out to dry in the sun. They are soft and safe, and like I said, my target demographic is generally not sue-happy! But if they were, I'm not giving them any reason to go after me, anyway. I love kids and I would not put a toy up for sale unless I was perfectly confident in their suitability. (And if one were not good for kids in some way, I would simply sell it as a desk toy, and make the reason very clear to the buyer, just to be safe.

Is the demand for traditional toys declining because of all the tech gadgets being made for kids these days?

Asked by LeahChass over 6 years ago

It did for awhile, sure. Once upon a time, traditional toys were the only kind there was; fast forward a few years, and, unfortunately, video games and Barbies eclipsed them. Traditional toys are definitely making a comeback, but in more of a niche market. They're cute, so they catch anyone's eye, but the ones who seek them out are the natural-minded parents, those who go for quality over quantity, those who don't necessarily like seeing their kids playing on computers all the time ... There are plenty of other groups who like this sort of toy. I can't list them all. My point is, natural/traditional toys are not necessarily declining in popularity now, but they are still not as widespread as they once were. It isn't as realistic for every parent to get handmade toys, either; they take a lot more effort, and cost a bit more than their mass produced counterparts, so I can understand how many parents would rather go to the toy store. I still think my kind of toy has a chance, though; they may be a bit more expensive, but they're vastly more versatile in play, and they are a lot longer-lasting. I am optimistic about their popularity continuing to rise, especially considering the current trend of "green" or sustainable living, going back to the land, etc. :)

If only my 24-year-old son were as industrious as you!

How long does it take you to make a doll or stuffed animal, and what do you sell them for? Where and when can I check out your work online?

Asked by OKJenna over 6 years ago

Well thank you Jenna! :) That varies widely depending on what style and size toy I'm making. A little 'amigurumi' (cartoonish, few-inch-tall toy) can take me an hour to a day to complete, since it is so small and simple, and I usually sell those for $5-$8 dollars. My Waldorf dolls, which are sewn, take longer, although I don't have an average yet (maybe a week or two? But please don't quote me). They run closer to $130-$140. Normal stuffed animals are a happy medium in time and price. :) Toymaking could be a lot faster if I always used the same set of patterns, and put them on a sweater-knitting machine; however, I like to do all of my toys by hand, and I often experiment with alterations and things, which means that they can take a little longer. But I still have a few of my earliest creations, and they haven't shown signs of wear yet. I'm currently working on setting up my online store! In the meantime I can be found on Twitter @ChaiMaya, and I'll tweet the link as soon as I get the store finished. Shouldn't take me more than a couple of weeks. Edit: I do have the site set up, and toy listings should start appearing in 1-2 days. I can be found at toysofearth.com :)

What's the most difficult part of the process in making a new doll or stuffed animal?

Asked by jaclyn over 6 years ago

Sometimes there isn't one, actually! When I'm working with very small toys (like the amigurumi that are only a few inches tall) then it's definitely attaching the limbs. That's a small space for adult-sized hands to work in. But when I'm working on a very sturdy skin fabric (like for those dolls) then every part is the hardest. It is fairly simple, but the physical strain is nothing to sneeze at. I sometimes walk away with new blisters on my hands, and usually some sore muscles too. But it is still always worth it for the finished product, and I've mostly toughened my hands up now, so it's all good! :)

What's been the hardest part of setting up your online store?

Asked by janey botts over 6 years ago

Not much yet. I have to wait for a couple more weeks until I turn 18 and can get my own PayPal account, and start selling - but so far, setting up the site has been super easy. I use WordPress and it pretty much lays everything out for you. The site is toysofearth.com if you want to check it out! Nothing for sale yet, but I have some more info on there. :)

Hope you don't mind my saying so, but you sound *incredibly* articulate and ambitious for someone just finishing high school! Obviously you're bright, but how much of this would you attribute to being home-schooled?

Asked by brixton baby over 6 years ago

Why thank you! I would definitely attribute at least part of it to being homeschooled. I mean, there are some bright public-school kids out there, and I have definitely met a few absolutely out-of-control homeschoolers; another big factor is parenting, and there's family and school support and encouragement, that sort of thing. I think that homeschooling definitely helps kids with that sort of thing, and being in a particularly bad setting in public school can definitely inhibit it - but whatever method of education you choose, it is imperative for the parents to a) be there for their kids, and b) be choosy about getting teachers who are attentive and positive, as well as knowledgeable. A cousin of mine has stories about 9th-grade teachers who walk into her classroom and say, "Let's be straight, I don't want to be here and you probably don't either, so let's just get this over with." I don't ever want my kids to have to deal with that, whether or not they attend school. Of course I'm biased, but as far as schools go, I do have to give a little plug for Waldorf and Montessori style schools! :) I went to kindergarten and first grade in a Montessori. It was an amazing experience.

If one of your handmade toys was super popular, would you consider getting it manufactured in bulk for wider distribution?

Asked by Krass over 6 years ago

     Probably not, no. This is a very grassroots sort of project for me. But I won't say never, because there are a few companies that I would consider, if they asked. Magic Cabin is definitely my favorite. I always adored their toys when I was little, even spending time on the website just *looking* at everything they had!

     But generally, unless it was a company like that, I would not be too gung ho about that idea. There are just so many legal guidelines and restrictions and policies and tests, honestly, I wouldn't want to do all of that for any but the perfect manufacturer. Plus, one of the things that people love about my toys is that theirs is totally unique! Kids are never going to see one of their classmates with the same toy that they got from me. It's part of the old-fashioned magic of it all. :)

     However, I would definitely consider putting together a pattern and instruction book, and sell that in the "mainstream" market. I'm working on a project like that right now, although I haven't made commitments or deadlines with anyone else about it, so I'm going at my own snail's pace with it. But it is in the works for someday!

Think I see an Angry Bird in your pic... have you made dolls or stuff animals resembling any other cartoon or game characters?

Asked by munkeyluv over 6 years ago

Yep, that's right! I've made a red bird, yellow triangle bird, and even a 'bad piggy.' But those are the only cartoon/game characters I've made. I don't play many video games, so I don't know a lot of other characters. ... I could most likely copy some characters from pictures, but the human and humanoid ones might not have the exact same facial features, because of the translation from photo/illustration to stylized stuffed doll. It's just part of the medium. :)

Do you only make 1 of every doll, or if something's popular do you crank out a bunch?

Asked by StTT55661122 over 6 years ago

I can't make the same thing again, technically speaking. Every handmade toy has its own personality, and if I try to copy it I may have to use a slightly different color or material, which can change a lot about its character!

That being said, occasionally someone will want to buy a toy at a craft fair, but it's already been spoken for, or perhaps they want a different color or something. In that case I often do special orders, and I make a toy that's roughly the same! That's happened with some of my dolls. People really love the dolls. But yeah, in general, I get bored with repetition too quickly, and I move on to other designs :)

What old-school or discontinued toy do you wish they would bring back?

Asked by Karyn over 6 years ago

     All of them! Well, I should amend that to exclude the ones with lead based paint, and excessive plastic. I suppose some plastic toys are now also becoming old school.

     Really though, I get nostalgic about toys that are far too outdated for me to ever remember from their glory days. Hoop and stick sets; whammy diddles; wooden frog noisemaker toys; wooden jigsaw puzzles that were actually cut with a jigsaw at home; dollhouses with real wooden furniture ... It's just all so lovely. I like toys that make you feel like you're in another world, both time-wise and imagination-wise. Modern toys leave less to the imagination. I can't pick just one old school toy. :)

Is it safe to say that when their birthdays roll around, your friends and family know what they're getting from you? :)

Asked by Jasmine over 6 years ago

Haha, pretty much! My mum always wants socks - and I do make her some nice lace ones. By this point, knitting is a skill in my toymaking repertoire, more than the other way round. But I do some other knitting stuff sometimes. But yeah, any kids or kids-at-heart definitely get toys. And if I forget a birthday till the last minute (guilty!!) then it's just so easy to pull an overnighter and make a small toy, and they always love it! :)

Was there a doll or toy you had when you were little that provided inspiration for what you're doing today?

Asked by brikhaus over 6 years ago

That's a good question! I never consciously used one toy as an inspiration or starting-off point. But my interest in simple, often Waldorf-style toys is definitely due to my favorite childhood doll: a Waldorf doll that I still have today! I believe that growing up with a Waldorf doll has informed my knack and passion for making them, and it helps me understand what kids are drawn to in a deeper way. I can't thank my mum enough for that doll! :)

Do you ever hear back from parents who buy your toys about how much their kid loves or hates it?

Asked by dicktracylol over 6 years ago

Not usually, but once in awhile, and that's a large part of why I make them in the first place. I love to have confirmation of the little fantasies that I see while I make my toys, of them getting loved and hugged and ultimately dragged through the mud, getting time-worn in a way that can only happen when a child really loves a toy.

I remember there was one lady in particular, a rather new grandmother, who became my biggest fan in my early to mid teens and always loved to buy my toys for her little granddaughter. She loved them so much she gave me her business card and wanted me to let her know whenever I did a craft fair in the area so she could come see me and my toys. I loved hearing how her granddaughter loved my toys!

Are you going to college? Are you going to run this as a side business while you're there?

Asked by jsb about 5 years ago

Yes and yes! I am going for my Bachelors in Holistic Health Sciences, and I make toys on and off as a side business or just for fun sometimes. It isn't very lucrative unless I take them to craft fairs, and I've just moved across the country so it'll take me time to find craft fairs worth vending in. So I'm in a bit of a lull right now.

I may also take a bit of a break from selling in the future, since my partner and I plan on starting a family in a few years - what little time I'll have for toy making will definitely be devoted to my own kids for awhile!

But ultimately, toy making will always be something I'm doing in my spare time, no matter who it's for or whether I make any money off of it :)

What is something your most proud of making?

Asked by Dj 12 days ago

Oh, a very good question! Over the past couple of years I’ve been busy designing my own line of knit toys - they can all be made in many sizes and they’re all made in one piece, so you only have to close up the stuffing openings, but there’s no parts to sew on and guess placement etc. So I’m very proud of the hard work it took to design those. I just finished the doll for that collection so I’m excited about that at the moment!

On the whole, more than individual projects I get excited about figuring out a new technique or design!

If you don’t mind me asking how much money do you make?

Asked by Jamie 10 days ago

 

Have you ever made a Pomeranian?

Asked by Dan 9 days ago