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 September 23, 2014

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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 :)