CoMo Etsian: Mama Roots

Chris, the woman and mother behind Mama Roots, makes toys based on a Waldorf inspired tradition of toymaking. I got to meet her at her lovely home where she showed me the entire process behind her toys, and it fascinated me!

First, Chris draws out what she wants the toy to look like. Then she’ll trace it onto her wood.

She gets a lot of her character ideas from childen’s books. Chris is the book buyer for the University Bookstore, but she originally started making toys when her oldest son was young. She didn’t want her house filled with a bunch of plastic toys, so she opted to make some toys for him.

She uses long wooden boards and cuts out as many shapes as she can. Chris uses the scraps as firewood, so none is wasted. Her primary tool is a scroll saw that she houses in the unfinished part of her basement.

Then, Chris uses an electric dremel sander to smooth all the edges of the toy.

She moves over to another part of her basement to add the details to the toys. Chris follows behind the dremel with a ton of hand-sanding to make sure everything is completely smooth since it will be used by children.

Chris uses an industrial wood burning pen to hand-draw on all the details of the character. They usually don’t get mouths, smiles or frowns, due to the Waldorf traditions. The idea is that children will more easily project their own feelings onto the toy while playing with it if it doesn’t have a predetermined emotion.

Then she’ll hand paints each toy with a non-toxic water color paint. Each toy, and piece of wood, takes the paint differently and can sometimes create a nice pattern.

Each toy is finished and sealed with a beeswax. It is also non-toxic and safe for children to chew on.

Here are some of her finished toys!

As soon as we moved over to the art area, her boys each pulled up a chair and dove right into the paints. I loved it!

I fell in love with Chris’ toys while I was at her house! I actually emailed her a few days later and ordered a couple! One is a gift for a little boy – it will be larger so he can chew on it, and one I’m keeping for myself. It’s the Rebuilding Bluebird and the profits go to the Joplin relief efforts. Not to mention… it’s really cute!

I wish I could have had a bunch of these growing up! How fun would it be to act out your favorite story book with some adorable wooden toys!

In addition to her etsy shop, Chris also has a blog and facebook page, so make sure you stop by and visit her there, too!

CoMo Artist: Paul Mossine

Paul Mossine is an inspirational 22-year-old University of Missouri student studying photojournalism, fine art and french. He is a busy lad, so I just e-mailed him a few questions so you all can get to know him a bit. I’ll just let all his answers do the talking.

How did you decide to study photography in school?
I took a film photography class in high school and really loved the process of the craft. You go out in the world not really knowing what you’re looking for to photograph but always find something fascinating by mere chance. You get to indulge your curiosity, and learn a lot while doing it. I always looked at school books for the pictures anyway, so I figured that photography would be the best thing for me to study.

What photo have you taken that is your favorite?
One of my favorite photographs I took in the last year is a really colorful, spectacle-packed shot from the Flaming Lips concert on Ninth Street. One of the first bands I ever got to meet was the Flaming Lips at Wakarusa Music Festival when I was 16, and have loved their music since. I think the photo encompasses how I feel about losing oneself in music and the purity of emotion that music can bring about.

What inspires you to be creative?
People are largely unaware that they are constantly doing beautiful things. So what they do individually and together to push culture forward is my biggest inspiration.

I think that art is a means by which we gain a critical perspective on life. It’s a re-presentation; a reassessment of human experience.

For me, photography is a way I can try to understand and reevaluate my personal life, emotions, and environment, almost from an outsider’s perspective.

It’s so easy to get caught up in your own little world, and looking at photos reminds that there’s a much bigger universe out there. Other people are all dealing with their own understanding of what is, and that kind of varied perspective is really stunning to me. When I see a photo with a daring or unique viewpoint that teaches me something or helps me understand an issue in a particular way, it really speaks to me.

Creativity also comes from within. All you have to do to be an artist is pay attention to how you feel about things. Be observant, and the inspiration flows naturally.

What job do you see yourself in after graduation?
Image making is an essential way to communicate. Photography is very important socially, so there’s many opportunities in the field. It’s very competitive, but I think it’s foolish to let that get to you. I liked taking pictures for the Columbia Missourian newspaper when I worked there, but I think the pace of newspaper photography was too intense for me. I would like to be a photographer for a creative magazine or get involved with making a documentary film. Maybe that’s just True/False’s influence on me.

What do you do outside of photography?
I’ve been working at Broadway Brewery for almost a year now, and that experience has got me very excited about cooking. The chefs there are really inspiring. Food and photography are alike in that you can usually tell if something works well, whether or not you can quite put your finger on it. You’re also getting better all the time as long as you put the work in. Now whenever I go to my parents’ house, I’m increasingly asking my mom to teach me her traditional Ukrainian recipes, because she’s probably the best cook I’ve ever met. I’m also a huge beer and wine enthusiast, and I love playing guitar with fellow Columbia musicians while sharing a brew.

What is something really interesting about you that others should know?
The best thing I’ve ever done for myself was to let go of my “normal” life for a while and go travel. I had to take out some loans to do it, but living in France for half a year has affected me in more ways than I can count. I think we’re at a time when travel is easier and easier to do, and there’s nothing like it to help you become a wiser person.

You can visit Paul’s blog or his Tumblr to view additonal photo stories.

-christa