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: Twinwood Carving

all photos courtesy of Joe Marshall

Joe Marshall is the craftsman behind Twinwood Carving, a fabulous shop full of gorgeous hand-carved wood bowls.

Joe was born and raised in Ireland. He came to Columbia 11 years ago after meeting his future-wife, a Columbia-native, while she was studying abroad. While in high school, Joe learned the craft of hand woodcarving – the teachers didn’t believe in teaching how to use power tools because they could be learned in an afternoon. Twinwood Carving was started shortly after his twin boys were born so Joe could be a stay-at-home dad while still earning some income.

He uses a single solid piece of wood that he buys locally to make each bowl by hand. Five different tools are used to create each one, including electric and hand tools but no jig or template. Each bowl is completely unique. He had to make his own vices because the hardware store didn’t have anything that would work how he needed.

Joe finishes each bowl with a natural tung oil, and they are completely food safe. This is not the same tung oil you buy at the hardware store. Joe used pure tung oil that was squeezed from the nut of the tung tree – a chinese tree. It takes 2 weeks to apply the finish. He puts on 6 coats with 24-36 hours to dry inbetween and then it takes two to three weeks for the bowl to fully cure – so each bowl takes five to six weeks to create. Joe says that most people use mineral oil, which is a chemically produced oil. He doesn’t use it because mineral oil evaporates after three to four months and you would have to re-apply the oil. Tung oil penetrates into the wood and creates a hard, permanent finish.

While speaking with Joe I could tell that besides his family, hand-carving was his passion. You have to care about something if it’s going to takes six weeks to create! He takes pride in his work and really enjoys seeing how people react to his work.

I stopped by Blue Stem Crafts {located at 13 S. Ninth St., near Sparky’s} to see some of Joe’s work in person, but I am most looking forward to seeing his booth at the Columbia Art League’s Art in the Park on June 4th & 5th at Stephen’s Lake Park. He has been working for months to prepare the items he’ll take with. If you visit Joe at Art in the Park, be sure to tell him the CoMo Collective sent you!

You can visit Twinwood Carving on etsy, Joe’s blog, facebook, or twitter.