Lauren Rabb, Muse and Mom Behind The Felt Commissary
Here at Baby Awearness, we firmly believe in all things cute and lovable as well as eco-friendly. We are excited to add handmade felt food toys to our growing toy 'n play section (Also keep an eye out for July's "Let's Talk Toys" segment that's posting soon). Next time you're at the store, you'll have to take a look at these beautiful and well-made felt creations. They would make treasured additions to any child's toy collection.
Local mom and crafter Lauren is proudly married to her husband, a Navy man who just passed his 10-year mark this month. Their family is comprised of two young toddlers, their dog Kona, and their newest addition -- a foster St. Bernard named Rook.
In this debut post of our new monthly column Sage Mamas Making A Difference, Lauren shares some thoughts about being a busy momtrepeneur and the inspiration that started The Felt Commissary:
What inspired you to start making your own toys?
I was inspired to make my own toys because of all the recalls on toys that were being made in China. I only had one or two recalled toys but that scared me. Plus I had just spent my hard-earned money to buy toys that my son couldn't play with. I had seen a few felt toys around but they were extremely expensive and almost looked like something I wouldn't want my child to "mess up." So I jumped online and got some ideas from other craft sites and began experimenting.
My first few ventures weren't very pretty. I tried to make an eggplant and it turned out looking like a giant purple chili pepper... it was funny! I really couldn't help but laugh. As I started to get the hang of it, I really enjoyed the sense of pleasure I got from other parents' responses. I got a lot of "you could sell this," though I really didn't think I could until I started to ask people who weren't familiar with eco-friendly toys if they would be willing to pay for handmade toys. When one mom in particular, who told me she would rather spend money in a store "the easy way," saw my felt foods, she became an instant convert! That was validating and nudged me into the direction of turning my craft into a business venture.
On your label, it says you use eco-friendly materials. Where do you get them? Do you make your own felt?
I don't make my own felt... I would love to but I don't think I could keep my prices as low as they are if I were to do that. I get my felt threw local craft suppliers and I try and make my foods around the various colors that are in stock, which can sometimes limit my creativity. I also use locally made fiber-fill. I am a firm believer in helping the local economy.
How do you balance your crafting and business while being a mother?
This is the hardest part of the whole thing! I really have to scrape together little bits of time to make felt toys. I cut out pieces while I am waiting on noodles to cook for mac and cheese, or I sew while my husband and I catch up on our DVR-ed episodes! I really try and make the best of the little bits of time I have. However, I often find myself sitting up late at night crafting these little gems because I can't turn my creativity off long enough to go to bed (LOL).
Can you offer any ideas to parents and kids out there on creative ways to play with their felt food toys?
These felt toys have a wide array of uses. I use them to teach my son (who is 2.5 years old) and soon my daughter (who is 4 months old) about wise food choices. Instead of calling bread just bread I talk about wheat bread. I know he is only 2.5 years old but he seems to like when I explain things in an adult fashion. I also talk to him about carrots and strawberries and then show him our garden and I can see the light bulb go on as he makes the connection at the dinner table when he points out the food on his plate and the felt food on the floor! My husband and I joke that my son is a self-made fruitarian. He doesn't eat meat and would eat fruit for every meal if he could!
Also, the felt foods help sometimes to introduce new items. I also use them to teach colors and counting as well as chores. My son loves to pull out ALL of his felt food and pretend to cook, wash and eat them, but when it comes to the clean up part it can be more difficult. But by being specific it has really helped. For instance, I tell him to "bring me the carrots" and he does!
What is your favorite felt toy food so far?
Any new foods to look forward to?
I am having fun creating new food that should be in the store soon! I have cupcakes and green apples as well as cherry pie slices. I am also crafting pizzas with removable toppings! That should really be something to look out for!
Baby A: Thank you Lauren for taking the time to make such wonderful handmade goodies to share with us all as well as for inspiring us with your story.
Sage Mamas Making A Difference is a new monthly column that is now part of Baby A's blossoming blog. If you know of any inspiring moms in our local community, or are one yourself (modesty not required), drop us a line at email@example.com so that we may feature your story and endeavors about how you're making a difference right here in paradise. (LL)