I love Instagram; you never know what you’ll discover in those little blocks of pictures. Well recently, I spotted some fabulous makes in those tiny squares. Let me introduce you to Valery – who I’ve loved finding out more about in this interview. This is the last Meet the Mum Behind the Maker for 2018, but don’t worry there will be more amazing Mum’s who make (and maybe a Dad or two) for 2019.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family?
I’m Valery and together with my boyfriend and son (who will turn one this month!) we are living in Zaandam, the Netherlands. This city is located a bit North of Amsterdam. We moved here a about year ago during my pregnancy. Before that, we both lived in Amsterdam. I work as an art director/designer at an advertising agency.
Tell us a toy that best describes you and why?
One of my wooden cubes/Artblocks; I have many different sides and interests. I love to listen to old music such as Fleetwood Mac, but I’m into techno and electronic music as well. Running half marathons I love, but I enjoy a glass of wine and a Netflix marathon just as much.
What do you make and where did the idea come from?
I redesign and hand-paint second-hand wooden toys. I love going to thrift shops/second-hand stores. After my son was born I would search for wooden toys. Sometimes I would find really beautiful treasures but mostly the wooden toys are with old fashioned colours or the paint has fallen off. One day, I just figured I could save these ones and make them beautiful and wanted again. As I am making these toys for small children/babies I decided I wanted to use paint with the least chemicals possible.
After doing some research into toxic-free paint certifications (in Dutch NEN-norm), I finally found a brand that was toxic-free. My boyfriend works in a Non Government Organisation for sustainable building, so he knew what to look for. I bought some colours of this paint and started in the summer. I was trying to buy less plastic and use more second hand items and it naturally coincided with having my son.
When did it all begin and why?
I started in June this year (2018), so I have only just started. I’ve sold all the items I have made so people are enthusiastic for original and unique toys. All the toys are unique since they are second hand and I don’t think it would be profitable to make a serious business out of this. But, well, who knows! In my case I didn’t need that much investment. I only had to buy the right non-toxic paint (although the non-toxic paint is very expensive), besides that it was – just do it – 😉
What does your day look like?
I work as a designer at an agency. All the work I do for Artblocks I do on one of the days I am off work; when my son is sleeping during the day, after 8pm or at the weekend. As all the items are custom made I have no deadlines for this, which keeps it fun and relaxing.
What does your ‘office’ look like?
I work on our kitchen table, leaving a table full of unfinished toys and paint because I have to stop when my son wakes up!
What was the first product you ever made?
My first finished toy was a hand-painted wooden cubes set for ‘Milou’, my best friends baby girl!
What’s your favourite make or best seller?
I’ve had many great reactions to my robot-set which is a set I am still working on. It will be at a 24-piece set, so that will be so much fun.
What’s your design process and how long does it take you to make a finished product?
I go to the second-hand store and hope to find some abandoned wooden toys. When I find them I get them home and fill in any damaged parts and then sand them. I will sketch a design and then it is time to design some colours! Colour mixing takes a lot of time since it is by hand and I don’t have primary colours from the toxic-free paint, so I have to be creative with my colour palette.
It takes me half a day to get a finished toy and about two hours of painting when I make a set of Artblocks/name cubes with 9 pieces.
I design as I go. At first I made some designs on the computer, but working on the computer all day illustrating and designing I prefer to either sketch a design or just go with the flow. Inspiration comes from nice patterns I see, colours I make on the go, sometimes with a colour in my head since I am mixing paint by hand it is free-styling all the way.
Custome orders – I make a lot of custom orders for the Artblocks/name cubes with baby names on them for baby showers and as birth gifts. I love doing that! I will try to post more found toys/unfinished artblocks (on Instagram @artblocks_nl) so that you can respond or send in some suggestions.
Your family is stranded on a desert island – what 3 toys must you take and why?
Well, since we are on a desert island and we love water I would take my babyfloat so we can play in the water. I think I wouldn’t bring any other toys, why bother; we can make some from coconuts! This is why I use second hand toys; there are enough toys in the world and you can use anything.
What is the best part of your job?
Painting/ working by hand can be relaxing after a day behind the computer. I have not made a proper logo/identity for Artblocks (also if you have a suggestion for a cooler/more flexible name; let me know!) because I am busy working 3 days a week and I just wanted to start painting instead of sitting behind the computer.
Who are your favourite Mummies?
Jordan from Our Sensory Shop. The illustrations she makes appeal to me because they are waterpaint and beautiful.
What’s next for you?
I am working on several projects. I just found some amazing pieces, trains and trucks, and I’m working on a new concept for my Artblocks. I’m working on a design of bugs/ beetles, which can be used as a puzzle, just like with the robot set.
Where can we find you?
I’m currently working on website. Please email me for fastest response: email@example.com
You can find me on:
Where do you ship to?
Custom made and products that are finished can be ordered and I would be glad to ship anywhere you live! 😀
Check out more fabulous Mummies who make here.
Copyright – All photographs in this post belong to Artblocks and kind permission has been granted for me to use these lovely images. Please contact Artblocks if you wish to use any images.
Disclaimer – Please do contact the seller or check out their sellers pages with regard to age appropriateness of toys and resources and any safety warnings. Busy Busy Learning accepts no responsibility for this. Age appropriateness and warnings can change with new legislation and when sellers make changes to their suppliers or products, so check every time.