Wooden Toys – Eric & Albert’s Crafts

Meet the Mum Behind the Maker – Rebecca from Eric & Albert’s Crafts

We only discovered this fabulous small business this year. I saw images of their beautiful creations on Instagram and fell in love. Up until this point we’d had only Lanka Kade animals (which we still love), but these were something else. We decide to make a purchase and were not disappointed, you can see how lovingly, hand carved and painted they are – a real keepsake. Well since that first one – the crocodile – we’ve been hooked as a family and continue to add to our collection. I could go on some more about how wonderful they are, but let me introduce you to the Mum behind Eric & Albert’s Crafts who can tell you so much more.

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

Tell us a little about yourself and your family? 

We are based in Near Folkestone in Kent, England. We live in a semi rural village over looking lovely cow fields and forests. I’m Rebecca and I live with my husband (Martin) and our two year old son (Dylan) …..and Pebbles the tortoise!

Prior to becoming full-time Makers, I was a marine biologist for a government agency (just finished working out my final days of my notice period) and Martin was an IT consultant. We’d always crafted together as a pastime. Once we had Dylan we were looking for a different pace of life and decided to test the water with a few of  our wooden toy designs last December.

Tell us a toy that best describes you and why?

I’d be an Etch A Sketch – this is what my brain feels like!! Constantly drawing up new ideas and bubbling over with too many things.

Martin would be a toy car as he wants to be vrooming all over the place exploring!

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

What do you make and where did the idea come from?

We make wooden animal figurines and scenery with an eco conscious approach. All our wood is FSC and provided in the UK; we finish them in entirely plant/ natural based and non toxic self-sealing stains. This ensures that they’re safe for children with no nasties what so ever and make them nice and durable too!

Our initial collections included a winter, woodland, safari, farm and ocean collection but we’re constantly adding to the existing collections and have lots more in the pipeline for the coming seasonal months too!

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

When did it all begin and why?

We’ve always been a crafty pair! From woodwork, upcycling, sewing, knitting, painting and tasty goodies for every event! Our wedding was an entirely DIY affair and our home is full of handcrafted and revamped items of furniture.

After we had our son we were determined to have a new pace of life and do something together rather than spending so much time apart, working. Our son was 7 weeks premature and the first couple of months were not at all what we were expecting and were particularly tough. Having to spend so much time torn apart when we naturally wanted to be as close as we could be inevitably drew us even closer together as a unit once we did manage to get home and back to normality.

From that point on we had the ambition to start our own little venture, but we had too many ideas to focus on one thing! As Dylan grew we entered various stages of parenthood and being an eco-conscious family we were always trying to do our bit (no plastics, as zero waste as possible, cloth nappies, menstrual cup, composting, growing our own veg etc.), but we felt that although there were eco and wooden toys available on the market, there was a lack of British made wooden toys.

About a year ago we started experimenting and refining previous projects and the idea of wooden animal figurines was born. It took a couple of months to figure out what we needed etc. and took a lot of practising and experimentation, but we then finally had our first ‘Winter Collection’ (reindeer, penguin, brown bears and polar bears) in November.

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

We registered as a business, launched our website and attended our first craft fair in December 2017. The response then and since has been astounding and we’re constantly working as hard as we can to meet demand and continue to expand our collection further.

Martin started working on the business full time several months ago and I’ve just left my employment of 6 years to fully commit to this very exciting and amazing new chapter in our lives!

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

What does your day look like?

Between us we do everything in house – from photography, marketing, all the woodwork, painting and admin.

Martin does all the cutting and shaping Mon to Fri 8am – 6pm-ish in general (quite a bit of weekend work here and there). Our workshop at the moment is our converted garage although we’re fast outgrowing the space and are currently looking at using an ex-stable block as a new and improved workspace.

My day is a little more tricky and often subject to change! I had been working the day job Monday and Tuesday’s having reduced my hours down from full time over the last year. On those days I tended to only have 7-10pm to paint and do admin.

From Wednesday’s to Sunday’s I try to get up most mornings at 5:30am to squeeze in 2 hours of painting before Dylan gets up. I then normally do about an hour of painting here and there in the morning, 1-2 hrs after lunch whilst Dylan naps and then I get back to it (normally 7-9:30) after we’ve had our family dinner while Martin puts Dylan to bed. Those extra couple of days now I have finished my day job will be used to juggle painting hours. I hope I might be able to reduce some evening work! Saturdays are normally my one whole day of painting while the boys have a day out together. Then Sunday we try to keep as our family day no matter what.

Our biggest compromise at the moment is our family time together – I have a fun day out somewhere with Dylan normally on the Friday and Martin does the same on Saturday and then on Sunday we have a whole day together, but it often feels as though Sunday really is our only bit of time all together.

What does your ‘office’ look like?

Martin works in the converted garage, we’re hoping to remodel my parents ex-stable block as a workshop in the next couple of months. I currently work on the dining room table and take over our living room regularly!! We’re in the process of turning our spare bedroom into a shared studio/office/ storage space.

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

What was the first product you ever made?

The Winter Collection (includes reindeer, penguin, large polar bear, baby polar bear, large brown bear and baby brown bear).

What’s your favourite make or best seller?

The latest ocean collection is a hot fav and in particular the Orca and Hermit crab. The woodland collection, flamingo, penguin and reindeer are also real favourites!

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

What’s your design process and how long does it take you to make a finished product?

Inspiration from anywhere and everywhere and all the time! Playtime, books, television and we ask our customers a lot what else they want to see too.

We don’t make custom orders at the moment but have considered it. We’re concerned whether we would keep up with demand as we have a lot of requests even when custom orders aren’t an option! Watch this space though.

For the flamingo it takes us 8 minutes to cut each one out, 12.5 mins to shape each one and 5 minutes for sanding and finishing. Then the base coat takes 4 minutes and finer detail 8 mins, which is 37.5 mins per flamingo. It varies on the design, but some can take 15 minutes and others up to an hour! Do check out our Instagram account and the ‘Behind the Scenes’ for pictures on the process too.

Your family is stranded on a desert island – what 3 toys must you take and why?

  1. Grimm’s rainbow – fun for everyone in so many ways!
  2. Wooden train track (again hours of fun for all of us and comes out daily) 
  3. Our wooden animals – that’s a bit cheaty but so hard to choose just one – Dylan’s choice would definitely be adder, orca or hermit crab – they come everywhere! They go so well with the two above and can stack, re-enact and use for stories…. I could go on….in a completely impartial and non-biased way of course!! ?

What is the best part of your job?

Flexible working, working together and hopefully once we’ve settled into a routine (now I’ve finished my other job) we should have more time together as a family. We’ve also been able to spend more time with extended family particularly as quite a few have been helping us enormously! We are hoping to finally move to rural Wales next year too, which would have been previously restricted by our jobs/ careers.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

It’s been a real challenge to learn to juggle so much! I always considered myself a brilliant multi tasker, but after the last 6 months I’m not so sure….

We’re both such perfectionists and enjoy this so much that we really have struggled so far to strike a balance between the business, our jobs and family time. However, with the day job element gone we’re hoping this will become more possible and I think we need to learn to be a little stricter about cut off points – it’s hard when you love it and get so excited by it though!

Hobbies and exercise have gone out the window in this first 8 months, but I think that can be expected when we’ve thrown ourselves wholeheartedly into a new business – it’s taken off far quicker than we anticipated and so we’ve struggled to keep up.

Who are your favourite Mummy Makers?

Peepul People – Kate’s so talented and such a detailed and accurate painter, her peg dolls are just beautiful and she also does everything to ensure the top eco credentials.

Blacks Toys – Their products are also beautiful and timeless and we just love the open-ended element of them along with their eco approach.

What’s next for you?

Ooh yes, so many things!!! We’ve been working incredibly hard on trade orders throughout the summer and unfortunately our own website has been very low/sold out of most lines. We’re doing a big restock for September and bringing out our new bumble bee and safari babies (elephant, giraffe and lion cub)!!!

For Halloween we’re bringing out a dragon and unicorn for the mythical/mystical element along with a possible few other little extras if we have time (frog, bat, black cat).

For Christmas we have a Father Christmas, a snowy tree and some presents on their way with an extra couple of surprises if we can manage to fit them in too!

Next year we have so much on our list but the next two big collections will be pet collection and also a dino/ extinct collection as well as adding to the existing collections ?

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

Where can we find you?

You can find me on:

Facebook      Instagram    Website

Where do you ship to?

Has only been UK but we’re about to add worldwide in time for our next big stock up (Sept)

meet the mum behind the maker - busy busy learning - eric and albert's crafts - handmade - handcrafted - UK made - wooden toys - wooden animals

Copyright – All photographs in this post belong to Eric & Albert’s Crafts and kind permission has been granted for me to use these lovely images. Please contact Eric & Albert’s Crafts 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.

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