“Each product is made by hand and usually all the wood is surrounded by cups of tea, laughing children, and disco music so each product will come to you infused with love and bliss!” says Amy Turn Sharp of her handcrafted wooden toys. Amy and her husband Joe, the handsome British carpenter, have lived in a small village just outside Columbus, Ohio for about nine years. They have two kids, Finn, age 5 and Blaise, age two, who have tried out all the wooden toys their parents make and have given them a seal of approval.
Amy describes herself as a creative and silly, people charming, adventure seeking, sensitive person. She loves vintage doorknobs, coffee, writing love letters, libraries, girlfriend getaways, the way babies smell, [ed. note – who doesn’t!!] mid century modern furniture, and ice cream.
On a rare day off, Amy likes to read, go thrifting, cook and work on her novel. She loves playing with her boys, watching old films and kissing her husband, the aforementioned charming Joe.
How long have you been making wooden toys?
We have been making toys for a few years- but the business really started jan 2008
Why did you start?
My husband (classically trained master carpenter) and I started making toys for our son Finn when he was a baby and then after a lot of issues with recalls and a new baby in the teething stages we decided to make our own maple rattles and teethers and soon friends and family loved them and we started an etsy shop.
Where do you get your wood?
We get all our wood from a local source near Newark Ohio.
Can you tell us a little of your process?
From design to creation, we work together as a family. Joe does most of the creation and I will sand items and even the kids help finish sometimes. I do most of the packaging, marketing, and sales. It is a lot of work, but we try and help each other.
We use assorted tools in our workshop and TONS of hand sanding. We pride ourselves on beautifully smooth pieces – you won’t see burn/rough/cutting marks on our toys. I am pretty strict with what leaves our workshop. I try and think about each baby or child that will come into contact with out product.
How long does it take?
Nowadays we do large batches, but still there is a lot of time per piece. They are all handmade, no large cnc machinery here. So we put in long hours about 6 days a week in the workshop and attending to business.
Do you have a dedicated work area/room?
We have a shared workshop space with other artists and we have taken over the kids playroom as our office! Agh! We have to build onto our house soon!
Is this your full-time job?
Yes, Little Alouette is our full time job right now.
The recession really affected my husband’s small carpentry business and we are so thankful that we were able to push forward with Little Alouette as a family business that has allowed us to keep afloat.
Where do you get your ideas for new toys?
We have a family notebook that we keep sketching out ideas and dreams. Our boys are a big source of glee and inspiration. We also get a lot of inspiration from our friends and customers. We try and be unique and fresh and different.
Do you have a best seller?
Our Holey teether and our Waldorf handle rattle are super popular!
What is your favorite?
I love the Harper the Hippo!
Do you do other kinds of crafts?
I love paper making and fiber arts of all sorts. I also love to paint although I have not painted in over five years! Gasp! I love working with words and visual art. I just love to be creative. I love to rehab old furniture.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
I would love to see our company doing well- being a bigger business that was able to give back to the community in some eco ways. I would love to have a creative art workshop for the city to use and work with local kids organizations. I would love to see us working a wee bit less and spending time as a family here and in UK where Joe is from and family lives.
I would love to be working on my second novel. I would love to go around the world as a family.
Have any advice for people trying to start their own handcrafted business?
Learn to market yourself.
Give and connect!
Be not afraid. Nothing from nothing ever came.