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07 Sep '21

11 Whimsical Toadstool + Mushroom Themed Gifts

Posted by Annie Messing

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I recently read that one of this year's hottest design trends is mushrooms, so it comes as no surprise that cheery red toadstools and sweet brown mushrooms keep popping up on children's apparel, toys and accessories. I mean, just look at this adorable toadstool teether added to the shop last week - so cute!

Toadstools and mushrooms are ubiquitous in children's stories as fairy homes, so I think it's rather cute that we are seeing these whimsically shaped fungi having their own design moment. Whether you're obsessed with this trend or just mildly dipping your toe into it, I hope you enjoy perusing through today's gift roundup.

P.S. This mushroom trend also gives us the perfect opportunity to remind our little ones: DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS.

 

 

24 Jun '21

A Visit with Brin d'Ours

Posted by Annie Messing in Behind the Scenes, Brimful Favorites

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Brin d'Ours and getting a tour of their studio, located in a quiet small town in eastern France. For those of you not familiar with this small toy brand, Brin d'Ours designs and makes beautiful wooden animals which Brimful is honored to have in the shop. It was such a pleasure to meet the founders, Daniel Williams and Marie-Charlotte Pagnoux and learn more about their design and manufacturing process. It was such an exceptional experience that I decided to write it all down to share with you'll!

Let me take one step back before talking about the tour and say that for years, I had searched for wooden animals to add to Brimful. In particular, I wanted to find a small brand that was still growing their presence in the US. In my research, I came across many well-crafted animals, but none felt right until I happily stumbling upon Brin d'Ours about two years ago.

Their wooden animals possess a kindness and charm that I had not seen in other animals - and as my children like to point out, the eyes are warm and friendly. I think many of you will agree with this sentiment, feeling similarly drawn to the sweet red fox, the adorable duckling, and spotted fawn.

Fast forward to the visit with Daniel and Marie-Charlotte and I realized within the first five minutes of our visit where the whimsical charm of the animals is rooted! Daniel and Marie-Charlotte met at university studying animation and I believe it is their background in this art form that informs their designs. Daniel trained in furniture making after finishing his studies, which is what eventually led him to starting Brin d'Ours. He still uses his animation skills by designing new animals on an animation tablet and I think it's so neat how he's found a way to combine his love of woodworking and animation. Marie-Charlotte manages the business side of the company while also contributing to product design and caring for their two young children. She is gracious and soft-spoken and even before we met in person, I admired what a lovely person she is through our emails.

My family was also along for the tour and Daniel was very patient with my children's questions and curiosity. He first showed us the linden wood that came in long rough planks from a local lumber yard. After the bark is removed and the planks smoothed out, the wood is cut down into smaller blocks. Taking one of these blocks, Daniel took a stencil in the shape of a fox and sketched an outline onto the wood. With careful precision on a machine, Daniel cut out the fox and then show us step-by-step how it is shaped and formed until the hard edges are softened into two attentive ears, a bushy tail, etc. He made the wood-carving process look so fluid and easy - the sign of a true artist.

Once an animal has been carved out and smoothed, it is ready for paint. This process actually takes the longest, because of the drying process. Each animal is painted by hand and the artist is trained for up to 3 months! Looking at the rows of animals on the drying shelf, it was obvious how much love and patience each employee at Brin d'Ours puts into his/her part of the creation process. We especially enjoyed seeing the personalized items that some of the employees had crafted - like a rabbit with tiny flowers painted on its ears, or a black and white panda bear. Daniel explained that while he now spends most of his time overseeing the manufacturing, he's still involved in making the animals. In fact, if you happen to have one of the wolves in your collection at home, those are Daniel's specialty. I really appreciated how Daniel talked with such love about this brand that he and Marie-Charlotte have so thoughtfully nurtured. They are both humbled by the wild appreciation that customers from around the world show for Brin d'Ours. While it is a brand geared for children, we shared a light-hearted chuckle at how many adults also adore Brin d'Ours. Obviously, I am one of them.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the makers of your favorite wooden animals and be sure to follow Brin d'Ours on Instagram. Daniel and Marie-Charlotte, thank you so much for taking the time to give me and my family such a personal and heartfelt tour of your studio. We can't wait to come back!

 

12 Apr '21

Pandemic Fatigue and Sticking Together

Posted by Annie Messing

The timing of Grapat's newest collection of wooden loose parts could not have come at a better time. I don't know about you, but I NEED the reminder that no matter what life flings at us, leaning on each other makes any burden more bearable. Parents, I know you are feeling fatigued from remote learning, not being able to visit your loved ones, grappling difficult conversations on racism with your children and so much more. This past year has left an indelible mark on us all.

I came across an article recently that had just the right words to lift my spirits.

"Good and tired people need to cultivate community, to stay connected to our tribes of affinity, and to carry one another through the fatigue when it comes. We fill in the gaps among us, and we let those of us who feel strong enough today to engage the fight for those who need to catch their breathe and renew their strength. We surround ourselves with people who value us not only for the work we do and the causes we support, but for the inherently vulnerable beings with finite resources that we are; those who demand that we rest and encourage us to play and give us space to pause—so that we are not consumed by the brutality of the day. Community is an elixir for the soul, and we need such good togetherness medicine more than ever..."

Throughout this past year of the pandemic, you have consistently shown up to support Brimful. Your emails and messages of appreciation/satisfaction of an order truly bolster me. Thank you. 

With much gratitude, I'm having a little giveaway this week! One lucky winner will receive the new Together set. You can enter on Instagram. The giveaway will only be open for 24 hours and a winner will be announced on Tuesday, April 13th.

xoxo, Annie

 

 

23 Mar '20

Six Heartwarming Activities for Kids While Social Distancing

Posted by Annie Messing

This blog has been gathering virtual cobwebs while I've focused on other areas of the shop - but a new post is long overdue! And there's no time like the present while we are all hunkered down at home, perfecting the art of social distancing.

I am fortunate that my four children are natural homebodies and love being home together. My husband and I have been taking them outside at least once a day for fresh air, but they've been mostly content with their books, art supplies, and beloved toys. Hmm, wonder how long that will last - ha!

Amidst all the fear, panic, and grim news regarding the coronavirus, I have been so touched by the heartwarming acts of service so many popular artists, authors, and entertainers have been creating. It's wonderful to see such empathy reflected from  the global community. 

While I always recommend good old-fashioned block building, pretend play, and book reading over screentime, I am incredibly grateful that we live in a time when the internet is providing ways for parents to keep their children happily engaged and entertained. Here are six online activities for kids while social distancing - ones my own children have been enjoying ever so much!

1. Oliver Jeffries Storytime, available on his website as well as live on his Instagram account, weekdays at 2pm EST.

2. Josh Gad Storytime, available each day on his Twitter account.

3. Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems, every weekday day at 1pm EST on the Kennedy Center's website.

4. Coloring pages by artist Lore Pembleton. All proceeds go to a local Vermont food bank. Lore has also generously offered 20% off anything in her shop with code ATHOME.

5. Delish is offering a free children's cooking class via their Instagram account, weekdays at 1pm EST. For ingredients list, go here.

6. Google Arts & Culture invites you to virtually explore five US national parks here.

 

30 Apr '19

Five Helpful Parenting Resources

Posted by Annie Messing

My four children get out of school in just a few weeks, which means as thrilled as I am to have more time with them this summer, I also know my not-so-deep well of patience will be tested. I feel very blessed that for the most part, my children get along quite well. The squabbles do occur though and wow, I can feel so drained helping them mediate through it!

This summer, I have decided to create a "parenting toolbox" for myself. It's nothing too complicated, just some resources that I can turn to when I need some emotional encouragement and support. In case it may be useful for you as well, here is what I've gathered thus far.

Annie's Summer Parenting Toolbox
2. Courtney Adamo's new e-course, In The Loop (sign-up through May 15th)
3. Raising Mixed Race by Sharon Chang
4. Parents Magazine special edition: The Mindful Life, (on newsstands now)
I am excited to read, listen, and learn from all five of these sources, as many of them have come highly recommended. If you have a parenting resource you would like to share, please feel free to send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

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