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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!


18 Oct '18

Introducing Winnie, Lola, and Jane

Posted by Annie Messing in Behind the Scenes, Product Reviews

When people find out I own an online toy shop, they invariaby ask how I source things for Brimful. I usually reply with a grin, because I love telling the stories behind each of Brimful's products.

Trade fairs are the traditional way retailers like myself would typically find brands, but I prefer doing my own product hunting. Sometimes I scour the online catalogues of little European toy companies until I find something really unique. Other times I have a particular new item I want to add to the shop and then research from there.

In the case of Winnie, Lola, and Jane, the new cloth dolls just introduced to the shop, it was a combination of pure happenstance and one late night of research.

My family and I were in the Seattle area this past summer, walking to pizza along a cute street with a variety of eateries and boutiques. All the shops were closed, but when we passed one nicely styled window, a doll in the front display caught my eye. I stood and looked for a long while - it was so cute and had such lovely simple details! Exactly the kind of doll I had been wanting for Brimful. 

Through the window, I couldn't see any information about the doll, but I returned after dinner and took a photo of it. We were leaving early the next morning to fly back to the east coast, so unfortunately I couldn't go back and ask more about the doll. After my children were in bed that night, I must have spent a good three hours researching online to see if I could find the doll's designer. Nothing came up that night, but I got a few good leads. The next morning, as we were waiting for our flight - I did one last quick Google search on my phone - and found it! Gosh, what a great feeling that was.

Not too long after, I emailed the doll designer (Carman) and we set into motion the small-batch production of "the Brimful girls". I am so pleased with how they turned out and hope you will love them too. Handmade dolls can be pretty pricey, especially if they are made here in the US. What makes these dolls special is they are at a price point accessible to everyone - each one is truly one-of-a-kind. All three dolls come without removeable clothing, so you can feel safe gifting it to a little one of any age. And, because Carman has triple-stitched all the seams - you can be assured that these dolls can take quite a lot of loving and still stay in good shape over time.

So, that's the story behind Winnie, Lola, and Jane. I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes to how I curate the shop.


16 Apr '16

New Spring Toys Are Here!

Posted by Annie Messing in Behind the Scenes

This past weekend, Kari and I were in Los Angeles for The Shop Up. This is the second time we've done a pop-up event sponsored by Babyccino Kids. Chatting with vendor friends + customers, enjoying good food, and spending time together are all part of what makes these pop-ups a great experience. But what is most meaningful for Kari and I is seeing the sheer JOY on children's faces when they walk (or sometimes run!) up to our Brimful booth.

Kari and I spend so much time thinking through and studying the toys we pick out for the shop - the colors, the wood quality, the way a toy might roll across the floor - it all has to be "just right"! So after all that energy spent choosing what we hope is the best of the best - it is THRILLING to see a child's pure delight over a stacking toy or a book or a set of blocks.

We opened Brimful with the vision to making life more beautiful with the products from our shop - and this spring's new toys/books/accessories still encapsulate that vision. This new wooden pounding bench is a little different than other wooden benches - instead of pounding all the pegs through several holes, the pegs get pounded through one special hole that slowly pushes the rest out the side - it's really quite clever! In our book collection, we've added Little Honeybee, illustrated by Jane Ormes. The reader counts up to ten by lifting beautiful floral flaps, but there's also bees and other animals to count along the way too. Again - a really unique and special take on the typical counting book for babies.

All new spring products can be found here. We hope you love what you see!

21 Sep '15

Shop Up NYC - Brimful's first pop-up event!

Posted by Annie Messing in Behind the Scenes

When the ladies from Babyccino Kids hosted their first Shop Up in London in December 2013, I sent my sister (who was living there at the time) to check it out - and of course she reported that it was a raving success!

Kari and I had just launched Brimful a few months before that, but we already had "do a pop-up event" as a goal for the future. So when the invitation came earlier this year to join the Shop Up in Brooklyn, we were ready to sign up.

Despite part of our inventory getting delayed in transit from the west coast (oops!), the entire event was everything we hoped it would be. Kari and I have spent so much time choosing products for Brimful, so to see people's eyes light up upon seeing our booth was deeply affirming. Beyond just the special opportunity of seeing our customers in real life for the first time, we also really enjoyed swapping stories with them about motherhood. And it goes without saying that the children who came by our booth (some more than once) were lovely indeed. Kari and I wished our children could have been there too!

I'm so thankful to Courtney, Esther, and Emilie for giving us the platform in which to meet so many wonderful people in Brooklyn - we will definitely be back again next year!

Photos by Nicki Sebastian for Babyccino Kids. More photos here


13 Mar '15

Brimful Gift Orders

Posted by Kari Spikkeland in Behind the Scenes



For the times when it's not possible to hand deliver a gift to dear friends, a parcel in the mail is the next best thing! We love sending your gifts to expectant friends and newborns.

Here's a peek at the gift notes we add to Brimful gift purchases. Requesting a gift order and adding a personal message is simple and can be completed at the bottom of your shopping cart under "add a note to your order". We ship gifts as personal as if you had sent it yourself! That means no pricing or invoices are included - just the gift, your note enclosed in a clear glassine envelope and a Brimful business card.  

Personal, sweet, and simple!




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