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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!


16 Oct '17

5 Picture Books Every Toddler Will Love

Posted by Annie Messing in Brimful Favorites
With my older three children in school full-time this fall, I have been enjoying a lot more one-on-one time with my three year old. He's a very busy little guy and has never been one to sit still for very long. Up until now, he'd last for just a few pages of being read to and then scamper off to play with something new. But just recently, I noticed his attention span is finally holding long enough to read an entire picture book - hooray!
I am thoroughly enjoying this new phase - we've been snuggling up every day before nap and reading a few picture books together. These are currently Shiloh's favorites, so I thought I'd share them here in case any of you are have toddlers who have reached the same phase. Happy Reading!
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16 Jun '17

Splendid Summer Boredom Busters

Posted by Annie Messing in Brimful Favorites, Gift Guides, Happy Friday


School has been out for three weeks now and while my four children have been swimming daily at our neighborhood pool and enjoying playdates with friends, they naturally hit moments in the day when boredom overcomes them.

I believe boredom is very normal and actually quite healthy! It gives children a chance to problem solve and work together, perhaps while also winding down from a high-energy activity they may have just finished. More often than not, I spend a few moments helping them think of something new to do - and off they go! I thought I'd share some of the things we have been enjoying this summer. Hopefully it will help when your children hit a rut in their summer playtime routine. For school age kids down to toddlers - there's something for everyone.

1) Explore outside with this basket and collect interesting finds along the way.

2) Write a play/story for these wooden peg dolls and perform it after dinner.

3) Read all about real life inventions that seem too weird to work.

4) Take craft and art time to the next level with these wonderful watercolor pencils.

5) Introduce puzzles to toddlers with this wooden elephant puzzle that is a stacking toy too.

6) This visual perception card game is great to play during an afternoon lull or in the evening before bedtime.

7) Encourage open play with this castle block set. Use with or without the base to create different types of block structures.

8) Use this rainbow silk for dress-up or playscape. My children have their rainbow silks out every single day!

9) Paper dolls like you've never seen before - with adjustable limbs and stunning outfits, this paper doll set is sure to be huge hit.

10) Learn to draw 135 varieties of trees, flowers, animals - this fantastic drawing book has become a go-to for my kids this summer.

11) Even little fingers can learn to loom with this child-sized weaving peg loom.

12) Babies will enjoy these colorful ice cream rattles - makes a great newborn gift for a summer arrival too.

07 Apr '17

Book Review: 9 Months by Courtney Adamo and Esther van de Paal

Posted by Annie Messing in Brimful Favorites, Happy Friday, Product Reviews

In just a week or two, we will be welcoming a new little one into our extended family - and so all things baby have been on my brain! In fact a few days ago, I was the plus-one on the hospital tour, the only woman in our group who wasn't sporting a ripe bump - ha. As we stopped to observe the sweet newborns in the hospital nursery, I couldn't help squeeze back a few sentimental tears as it reminded me of my own four delivery experiences.

Over the last several months, there's been much discussion in our house about what this new little family member will need, emotionally and physically. And of course we've talked about how the baby has been developing in utero, a topic I've always found very meaningful to discuss with my children.

With all this "babyness" going on in our family, receiving an advance copy of 9 Months: A month by month guide to pregnancy by Courtney Adamo and Esther van de Paal could not have arrived at a better time! The book is beautifully illustrated and portrays pregnancy with an accurate, straight forward approach on how a baby grows in his/her mama's belly. It's really wonderful how the ladies have pulled so much information (that you'd usually need to cull from pregnancy books, parenting websites, and hospital pamphlets) into one easy to read book.

When I sat down to read it with my children, my youngest (age 2) was drawn to the colorful pictures, while my eldest (age 10) enjoyed learning the tidbits on animal pregnancies that's also included. The topic of conception can often make children (and parents!) feel a little uneasy - but Courtney and Esther have brilliantly addressed it matter-of-factly while still leaving room for parents to skirt the topic of sex if they haven't yet had that discussion with their children.

Parents will appreciate having this resource to prepare their children for a new sibling, but I also think 9 Months is a book for every family to have - whether a new baby is on the way or not. You can find it in the shop here


15 Aug '15

8 Great Back to School Picks

Posted by Annie Messing in Brimful Favorites

That "back to school" vibe is in the air - can you feel it?

I'm thankful my children wear uniforms to school, so other than the usual list of school supplies, it hasn't been too crazy getting prepared for the first day of school. Upon checking over Fen and Di's backpacks and lunch totes recently, I'm impressed to see they continue to hold up nicely - no need for new ones! Mei-Mei is starting preschool and oh golly, she's so excited. She doesn't need much this year, just a few little things to make this first going-to-school experience a special one. 

Here are my back-to-school favorites for both preschool and elementary ages - enjoy!

1 // L.L. Bean backpacks are simple, but oh-so-durable. I'm all about getting it monogrammed too!

2 // These bright melamine spoons from our shop are great for applesauce, fruit cups, and yogurt. Kids love to pick out their favorite color for lunch or snacktime.

3 // Smarty Pants vitamins come in single serving size pouches, so pop one into your child's lunchbox and they'll be healthy and happy to enjoy a little "sweet treat" before lunchtime is over.

4 // So Young coated linen lunchboxes are just so functional and high quality - I can't recommend them enough! There's an inner liner that removes for easy cleaning - genius.

5 // Willaby Clothier makes such wonderfully bespoke peices - I bought this sweet blue dress for Mei-Mei's fall wardrobe.

6 // Preschoolers learning their colors will enjoy this beautifully illustrated book by Kate Endle.

7 // Greenbury Kids carries a fun collection of children's socks - and these raccoon ones have been wildly popular. I can see why!

8 // For children who've just moved and are starting at a new school, a special new stuffed animal might be just the thing to help make the transition a bit smoother. Annicke Mouse is a favorite in our home - I think it's those big floppy years of hers...just so charming!

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