I never used to make things. My brothers made things: forts, bookshelves, swords, guns, tree houses, but not me. I preferred to wander through the woods pretending I was herding cows out west or being an Indian or a frontier girl. Or play with toys indoors. Don’t misunderstand, I was no girly-girl. I swam in muddy ponds, coated my whole body in mud, caught frogs, hated dresses and skirts, but I never really built anything. I went to a small Christian high school, so we didn’t even have a shop class. I went to college for journalism/creative writing, and never stepped foot in the art building (except for a strange intro to philosophy class).
After I graduated from college, I found myself pregnant (yeah, kinda like the virgin mother, or at least that’s what I told my mother). I was working in an office at the time, so I stayed there, and expecting to return to office work once I finished my maternity leave. Well, that didn’t happen. A couple weeks of holding that tiny baby, and I was a goner. There was no way I was handing him over to some second-rate daycare.
So what now? I searched my brain for small business ideas, etc, etc. But not being a crafty person, I came up empty. I ended up delivering newspapers from 3-6am every single morning–well, on Saturdays, I got up around 1am, and delivered until 6-7am (big paper, lots of sections to put together). That went well for a while, but the early mornings were killing me. I was tired all day. Plus I needed to move out of my parent’s house. I decided that I was going to move to West Virginia. I would find some super cheap land, building a cob house, and live happily ever after. 2 problems: I had no way to earn money in West Virginia, and I had no experience house building.
Well, to make a long story short, I quit the paper route, but I didn’t end up in West Virginia. I returned to NJ, and found a job living in Pennsylvania being a nanny. That lasted a few months until they ran out of money. I thought I had found the answer. Live-in nanny jobs were perfect for me. I moved back in with my parents, and looked for another nanny job.
This was around Christmas, and I was drooling over these beautiful wooden toys in Mothering magazine. I was pretty broke at the time, so I couldn’t afford to buy them. But I came across a post on the mothering.com forums about making your own wood animals. The poster said it was as easy and safe as using a sewing machine, all you needed was a scroll saw. So I took my credit card to Lowes and bought a scroll saw. That year my son had cute little animals, gnomes and a wood treehouse for Christmas that he still plays with now, and I was hooked.
I heard about etsy and posted some toys on there, and I started doing craft shows. By the time the next fall rolled around, I had made very little money on etsy (less than $100), but I hadn’t done too badly at craft shows. But then Christmas came. My sales went through the roof (at least comparatively), and my business started to take off.
But I still had to move out of my parents’ house. Yup, I was still there. I had had a few nanny jobs, but no live-ins. I looked for houses and apartments around the area, but the south Jersey area is extremely expensive to live in. So under the influence of a few books and websites on van living (living in your van), I bought a conversion van, and made it into my home. It was winter at the time, so I stocked up on toys, packed my scroll saw, and headed for Florida.
Tune in next time for The Adventures of the Traveling Toymaker.