12 organic days of christmas {an etsy guide for mama & bebe} | day 2: the bird + elephant

This is post 2 of 12 in the 12 Organic Days of Christmas series. To view other shops featured in this series, click HERE

Etsy 12 Organic Days of Christmas for Mama & Bebe | Bird + Elephant

On the second day of Christmas I bring you… organic sensory toys from The Bird + Elephant!

Beth, the designer and founder behind The Bird & Elephant, designs an incredible selection of baby sensory toys, plus baby clothing and modern decor for the nursery! My favorite thing about these sensory blocks is that there are SO many textures and color options. She even offers pillows with eco-fiber fill!

options, options, options!

An interview with Beth, owner of The Bird & Elephant
(Lynchburg, Virginia, USA)

► The Bird & Elephant – how did you come up with this brand name and what does it symbolize? 

The Bird + Elephant evolved from a PBS Nature show on elephants. Aside from the baby ele cuteness, I became fixated on the birds perched on the ele’s backs. Not just the birds, but the relationship between the bird and the ele, I guess it’s the conceptual artist in me. The sight was very calming and just beautiful (I was pregnant and overly weepy at this time). To me, the elephant provided safety for the bird and perhaps a new way of seeing the world, in much the same way that my Elijah opened my eyes to a new way of feeling. The Bird and Elephant just seemed perfect as it represented my love and affection for Elijah and the new relationship we created. I would have never started this business if it had not been for him. Actually, I don’t think I had a direction in my life until I became a mom. (Sidenote: Elijah pointed out the other day that B = Beth Bird and E = Elijah Elephant….preschoolers!) 

► Think back to when you first began dreaming up The Bird & Elephant; what one piece of advice would you send back in a time capsule to yourself? 

Embrace downtime! Use that time to tidy up, start new ideas, etc.

Love what you do! (golden rule?) Because making something you don’t like over and over again is the biggest drive killer.

This business takes heart. When I first began in this, I was a bit uncertain what I wanted to do, how to do it, and I experimented a lot.

The bulk/case price might look tempting, but don’t take the plunge when you’re first trying new things out. Do a couple samples, get feedback, then take the plunge if the demand says go. I know a lot of people who went over their heads because the case price was cheap, but they ended up with boxes of unwanted stuff.

► What keeps you inspired? Do you have any techniques for getting out of a rut? 

The fabrics inspire me, and of course my children. I was/am very interested in human development from the beginning years. When I was about 8 (give or take), my nephew (then 11 months), had his first open-heart surgery. I remember my sister brought home this notecard that had doodles in red and black ink, made by a nurse to help comfort him. I made something similar for Elijah when he was a newborn and it did soothe him. I looked more into sensory development and human development to better understand what my little one may be experiencing, to try and understand how he may be feeling. It really helped with my parenting and I try to incorporate those concepts into my work, like visual movement & contrast in my blocks.

I’m also heavily inspired by colors found in nature and southwest folk art (hence the new sugar skull blocks)!

► Describe your studio space: 

My studio is one of the bedrooms in my house. It’s the perfect size, with great windows and built in shelving and dresser with a desk top for my computer. It’s so awesome to be able to work on something new, photograph it a few feet away, tether my camera to my computer and check exposures, etc. I have never been so lucky with studio/shop space! When I need to screen print, I take over the kitchen/dining area when the kids are away or late at night after everyone is asleep. But once we finish renovating the 1st floor, we’re going to do some work on the basement so I can have a really nice print shop there (and of course my husband will get his band room/recoding space, too).

► How do you find balance?

Crow pose? Yoga is a huge help, both physically and mentally, like remembering to breathe deeply when things get hectic. But balance? My husband and I are blazing a trail as we go. We are learning what works and doesn’t. We remind each other daily to take time with our kids, because our kids are growing fast and we want good, solid, love-filled memories for them. It’s hard, but it’s getting better. We do eat really good, healthy foods, and when we fall off that wagon, we do notice a drop in our organization and a serious loss of balance. We’re getting ready to do a basic detox, so I hope to get things recharged really soon

What’s on your studio playlist?

That depends on the mood. I definitely rely on my Pandora stations to drive a feel home. I find that I work best and have less uh-ohs when I’m listening to music without lyrics and more of a meditative sound.

Rufus Cappadocia, American Native Prayer, Buddhist Monks, a little reggae, DJ Shadow, Old Crow Medicine Show (for days when I really need to get moving), The Cure (Fascination Street – love the bass), Moby, The Clash, the Charlottesville College Radio Station. I do listen to NPR throughout the day, too.

What eco-initiatives have you established within your business?

I do a mix of organic/eco friendly products with standard, non-organic ones. For the organics, I have options for an eco-friendly fill made from corn syrup. I know there is a lot of controvery over corn, GMOs and the effects of big money corps (ahem, no names here) shutting down small farming businesses, etc., but it’s really hard to choose between a standard poly made from unknown sources and one where a source is known. That’s a huge conversation I have had many times, one with not much of an end. So I do offer 100% GOTS organic cotton fill, which is awesome, but it will make the rattles in the blocks sound very distant because it is so compact. The corn fill, in this case, is a better option for the organics. I do find it difficult to find true eco-friendly products for fills; once I find one, it goes out of production, which is what is happening with the corn fiber I use now.

What’s next for The Bird and Elephant?

What’s next? I’m always dreaming up new projects and ideas. But the latest, more solid thing, is that I’m joining forces with my husband (a skilled carpenter and cabinet maker) to add a bit of wood to the shop (I’ll save details if/once everything is final and we decide this next step is totally doable. Hoping to launch that side by March 2015. And I hope to start adding some clothing (leggings, dresses, hair accessories, etc) for late winter/spring 2015. And hopefully this mom only business expands into a family business (fingers crossed).

What book are you currently reading?

I would love the opportunity to read, but I find myself only able to look, and the latest that I am currently looking and drooling over is Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home.

Please support this small, handmade business! Shop The Bird & Elephant on etsy and follow on facebook and instagram.

shop Bird + Elephant on etsy!

This is post 2 of 12 in the 12 Organic Days of Christmas series. To view other shops featured in this series, click HERE


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