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New England’s Finest – Child’s Play

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Put a little New England charm under the tree with these locally made treasures.

As a child growing up in Merri­mack, New Hampshire, Cynthia was a precocious sewer. “My mom got me started,” she says, “but we’re similar in that we like to figure things out on our own.” Inspired by her mom’s independence, Cynthia began design­ing her own dollhouse furnishings and toys. She grew up, studied at RISD, and spent 18 years working as a freelance designer in Los Angeles and New York, doing fashion, print, TV, and industrial projects. 
In 2002, seeking a quieter life close to her family, Cynthia settled back in Rhode Island and began working out of a studio in Providence, always with a deep interest in textiles. Now she’s created a line of step-by-step kits ($18.50 each) that make it possible to turn out charming toys like this penguin in an afternoon. Her goal is to bring the pleasure of crafting back into people’s lives: “Making [things] brings so much joy to my life that I wanted to share it with others. I hope to teach people to enjoy not only the final product but the entire creative process.”
The kits are available at Cynthia’s Web site, at shops around New England, and at select craft stores across the country.

As a child growing up in Merri­mack, New Hampshire, Cynthia was a precocious sewer. “My mom got me started,” she says, “but we’re similar in that we like to figure things out on our own.” Inspired by her mom’s independence, Cynthia began design­ing her own dollhouse furnishings and toys. She grew up, studied at RISD, and spent 18 years working as a freelance designer in Los Angeles and New York, doing fashion, print, TV, and industrial projects. In 2002, seeking a quieter life close to her family, Cynthia settled back in Rhode Island and began working out of a studio in Providence, always with a deep interest in textiles. Now she’s created a line of step-by-step kits ($18.50 each) that make it possible to turn out charming toys like this penguin in an afternoon. Her goal is to bring the pleasure of crafting back into people’s lives: “Making [things] brings so much joy to my life that I wanted to share it with others. I hope to teach people to enjoy not only the final product but the entire creative process.” The kits are available at Cynthia’s Web site, at shops around New England, and at select craft stores across the country.

Photo/art by Amy Traverso

Kip and Cammie Weeks started their business selling all-natural play doughs ($19.99) developed from Cammie’s mom’s recipe. They’ve since expanded to create other nontoxic, eco-friendly craft supplies and toys, including paints, crayons, glue, and stickers. EcoKids, Portland, ME. 207-899-2752; ecokidsusa.com

Kip and Cammie Weeks started their business selling all-natural play doughs ($19.99) developed from Cammie’s mom’s recipe. They’ve since expanded to create other nontoxic, eco-friendly craft supplies and toys, including paints, crayons, glue, and stickers. EcoKids, Portland, ME. 207-899-2752; ecokidsusa.com

Photo/art by Michael Piazza

These hand-painted bats ($32) are made from real Maine lobster buoys and make great trainers for kids. Bill Page got the idea for his company after spotting a real buoy washed ashore at East Boothbay; his daughter hit a ball with it, and a business was born. Buoy Bats, South Berwick, ME. 207-704-0260; buoysports.com

These hand-painted bats ($32) are made from real Maine lobster buoys and make great trainers for kids. Bill Page got the idea for his company after spotting a real buoy washed ashore at East Boothbay; his daughter hit a ball with it, and a business was born. Buoy Bats, South Berwick, ME. 207-704-0260; buoysports.com

Photo/art by Michael Piazza

Hanna and Chris Blackburn’s baby rattles ($30) and wheeled toys ($45) are impeccably crafted—irresistible to touch and play with. They use no paints, dyes, or stains; toys are finished with food-grade beeswax. Seven Acre Toys, Providence, RI. 401-480-5629; sevenacretoys.com

Hanna and Chris Blackburn’s baby rattles ($30) and wheeled toys ($45) are impeccably crafted—irresistible to touch and play with. They use no paints, dyes, or stains; toys are finished with food-grade beeswax. Seven Acre Toys, Providence, RI. 401-480-5629; sevenacretoys.com

Photo/art by Michael Piazza

You might be familiar with the “eat local” movement. How about “craft local”? These adorable animals are made from kits sold by Rhode Island designer Cynthia Treen, who assembles them using wool felt produced in Massachusetts.

You might be familiar with the “eat local” movement. How about “craft local”? These adorable animals are made from kits sold by Rhode Island designer Cynthia Treen, who assembles them using wool felt produced in Massachusetts.

Photo/art by Michael Piazza

Paul Guillow, a veteran World War I Navy aviator, founded Guillow’s toy company in his family’s barn in 1926. After Charles Lindbergh flew  the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, the company saw sales of their balsa-wood gliders and airplane construction kits take off.  Happily, Guillow’s is still making those classic products today ($2–$5 each). Guillow’s, Wakefield, MA. 781-245-5255; guillow.com

Paul Guillow, a veteran World War I Navy aviator, founded Guillow’s toy company in his family’s barn in 1926. After Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, the company saw sales of their balsa-wood gliders and airplane construction kits take off. Happily, Guillow’s is still making those classic products today ($2–$5 each). Guillow’s, Wakefield, MA. 781-245-5255; guillow.com

Photo/art by Michael Piazza

Sarah Baldwin was for many years a trained Waldorf educator before she acquired Bella Luna Toys to supply natural playthings that inspire children’s imaginations. Several years ago, she met a Maine boatbuilder—she guards his identity as carefully as Coca-Cola guards its recipe—who began producing these beautiful rocking dory boats to sell through Bella Luna. They’re not cheap ($299.95), but they’re heirloom-quality treasures. Bella Luna Toys, Rockland, ME. 888-438-1299; bellalunatoys.com

Sarah Baldwin was for many years a trained Waldorf educator before she acquired Bella Luna Toys to supply natural playthings that inspire children’s imaginations. Several years ago, she met a Maine boatbuilder—she guards his identity as carefully as Coca-Cola guards its recipe—who began producing these beautiful rocking dory boats to sell through Bella Luna. They’re not cheap ($299.95), but they’re heirloom-quality treasures. Bella Luna Toys, Rockland, ME. 888-438-1299; bellalunatoys.com

Photo/art by Michael Piazza

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