Today I am very happy to welcome Armadillo Dreams to the blog. Dustin and Amanda Cowell are the husband and wife team behind this lovely company. They work together to design fun funky, and creative wooden children’s toys. Please take a moment to find out more about them!
~There are so many creative materials to use when making children’s toys. What drew you too or inspired you to begin creating wooden children’s toys?
I actually didn’t start out intending to make toys from wood. The summer before we started Armadillo Dreams I built a backyard chicken coop and chicken run. I had a lot of fun building it; it was great getting to work with my hands and also getting to work with wood. After the project was completed I was left with an empty feeling inside and wanted to do more woodworking but really wasn’t sure what to make next. After telling my wife Amanda about how I felt she suggested I try making some small wooden toys for our two kids. I had so much fun making them for our kids and wanted to be able to make even more wooden toys. Amanda had already been successfully selling on Etsy for about 4 years at that time (6 years ago now), so starting another Etsy shop just seemed like a good idea.
~Over the holidays my husband and I teamed up to design and create a fairy tale box for our girls. Working together on a creative project was new and exciting for us. Normally it’s just me crafting away. What is it like for you two as a couple and work at home parents to work as a team to run a business?
Working at home as a team works really well for us. We each have strengths that help our business in different ways. I am very business/marketing/woodshop oriented and Amanda is very creative/artistic oriented. I handle our website, customer service, marketing and I am generally the “spokesman” for our business. The tasks I handle include cutting, power/hand sanding, beeswax polishing and most of the packaging/shipping. Amanda handles tasks including coming up with all of our designs, wood burning and most of the painting. We also trade jobs every now and then on a few things. So we each have our own specialties, but when we combine them we make a really good team.
~What was the first toy you ever made? Have you ever had any total flops?
The very first toy we ever made was a very basic natural penguin. There wasn’t a real reason that it was the first one, I just thought it would be fun animal to make out of wood. It wasn’t like the fancy emperor penguin we sell today that is painted and detailed at all. It’s funny to look back at that very first penguin now. We’ve come a long ways in our artistic abilities and confidence since that first design! As far as flops, I would have to say our Zeppelin pull toy. I made it with the idea that it would be a good selling toy. One of our top 3 selling toys of all time is our pirate ship pull toy. I just figured another unusual means of transportation being made into a pull toy would be just as popular. I was wrong. We’ve never sold one to this day. It’s surprising sometimes at different things that are really popular and equally surprising about things we thought were going to be really popular and were not at all.
~I love that each pieces is crafted to order, making it feel like each piece is made just for that person. Why did you choose to go that route rather than have a big inventory of them?
We actually started the shop with having everything ready to ship for about the first 6 months. We had about 75% of our inventory that sells on occasion and about 25% that we sell a lot of. We just figured why tie up the materials and our time making toys that we don’t sell a lot of when we could just focus on making what was selling. We also wanted to be able to offer customers the chance to have toys customized with things like custom paint colors, wood burned kids names/dates/initials etc. and that wasn’t possible with ready to ship inventory.
~I see a lot of mythological creatures in your shop. What is your favorite fairy tale? What stories or topics inspire your creations?
Amanda and I have been pretty big fantasy fans, both when we were children and as adults. We both enjoy books/movies such as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. The imagination and adventure offered by these stories is incredible and we wanted our toys to help stimulate that same sense of imagination and adventure in the children who play with them.
~If you could make space capsule and fill it with toys and send it into space for it to be found by aliens what 5 toys would you put in there?
I would say our pirate ship pull toy, a dragon, a space set, a farm set and probably a Game Boy or Legend of Zelda teether. I think the aliens would get the space set and be scratching their heads (if they have heads) at the rest!