Baby Wooden Rattle Eco-Friendly Toys by Love Heart Wood at Nurture CollectiveWelcome to Novembers edition of Maker of the Month, we are super excited to meet and talk to Liz Pearson from Loveheart Wood and find out more bout her beautiful wooden toys and gifts she makes…

Tell us about the story behind Love HeartWood and where it all began?

I’m the other side of 40 now, and turning’s my second career. With age comes self-knowledge and I couldn’t ignore my creative urges any longer. So I left the safety of teaching to study Product Design at Central St. Martin’s in London. It was amazing being at one of the top art & design colleges in the country, and it was there that I fell in love with wood turning. When I graduated in 2007, I vowed to get my own lathe. Life, of course, getting in the way meant it didn’t happen until the summer of 2013 when I took delivery of my very own lathe the day before my wedding. My husband-to-be joked we’d be setting it up on our honeymoon. He wasn’t laughing for long though as that’s pretty much what happened.

My product design studies left me feeling that although mass-manufacture has made items affordable in consequence, they have less value. I wanted to offer people an alternative to this dispoability. I founded Love HeartWood 2 years ago, and it’s grown from my passion for turning and my desire to share an appreciation of the handmade item. I use my experience as a mum, a product designer and a turner to make healthy, natural toys that boost little brains!

Set of Wooden Painted Peg Dolls by Love Heartwood at Nurture Collective
Set of 3 Wooden Crafty Cars by Loveheart Wood at Nurture Collective

Talk us through the steps of creating a wooden toy from concept to finish what inspires you and how long does it take?

Some toys are based on traditional designs like the spinning tops and rattles, but others are original designs, so they take longer to develop. A unique design will be sparked off by something I’ve seen or an idea, and I will think about it, sometimes for months, until I’ve worked it out. Then I move onto sketching to work out the size and shape more precisely. Next, I make lots of prototypes, refining the design and checking it for functionality and aesthetics. Once I have my finished prototype, it has to be safety tested. The tests are documented with photos, videos and checklists and kept in a technical file just for that toy. If the toy doesn’t pass all the tests, I have to redesign it and redo all the tests from the beginning. Once it’s passed, I create a technical drawing of it and the CE labelling. The length of this process varies, but it usually takes 3-4 months. 

How important was it to have your toys CE tested and what does that actually mean?

It’s a legal requirement, if you sell toys in the EU, to ensure your toys conform to the CE safety standards regardless of the size of your business. Unfortunately, Trading Standards don’t seem to enforce this at the small business level. In consequence, you’ll find most toys handmade by individuals aren’t safety tested. The CE mark proves that the materials the toy’s made of have been chemically tested and that it’s gone through a battery of physical tests to make sure it won’t break or cause harm to a child.

As well as complying with the Law, I personally wanted to check my toys were safe. During the initial tests, a couple of them failed, went through the redesign process and were retested. That proved to be the testing process, although time-consuming, is totally worth it. I couldn’t bear the thought of a child being hurt. Please make sure that all your toys have a CE mark. 

Spinning Top with String by Love Heartwood at Nurture Collective
Spinning Top with String by Love Heartwood at Nurture Collective

Tell us more about the wood you use and why its so special?

I don’t use imported timber which may have come from illegal logging and will definitely have travelled halfway around the world, creating a large carbon footprint. My wood comes from local, sustainable sources.

Beechwood is extremely tough, making it the ideal wood for toys. The supplier of my Beechwood Brian is the last maker of Aunt Sally sticks in the country. Aunt Sally is a traditional English game, in which players throw sticks or battens at a target ball on a plinth. Leagues of pub teams still play the game today in Oxfordshire and some bordering counties. If any of the sticks aren’t completely straight or have knots in, they won’t throw straight, so Brian discards them. It’s these waste sticks that I use to make my toys. It’s a great low waste solution that saves this beautiful wood from the chipper.

Set of 3 Wooden Spinning Tops by Love Heartwood at Nurture CollectiveWe all love a good stocking filler, what your top choice is?

Last year’s bestseller was the personalised spinning tops. They’re a lovely personal touch, especially useful if you’re filling a plastic-free stocking.

How do you care for wooden toys and do they last a lifetime?

As we all know, wooden toys, if cared for, can last a long time, be passed onto other children or down through the family to the next generation. If they get a bit grubby just wipe them with a damp cloth. Apart from the Crafty Cars, Love HeartWood toys are finished with a pure oil made from crushed hemp seeds. The oil’s job is to nourish and protect the wood. If your toy’s looking a bit dull and tired all you need to do is apply some oil, edible oil is excellent, with a clean lint-free cloth, let it soak in for an hour or so then rub off the excess. This will refresh your wood and leave it looking beautiful again.

Because Crafty Cars are designed to be used with play dough and paint, they have a varnish applied. It’s an eco-friendly varnish made entirely from plants that doesn’t contain any plastics or nasty solvents. This means they can be washed clean with soapy water, but please don’t submerge them.

Let’s talk about your chosen Nurture Collective Icons why you chose them, and which ones mean the most to you? 

Sustainable: Sustainability is essential to me as I don’t want my business to affect the planet negatively. It’s essential for future generations, and I’m proud to be a good role model for my sons.

Natural : A big part of Love HeartWood’s mission is to connect children with natural materials and lead them to a love of Nature. The wood is natural but so are the less apparent paints and finishes. However, natural finishes are very important. Firstly, they allow the toys to still feel like natural wood. Secondly, they don’t contain any petrol chemical solvents or ‘nasties’, making them much safer and healthier than wooden toys with conventional finishes.

Handmade: Our culture is awash with soul-less, disposable, mass-produced items. To combat this, I’m proud to design and make every part of every toy myself. I use the best materials as well as my skill, care and love to create toys with character and lasting playability.

What’s your favourite inspirational quote?

Follow your dreams and use your natural-born talents and skills to make this a better world for tomorrow”.

Paul Watson


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