What Is Your Favorite Elves and Angels Product and Why?

Posted on October 29, 2012 by Julianna Smalley | 40 Comments

We would love to hear what your favorite Elves and Angels toy is and why you love it!

Product Assembly: Put Your Love in the Toy

Posted on June 18, 2012 by Jason Miller | 1 Comment

As we have said before in other posts, we believe Flat-Pack is the best way to ship. We believe this mainly because it has much less impact on available resources and the environment than shipping assembled products. We feel it is a step toward stewardship of the earth we live on, and the air we breathe. Flat-Pack for us is a way to lessen the impact of our product line. For other information on the impact, please read our earlier blog posts. 

There also are other reasons for making our product in this way. We all live in a fast-paced, modern society that is traveling at such a speed there is barely time to think.  Many people are so plugged into the technology of the age, that it is easy to lose sight of what is right in front of us; our families, the fact that it is spring, the simple joy of spending time together without being on the computer or watching TV. So much of the richness of the life that is right in front of us passes by unnoticed, and is forever lost to us and those around us. 

When we made the decision to go to Flat-Pack, the process wasn't easy.  I didn’t want to turn to computerized routers because my product line was and is handmade.  We took one product at a time and created the pattern we felt would assemble every time by anyone in their home, without them being a skilled woodworker.  We would spend days, nights, and weeks, until we got what we were looking for.

The next step was to take it to someone (most of the time my wife, Susan), and say, "Here it is, it works like a charm."  Sometimes it did, but sometimes it didn't. It was back to the shop until the problems were worked out. This process took a very long time. We were trying to get the product line to a place where we were able to make available to people, and give them a rich opportunity: to do it by themselves, an opportunity to see what it feels like to actually have created a product.

We envisioned people doing this together. Children, especially, are really interested to see how things are made. We envisioned people including their children in the process (when it wasn't a surprise for the child!). Children love this kind of thing, and love to help in the process. To see a group of parts on the floor, turn into an assembled product for them—right before their eyes—is something they will always remember.  They also will remember, that you did it together. Even if it is a surprise, and the child's parents do it, and tell the child, "We made it for you", it will be extra special. Our goal was to make this easy for you to do. 

When we first started our business in 1988, we went to 25 or so, large craft fairs. Many had 25,000-30,000 people. Sometimes we would have a live assembly and it ALWAYS drew a crowd. People who have never been able to make anything are quite often in awe of someone who can, and watching them do it is even more of a treat. We have created an entire product line so that you can do it yourself and share in this special feeling of accomplishment.

The way our world is today, it is easy to become disconnected with nature, our food, wild animals, the seasons, the stars, the moon, etc. Some may not know where their food comes beyond the grocery store. But everything has a source. If it's meat, it came from an animal. Someone cared for it. It was killed, and became your food. There is a story behind it being on the shelf, in the grocery store. The same goes for vegetables. They were seeds, planted in the soil. Someone cared for them. They grew, matured, and now they are in the store. It's beneficial, to not lose sight of the SOURCE. Wood is the same. It once was a tree. It was cut down, and milled into lumber. When we remember or become aware of what it takes to get what we have, it’s more likely that we will appreciate it and care for it.

When you receive one of our products, that we have cut, shaped, sanded, and finished, we are hoping you will be able to see the story behind it, and that someone cared about what they were doing. When you spread out the parts of one of our products, we are hoping you see the labor and care that went into each part, the grains of each different piece of wood, the way it feels, and that each piece is truly unique. At Elves and Angels, we are trying to share this with you and your family, in the products we make.

We want you to be able to experience the rest. We think you will like it. 

Recently, I came across a children’s Wooden Kitchen, that was very well made, and it said it "snapped together" in 3 or 5 minutes. I was intrigued by this claim and bought one to see how this could be. The product came, and it was a fine piece of work. I snapped the plastic fasteners together, and sure enough, it was done in a short amount of time. I thought for about a half an hour, about maybe, doing it that way myself. But, when I was working in the shop after that, and had an uneasy feeling...that wasn't ME, that wasn't Elves and Angels!

We offer a beautiful line of children's wooden furniture and toys that can be handed down from one generation to the next. They are very easy to assemble. They have very simple instructions for you to follow. And now we are now providing live assembly instructions through our website. This Flat-Pack product line is easy on available resources, and the environment. There is no charge for the experience of doing it.  All of us at Elves and Angels hope you enjoy it. If it just snaps together, you miss the rest.

Efficiency, the Environment and Flat Pack

Posted on May 22, 2012 by David Smalley | 0 Comments

Assembling a Walker's Wagon is easy on you and the Environment!

What do we mean by “efficiency”? We mean efficiency from the time of shipment, to the product’s destination. We have seen first hand how difficult it is shipping assembled products. We did it for nearly 18 years. Our wooden kitchens, wooden dollhouses, and other wooden toys created a sizeable problem for all the major shipping companies. Most trucks were not set up for large, assembled products, packed with considerable air space within and around them. The shelves in the trucks were made for nice, compact, easy to lift and sort, packages.  “How many today?” the driver would ask, as he attempted to wrestle in the large boxes of wooden play kitchens. We used to watch in awe, as he would shuffle all the packages in the truck around to make room for as many as he could hold. The solution was always the same. Call for one or two more trucks. Efficient? It didn’t look like it. The truck couldn’t hold any more, but because of the size and shapes of the boxes, it sure wasn’t full. Who in the end is paying for the cost of this half-full truck traveling all across the country, half-full of air space? Who is paying for the gasoline of this half-full truck while it sits in heavy traffic with the engine running? Who pays for the second and third half-full truck? Doesn’t this double or triple the negative impact that shipping has on the environment? 

Anyone who runs a business knows that pricing is dictated by what it costs that company to operate. Efficiency is everything. If what we are doing in the shipping process isn’t efficient, then who is to blame for the ever-rising costs of moving product from one destination to another? We could blame the major shipping companies, the governor, a state representative, or our neighbor.  If we are not efficient in our business, everyone pays—not just one person—because our pricing is dictated by our costs. We decided that shipping an assembled product line was not an efficient way of doing our business.

This is when we began a two-year journey to re-design our entire product line into a flat-pack product line. The results were positive. More real product filling the trucks. Less shipping of air space around the product.  Fewer trucks and less gasoline. Less manpower to deal with our products. Less negative impact on the environment. To us, this was a positive move towards more efficient shipping of our product line and a positive thing for future generations who will live with the decisions that you and I make today.

Now we ship an unassembled product line, with clear and simple, easy-to-follow instructions for you to assemble in your home.  Now we are doing live assembly videos for each product in our line. This does not completely take care of this problem, but it is a start. 

It would be nice if everything could always come all nicely assembled and just the way we like it, but those days are quickly fading away. Our pocket books can’t take it, and neither can the environment. We all need to give a little in this effort. We ask you to do a little assembly. It can be a very rewarding experience and children love to watch it happen!

You don’t have to look far into the future to see the end of shipping assembled products. Our available resources just can’t take it. It would be wonderful if I could have a little toy shop right here where I live, have people come here, buy a wooden kitchen, and take it home in a horse and buggy. Since that won’t be happening, we decided flat-pack was for us. Whoever your wood worker is, see if they will flat-pack. We think it just makes sense.

Posted in environment, flat pack, sustainability

Heartwood: Elves and Angels: 25 Years of Sharing a Love of Wood, Children, and Family

Posted on May 22, 2012 by David Smalley | 1 Comment

Priscilla's Stove, the first kitchen we made in 1988.

I was touched by a love of wood early on in life. I believe it was 1955 when my grandfather said, "Dave, you want to go see something really special ?" I was 5 years old then, and I will never forget it. At least I hope I won’t!

I lived in southern Maine, on the coast in Ogunquit. The trip that my grandfather took me on to see this "something really special" went for about 10 miles or so.  When we arrived, we got out and walked about a half a mile into the woods.  As we approached the half-mile point, you could hear men’s voices, trees falling, and as we got closer, you saw large horses pulling huge trees on skids.  It was winter and cold, but no one seemed to mind. It was their day’s work.

This lovely forest was ablaze with activity.  Trees were being felled, and cut to length, and loaded on to the sleds for the horses to pull to their destination.  The horses pulled hard and did their part, as did all the men. As the horses moved forward with their loads, their nostrils seemed to blow smoke.  The forest was being cut, but what care and foresight was taken in the selection of the trees to be cut.  It was a conscious way of working and living.

The whole scene planted for ever in me, a way of life, that thought not only about itself, but about others and their future.  There was joy there. There was working together with a common purpose. It was, and is today, a thing of true beauty, and I sorely miss the essence of what I saw that day in the woods.

In Ogunquit, Maine at that time, my grandfather Frank H. Smalley was the cabinet maker. It was a profession that received respect, as something of value. At that time you also had shoe makers, and the little village was filled with crafts people. You could go to their shops, see their trade, and they always had time for a young, interested boy. In my grandfather’s shopwas where I learned to love the idea of making things with wood. He was, I would say,"The Best".

His furniture and designs were sought all over the country.  A day in his shop was a delight to me. I watched all that he did. The care that he put into everything he did touched me deeply.  I was very young when I realized that a handcrafted piece of furniture was very different than a manufactured piece.  It has a completely different feel, and look.

I found that in a handmade piece, the craftsman himself is reflected through it. What he thinks about, who he is, his integrity, or lack of, is all reflected through his work.  My grandfather’s work always reflected who he was.  His entire house was filled with furniture he had made for my grandmother, and it always felt like love, and it felt like a home. I very much liked that, because, I didn’t really have a home.At quite an early age my parents divorced, and both wanted to get on with their lives. The only problem was me.  So, to make along story short, I had a very insecure situation growing up, and in my troubled youth, I forgot what I saw in the woods that day, and what had been transmitted to me in my grandfather's shop.

My wife and I met when we were young, and we had a total of 12 children. I never had a family, and I very much wanted a home and a family. My wife has always been an inspiration to me, and has always supported me through our many years together.  We always saw a family as a unit, a life together, working, playing schooling, and caring.

In 1988 when Elves and Angels began, our family unit also shared in this life together.  Each person would do what they could, and we all shared in the joys and the sorrows.  We have always shared in the success or failures.  It gave us the opportunity to experience something special, that would not have been existed,if it had not been for doing Elves and Angels.

Many of the early designs and ideas of Elves and Angels came from my wife and me, trying to figure out how we were going to give Christmas presents to our children for another year. We had a very large family, and money was always very tight.  I am not complaining, for when you suffer and struggle together, the bond between you deepens.

For the last 24 years we have always tried to reflect in this business, the things mentioned above that I learned as a boy.

The things that I learned as a boy, resurfaced out of the rubble in me, when I was about 38 years old.  Since that time, I have dedicated my life, and a portion of my family's life, to sharing with you; A Love for Wood, A Love for Children, and A Love for Family.  It has been the work of my life.

I hope that you are able to perceive in our products, who we are. I hope your children will see, feel, and experience:the love of a job well done.  In our disposable society, it is so important to surround children with things done with care.  It gives life meaning, it transmits care, and responsibility. I also hope you will see a twinkle in each product we make, of the story I have shared with you. Thank you for 24 years of sharing in Elves and Angels.

Posted in family, history, sustainability, wood

Why Flat Pack?

Posted on December 29, 2011 by David Smalley | 1 Comment

Our company, Elves and Angels Inc., has been handcrafting this solid wood product line for 24 years. When we began in 1988 and first went to theNew York Toy Fair, there was hardly a children's kitchen anywhere to be found.  Since then, we have produced the very best, natural product on the market.  It has been the life blood of our entire family of 12 children.  All of us have worked together to make Elves and Angels the best it could be. When we first started, all of our products were made of solid pine and finished with a non-toxic edible finish and shipped completely assembled. 

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Posted in environment, flat pack, sustainability


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