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

May 22, 2012 4 min read 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 32 years of sharing in Elves and Angels.

1 Response


August 06, 2012

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and inspiring story! I loved reading it!

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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.