The Etsy Blog

A Visit to Pogo Forest

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Laura_w_pogo.jpgLaura Ray lives a cabin in the woods of rural South Carolina. A retired first grade teacher, she works part time training teacher interns at a local university. Away from work, she gardens, writes, and creates small wooly friends called pogos. She shares these tiny friends at pogoshop.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” — Rachel Carson

As a child, I was free to roam the South Carolina woods and fields every day until sundown. My sisters and I caught water bugs in the creek, built forts in the woods, and made “toady frog” houses for needy frogs. Nightfall or a rain storm were pretty much the only things that ever ended a good day.

house_collage.jpg

In 1978, my husband John and I built a log home in these same woods, using trees that he cut and salvaged, bricks, doors, and flooring. We were 24- and 25-year-old teachers and had never built anything in our lives. A chapter on cabins in The Foxfire Book was our guide. As the walls grew, we would sit on the top log in the evenings, looking down into the rooms that would be our home, trying to imagine our lives there. We were proud and excited, but had no way to know how much we would come to love this place.

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For 28 years I taught first grade. I found that six-year-olds are the most wonderful, innately curious people, but are often starved for knowledge of nature. I decided to bring nature into the classroom. Our room had standing trees overhead with hanging gray moss, birds’ nests and snakes’ skins in them. We had a large terrarium for visiting lizards and frogs. There were ever-growing collections of rocks and shells, a large forest mural covered one wall, and we had a garden plot just outside our window. There was a nature trail in the woods near the schoolyard where we often went exploring. Before their first outing, many of these city and suburban children had never walked in any woods, anywhere. They thought bears would eat us.

In A Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson said about children: “If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions, and the impressions of the senses, are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.” Drawing from that, I wanted to lead children to experience and love the natural world. They might not live in the forest, but I wanted them to feel at home there. My hope was that someday, having loved the forest as children, they might not bulldoze it as adults.

house_in_the_snow.jpg

When John died in 2004, I left teaching. With time on my hands I started an organic garden, renovated our barns and explored the woods. That’s when I discovered pogos, in the same favorite hideaways of my childhood. I opened pogoshop in 2008. Some of my visitors told me that their children followed my shop and enjoyed reading about the pogos, so I decided to write for children when I post. It seemed like another chance to show the forest to children who may never go there.

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It pleases me that pogos are soft and well-suited to the companionship of small hands. I’m in love with the feel of real wool and proud that pogos come from repurposed castaways. I use thrift store wool sweaters, which I launder in hot water, then cut and stitch by hand into pogos and their pullovers.

It’s a fine thing when all the puzzle pieces you love seem to converge and you have a chance to offer up what is uniquely your own. That’s how I feel about pogoshop. Etsy is a connection that I share with my daughters (a.k.a. corduroy and groundwork) and my pogos are a connection with the child that I was and the children I have known. Most of them will never live in the woods. I always hope, though, that those seeds of caring for the earth will survive and that some nourishing spot of nature will remain a constant in their lives.

 

 

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  • SwingStationStudio

    SwingStationStudio says:

    Beautiful story! It's encouraging to know that some adults haven't lost touch with the passions of their childhood, and are still sharing it with others. And who wouldn't want to cuddle with a pogo? Thanks for your inspirational story and for teaching our youngsters to appreciate nature.

    5 years ago

  • BeautifulPhotoProps

    BeautifulPhotoProps says:

    This is so inspiring!!

    5 years ago

  • missindie

    missindie says:

    Awesome!! Such a cute story, thank you for sharing!!

    5 years ago

  • laurelinsailor

    laurelinsailor says:

    Touching story! Thanks for sharing!

    5 years ago

  • papercutworks

    papercutworks says:

    Laura's story of building a home in the woods reminds me a little bit of my current home caring experience! My husband & I try to do everything we can ourselves – change doors (by repurposing old ones!), plant a vegetable garden, paint… not quite building it ourselves from scratch but since it’s 105 years old it does need a lot of love! I document our DIY house upkeep adventures here: http://craftscafe.wordpress.com Retiring away from the city in the woods sounds like a dream come true to me. Congrats!

    5 years ago

  • gloilocksandbody
  • Krystyna81

    Krystyna81 says:

    I'm tearing up...what a lovely story. I am so sorry for the loss of your dear partner. What an amazing love story! I applaud you for bringing nature into the classromm! My son does the same handwriting excercise every day...I think he's bored to tears! At home we are growing our own seeds and measuring their progress and planting them in the garden, discover snakes and snails and bugs along the way. Truly, 5 yr old boys need a lot of dirt! Wonderful story and it sounds like your students were very, very lucky to have you :)

    5 years ago

  • FluteTeacher

    FluteTeacher says:

    I loved reading this! Thank you. :)

    5 years ago

  • candacejean

    candacejean says:

    What an AMAZING, beautiful story, Laura! I grew up in a similar situation.. as in.. always outside making little houses and gathering up nature. I have a six year old and he is definitely a "wonderful, innately curious person". :) I love your house and I love your pogos! Thank you for sharing!

    5 years ago

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares says:

    what a great story and the little creatures are so adorable.

    5 years ago

  • Beesnetta

    Beesnetta says:

    Gorgeous home! And wonderful story!

    5 years ago

  • maggiemaevintage
  • ArtMind

    ArtMind says:

    Wow, I'm touched! What a lovely and meaningful story Laura. Your Pogos are as beautiful as you are. :)

    5 years ago

  • KristynCooper

    KristynCooper says:

    Oh, your home is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing that wonderful, whimsical story with us!

    5 years ago

  • Ayca

    Ayca says:

    Great story !

    5 years ago

  • seragun

    seragun says:

    Beautiful story,thanks

    5 years ago

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa says:

    This post reminds me of my parents - they moved us to a rural town, started a minifarm, and always taught us about nature in a way that was really integrated into our day-to-day.

    5 years ago

  • ChickSprings

    ChickSprings says:

    What a beautifully inspiring story! Thank you so much for sharing and for helping to keep our world real!

    5 years ago

  • kissadesign

    kissadesign says:

    These are so adorable! Thank you for sharing your story!

    5 years ago

  • PrintablesShop

    PrintablesShop says:

    I discovered PogoShop about a year ago and was enchanted with these creations along with the stories that came with each one. It's nice to meet the artist behind Pogos. What a dream she is living in her log cabin in the woods!

    5 years ago

  • tomokotahara

    tomokotahara says:

    Interesting story - thanks for sharing.

    5 years ago

  • astarteearthart

    astarteearthart says:

    tooooo cute!

    5 years ago

  • milemarker

    milemarker says:

    Beautiful, beautiful story - one of the best Etsy interviews I've read. I grew up like that, playing in the SC woods every day until dark, and they are some of my fondest memories. How beautiful of Laura Ray to share that with countless children through her career and her craft.

    5 years ago

  • RR1Box80

    RR1Box80 says:

    Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story! It's so nice to hear about bringing the outdoors to children who don't have access to it on a regular basis. I grew up on a hobby farm in southern MN and spent countless hours in our grove exploring pretend places and discovering creepy crawlies. I wish every child had the chance to experience that kind of creative play. Thank you for what you do!

    5 years ago

  • layerxlayer

    layerxlayer says:

    Beautiful.

    5 years ago

  • Feille

    Feille says:

    This has to be the best I've read yet. You must have been an awesome teacher, and your're still teaching.

    5 years ago

  • sherrytruitt

    sherrytruitt says:

    I am so touched by your beautiful story and I am sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing with us.

    5 years ago

  • twolefthands

    twolefthands says:

    You would be the perfect teacher for my 6 year old grandson! What a great story and a beautiful cabin!

    5 years ago

  • NaturalAmber

    NaturalAmber says:

    What a beautiful and very touching story, I am very glad to have read it. Thank you for sharing it. (You also have such a good and lovely shop!)

    5 years ago

  • allthingswhite

    allthingswhite says:

    What a wonderful story! Pogo was one of my first favorites in my first etsy shop- elizabethwren. I love these little guys.

    5 years ago

  • HandmadeHandsome

    HandmadeHandsome says:

    What a wonderful story. Thank you.

    5 years ago

  • Floreal

    Floreal says:

    Pogo is adorable.. lovely story...:) www.twitter.com/florealdesigns www.facebook.com/florealdesigns

    5 years ago

  • miznovember

    miznovember says:

    What a story. I loved reading this. Sounds like you would have been an awesome teacher to have had.

    5 years ago

  • JBirdHome

    JBirdHome says:

    I just love that first Rachel Carson quote. Lovely and inspiring. Thanks!

    5 years ago

  • polkadotmagpie

    polkadotmagpie says:

    What a fabulous peek into a shopkeeper's world. Photos are gorgeous. Rachel also wrote: "Silent Spring." Pogo is a great shop.

    5 years ago

  • camamiel

    camamiel says:

    Lovely story and very cute items.

    5 years ago

  • brandyfisher

    brandyfisher says:

    Amazing...the story and the woman behind the shop!

    5 years ago

  • moonandstarsstudio

    moonandstarsstudio says:

    i absolutely loved your story....Thank you for sharing yourself and your love of nature with us. I am trying to do the same for my grandchildren...And i have always loved your pogos! :)

    5 years ago

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm says:

    I've always loved your shop and pogo's now I know why....the wonderful story they tell thanks for sharing with all of us. Sure the kids all loved you a teacher I know I would have.

    5 years ago

  • MagicMarkingsArt

    MagicMarkingsArt says:

    I am beyond amazed and think how fortunate for the students who were lucky enough to be blessed with your passion and thirst for knowledge. May you continue to live the life you love and to infuse your spirit into the lives of others.

    5 years ago

  • blueflowervintage

    blueflowervintage says:

    Absolutely lovely!

    5 years ago

  • StrandRedesign

    StrandRedesign says:

    I love the Pogos and loved to read this. Thank you!

    5 years ago

  • QuietStorytellers

    QuietStorytellers says:

    Laura, it is artists like you that keep me involved in Etsy--there is beauty and care within your actions. Thank you for sharing your stories.

    5 years ago

  • FashionTouch

    FashionTouch says:

    Lovely story and very nice place to find peace (out or regular rush) and inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

    5 years ago

  • littleloveblue

    littleloveblue says:

    love everything about this;)

    5 years ago

  • DPKministat

    DPKministat says:

    My 3 year old would love these "pogos". We too live in a very rural area. Mesmerizing story.

    5 years ago

  • munieca

    munieca says:

    cute pogos!!

    5 years ago

  • thenewblackmarket

    thenewblackmarket says:

    beautiful story. and the bears are too cute!!!

    5 years ago

  • Mimiandlola

    Mimiandlola says:

    beautiful thank you for sharing

    5 years ago

  • HornCatCreations

    HornCatCreations says:

    What a lovely story. Thanks so much for sharing it with all of us!

    5 years ago

  • greencouchdesign

    greencouchdesign says:

    So much fun! I love the attitude towards children and playing! It reminds me of the movie 'Finding Neverland' it's just about the imagination and the joy of discovery!

    5 years ago

  • sweetpoppycat

    sweetpoppycat says:

    Now I love Pogos even more!

    5 years ago

  • VirtuoSew

    VirtuoSew says:

    What a sweet story. You must have been / be a wonderful teacher.

    5 years ago

  • Nachokitty

    Nachokitty says:

    What a well written story. So inspiring. It saddened me to read of your partners passing, but then I smiled when I realized how you seized the day and moved forward, continuing to bless the lives of those around you. Kudos. I hope to have the grace to deal with life like you have. Yes, I live in the woods! We share many of the same lifestyle choices.

    5 years ago

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts says:

    Great article and cute items!

    5 years ago

  • artangel

    artangel says:

    This is a lovely article. I've admired Laura's work for a while :)

    5 years ago

  • artofjane

    artofjane says:

    This is the most wonderful story. I'm a teacher too and I really admire your teaching story. Your students were very lucky. Your life is inspiring.

    5 years ago

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 says:

    I've long admired Pogoshop and your enchanting Pogos, Laura! Your story is deeply moving. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    5 years ago

  • wensaccessories
  • artofjane

    artofjane says:

    This is a great story. I teach too, and I really appreciated your teaching philosophy. Sounds like your students were very lucky to have you! Love your pogos.

    5 years ago

  • limestone

    limestone says:

    This is by far my favorite Storque post ever! What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it with us, Pogo. I've loved your work since I first saw it, and now I like it even more.

    5 years ago

  • ladaworks

    ladaworks says:

    Fabulous story, thank you! I had the best first grade teacher. She was a gem. 40+ years later I still remember her.

    5 years ago

  • karenmeyers

    karenmeyers says:

    Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher.

    5 years ago

  • GwenDelicious

    GwenDelicious says:

    So inspiring...thanks so much for sharing!

    5 years ago

  • SatinandBirch

    SatinandBirch says:

    Why do we all dream of a "Cabin in the Woods" I know I do and will continue to. thank you for such an inspiring story. Thanks Laura

    5 years ago

  • prettydreamer

    prettydreamer says:

    What a wonderful post ...thank you so much for sharing so much beauty.

    5 years ago

  • MeAndBoo

    MeAndBoo says:

    I love Pogos!!

    5 years ago

  • NaiyaArtBoutique

    NaiyaArtBoutique says:

    Keep up the good work Laura.. You can motivate millions of people around :)

    5 years ago

  • GoodGriefGlass

    GoodGriefGlass says:

    Beautiful story and adorable pogos.

    5 years ago

  • thefortunatehome

    thefortunatehome says:

    The schools today sure could use lots more teachers like you. Cute animals too. Much success!

    5 years ago

  • Handamade

    Handamade says:

    This is lovely story and great imagination. Great job!^_^

    5 years ago

  • PiacereMioPaperie

    PiacereMioPaperie says:

    Such endearing words! Laura, I have always lived in suburban areas, but somehow finding those "experiences in nature" was what we did in our childhood... Be it in our neighbors very tall grass (i guess they did not have a lawn mower!), up in an apple tree in our yard, or by a creek behind the grocery store! Children naturally yearn for those experiences, unfortunately many will never get to do anything about it! Thanks for the heart warming memories of your life. I too love to share those moments with the school children I work with. :)

    5 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    Your pogos are adorable! What a great story!

    5 years ago

  • ThimbleNest

    ThimbleNest says:

    What a beautiful story! Nature is so important to children!

    5 years ago

  • BellaChicbyalicia

    BellaChicbyalicia says:

    great story! Thanks for sharing!

    5 years ago

  • Nishale

    Nishale says:

    LOVE her pogos very much!

    5 years ago

  • SaraAnnDesigns

    SaraAnnDesigns says:

    What a wonderful way to teach children about nature, bringing it into the classroom in such a special way. I've always thought the best kinds of learning tools are the ones that encourage interaction. Your students were very lucky to have you as a teacher.

    5 years ago

  • OneEcoTree

    OneEcoTree says:

    Wonderful story & beautiful history. So heartbreaking to read your husband passed. What you do for children and have done in your teaching with your wonderful classroom is just wonderful- we need many more teachers like you! Love the pogos and love reading their stories!

    5 years ago

  • gretchenmist

    gretchenmist says:

    thanks for sharing your story and pictures of your beautiful place. it's so great to see where such cute pogos come from :)

    5 years ago

  • nanouke

    nanouke says:

    What an amazing article! Laura is so inspiring!

    5 years ago

  • DappleGrey

    DappleGrey says:

    super gorgeous

    5 years ago

  • riricreations

    riricreations says:

    One of the most inspiring articles I've ever read on Etsy~keep up the great work!

    5 years ago

  • Morado

    Morado says:

    Such a touching story :)

    5 years ago

  • shabbychicadee

    shabbychicadee says:

    God I miss the woods of my childhood in New Hampshire... Its hard to bloom where your planted if you live in a concrete jungle. Thank the heavens I at least have to beach. your article moved me!

    5 years ago

  • PatsyDesigns

    PatsyDesigns says:

    Your Pogos are adorable - makes me want to be a kid again! Thank you for sharing.

    5 years ago

  • littlemoandfriends

    littlemoandfriends says:

    thanks for showing us your home and your little pogos! such a joy to read!

    5 years ago

  • MouseTrapVintage

    MouseTrapVintage says:

    YAYA for real log cabins! I hope to live in one someday ...

    5 years ago

  • designlab443

    designlab443 says:

    that cabin looks so cozy!!!

    5 years ago

  • ClementinesJewelry

    ClementinesJewelry says:

    wonderful story!

    5 years ago

  • Venbead

    Venbead says:

    when my 12 year old son spent 2 hours one night going through laura's 18 pages of sold listings to pick out the his favorite pogo I knew laura had something magical going on there in pogo forest! we have a growing family of pogos. they are so much fun and so addicting! laura's story touches my heart in so many ways. my mom was a 6th grade teacher who grew up in inner city boston. Her suburban classroom in RI was filled with wildlife, every kind of amphibian, reptile or furry rodent you can imagine and they would all come home to our house for the summer. instilling an appreciation of all things living in the youngest of minds is a calling. teaching, shaping young minds, is a calling. thank you laura for all that you do. we love pogoshop i am so happy to see it getting the recognition it deserves!

    5 years ago

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations says:

    One of the most beautiful Etsy stories I have read. I was lucky enough to have had a teacher much like Laura(even built her own house!) for third, fourth, and fifth grade. Trees, birds nests, an organic garden, a compost, snakes, fish, hamsters, rocks, shells, and so much more made our classroom a beautiful, exciting place to learn. While nearly all of us grew up running around in the fields and woods, there was so much still to learn and our teacher encouraged us to live in awe and respect for Mother Nature. I wish there were teachers like her and Laura for every child out there.

    5 years ago

  • ArtisticIntentions

    ArtisticIntentions says:

    What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing!! Those bears are adorable!!

    5 years ago

  • pogoshop

    pogoshop says:

    Thanks guys, for all the dear kind words. I'm delighted, but a little embarrassed. I'm hoping one post will say, "Hey, I'm grabbing up my kids and heading to the park." or "I think we'll camp this summer..." Life is short. Find time. PatsyDesigns, you can be a kid again. I'm living proof.

    5 years ago

  • nowonder

    nowonder says:

    Love these Pogo ones!

    5 years ago

  • Iovelycrochet

    Iovelycrochet says:

    Great great story..!!

    5 years ago

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards says:

    Wonderful story and very inspiring. As a mother and a crafter I try to show my son the beautiful things nature carries on a daily basis. Even in the cities you can see Nature, maybe not as much of course but you just have to look up and around you. We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with lots of trees and a pond close by so that also makes things easier :) I also love that my son gets to see me create things with my hands. Now he asks me regularly, "Mommy. what are you making today?" I love it. I will definitely look at your shop Laura and I will remember your story. From what I have seen so far I am moved by the gentleness that comes across from your little Pogos... they had to be created by a gentle and loving person! Oh and preserving the child like spirit and curiosity has always been something I was careful to do and now I am making sure my son stays a kid his age as long as possible... we're all trying to keep a slow and reasonable pace :) Thanks for sharing! Anne-Claire

    5 years ago

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez says:

    what a guardian angle...thanks 4 all u do & have done...can we clone u? j/k

    5 years ago

  • VintageStarrBeads

    VintageStarrBeads says:

    Can I visit?-Rachelle

    5 years ago

  • Cotons

    Cotons says:

    This lovely story reminds me of my youth wandering the Pickens County (SC) woods. The pogos are adorable. Thank you, Laura!

    5 years ago

  • figurinesbyingrid

    figurinesbyingrid says:

    I love this post! This story really touched my heart, Laura I wish you all the best, your Pogos are so cute!

    5 years ago

  • glasfaden

    glasfaden says:

    So nice to meet you and to read your story, Laura. Thanks for sharing!

    5 years ago

  • javagirls

    javagirls says:

    I love this story! I so admire teachers! They're very special people.

    5 years ago

  • VeryCarey

    VeryCarey says:

    I've followed and loved your shop since I became a member of Etsy last year. Your original handmade bears and use of recycled sweaters was a novelty to me. Very special. Thanks for your heartwarming story and sharing pictures of your simply beautiful home.

    5 years ago

  • uniquetouches

    uniquetouches says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. I loved the pictures of your home. It was nice meeting you at the doctor's office. Jo

    5 years ago

  • uniquetouches

    uniquetouches says:

    I enjoyed your story and the pictures of your home. It was nice meeting you at the doctor's office a few weeks ago. Jo

    5 years ago

  • JanesGemCreations

    JanesGemCreations says:

    Beautiful story. The pogos are so cute, and the photos were great.

    5 years ago

  • cutelittlething

    cutelittlething says:

    I've always loved the POGO'S, now I really love them, knowing more about their maker. Lovely and inspiring tale of "the road less taken." Continued blessings on your journey.

    5 years ago

  • FerntreeStudio

    FerntreeStudio says:

    What an enchanting story!

    5 years ago

  • mommysosweet

    mommysosweet says:

    I love this!

    5 years ago

  • HillTribeCulture

    HillTribeCulture says:

    Lovely and funny Cool Doll(^-^)

    5 years ago

  • happywhosits

    happywhosits says:

    What a lovely story, and wonderful home. I hope that I may find a home like this for my retirement. And the pogos are wonderful too!

    5 years ago

  • modernbird

    modernbird says:

    i loved reading laura's story. when i first started selling on etsy i found pogoshop. i was (and still am) inspired by their stories and the photos of them.

    5 years ago

  • MissMaryElliott

    MissMaryElliott says:

    Such a lovely post, I adore these Pogos especially with their little clothes... so cute!

    5 years ago

  • leangelis

    leangelis says:

    Hi Laura! I really love your story and can't help blogging about it in my blog. hope you don't mind! http://leangelis-cottage.blogspot.com/2010/06/pogoshop-by-laura-ray.html

    4 years ago

  • jewellerytreasures

    jewellerytreasures says:

    I lvoe the little pogos and the stories that go with them add a special touch

    4 years ago

  • Patralink

    Patralink says:

    Hi Laura, I loved reading your story here. Thank you for posting that and also for Pogos! I love your sense of wonder and your love of nature and kids. Your cabin is beautiful and I can imagine how cozy it is there. Christmas Pogo will be my 2nd Pogo. My first resides in my sweater drawer where he is so very comforatable. I will give Christmas Pogo to a special friend. Best to you and have a wonderful holiday season.

    3 years ago

  • Zafirah

    Zafirah from Zafirah says:

    So good to read your story here ... I love your Pogos!

    3 years ago

  • seikashop

    wooldolls from wooldolls says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It had a deep impression on me. Your pogos are especially cute!

    2 years ago