Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello! I’m Amanda Troxell, and my husband is Joel. We live in a small town in Indiana, where Joel works a full-time nonprofit job and I maintain the homestead (our tiny starter home on a sunny little street). Our world right now revolves around our two young boys: Nathan (3) and Asher (1). We consume a lot of very strong coffee.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
When we’re not working on puzzles or toys (or sometimes even when we are!), we are playing Candy Land, trying to grow vegetables, going for walks, and spending time in the great outdoors.
The precious moments of solitude that I find are spent knitting, baking bread, and reading food and crafting blogs. Joel spends his free time (usually when we are all asleep) working out with a sledgehammer and reading philosophy.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I don’t think we ever consciously set out to be artists. But I think there were two things that set us on this path. Initially, we became tired of poorly made, mass-produced toys that our oldest child found more frustrating than enjoyable. When we heard about safety problems with some of the toys sold through major retailers, we began to explore what else was available. We immediately fell in love with the beauty of simple, handcrafted toys.
The first time I handled the things we began buying for our kids, I knew there was a lot of thought and care that went into it. While the word “artist” never went though my mind, I remember thinking, “I want to make beautiful things like this, too.”
Please describe your creative process.
It seems like every time we watch our kids playing, one of us comes up with an idea of something new to make. (Although finding the time to try out all of these ideas and test them is another story!) The bulk of the work is done in our garage, where Joel cuts and sands each piece. Usually by the time I get the little ones tucked in for the night, I am greeted with a pile of unfinished puzzles and animals on the kitchen table awaiting painting and details. Finishing pieces with beeswax polish is often a family affair, and there always seems to be a jar of homemade polish floating around our house, waiting for a pair of hands in need of a job.
The computer work, organizing, packaging and shipping takes place in our small office, which is a shared space with the kids’ art area. (Did I mention it’s tiny?) Any work I do here is often accompanied by the smells of play dough and shrieks of delight from a big brother who just loves coloring on the baby.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a tattered old red floral apron that was my great-grandmother’s. It is paper-thin from years of use and has several patches and a few seams that have been repaired more than once. Every time I put it on, it’s like she is right there in the kitchen with me.
I always wonder what her day was like when she sat down to sew it, and how many meals were prepared by her wearing it. Although she wasn’t alive to know me as an adult, with a family of my own, I am certain she would be proud to know that I am putting her apron to good use (even when I use store-bought pasta sauce).
We also really love the wooden play stand/kitchen that my dad made for our boys. The time and love he put into these items is remembered every time we enjoy some pretend soup or cookies.
Name your top five books, movies, musicians, and websites besides Etsy.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoe Francois
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I love the Teams. We are a member of the Natural Kids Team, which is filled with so many wonderful and talented sellers. We have learned a lot from our teammates, and really enjoy the supportive atmosphere that the team provides. I think the Voter is really fun too!
As a bit of an organizational nut, I would love to be able to sort and manage conversations more like emails. I’d also really love a little text box on the Sold Orders page, so I can jot notes for myself on each order’s progress before I mark it as shipped.
How do you promote your work?
Joel likes to say that our toys promote themselves, which really means that we still have a lot to learn about marketing our shop. We have been very fortunate to have items featured on some popular blogs, and the exposure we got from our Leaf Puzzle winning Etsy’s Earth Day Voter was phenomenal. It also doesn’t hurt to have a proud Italian mother who brags about our shop to anyone who will listen.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
In ten years, we’d like to be living in the country with lots of land for the kids to roam on, lots of things growing in the garden, and working together to make wooden things for children all the time. But wherever life leads, I hope we still have the good sense to realize that this is right where we’re supposed to be.