Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Squidfire Squid

Greetings! I wanted to share a new plush with all of you: my interpretation of Kevin Sherry's squid character from I'm The Biggest Thing In The Ocean. Besides being a great illustrator, Kevin and Jean Baptiste run Squidfire where they make and sell awesome t-shirts. I sent this squid to them for their shop in Baltimore.

This is one of the first in a series of collaborative art plush projects for 2009.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

CPSIA & What I'm doing about it

On February 10, the CPSIA goes into effect. As it is currently written, every product intended for use by children 12 years of age or younger will need to be tested for lead and phthalates. This means every product from clothing to shoes to strollers, to yes, you guessed it... toys.

Many groups are getting together to get the word out about this law and how it affects small businesses. The handmade toy alliance has a petition. On, this issue made it to the top 10 ideas, and was presented to President Obama's transition team.

I'm going to try my best to explain and interpret this new law and how it affects my business and my customers. There is a lot of misinformation out there. I hope I'm not adding to the confusion, but rather contributing to the discussion and possible solutions out there.

I'm a firm believer that this law was created and passed with good intentions, but without thinking clearly about everyone who creates and sells products to children. Exemptions are coming, and I hope that there are more in the near future. I do not want unsafe products out there for kids, but I also want the chance for my business to succeed.

I have sent sufficient samples of my products to be tested using XRF technology. This technology is what the CPSC uses to screen product samples. I should have the results of the tests to me in a couple of weeks. It is an inexpensive alternative to the extensive testing required by the new law, but it IS legally approved until August 14, 2009. The XRF screening done by the CPSC determines whether a product should proceed to more rigorous testing. If my products pass the XRF test, it's highly unlikely that they could contain lead in dangerous quantities.

I plan to publish the results of the tests on my web site so consumers, retailers and anyone who wants to know can find the information. I'm doing my part to make sure my products are complying with the new laws, while hoping for more exemptions. I want my customers to be comfortable that my products are safe.

As for labeling requirements, the law states that on August 14, 2009 there must be identifiable marks on the label and on the product that will allow tracing of that product back to when it was made, where it was made and the batch number. The end goal of the labeling requirement is to be able to find the maker and when it was made. I am already in compliance with this law because I comply with toy labeling laws that state I must have the following on my tags:
Company Name, Company Location, and (for plush) the statement that it is filled with "all new fiberfill material" When I use plastic eyes/noses, I also include this small parts statement: /!\ WARNING: Choking Hazard - Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.
Here is what my tags look like (click for larger view):

On every animal, there is also a hand embroidered green circle. This is my signature mark and is an identifiable mark that shows where it came from. Since most animals are made to order, the time of manufacturing can even be pinpointed to be 7-10 days after purchase. The longest I have any animals in stock is only a few months during fair season, but usually we're working hard to keep a stock!

I've read reports that natural materials such as cotton and wool have been names as exemptions. It would be wonderful if component testing were passed, leaving the burden of proof on the suppliers and not the makers. Another hope I have is for a tiered plan for manufacturers of our size vs. the big guys.

Finally, I seriously doubt the CPSC is going to be knocking down my door, charging me fines and arresting me for selling banned hazardous substances. I'm committed to making quality toys that are safe and I am testing them using the best resources I have available. The CPSC has about 100 field agents, and with their limited resources, they will be going after places where they can be most effective - the large manufacturers. But, those of us who make children's products by hand need exemptions to stay in business legally. We want to comply. We want to put safe products into the hands of children. We just need to be considered within the law instead of being placed alongside manufacturers who have no personal connection to the products they make.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happy 2009, Everyone!

I hope everyone has had an excellent start to the new year! The dust has settled after a whirlwind 5 weekends of vending in different cities. Many thanks to Mike Jacobsen for building my gorgeous honeycomb diaplays. They make setup easier, and they are the perfect home for the animals.

We're starting the new year off right for Zooguu - and that means getting organized. I'm preparing for more wholesale orders, and I selected my 20 favorite animals to focus on. So, step one is done!

Step two is to make sure I have a thick cardstock pattern made of every one of those animals in all of my size offerings: ornament, small, medium, large and extra large. Every pattern piece needs to be printed, cut out and placed in a corresponding envelope and labeled. I'm about 1/5 of the way done!

Step three is to make every animal in every size so they can be photographed. Brian is helping a lot by working with me every day to trace and cut these little (and sometimes huge) guys. I wanted to share the latest creation with you all: The first extra large fugu!

Along with getting organized in 2009, comes a long list of other things that I need to keep up with. These include blogging more, making more activities, updating, and an exciting new project I'm going to announce in a post very soon. :) Stay tuned!