Eugene Weekly’s Gift Guide 2010:
Reduce, Reconnect, Rejoice! More ideas than just “coupon good for one massage”
Organic on Your Skin Soaps made with love and garden herbs
Caffeine Up Get through the holidays with the rituals of tea and coffee
Birds of a Feather Art and fashion in Poppy & Moe
Between Children and Young Adults Gifts for tweens straddle the line
Wood from the Heart Bad economy leads to lovely toys
Life, Death and Water Soothing fountains arise from crises
Drool-Worthy and Local Start a new, natural tradition
Kiss the Cook Better yet, get the cook one of these great holiday gifts
Genius Gift: Make your own Fizzy Water
Wood from the Heart
Bad economy leads to lovely toys
by Suzi Steffen
For more than a decade, Chason McClelland made his living as a carpenter in Eugene. He and his wife had four kids, whom they home-school, and as dyed-in-the-wool Eugeneans, they knew how to have fun hiking, fishing and mushroom-hunting, so it’s not like they were spending a ton of money.
Then the economy crashed. McClelland and his family suffered through a couple of hard years of intermittent work before a job ended in 2009, and he knew he wasn’t likely to be employed for a while. “I didn’t have any work, and I didn’t see any in the future, so within one day of being unemployed, I just made this up.”
“This” is Heartwood Natural Toys, which he says has done well during the past year. If you’re often at the Saturday Market, you might recognize his kitchen ($260) or the potty chair ($50) and his other wooden toys, all handmade by McClelland and his assistant.
The potty chair looks almost too nice for its function, and McClelland points out that he doesn’t use any plastic, any plywood or any chemicals (he does use linseed oil or flaxseed oil to finish the wood after sanding it down so it’s not dangerous for little hands and other parts). He doesn’t use paint, either. “I don’t think our kids need paint.” he says.
Any parent or relative knows that kids enjoy taking crayons, markers or pens to their toys (and the walll, but that’s a different story). With McClelland’s toys — the pint-sized fridge, for example — the answer doesn’t involved a lot of chemical sprays and scrubbing, not to mention the under-the-breath cursing and pointing out of how expensive this plastic crap is: “When kids draw on ’em or scratch ’em, you can fix it real easy,” he says. “Just sand it and linseed oil it.” Presto: Good as new!
McClelland sells his work both on his own website (http://heartwoodnaturaltoys.com) and on Etsy (http://wkly.ws/x0), where he’s sold to people all over the country. “Oregon is number one in unemployment and homelessness, so local has been pretty hard for me,” he says. The East Coast has worked out better as a market, and Etsy makes that easier.
But the Holiday Market might change some of his experiences with local sales, and in addition, he’s working on putting together a holiday artists’ cooperative for a large space inside the Heron Building at 6th and Olive. “The lady who owns the building just offered it to us for free,” he says, marvelling. Now he’s trying to recruit other artists and craftspeople to sell from the large empty space next to McKenzie Outfitters. “They can sell their stuff for free. All they have to do is come down one day a week and sit with the stuff” and help sell for everyone else, he says. (Contact him at email@example.com or 541-501-7031 for more info.)
To prepare for the holidays, he’s been working from 7 am to midnight every day in his studio. “I listen to reggae and NPR while I work,” he says, and then jokes, “just like everybody else.”
What’s he going to do when the Holiday Market ends? “I’m going to hang out with my kids,” he says. “They probably miss me!” GG
Chason McClelland and Heartwood Natural Toys will be at the Holiday Market Nov. 26-28 and Dec. 4-5 and 22-24.