Frustrated at their inability to find quality toys for their own sons, Erin and Aaron Nuland started their own company to create and sell them.
When does a screaming, crying customer spell success? When that customer is a child who doesn’t want to leave artist Aaron Nuland’s wonderful world of eco-friendly, handcrafted wooden toys. Aaron’s wife and business partner, Erin Nuland, says parents have a hard time leaving, too: “They often say our toys remind them of those they had when they were children. Everyone appreciates the natural finishes as well as their sturdiness and aesthetics, but their biggest appeal is how they encourage creativity and developmental skills in small children.”
Aaron has always been a hands-on kind of guy. He began working in construction in his late teens but didn’t like the commercialism or 70-hour work weeks of “building Walmarts and grocery stores.” That kind of routine also offered little time to be with his family. Faced with increasing frustration at the couple’s inability to find quality toys for their own sons, Aaron was inspired to create a toy line that would “endure the torture little boys and girls put them through and provide countless hours of imaginative and creative play.”
Aaron’s process is labor intensive, but it is also work with meaning. Imaginative, appealing Ferris wheels, tow trucks, work benches, blocks, cars and trucks are first sketched, then worked out in the shop until tweaked to perfection. While templates are used to retain shape uniformity, the uniqueness of each piece of hardwood ensures that no two toys are exactly alike. The toys’ durability and beeswax or linseed oil finishes give children a “strong, all-natural toy they can safely scoot, shake, throw, bite or suck on without parents having to worry about any harmful byproducts of plastics and paints.”
A Summer Afternoon, the Nulands’ company name, offers its products at craft and wholesale trade shows all over the country. He was a first-time exhibitor at the 2014 Buyers Market of American Craft. New items coming this summer, says Aaron, include a memory game, an airplane and a few other toys geared toward the 4- to 6-year-old age group.