creative thinkers: amber dusick of woodmouse

handmade wooden robot toy blocks

Amber Dusick is the uber successful craftress behind woodmouse. She creates unique wood blocks & figures that inspire creativity children & adults alike. Last week, I shared a brief snippet of my conversation with her where she explained how she tries to view the world & create art the way a child would.

So… I had to know…

Do you ever fear looking silly? If so, how do you get past that bump?

Of course! All the time. But not when I’m creating because I reassure myself that if what I make is silly nobody ever has to see it. I have a whole “reject pile” of work that nobody has ever seen. I keep it because I had fun with it but it isn’t something I’d ever sell. Telling yourself that, that it is “just for your eyes only” can free you up that way. It is when you start creating FOR the eyes of others that you get stuck behind that fear.

Oh, that’s just brilliant. I have the same thing… although I haven’t really thought of it that way. I have Moleskines full of writing & lots of half written drafts. Some I may revisit – most I won’t. Creating FOR others is tricky!

It IS and it is hard not to once you are in the business of selling.
But every time I start creating FOR others I also enjoy it a little less.

How do you distinguish between what you’ll sell and what is not saleable? Or is it just a gut feeling?

Because the stuff I won’t sell is just plain terrible! LOL No really, I allow myself to make terrible stuff. That leaves room to make the good stuff. I have never been able to make a cat for example. There are a few cats in our wood pile right now. Would I buy those cats? No way.

HA!! That’s really going to help a lot of people.

I love that your wooden toys transcend the basic idea of sustainability: it’s both impermanent – in that it is from the earth & will return to the earth – and permanent – in that there’s nothing to break or destroy with rough play. How does the value of sustainability inspire your work?

Well, I think the value of sustainability is part of why I started making toys in the first place. After I had my son and our house slowly started filling up with cheap, plastic toys I realized they are the opposite of sustainability. They break fast and rarely last past a few years so they wind up in a landfill and sit there for a long, long time. It made me sick to my stomach to think about it. The guilt! I like to think that my toys will be passed down through generations because they are solid, sturdy and artful.

I do try to create things that always have appeal to children, like toys inspired by nature. Children were in awe of acorn caps hundreds of years ago and I like to think that the children of the future will dig them too. If so, my designs themselves have sustainability.

handmade wood cell phone toy

Yes, and I think adults are in awe of them too!

You also have a newish ceramics shop on Etsy. How does your creative process differ between designing your toys and your ceramic pieces?

It does and it doesn’t. Ceramics is brand new to me and I’m just playing around with it. I’m not the type who can laser focus on anyone thing, I always have to be mixing it up. I take breaks from my passions with other passions. The coolest part is that what I do in ceramics influences what I’ll then do in wood and back and forth. Every time you jump mediums it stretches you. You see the old one with fresh eyes.

I can certainly understand that! Is there a thread, then, that connects all your passions?

Me! That and everything I do is creative based. Math is not one of my passions and it probably never will be.

I also saw on the Handmade Portraits video that you’re inspired by the open-endedness of Waldorf toys… how can an adult create or use tools to give them that same open-ended opportunity in their creative process?

I’d say to try approaching your work like a child would. Play around a lot. Limit yourself to just two materials and see if you can think of ten ways to create with them. Then think of ten more. Are there any non-art related tools or materials you could be using? Do you generally create in a certain style? Try creating in the opposite style.

handmade wood bear ball toy

Great suggestions! And those really apply to any creative task – not just arts & crafts. I could use all of those ideas to create websites or writing an ebook.

You seem to be a soft spoken entrepreneur. What’s been your greatest key to success with your creative business?

My greatest key to success has been to create from within. To create from my heart and soul. Once I do that I have no competitors because nobody else is ME. Also, I make damn sure I’m enjoying what I’m doing. And I do!

Anyone want to argue with that? I didn’t think so! Check out Amber at her wood toy shop, woodmouse, and in her self-titled ceramics shop. Her blog is a must-see too!

3 thoughts on “creative thinkers: amber dusick of woodmouse

  1. I love Woodmouse, and have 2-3 of her wonderful creations. My new sheepie just arrived!
    It’s funny, sometimes I think something has gone wrong during a creation. Didn’t turn out quite the way I thought, or hoped. I put it up for sale anyway, and – almost always – it finds the right buyer. The person that really liked the fact that the ears were lopsided….

    1. Woolies – that is an interesting comment about the imperfect stuff finding the right buyer, certainly minor imperfections give a certain sweetness and character to work. I’ve sold a few “imperfect” items here and there…but some of mine is so sincerely terrible that I don’t feel like it is a fair representation of my other work. I don’t even think I could share my pathetic cat attempts on my blog. Usually happens in the designing stage, where I just can’t get it right. My son has all a few rejects and a few even go to the fireplace.

  2. I’m a big fan of Woodmouse and an even bigger fan of Amber! This was wonderful insight into how she thinks and creates. Thanks for such provocative questions, Tara. Amber’s thoughtful answers were truly inspiring. I love her key to success and want that to be my new mantra.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *