Friday, September 19, 2008

What Will Your Child Discover Inside?

The Etsy community is filled with talented artists and crafters selling beautiful and unique pretend play toys that help parents preserve the magic of childhood. This post is part of my weekly writing series, "Imagination at Play". Stay tuned for more every Friday!

When a child looks inside one of helicopterstudio's Discovery Totes his imagination takes flight. Within moments, he's speeding across a racetrack, meeting a bunny friend in the forest or building sandcastles at the beach.

Rarely does one find art designed specifically for playtime. But Etsy shop owner Shannon Duffy has achieved just that with her beautiful Discovery Totes. Each one-of-a-kind tote is made with an artist's eye and a sense of whimsy. All are made using beautiful fabrics, some of which are vintage or have been upcycled.

Shannon is a new Etsy seller – she joined in June 2008 – but she's been making art with play in mind for a number of years. She earned her graduate degree in Metals/Jewelry from Arizona State University. Much of her work as a grad student consisted of "play" objects, enameled metal vessels that had moving parts or something inside for the viewer to discover. "I love the idea of seeing something and then manipulating it to find the wonderful surprise it holds," Shannon explained.

Shannon's son was born while she was still in grad school, and she was fascinated by the fact that he enjoyed playing with simple household objects far more than the colored plastic toys that were sold in stores for babies. After searching unsuccessfully for toys that were both beautiful and fun for her son and daughter, she decided to begin making their toys. The Discovery Totes soon followed and she began her journey as an Etsy seller.

Like other Etsians, Shannon truly enjoys her craft and gets excited when she thinks about people buying something handmade for their children. Her favorite part about her craft is dreaming up the idea for a new Discovery Tote then creating that imaginary world. 

It's clear that Shannon's shop, helicopterstudios, has a bright future. Her Discovery Totes are child-sized works of art designed to inspire imaginary worlds and allow children to explore art. "I see them as the child's first experience with an art object, something to be respected and treasured," said Shannon. "I have lots of art in my home and have taught my children to touch it with the understanding that it is important."

Shannon's hope is that her totes will encourage imaginary play for children and their parents. Quiet play and role-playing can help children hone their problem-solving skills, encourages cooperation and fosters the imagination. 

If you have a moment, be sure to check out Shannon's shop, helicopterstudios. Her Discovery Totes are just waiting for your child to explore, imagine and create her own little world.


  1. What a neat post, this is cool. Thanks for the comment on my blog.

  2. so awesome! this is a great blog, i love it! The peanut gallery, how cute! This feature is fantastic, what a great shop!

  3. Oh my gosh, those are sooo cute, I love the surprise inside.