Handmade by Dr Hellion

The growing interest in Hellion Toys over the last six months has been incredible. I have a number of loyal supporters who keep returning to get behind the work I do. Something I am very grateful for. Today’s blog post talks about how this has prompted a new chapter in the Hellion Toys story as a result. Read on as it signals some new changes ahead!

When I say Hellion toys are designed in Britain and made in Britain, what I am really saying is, toys are designed and made by me. I, as a single craftswoman, handcraft wooden toys. This is a labour and time-intensive process. I typically craft my toys in small batches over a number of days, holding open space for them to be cut, sanded, dyed or painted. Finally finished with a varnish that takes a number of days to dry and set. It’s typically a 14 working day turnaround time in my shop, this is to keep things manageable.

I do this slow making process and hold open a craft space in a world where mass-produced toys are the norm, even in the ‘wooden’ toy arena. People can pick up toys immediately in a department store or have them delivered next day from large online retail stores. I get why this is the norm too. It is for sure more profitable to mass manufacturer a million ‘units’ in a labour cheap environment and have them shipped around the world ready to go. It isn’t the most sustainable, quality-focused or ethical approach however. Yet it sets that standard and expectations of how shops selling toys operate.

Growth and Letting Go

Working out how to sustainably grow, meet demand and thrive has been an ongoing project for 2020. How to keep with my values and keep being sustainable too. Factor in a pandemic and working around my now at home pre-schooler, and this project got far more interesting. Batch sizes have increased and inevitably turnaround times have gone up too. And after reflecting on all aspects of Hellion toys, the biggest challenge has been this: – the size of my shop and collection.

So what’s the balance? Well, I am aware I can no longer make available the full array of the toys now in my online store and keep up with demand. I’m not sure I want to keep making them all either, some are older designs and I know I cannot add in new toys and innovate if I keep them… In fact, I’m not sure when I quite made the commitment to keep everything I ever released as always available, but it’s s commitment I am no longer keeping.

Ahoy. Changes Ahead

With growth comes changes and letting go, especially to things that ultimately help keep the creative heart and values of Hellion Toys nurtured. So I have begun to snip away at the edges of my portfolio of toys. This is to reduce what I offer across the board and keep open some space for innovation. This now means I am in the process of reviewing each toy and designating it into one of two categories – The Essential Collection or The Classics collection.

Here is how I define the two:

Essentials Collection

The Hellion essentials are toys currently made in small batches and available for purchase. If they drop out of stock, it is a temporary situation. You can always sign up to be notified and never miss your opportunity to grab an essential.

Classics Collection

The Hellion Classics are toys now part of my back catalogue and no longer available to buy. Their retirement has made space for new toys to come in and keep space open for the day to day making. All Classic toys will live under a Classics archive category of the website. Periodically I may revive a classic design and offer it on a limited basis, something that might happen in tandem with a retail partner too. Follow my Instagram page to keep up with the latest and be the first to hear.

Future Steps

In all likelihood, the two categories will continue to be refined as the year goes on. There are exclusive items planned for Christmas that will likely require room being made for their release.

Longer-term, I will be looking towards taking on an apprentice to share the heritage craft of toymaking with. Things are changing. It is the best solution to keeping Hellion innovative, healthy and manageable.

Much love,
Dr Hellion