The Christmas lights are all switched on and it’s already December, which can only mean one thing, the countdown to Christmas has begun.
It’s the mad rush to get a decent Tesco delivery slot, the best stocking fillers, decorations and the perfect sound track.
Esther and Raquel from Carddies can answer at least one of those dilemmas with their fantastic paper people who bring storytelling and colouring in to children (and adults).
Since David Attenborough shared Blue Planet with us earlier this year we have all become increasingly more conscious of plastic, (at least I hope so).
And with children’s toys being one of the worst offenders, Carddies has tapped into several qualities that have long been missed from the toy market.
For one, being environmentally friendly and completely recyclable, for two, actually requiring children to use their imagination, for three, 0% screen time required and most importantly: it’s creative.
Carddies don’t bring a creative object for children to observe, like a computer for example, Carddies provide a platform for kids to be creative themselves.
British Products got a chance to chat with the innovative pair behind this fantastically British idea.
So, firstly when did you guys come up with the idea?
Esther: “Raquel started drawing hundreds of little card people for her three daughters when they were little. On holiday it was the perfect way to get though a wet afternoon, or when keeping everyone busy in a restaurant, café, outing or even when travelling.”
Raquel: “I would take an empty cereal box, scissors, pen, and colouring pencils and draw them to order!”
Did you grow up with a love of drawing and colouring in? What inspired you to turn this from an idea into a fully-fledged product?
Raquel: “We used to make cardboard dolls when we were little, such as this one we still have from childhood days:
(note the enormous size of the base…see below as to much better stands we use for Carddies!)”
Esther: “Raquel always loved making animals and people out of all sorts of recycled things…Having children of her own gave her the excuse to regress!”
Raquel: “When they were little, my (very lively!) girls would be completely absorbed with their homemade Carddies, colouring them in, giving them names and playing with them for hours at a time. After a few years of this, and of other children also asking me to draw them, it suddenly occurred to me that the card people could be made into a toy. With Esther’s very practical and focused involvement, it was a dream that became reality.”
I love the fact that it is plastic free! Was this a deliberate choice to make a more environmentally friendly/chemical free product?
Raquel:” Yes it was. We set out, from the beginning, for the Carddies to be a British made product, and as eco-friendly as possible. We have always felt (and the feedback on our product supports this) that people do like to buy British when possible, and do like buying products that are eco-friendly.
The only plastic components are the little stands in each Carddies set, as well as the small sphere in the Carddies Football set (both components made in the UK). We used plastic for the stands to enhance play value and longevity of the toy. Anyone who has played with cardboard dolls knows how frustrating it is that they don’t stand properly and that their clothes don’t stay on!”
Esther: “This is why when Raquel made them for her daughters, and then we made them into a proper toy, the clothes are coloured in and stay on. The idea of using stands was mine, as I thought it was very odd that my nieces were quite happy to play with the Carddies flat, as if they were cards!”
What has been your favourite Carddies set to design so far? And will Christmas see some Crimbo themed sets hit the shelves?
Esther: “As with children, we have to say that we love all the Carddies equally! (Or at least Raquel says that, because she takes the anthropomorphism thing a bit too far.) She was particularly excited to have the opportunity to draw a fabulous brand new Christmas set just out:
Together with our existing Carddies Nativity set, it makes a perfect stocking filler and activity for children while their parents snooze on sofas…”
Raquel: “Esther’s favourite sets are Carddies Fairies and our brand new Carddies Pirates:
All the Carddies sets are perfect all year round gifts. We now have 15 sets (16 if you count our special Carddies My Family, designed with all families in mind), available from our own Amazon store.”
Why do you think these kinds of toys are important for children?
Raquel: “As parents we can see the benefit in screen-free, absorbing, imaginative play. When we designed the Carddies, we didn’t set out to make an “educational toy” as such, but that is what they are: Carddies encourage the use of imagination and creativity, as well as the development of fine motor skills, conversation and story-telling.”
Esther: “Between us we have seven imaginative children who came up with many ideas along the way and were very involved in the product design, etc. (eg the idea of a double-sided foldout scene and the naming card which provides a backdrop for playing with the Carddies, a bit like a theatre, as well as giving the child many more hours of colouring in). The idea of naming each character came from Raquel’s children, who used to give names to every single homemade Carddie, and then play all sorts of games with them (enabling even more personalisation of the toy by the child, as well as her/his use of imagination). Carddies are completely instinctive for children, who immediately “get them” and get stuck in immediately, first colouring in, then playing with them…no complicated instructions necessary! (and definitely no batteries…very much a traditional toy).”
I know you have a London one but will there be any more British themed sets?
Raquel: “Carddies London and Carddies Sports were made in 2012, a year where the whole country was celebrating special events, but really it is a timeless/nostalgic set, and for us there will always be a Carddies corgi and queen, as well as a Carddies bobby, grenadier guard, beefeater, pearly queen and king! London is the place where we have both lived the longest, so in a way it is a tribute to London, but also a nod to all things British, with the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben etc and a River Thames based scene. Children playing with the set can view it through the eyes of a boy and a girl who are also in the set, ready to visit London landmarks and characters.”
Another very new, very British set, is Carddies Wedding, which we launched in Spring 2018…designed with some Royal inspiration! Carddies Wedding is a perfect take-home gift for bridesmaids, pageboys, and other little wedding guests. The set is suited to varied scenarios to reflect different types of family, with four adults and eight children. The wedding scene to colour in is a beautiful garden featuring wedding guests plus the usual array of Carddies animals (dogs, cats, rabbits and more).
What British story would you most like to tell through Carddies?
Both: “We had a clear vision that the Carddies were going to be a top quality product which we would want to buy ourselves as parents….and that the product had to appeal to the child who would be able to personalise the toy and make it theirs. As parents, we have felt frustrated at times as to the poor quality and value for money of some arts and crafts products and toys, and were keen to ensure that we used top quality materials throughout (eg pencils of artist standard, premium card). For us the best way of achieving this as a small family business, was to source locally as much as possible.
It can be much more rewarding doing business directly with people at a local level, even if that is as the expense of margins. We are also very conscious of keeping the travel miles of our materials to a minimum.
Perhaps the most British story we are telling through Carddies is that you most definitely don’t have to be British to feel “Made in Britain”; we are Spanish! We came to the UK as young teenagers and, although we remain very much in touch with our Spanish roots, consider the UK our home!”
Oh and this is what we look like (on a good day)
And this is our preferred version, as Carddies!: