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It’s one of our favourite Toronto weekends; the Springtime One of A Kind Show is on right now! Among the many, many great vendors is a small but mighty mom-run Toronto toy company called Fidoodle, whose beautiful stuff we’ve talked about before hereToronto artist and mother of two Jen Bulthuis talked to us recently about how she creates some of the coolest, most interactive toys around.

How did you get started?

I started the business when my first daughter was a year and a half. I’d been a print maker, and an artist for a long time. But originally I was a teacher. Then I worked with street youth for probably six years, mostly running arts facilitation and stuff like that until 2003. My partner and I travelled for about six months and came back and then I had my daughter. I guess in some ways it was a combination of a lot of things.

There’s such a resurgence right now in children’s toys so it’s an exciting time to be doing that kind of thing. I started as an artist but I’m not an industrial designer, and I wasn’t trained as an illustrator. So that’s all kinda challenging, and I’m learning all the time, but I think that’s what I love about it. I love the idea of having a concept and trying to find materials that match that concept. I am a screen printer, which is great because you can screen anything so it’s really flexible.

How did you come up with the name Fidoodle?

Everyone asks me that and I don’t have a good story. I remember going somewhere, biking, and stopping at a stop sign. I remember thinking Fidoodle, like you fiddle with things and play around with them. But it also had a fairy tale feeling. I haven’t regretted the name – which is good – because it was an unconscious decision.

I think now Fidoodle feels separate from who I am. It feels like it’s an entity that exists on its own.  I guess it’s similar to that thing when you write, where those characters take on their own thing. It feels like an entity that’s developed on its own. I feel like I’m watching the company develop in some way.

Do you have a favourite toy?

I really like the butterfly doll. I think for me its part of my own strength. I went to butterfly conservatory quite a bit when my youngest was really little and she was just so taken by the thought of butterflies. Watching kids grow up, the transformation is very beautiful. So I think how it relates with children is really beautiful and the connection with the natural world.

Interview by Jes Watson; edited and condensed by Meri Perra.

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