It started as a simple craft done at the kitchen table. The kids had been given this gingerbread man cutout that was laminated so they could bring it home and trace it, play with it, make more gingerbread men…You get the idea. But this made them want to make other shapes that they then traced and colored, like the gingerbread man. There came from this simple day of play, a collection of rhinos. Large and small, bright and bold, with fierce horns, and bowed heads. Some even had two heads…one on each side! (Just to represent the monstrous side of things!!) They were so precious. The kids cut them out, colored them, and turned them into puppets with popsicle sticks. Like many things born in this way, they were all too soon forgotten, having fallen under the table, or stuck behind a chair, and they were no longer interested in playing with them. That is when my inspiration struck!
You see, I had been experimenting with fabric design, and playing around with my own doodles for a couple of weeks, trying to get the hang of the graphic nature of online fabric design. In a moment of brilliance, I saw these sweet, disregarded rhinos for what they were…Complete and total inspiration! My kids might have been finished with them, but I was only getting started. I deconstructed the popsicle stick version, and layed them out on a white surface to photograph, and the rest is history. I now have a collection of ten or so fabric designs, all featuring the rhino stick puppet cut outs. I love them. When I look at them, I am instantly happy, rejuvenated, and transported back to that magical day. I know it was a magical day because I have tried over and over to recreate the experience with no luck whatsoever. They can tell I am onto them now, and like the tap-dancing, singing frog, they just sit there and ribbit at me when I suggest in my most cheerful voice, “Who wants to make some stick puppets with a new animal today!?” I know it will come back around one day, but for now, I am utterly smitten and happy with our little rhino collection.
Each time an item sells with the fabric they helped design, I tell them about it, and give them a little cash for their piggy banks. It has become a source of pride and joy for them to see their drawings made into something lasting and tangible.
Then one day a few months ago, I receive this letter through Etsy:
I am a Zookeeper with the Toronto Zoo and I am organizing a fundraiser through our AAZK committee to help raise money for Rhino Conservation! Last year we were able to raise over $17,000!
We are currently looking for any Rhino related items that companies/ organizations would be willing to donate as auction items for our event! All funds go directly towards the facilities that support Rhino Conservation!
If you would consider donating a Rhino blanket I also have an official letter I could send you along with more information need be!
We REALLY appreciate every little donation and will definitely advertise what companies donated items for our auction in hopes that it would also help you get more business!
I hope to hear from you soon and am happy to answer any questions you may have!
I thought that was so awesome. Awesome in so many ways…the conservation of rhinos? CHECK! The pleasure of meaningful donations? CHECK! Getting our family business all the way out to Toronto? CHECK! And my favorite one of all…Talking to my daughter about the significance of this project? Check. I let her read the letter and asked her what she thought. She does have a sense of ownership over these blankets and quilts with her drawings on them, and if I was to give one away, I wanted to know how she felt about that. It meant I wouldn’t get paid for it, which would mean she wouldn’t get any dollars for her piggy bank either. Did she even hesitate for one, single second?! Of course she didn’t. She thought it was amazing and awesome too. We looked into the organization together and did some rhino research, and we became even more aware of the issue than we already were. When I shipped the blanket off to Toronto, I made sure she knew it was on the way, and we celebrated the moment together.
I guess the moral of the story here is this…You never know where an idea will take you. You never know what small thing will one day become a very big and important thing. You never know when a laminated gingerbread man made from blue construction paper and sent home in your child’s school folder will change the way you do business. You just never know, and isn’t that amazing! Now I see rhinos everywhere. Mostly they are sad stories about poaching, or declining populations, but I hear them. I am aware of them, and I donate to the cause as I am able because it feels like the right thing to do…and the kids think so too!