When mechanical engineer and mom Kara Dyer starting looking at dollhouses for her daughter, she felt like Goldilocks as she examined the existing dollhouses on the market -- they were either too expensive and elaborate or cheap and uninteresting. There was no “just right.”
Combining her product design skills and her friend Sara Argue’s artistic talents, Kara founded Storytime Toys, whose line of classic fairy tale toy houses have enjoyed a successful initial production run on Kickstarter and a product launch on The Grommet.
We are excited to invite Storytime Toys as a speaker at the 2014 Product Pitch at Fenway Park. Dollhouse-making sounds classic and quaint, but their Maker story is one of the coming together of traditional skills and new technology in software and hardware for design innovation.
Kara and Sara’s Maker journey started out simply enough with sketches of the house, furniture, and characters on paper in designing the first dollhouse.
To create a virtual prototype, CAD (computer-aided design) software was used to make a 3D model. A few quick cardboard prototypes of the design later (to test the fit of the pieces), the team was ready to find the “just right” material for the toy house.
While wood or plastic are common materials for toy houses on the market, Kara wanted something different. By laminating a layer of EVA foam between cardstock, she was able to create a material that was lightweight, but rigid in nature. This composite would allow her to utilize a manufacturing process called die cutting (similar to using cookie cutters), keeping costs low -- and her products affordable.
Sara then hand painted every part of the dollhouses, from the ceiling to the characters to the toy furniture. The rich watercolor paintings were then scanned and integrated into the CAD renderings of the dollhouses and characters, bringing art into product. Thanks to collaborative software hosted in the cloud, these files were shared seamlessly even while Kara and Sara sat miles apart from each other.
With working CAD models, the creation of a quality composite material, and the integration of original art, the investment in a laser cutter provided the last piece for putting together the team’s final prototype. The team was able to quickly cut the art-covered foam and cardstock pieces for their first EVA foam prototype.
Thanks to good old talent and new technology, Kara and Sara were able to rapidly prototype and bring their product to market, taking part in the bigger Maker Movement and creating toys that push the envelope for design innovation.
Be sure to tune into the Boston.com live stream of Product Pitch on 3/20 to hear the Design in Innovation panel, where Storytime Toys will share their Maker insights!
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Caroline hails from a tiny tropical island originally, but calls Boston home. A curious bird, she spent a spring trekking all over Ireland, has been an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet, and worked at Disney World as a merchandising intern. With a love for all things interesting, she found herself at The Grommet, where she gets to eat, sleep, and breathe innovative undiscovered products. Say hello to her on Twitter.