Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Since beginning our work at Spiral Garden, we have undertaken a great deal of research into the products we stock, wanting to bring our customers the best quality range of ethical and environmentally friendly products we can find. We're still working our way through the range, seeing if we can improve it. We've asked why our popular products are so popular and what our customers love about them best. We've also looked into their manufacturing, shipping process and ingredients lists, where possible.

It's not always an easy task to find the nitty gritty on certain products. And many we take for granted as being "safe", "non-toxic" and "harmless", when a little further research suggests perhaps they are not 100% so... It's quite an eye-opening process and as such, certain products may not be re-stocked as we find they do not meet our expectations. Or, we'll continue to stock them but let you know their credentials as much as we can. With all that in mind, to begin with, our attention turned to art supplies in the garden and today, I'm going to tell you all about our range of crayons and the process we've undertaken to understand them and bring you the range we have.

The first product we bought from Spiral Garden, as customers many years ago, was a tin of Stockmar Beeswax Crayons. They are so beautifully packaged in their sturdy little tin. Their bright rainbow colours in block or stick form... They smell like honey! And they last a series of toddlers, as our set can attest. These are artist quality crayons, meaning the colours are bright and bold. They glide onto the paper and their colour stays fast. Unfortunately it stays fast to the walls too, another fact our series of toddlers have demonstrated...

The shape of the Stockmar Block Crayons is fantastic for small hands to hold and begin drawing and experimenting with colour. Our children held them and enjoyed making their first marks on paper at only nine months! If you want a great to use, artist quality beeswax crayon that will last forever, this is it. Something our research has turned up is that, while Stockmar crayons do contain pure beeswax, they also contain a minimum of 10% paraffin (we've heard it may be even higher than this), among other chemicals which are used to help the colours stay fast and the crayons non-sticky and solid for years. Their pigments are often reported as "food safe" and "natural" when in actual fact they are pigments safe for use in food packaging, not food itself and some pigments are organic, while others are inorganic.

Paraffin in crayons, whilst being non-toxic and safe for human use, is made from petroleum, which in itself is toxic and not something I'm super comfortable with my toddlers ingesting and is one reason we've avoided buying commercial brands of parrafin crayons.

But its only a little alarming, when I consider many of the other things our toddlers have ingested... Overall, we love these crayons. Stockmar is an ethical company as far as we can tell and while not all product information is displayed transparently, basic information is generally accessible. They are made in Germany and shipped to a distributor in Australia who ships them to our local supplier in Tasmania... there's a fair bit of handling involved.

After assessing all this information about Stockmar Crayons, we needed to understand the crayon making process. We procured a block of local beeswax and made our own and learnt that we are not so great at making attractive crayons ourselves! But, we did understand more about the process, the chemicals and how they work to get the colour onto the paper.

So next we found the most natural crayon we could. Busy Bee Beeswax Crayons are made with Beeswax, natural pigments and clays. That's it. They are sticky to touch, so the wrapper is handy. We're thinking they may break a little more easily than Stockmar crayons, although this hasn't happened yet. Their colours are very natural looking. So natural that they lend themselves very well to drawing nature and in particular, the Australian landscape. The colours remind us of Tasmania.

These crayons are not what I would describe as artist quality. They are more transparent and they don't have the same glide as Stockmar crayons which we understand from our crayon-making experiments... But they are still beautiful to use and in the hands of an artist, any tool can create a thing of beauty.  They smell like honey! And they come direct from the hive, being made in the US by a family company with natural parenting values akin to our own. We love these crayons so much that we're thrilled to have become the Australian distributors for them.

Looking at our crayon range so far and Spiral Garden's historically most popular products, we decided to reintroduce a vegan option. And we are thrilled with Crayon Rocks. They are bright, great quality, fun to use... They look like jelly beans! They come in a gorgeous red velvet pouch which adds a little magic and is super transportable - perfect when we go outside to draw and can throw them in a bag or basket. Crayon Rocks are made from soy wax, and a mix of other waxes including carnauba wax, mineral pigments and limestone. They are kosher too.

Crayon Rocks are made ethically, by a small company in the US and ship directly to us. They work fantastically for little growing hands and have been recommended by occupational therapists for helping to develop children's tripod grip, ready for pencils and pens as their skills develop. They are best used with supervision and are not recommended for children under 3yrs because they are a choking hazard, although our toddler has been ok with them as she's moved past popping things in her mouth. We just love that they are so special and fun and offer something different for our art supply cupboard.

We find that our children choose crayons to suit what they are doing and they mix and match them if the mood strikes.

We leave crayons in a space where they can easily reach them, near sketch books or paper, and they use them readily as they play and learn about colour.

If you'd like any additional information on our crayons, we'd be happy to provide as much knowledge as we can. If you are a retailer, school or community group, we offer wholesale prices for bulk purchases of our Busy Bee Beeswax Crayons. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Global Footprint

When we choose new products for Spiral Garden, we are concerned about the global footprint left behind in the manufacturing and shipping process. We've applied our understanding on this to develop our own simplified global footprint rating system so that we can fairly easily see the impacts of each product comparitively. We've taken into account how fair, how local, how direct and how renewable each product is by the time it reaches us and we've given each product a point rating so you can see how it fares. This gives us a bit of transparency and impetus to find the most ethical, environmentally sound products for you. 

The manifesto above is how we approach our work at Spiral Garden, and life in general. We hope you love it and enjoy spending time in our garden, knowing we are tending it with the intention of treading lightly on the earth and helping you to do the same. xx

we love colouring!

You may have noticed that we have a new category on our website for colouring books. We find them an excellent form of downtime at our house and they are something that we like to do together. We all join in to make the colours jump from the page! In the last week or so, we've added two of our favourite colouring books to Spiral Garden, including The Babushka Colouring Book, by Babushka Girl.

It is full of beautiful, shapes, some simple, some more intricate, that everyone will love to have a go at. There's also space to embellish the page further once those creative juices are flowing! Or if you're feeling really organic and free, you'll find blank babushkas inside so you can decorate them any way you like. We sell these books on their own, or as part of a gift pack with a beautiful little matching doll. All designed in Victoria by Babushka Girl. Colouring books are printed locally on 100% recycled paper. How awesome is that?!

Our other favourite colouring book is the Indie Rock Colouring Book which features illustrations inspired by some of our favourite musicians like Feist, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear and so many more... Royalties from the sale of the book go to charities chosen by the musicians as part of the Yellow Bird Project. The best bit is that you can all colour and listen to the music together along the way. Super cool and lots of fun.

Both these books would make a perfect gift with, a bag of crayon rocks or packet of Lyra Pencils thrown in... or even just a great thing to tuck away for a rainy day when you feel like doing something relaxing and fun together... We hope you love colouring them as much as we do!