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. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    this is great that you are looking into your products in such an in depth way. I am a tassie homeschooler, and my children and I are also vegan. I have likewise searched for eco-friendly, quality, vegan crayons, and have always been a bit wary of crayon rocks because of the other 'natural waxes' they contain. I have come across some that list beeswax in their ingredients here: http://www.ekobear.ca/clementine-art-natural-soy-crayon-rocks but I think they are a different brand to what you stock. I thought you might like to see these vegan, organic, edible crayons I found at this site: http://www.weecantooart.com/ I haven't tried them yet but they look amazing! Warm regards, Danielle.