In this commercial world filled with visual noise and endless consumerism, Rock & Pebble provides simple toys made from quality materials that are designed to stimulate little minds. Olive, the creative behind Mr. Printables and Rock & Pebble, shares the story behind these two ingenious kids’ brands.
Tell us about your background and how that led to the start of Mr. Printables.
Art, architecture and design were always what I surrounded myself with. However, I wasn’t familiar with the internet and blogging at all. I used email, but hardly browsed or used any social media before Mr. P [Mr. Printables]. I bought a large personal printer to print some photos and it was great. I immediately had so many ideas for making things from printed paper, which led to an idea of sharing them on the internet. I thought this idea of changing the methods of traditional production and distribution was so exciting, of course this wasn’t a new idea for probably some decades already even then, but out of my naivety about what was going on around the web, I thought I should try it. I had the idea of building a website (I didn’t know the word “blog” then). I googled “how to make a website” and started with what came up in the search results and kept going. All while learning and discovering that there are so many interesting things happening out there.
It is so impressive that you essentially built your own online presence. How do you feel about social media and how it has changed the way businesses interact with consumers? Does this help you or hinder you?
I still have a lot to learn about social media, but I recognize that it’s becoming more and more important for us. One day, I discovered that there were lots of photos of projects people had made from Mr. P on Instagram. I didn’t know about it at all, it was very exciting, a total revelation! Then, I learned of the close interaction between businesses and their customers/audiences taking place there. I find people on IG to be super friendly and there is lots of enthusiasm and support for one another’s creative output. Many customers and retailers approach us first and engage, which is so nice when you’re a bit shy and new to the platform. So far, I have only found it very helpful.
What prompted your new adventure Rock & Pebble?
The great thing about running Mr. P is that we can try out so many play ideas without going through the long process of manufacturing and selling. It’s all about experimentation and having fun. However, we naturally have many ideas that would really benefit from being well made from quality material and precise manufacturing. Many of those ideas are unpublished and waiting in the sketch book. We first made some fun dollhouses in cardboard on Mr. P that were loved very much. When we developed more designs, I just felt they really needed to be made to a different standard to do justice to the fine shapes. We decided to make some plywood prototypes and they looked great. They had a beautiful presence in wood. The natural tone with the varying surface, the thickness of the material and the edges all completed the design perfectly. And Rock & Pebble was launched!
Your pieces are so interactive. What do you hope children come away with after playing with these pieces?
Great stories to tell! Interactivity is important as we want children to engage with the objects with creative thoughts. New toys shouldn’t just be about acquiring a new possession. We hope children build their amazing stories and adventures on these little platforms we’ve made for them.
Where are you based? How do your surroundings influence you creatively?
We are based in California and England. As the years go by, my love of being surrounded by nature grows. I love traveling. It used to only be about big cities of the world, but now I plan to explore more into the wilderness. Seeing more nature, in combination with seeing great artworks from different museums around the world, is the best thing I can do to influence my creativity. I try to travel a lot and split time between cities and countryside to take advantage of both.
While surrounded by a mass of stuff, good and bad, in this contemporary life, you could lose a sense of what’s really good. Mediocre outcomes can be equally or more successful in a purely commercial sense and you can fall into that trap easily. I think travelling to see amazing nature and art helps you to have higher expectations of what’s good enough for you and what inspires you beyond what’s already surrounding you in everyday life.
What will we be seeing from Rock & Pebble in the future?
Definitely more dollhouses and wooden toys – we have so many sketched and prototyped! I’m also very excited about some furniture pieces and home wares we’re looking at, both small and large items. We only played with paper on Mr. P, which is endlessly versatile, but I do feel very greedy about trying other nice materials and can’t wait to get our hands on more wood, fabric, wool, glass, etc with Rock & Pebble’s future designs.