By Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer
For those who haven’t completed their Christmas shopping or wish list, Owl Toy Craft is an option that must be looked into. Located in Topeka, IN, just south of Shipshewana, the shop boasts a variety of original wooden toys and games for anyone who appreciates quality handmade gifts. They offer over 100 different products and all fall into the category of “Things to Play With.”
Owned by Owen and LeEtta Wingard, the toys are put together by himself and a few of their children. As a matter of fact, their oldest son was the reason the business began over 22 years ago. The Wingards wanted to have a miniature wood barn for the baby and so Owen used scrap materials and created that first model.
“I was working at an RV company and was able to get some leftover scraps of wood. It was my first try at woodworking,” Wingard said. “I have been learning and trying new designs since then.”
Every year, they offer new items in their annual catalog. For example, the Fall 2017/Spring 2018 catalog features a skid loader, forklift, a flatbed trailer, milk wagon with cans, and a folding stockyard. Along with the regular inventory of trucks, various trailers and wagons, fences, mixers, tractors, manure spreaders, hay baler, and a number of different styles of farm buildings, an entire miniature farm set can be purchased for a reasonable sum of money. All their vehicles and machines have movable part, replicating the full-sized units.
While much of their stock is related to agricultural interests, many other toys are available as well as games. Doll owners will be pleased to hear that cribs, high chairs, and school desks are made at the shop. Games and educational toys such as a spinning block pull toy, alphabet train cars, and marble tic tac toe can be purchased from the company. A myriad of marble and car tracks are created and sold there with a very unusual offering in the midst.
Wingard received the patterns and instructions for music trees, a quaint form of the marble tracks. The pole is surrounded by ‘petals’ that are spaced and adjusted so the marble rolls from one to another in a downward spiral. As the marble falls onto the petal, it sounds a musical note. Some of the Owl Toy Crafts units are beautifully painted and have a lovely sound. One is a little plainer as it is not painted but the uniqueness of this toy comes from the sounds the marbles make.
“That one plays ‘Jesus Loves Me’,” Wingard said. “An 85-year-old man had a grandson who liked music and so they created these music trees. He gave me the pattern and showed me how to make them.”
Owl Toy Crafts are sold in 35 states and Canada along with an on-site shop. The option for items to be shipped is offered and a free catalog is available. They are open to special orders and the replicating of old toys or a special building from a photograph.
The woods used in the creation of the toys is poplar and birch that is purchased from a neighboring farm who happens to be Wingard’s father-in-law, making it a family-supported, local business.
For more information, their number is 260-593-2651.