Art Supplies Good Enough to Eat—Well, Almost
Few things are more memorable than the smell of crayon shavings and lumps of deep-hued play dough. Unfortunately, conventional art supplies can contain unsavory petrochemical ingredients and harmful dyes. You certainly wouldn’t want them in kids’ little bodies, but they also end up down the drain and in waterways where they can harm ecosystems, says Cammie Weeks, co-founder of Eco-Kids, a kid-safe art supply company based in Maine.
Cammie and her husband, Kip, run Eco-Kids, together with their three kids—Jack, Maggie and Gus. The company started around the time the couple had their first child. Cammie had been nannying for a family in California and “was making what became our Eco-Dough—which the kids loved—and my husband had an aha moment: ‘Why don’t we sell this at the farmers’ market?’”
They took their dough (a recipe passed down from Cammie’s mother) to the Hollywood farmers’ market, then to other farmers’ markets in the Los Angeles area. The company grew from there, adding to its product line bit by bit. “Kip and I were not from the business world,” Cammie continues, “but we caught the attention of an investor who funded us.” Today, Eco-Kids products are available nationwide in specialty toy shops, bookstores, museums and natural food stores.
Everything in their line is made from natural, nontoxic ingredients. “If it happens to go in the mouth, it’s fine,” says Cammie. “They’re fine to go down the sink to waterways. And outside, they’re not going to cause any damage to plants and the ecosystem. There are natural earth pigments in the crayons, which help color stay longer,” she explains. “But the Eco-Dough and Eco-Egg Coloring Kits are made with all-plant-based fruit and vegetables dyes.”
The Weekses moved the company to Maine in 2010, which allowed them more space to keep up with growing production demand. “Last year we moved production out of our house to a commercial space.” The great majority of their products are made in their commercial space, but art pads come from “a wind-powered, soy-ink company near us in Maine.”
What’s in store for Eco-Kids? “We’re growing slowly and paying attention to our customers.” They are always up for product suggestions, says Cammie. “We want to know what people want so that we can provide it for them in the cleanest way possible.” Have an idea for Eco-Kids? Submit it through their website, www.ecokidsusa.com, or post it to their Facebook page. Visit the website to purchase supplies or to learn where Eco Kids products are available near you.