I love connecting with fantastic women. While researching a what is a good baby doll for a first baby, Mari shared her experience with me while she worked for Manhattan Toy Company via the twitter. She is smart, sassy and very sweet.
Hi! I’m Mari, (that rhymes with Atari, not Mary) and I manage the kids design blog Small for Big. I’m a mom to my three year old girl, whom we’ve lovingly nicknamed Birdie. We live in Minneapolis, MN with her amazing Daddy-O. I’m also an adjunct professor with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and run a freelance product design business, mr design (www.maririchardsdesign.com). In my spare time I try to tame my sweet tooth (I’m failing miserably), and long for more time to play my neglected piano, or make art, or make other things, or knit, or read more, or do any of those lovely things you do when you don’t work for yourself and parent full-time. But I don’t think I’d have it any other way right about now. Carving my own path is exhilarating.
Though the blog officially started in 2008 when I was pregnant and working full-time as a Senior Designer at Manhattan Toy (www.manhattantoy.com), I didn’t really become driven to grow the blog until Birdie’s arrival and my subsequent lay-off in 2009. Small for Big(www.smallforbig.com) has become the most amazing way to continue my obsession with kids design. It lets me share my finds with others, and it keeps me current in the industry while growing my freelance design business. It also keeps me from buying everything I love, because I can “own” a little bit of it by featuring it on the blog. Honestly, I just love gathering all my favorite things in one place, and getting feedback from all of you.
I’m not Scandinavian, but Minnesota is full of Scandinavian heritage. We actually celebrate Syttende Mai every year with my husband’s family, and loooove lefse. I know, those are little things, but we do enjoy them! (I won’t lower the caliber of this conversation by mentioning the abundance of Ole and Lena jokes in this area!)
What is your favorite activity to do with children?
Anything creative. As an artist and designer, seeing my daughter’s drawing, making, and painting evolve every day is so amazing to me, I often get tears in my eyes watching her. But tickling her still she squeals is good too! What was the most surprising moment as a parent? This sounds silly in hindsight, but before Birdie was born, I knew there would be lots of love and lots of hard moments too. But I had NO idea how much we’d be laughing. That girl cracks me up, and that’s what keeps us going day to day.
What challenges have you faced as a parent?
Letting go. I should be a card-carrying member of Over-Achievers Anonymous. Because of that, I have to constantly remind myself that there is no such thing as the perfect parent. I also have a chronic disease that makes doing some things with Birdie harder than I’d like – so again, letting go of expectations and doing the best I can is an important mantra around here.
What is your favorite children’s story or fairytale?
It’s impossible to choose a single story. As a kid, it was Grover’s There’s A Monster at the End of This Book. Classically I suppose it’s Alice in Wonderland, and we can’t forget to mention Harry Potter. We also love everything written by Mo Willems and Oliver Jeffers.
What are your favorite Scandinavian companies, stores, or food?
Ikea (www.ikea.com), Vyssan Lull (http://vyssanlull.com/), Polarn O. Pyret (http://www.polarnopyretusa.com/), Huset (http://www.huset-shop.com/), and eating lefse, of course, as mentioned earlier!
What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Give it time and patience. Blogs change and grow all the time, so though it it’s important to decide on your niche, don’t be afraid to change and adjust things as you go. Be unique to you and your personality. Ask questions of other bloggers – we’ve all been in your shoes and everyone I’ve ever contacted has been so giving with their advice in return. Network with other bloggers you admire, and also bloggers that are new like you – building a virtual community makes this whole thing feel more real, viable, and sustainable to me. Know that the learning curve is never-ending! How can we contact you? (email, twitter, linkedin, facebook page, etsy shop, pinterest)
And I truly love seeing comments over at Small for Big – and I will always reply to them!