Irish handmade toys flood into our kitchen in the weeks approaching Christmas. Once they are ready for hand painting they make their way from the workshop to the kitchen where life gets a bit tricky cooking the family dinner with hobby horses drying left, right and centre!

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Dans range of hand crafted hobby horses come in a wide range of colours. Choices include bright and vibrant colours to soft pastel shades. All the paints used are child friendly, toy safe and non-toxic. There is also the choice of traditional milk paints, used by the Quakers, which are a particularly eco-friendly option.

Hobby Horses currently are being painted and shipped out in time for Christmas. If you’d like to place an order there’s only a few days left. This year Dan has been making some beautiful Hobby Dragons to add to his collection. These are available to order and there’s also a limited number available at the Leitrim Design House in Carrick-on- Shannon. Merry Christmas.

It’s that time of year again when the orders start coming in for the Christmas season. Hand crafted traditional wooden toys make fantastic Christmas presents for both boys and girls. They are the heirlooms of tomorrow. It really helps avoid disappointment on your part and a last minute maniacal rush on Dan’s part if orders can be placed as early as possible. Pop on over to the website at http://www.hobbyhorsetoys.com to choose colours and sizes, then place your order.

Dan was featured in the November issue of Ireland’s Homes, Interiors and Living Magazine in an article very cleverly titled ‘The Mane Man’!

Wooden hobby horses aren’t the only equine exposure here on our smallholding. Any day now our first real horses, an Irish Gypsy cob and her foal, are due to arrive with us.

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There once was a little girl in Scotland who made a birthday wish … she wished that she could have her very own dragon. Somebody heard her wish and asked a man in Ireland to sketch out a plan, which he did …

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When the man in Ireland was happy with the drawing he choose a nice piece of wood, a piece of wood that spoke ‘dragon’ to him, and he started to cut, sand and sand some more. When the wood was the right shape and smooth to the touch he began to paint it, which brought it to life …

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When he was finished he smiled with pride and hoped that the girl who had wished for a dragon would like it too ….

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and she did.

Happy New Year from the Hobby Horse Toys workshop. The order books are now open again. At the end of 2007 we had to turn away a few customers as Dans order book was full. In these cases we encourage people to think about placing the order for a birthday instead. Placing orders in advance will ensure delivery in time for Christmas, ideally at least 3 months in advance.

Dan works alone on his hobby horses, he is a one many show. He loves the work that he does and he has no ambition for Hobby Horse Toys to grow any larger than it is now … small is beautiful, and enjoyable. He keeps order down to a level that leaves time for him to enjoy each and every creation, to take pride in his work. He never wants his Hobby Horses to become a production line item, or a chore to complete. This is part of the attraction of a Hobby Horse gift. If you think you may wish to order a gift for Christmas please email Dan at dan@hobbyhorsetoys.com with an ‘expression of interest’, there is no obligation whatsoever to go ahead with an order, but it will help Dan to plan the year ahead in terms of when to close his order books. You would need to get back in touch to place a firm order two months in advance for the majority of the year, or 3 months for Christmas order. If you haven’t placed an order, still do get in touch, just in case we have one or two in stock.

Dan now works direct with customers and has decided not to sell via shops anymore. He will continue to supply two prestigious outlets who have been extremely supportive … The Leitrim Design House, and the Shaker Shop. To view hobby horses go to the Hobby Horse Toys website at www.hobbyhorsetoys.com

Here is the latest personalised horse sent out over the Christmas period.

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Orders for the wooden hobby horses have been coming in from as far afield as Singapore, California and Australia. They have all been shipped off in time for Christmas. The Christmas order book has been full to the brim for some time now, but orders will be taken again in the New Year. Make sure you place an order a couple of months before you require your horse. Return to the main website to place an order at http://www.hobbyhorsetoys.com

Dan won’t be attending an Christmas Fairs this year with his horses as he has plenty of orders to keep him busy. There will be a limited supply taken by Leitrim Design for sale at the RDS Craft Show in December. There are an handful of Irish stockists also listed on the website.

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A special commission was received to design a dragon hobby horse, based on one particular childs favourite film character. On these occasions, the design is started from scratch and the whole process is very fulfilling.

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Hobby Horse Toys will be featured in Irelands Sunday Business Post newspaper this weekend in the Agenda magazine.

Children need to be steady on their feet before they can mount a hobby horse, so Dan was keen to design something for those still not quite ready yet! Lots of guardians have bought hobby horses with a wooden hanging peg to mark the birth of a newborn, and the horse eagerly hangs as a wall decoration waiting for his owner to one day walk with confidence. But for those who want something sooner, Dan has come up with a range of pull along toys;

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He has also made a pull along rabbit and fox which have already been sold, and sadly escaped before being photographed!

Dan has just completed eight horses which are galloping off to new owners around Ireland, Australia and America. This Black Beauty is destined for Oz, our furthest afield order to date.black-beauty.JPG

And so in between the several orders for hobby horses and wooden cars that have been joyfully received over the last couple of weeks, Dan has had yet another project to complete, again, connected to the arrival of new livestock! The latest creation is a luxury goat house. Luxury because it has a closable door, and its most noted feature … a set of steps at the rear of the house so the goats can climb up onto the roof.

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They love to do this, a goat (particularly kids) are never happier than when they are aloft, looking down on the world!

Dan spent last week shaping and sanding some new hobby horses which have been ordered for various children. He uses windfallen timber … in this case Irish Sycamore, a native hardwood. Once they have been shaped and sanded silky smooth, they come indoors to the kitchen table where they are each hand painted in accordance to the colour preferences of each customer. Most of these horses are also being personalised with a childs name which helps make it a very special gift.

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By a twist of fate and serendipity, its not just hobby horses than Dan is making these days! Before the arrival of our rare breed piglets Dan had been busy designing and constructing delux pig ark accommodation for them. The couple who sell the piglets saw a photo of the ark on my blog and suggested that he should offer these arks as a commercial venture to the growing numbers of Irish pig owners So any pig lovers out there, if you would like to order a custom made pig ark, email Dan to talk over your requirements. Incidentally, our children had a ball playing in the ark until they were evicted by the piglets so it would also make a wonderful wendy house. Dan is currently drawing up plans to build one in our garden, under close consultation with two very excited little girls!

dan[at]hobbyhorsetoys[dot]com

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February sees some more Hobby Horse orders coming through as the year begins to pick up again after Christmas. Although available through a select list of Irish retail outlets, its particularly rewarding receiving direct orders from a customer. Dan encourages those interested in purchasing a hobby horse to phone him direct (00 353 71 9632212) and discuss their requirements. This way you can request a horse in your preferred colour, size and have a childs name inscribed. The consultation is at no extra cost and delivery can be arranged world wide. Dan has been working on a Hobby Horse for Sean, a little boy here in Ireland, and another two are in the pipeline which will be galloping their way to the USA.
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January is a slow time of year for the toy business, so instead Dan is doing some gardening. This has involved Dan climbing up our apple trees with a chainsaw to prune them back into shape, while at the same time, retaining his own limbs.

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Dan also has a creative side in the kitchen. What would you do if your daughter requested ‘a sleeping dragon birthday cake’! While I wondered where on earth we would find such a thing, Dan just went ahead and came up with this brilliant icing creation. Needless to say there was on majorly chuffed 5 year old little girl on her birthday!

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Dan hand paints each and every horse with beautiful scrollwork. Here he adds the finishing touches to his hobby horses ready for the Christmas fairs.

It can chilly in his workshop, hence the outdoor clothing! If this were a podcast, you’d be able to hear him singing along to his MP3 player!!

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Thanks are due to Keith of Pureplay for reviewing this new blog. Its nice to be noticed, even nicer to be complimented, and wonderful to read he has categorised the review under the heading of ‘entrepreneur’!!!

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This Monday 18th December the Irish Independent, a national Irish newspaper, featured Hobby Horse Toys in an article about quality Irish made gifts to buy for your loved ones this Christmas. A copy of the article will appear here on this blog as soon as my scanner decides to co-operate!

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Dan has finished the last of the craft fairs before Christmas. Some of you have been in touch about these cars, having seen the photo of their finishing touches in a previous post. These are the remaining cars that came home from the fair, since then the red and the dark blue cars have been sold, but the rest are still available.

One of the things you can’t tell from a photo is that the wooden toys smell lovely. By using eco-friendly paints and varnishes the resulting aroma is reminiscent of essential oils.

€20 plus a little postage. If you are interested contact Dan dan[at]hobbyhorsetoys.com

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One of the things that sets Dans handcrafted toys apart from the mass produced factory toy is his talent for design. He has been working on a range of new pull along toys and I took a sneeky shot of this beautiful horse from his sketch book. He will work for hours studying live horses in the fields, taking photos of them to work from and downloading images from the internet. Once he has digested the images of a horses ‘form’ he then sits down with his sketch book and begins to draw. When he is happy with the shapes on paper he then begins to cut out the prototype design in wood, sometimes returning to paper and pen to make any changes necessary until he is happy.

Once the shapes are cut they are sanded by hand, then painted, decorated and varnished. The wheels are also added and a ribbon for the pull along toys.

Some of these pull along horses are finished and I hope to post a photo of them in the next few days. They aren’t yet on his website, but if you are interested to purchasing one please email Dan directly on dan@hobbyhorsetoys.com To peruse his other work visit his website at http://www.hobbyhorsetoys.comdesign-sketch.JPG

Heres a photo of our kitchen table! The cars come in from the workshop to the comfort of a warm home for their finishing touches. Each one is hand painted and varnished, some even have a surfboard attached to the roofwrack (Dan is a surfer!). He uses a range of paints, all of them are child friendly and non-toxic, some are even organic. Dan has just been on a course at the Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co Leitrim, where he learned to make his own organic paints. On his return he was enthusiastic to say the least … there are not only plans afoot to make his own paint for his wooden toys … but also for our entire house!

Most of the cars in this photo were sold at the RDS Craft Show last week, in Dublin. There are only 4 left, so if you would like to snap one up, drop Dan an email at dan[at]hobbyhorsetoys.com or visit his website at http://www.hobbyhorsetoys.com

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Hobby Horses I am a fly on the wall in the workshop of Dan Hillman, the creator of Hobby Horse Toys. I’ll be bringing you images of his work in progress and regular snippets from around Dans homestead in rural Ireland. If (or more likely ‘when’) you fall in love with Dans creations, you can visit his website at http://www.hobbyhorsetoys.com to place an order, or email him on dan[at]hobbyhorsetoys.com He is always more than delighted to deal direct with his customers, and also thrives on custom made requests.