Featured Family :: Mama Kopp and the Gang

by Stefani on 9-June-2009

One of the things we here at the Ranch love most about this whole Book of Days experience is the opportunity it affords us to meet and share inspiration and ideas with so many neat families.

So we thought we’d try something new here. Now and again we’re going to introduce you to some of the amazing folks we’ve met along the way.

And because one of the other things we love most about The Book of Days is that each month we get to share the beautiful, sweet, soul-filled work of Mama Kopp with someone through our launch party contests, we thought our first Featured Family should be the way cool Kopps.

I first met Lorilee Kopp while looking for someone who could create a very special and very important gift for my son. I have had a deep and abiding love for every little thing she does ever since!

A Boy and His Best Girl

I’m so in awe of Lorilee Kopp not only because she does things that would surely result in severed appendages if I attempted them, but because the more you know her, the more layers of sweetness, talent and thoughtfulness you uncover. I really wanted to know more about the woman behind the art, and I thought you might too.

So I asked, and she graciously answered. I came away inspired and wanting even more than usual to encourage my kids’ creative explorations.

Pull up a chair and get to know a truly kindred spirit, Lorilee Kopp.

So Lorilee, just who is Mama Kopp?

A mother. I am a wife and friend. I enjoy life very much. I always wanted to be a mommy and to homeschool my kids. We have been homeschooling for almost six years now with a very art, science and nature inspired focus. We live in central Missouri right now, but are moving very soon to another state – hopefully Oregon, but we are not for sure yet. We are all very excited about the change. We talk about it all the time and daydream what it would be like to live in Oregon, New Mexico, California and even Australia or Germany!

You know that I am a devoted fan of your gorgeous wood toys. How did you get started in woodworking?

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Woodworking began for me when I was very young. My father had a shop and he let me investigate. The first thing I made out of wood was when I was about eleven years old. It was a wooden piano with legs and painted keys. I gave it to one of my mother’s friends very soon after that. I wish I still had it.

I made a doll house as well when I was young. I even made furniture for it out of basswood planks from the craft store. There were paper plants hanging on the porch.

And you’re still making beautiful toys. I love that! Your Dad sounds so sweet – patient and willing to let you explore. How about your mom, did she like to play in the shop too?

My mother went through college art programs while I was of the ages nine through thirteen. She had the basement set up for herself and let us play with her art supplies. I would watercolor weekly. My mother still has a lot of my work. I painted our pets and landscapes most of the time. My mother is a very talented watercolor painter. So this was just part of my life as a young girl. I think my mother going to college during my youth and my father’s shop have been the biggest influences on my art work today. That and they never interfered with my work. I had a lot of artistic freedom. That is probably why I left art school. I didn’t like the teacher’s telling me how to paint!

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When I was a bit older I began woodburning. I still use the same woodburning tool that I used when I was a teenager. It was my mother’s and she gave it to me a few years ago. It’s bent and worn out, but works great!

Okay I’m seeing all the parts come together now… woodworking, painting, woodburning… when did you decide to put all those things together and begin making your beautiful toys?

Making wooden toys started a few years ago when I learned of the Waldorf style of education and nature tables. I wanted the Osteimer animals so badly, but could not afford them. So for my birthday I asked for a scroll saw so that I could make them myself. And I did!

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When I first started, I painted them with watered down acrylic paint. But I didn’t like how it hid the grain of the wood. So I mixed my new love for making wooden toys for my children and my life long love for watercolors. There are some tricks to getting the wood smooth again after painting them with water tinted color, but I think I have gotten that perfected now. It was a year long learning process; trial and error to get to where I am today.

That sounds like a well spent year to me! One of the things I love most about your toys is the way that the wood is really there. You can see the grain, so the toys really feel and look so natural – like they were meant to be.

Where do you find inspiration for the toys you create?

Much inspiration for my toys comes from my children, story books, doodles, a sunny day, music, art, and love. Love being the strongest inspiration. I love to make things for specific people. Then I can think about them and how much they mean to me while I create their toys. I also love to sketch and draw. I love to draw animals and the human body. Showing love through hands and feet as well as the tilt of a head or a smile.

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I guess that my intentions to create a peaceful work of art that can be played with is what motivates me the most. Where else can you find peaceful animals and characters for your children to play with!? I LOVE bringing this into the world. I call it my medicine. It makes me incredibly happy and is a joy.

And you know what? That shows in your work. All the love you put into your toys really comes through! Beyond your toys though, what do the Kopps like to do?

Some of our favorite activities are nature oriented and artisitic endeavors. Everyone in our house creates daily. It’s has become this background hum to our daily lives. My husband even! And when we met twelve years ago he didn’t do creative things. Now he loves turning wood and gets so excited about it.

I think that the boys favorite creative moments are those that involve storytelling. They love to tell us their stories. We make a lot of their characters into wooden figures too.

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We are a very open family and share everything. Each taking great interests in each others ideas and creative processes. I love it.

I really love seeing what you guys are up to on your blog too. Every single time I visit, I come away so inspired. Here are some of the MANY great family activities going on at the Kopp house:

Story Projects: Wordless Books
Verbal Storytelling with wooden figures
Creative Writing
Needle Felting and Weaving
Make your own games!
Wood Turning

Obviously we gain so many idea from you guys, and I know that you all are following along with the Book of Days too. How do you all use the book at your house?

The Books Of Days has brought something very special to me in particular. It has got me organizing. I have always written down ideas and projects so that I don’t forget them. But I have never even thought about putting them in a binder! I use the blank page to the left of the calendar page to write down what I would like to do with my boys each week. It has been wonderful! I don’t loose that big ol’ binder full of awesome ideas. Also, The Book Of Days prepares me for the next month. Our seasons vary greatly from that of Texas. Seems that The Book Of Days is one month ahead and this has been really great. We are waiting for more flies to do the fly experiment. I really love how TBOD has a collection of activities; science, craft, kitchen, journaling, book recommendations and invention. Also the reflection time at the end of the month to talk about what you did as a family for a whole month, what you might do differently or what are some ideas for the next month. We all sit down together and do this and it is very insightful. I might add that I really adore the illustrations.
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I would like to thank you for your interest in me as an artist and a mother. I have enjoyed working with The Book of Days project greatly and look forward to see what you come up with next!

Thank YOU Lorilee for continuing to share your lovely world and talent with us!

Visit the Mama Kopp shop here.
Keep up with the Kopps at their blog, Live ‘n Learn.
And don’t forget to enter this month’s Mama Kopp contest here at the Ranch!

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