Thursday, June 04, 2009

Labels and the Future of the Shop

This blog post has been edited since its original publication.

I wonder if my shop will be able to exist past August 14, 2009. According to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, by August 14, all items intended for children will need to have permanent tracking labels attached that indicate the source of the products, the dates of manufacture, and batch or run numbers. According to this article by Ron Chamrin, on May 13, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) denied a request to extend the enforcement date of tracking label requirements. The exact requirements can be found at the CPSC website here.

I don't know how I could place permanent labels on my dolls. I'd have to affix each detailed label to a one-inch circle on the base of the doll. While I can make stitches that are fairly small, my skills at etching the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin are nonexistent. MaybeI could write on scraps of cloth with fine-point permanent markers, but the marker ink wouldn't fall under the "natural materials" category along with wool and cotton, and I'd have to have third-party testinig done on the ink.

Before I started up the Etsy shop, I wondered if I could simply gear my storytelling dolls for people over the age of 12. However, if you read the guidelines for the definitions of children's products, you'll see it's not that simple. These two factors in particular stand out:

Whether the product is represented in its packaging, display, promotion or advertising as appropriate for use by children 12 years of age or younger.

Whether the product is commonly recognized by consumers as being intended for use by a child 12 years of age or younger.

My dolls are no Madame Alexander collectables. While it could be argued that the needle-felted hair on the larger dolls determine that the figures are for people over 12 years old, the smaller dolls are definitely appealing to young children. Sometimes in the park or the coffee-shop, a child will call out, "Look!" at my dollies lined up, or come over to ask me what I'm doing. Still, my dolls do appeal to grownups, and I think that is how I will officially have to market them in order to stay in business.

I've contacted my congressfolk, and I'm blogging about the issue now. You can find an earlier post about the CPSIA here. It is my hope that someday I will legally be able to make dolls for children besides my daughter. For now, I am going to gear my dolls for storytellers, therapists and other grownups who need dolls in some capacity. As Bede pointed out, we may allow our daughter to use a butter-knife, but the butter-knife was not created for children.

In order to end on a cheery note, here is a photo of a cape I just completed for a doll who will be King of the Day:

I'm going to make a cloud child for King of the Day. After that set is done, I will start work on Queen of the Night with her star child. After I made the cape, I realized that clouds around a rainbow are usually not white and fluffy. They're greyish because they've just finished raining. There probably wouldn't be a kite around the rain clouds either, because of concerns about lightning and electrocution.

Whoops. I really did mean to end cheerfully. I don't know what gets into me sometimes. Quick, look at the Blueberry Child! Blueberry Child's good friend Strawberry Child was in the shop for only a few hours before heading out into the world.

Late in the day addendum from the Etsy forums, seller FayeMalloneDesigns does a good job of breaking down what exactly goes into the labeling:

The thing to realize about the labeling is far more than just attaching a label. Let's face it, most of us cut labels off things anyway, the gov at this point can't make you keep a label on something that you have purchased and now own, especially garments etc. But some may actually keep those labels to refer to. And yes I have no idea how you are going to label a bow or hairclip.

The record keeping that goes with the batch# and the rest is for you the manufacturer to be able to keep complete records of every supply that you used in that item. Like I make a OOAK
[One Of A Kind] dress, I use 10 fabrics, 3 colors of thread, 2 trims, 1 style of button. When I assign that number, I have to keep track and be able to identify everyone of the products that went in to that garment. And if there is a problem anywhere down the food chain, I have to be able to identify the person who bought that dress with the purple button, that la mode recalled and contact them. That is my understanding of the nightmare of this law, over and above how to actually label the item.


jama said...

The whole labeling issue sounds very complicated. I hope you'll be able to continue selling your beautiful dolls.

And thank you again so so much for sending out Meadow Fairy and Strawberry Girl. I LOVE them, and rest assured they have been adopted into a good home :). I can see the love that went into those tiny stitches!

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I'm with Jama. It will be a travesty if you have to stop. A TRAVESTY.

Please keep us updated.

Saints and Spinners said...

Jama and Jules: Thanks! If you had a chance to write to your congressfolk about it, that would be great. The Handmade Toy Alliance has a sample letter about third party testing here:

It doesn't say anything about the permanent labeling, though. Truly, an attached tag for something made out of wool and cotton should suffice.

I'm so glad you enjoy the strawberry and meadow fairy dolls, Jama.

Saints and Spinners said...

P.S. I've amended my post.