Maker of the Month: Joni Morgan

Photography by Jamar Mitchell

Joni Morgan is the owner of Fact+Fiction Toys! Although she began her business in 2016, she has been honing in on her craft for the past five years. She specializes in the creation of handcrafted organic wooden toys that are safe for children and won’t harm the planet. The goal behind her business is to bring imagination to playtime. You can buy her toys on her website an her Etsy page!

What piqued your initial interest in designing your product(s)?
I’ve always loved the nostalgic feeling that wooden toys can bring. After having my oldest son, Miles, I became more aware of what kids toys are made with and from. I also loved the idea of him using his own imagination rather than giving him a toy that did all the imagining for him.  I was given an old scroll saw and started making toys for Miles. My love grew for the process of making the toys and thus Fact+Fiction was born!

What principles do you use when designing?
Simplicity. The more children can use their own imaginations to create and express themselves the better!  I want my toys to help encourage and foster those things.

Who and/or what influences your design style? How would you describe your design aesthetics and values?
My boys, Miles and Otis have always been my biggest influencers!  Making something that they could use and grow with them has been key. I started off primarily

making teethers for when they were teething and then added cars and trucks and blocks and so forth and so on as they grow.  I would describe my aesthetic as clean and simple. Being kind to our planet and safety are also on the top of that list.

What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept?
The design concept almost always comes first.  I’ve got about a million ideas running through my brain and I have to write them down to make sure I don’t lose any!

Could you describe the process of creating a piece – from conception to finish? The creative process as well as material selection and labor process, too?
I use a simple spiral notebook that I write down/draw up all my ideas and designs. I have a stack of these notebooks that I’ve used over the years!  When I think I may have a good one I try it out, make it and see how it goes. Some end up not working out while others become my top sellers! The next step is getting the wood for the design.  I purchase all our wood from a local lumberyard here in Indianapolis – Northwest Lumber. Each piece is handpicked by me and all of it is locally sourced from sustainably managed forests here in Indiana. I use all hardwoods. My favorites are maple, walnut and cherry.  Once the wood is picked I bring it home to the tiny workshop and draw up the design. I then cut, sand, tweak it and fine tune it, then sand some more and a little bit more and then finish the piece with our in house made organic beeswax/olive oil finish. If I think it’s a winner and fits the aesthetic and goal of the shop, to bring imagination to playtime, I photograph it and add it to the shop.

What is your favorite tool, and why?
My scroll saw is my favorite tool in the shop and is the most used tool I own.  It’s what I cut almost all my toys on. It’s the tool I was first given and what really started me on this business.

Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it?
One of my most recent toys that I added to the shop are our City Blocks.  The idea of the city blocks was written in one of my spiral notebooks years ago and finally came to fruition!  I collaborated with one of my extremely talented friends, Lindy Patterson, who is an illustrator/artist to design the City Blocks. The City Blocks are five blocks of all sizes that have laser engraved five buildings/places you would find in a city. There is the row homes, the park bench, the cafe, the library and the apartment building. The blocks come with two mini cars that pair perfectly with the city scape.

Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions?
I don’t do a ton of commision pieces anymore.  When I was first starting out I did more. While I do take on a few commissioned pieces I make sure that they still fit with what Fact+Fiction is all about. On the one hand it can be super rewarding to work on something new for a customer but on the other hand it can take a lot of time to turn an idea into an actual piece you can hold in your hand.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers like yourself?
Learn all you can!  Learn from other makers, take classes, watch YouTube videos, ask questions!  There is always more things to learn and discover.

What is one thing that the creative/design community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for custom or hand-crafted work?
Be a supporter of other makers and small businesses! I have been blown away at the supportive creative makers around Indy!  I find so much joy when I am shopping local and supporting other makers.

Dream commission/client?
My dream client is someone who really appreciates the nature of handmade. Someone who understands the work it takes to make something from nothing. Someone who uses and finds joy in my product!

What makes your work different from anyone else’s?
Wooden toys are nothing new. They have been around for ages. I try to emphasis the nostalgia of simpler days. The days when outdoor play was a part of life and when people owned less things but more quality items that were made to last.  Fact+Fiction is all about bringing imagination to playtime. Free from all the flashy gadgets and lights.

While I have massive support from my husband, I primarily make all the toys myself from start to finish.  No fancy machines, just simple tools and my hands. Handcrafted is and will continue to be very important to me as we grow.

What’s your most rewarding memory in your business?
Honestly, seeing my toys in the homes of my customers is SO rewarding!  Every order and comment of support brings so much joy! I still can’t believe that I get to do this everyday.  It is such a gift!

Is there any maker you would recommend to be highlighted for this series?
Julie Jackson – @surclewood  // She is a fellow woodworker and makes beautiful lamps, bowls and jewelry.  She’s based in Bloomington.

You can follow Joni’s work on Instagram, Facebook, or her website!

Photography by Jamar Mitchell.