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Success Stories : Tigercandy Arts, Inc.

Creativity Success Story

Creatively Unconventional: Tigercandy Arts, Inc.

Sockett to you!

By Tiger Kandel

Sockett Hand PuppetsI would have to say that Tigercandy Arts, Inc. was born out of my innate inability to conform. I lead what would be considered by most to be a creatively unconventional lifestyle. Headstrong and determined, I followed my own path for better or for worse, rarely bending to the whims and desires and expectations of others. Tigercandy Arts is a direct reflection of my philosophy that we must peruse our hopes, dreams and ambitions wherever they may lead, and not be swayed by the restrictions others would attempt to put upon us.

I received my MS in Art Therapy in 2003 and set out to land a conventional job in my profession and work towards my art therapy license. While I made significant headway working with a difficult population, HIV infected, homeless, drug addicts, my ability to "make a difference" was brutally restricted in favor of government dollars. I quickly learned that I could not be the art therapist I wanted to be in a forum that placed a higher value on conformity than individuality and basically deemed the creative process an "activity".

Preceding and during my education I had worked for a non-profit organization that placed artists into the public schools to help enrich the academic curriculum. During that time, I designed a number of unique craft projects and utilized puppet making to address social issues such as violence prevention and conflict resolution with children from K-12. I also had the opportunity to implement and expand upon these projects while working as an art party facilitator. Multiple internships while studying for my MS brought me into contact with children in short term psychiatric treatment facilities. The one thing that remained constant was that art could emancipate just about anyone. We are not all the same but the boundlessness of creative expression enriches lives, encourages confidence and levels the playing field. When given the opportunity to create, anyone can feel pride and success regardless of what limitations may be present. Exploration of the creative process is the primary tenet of Art Therapy. I knew that it had real value and its principals could benefit the world at large. The question was, how to make this happen while continuing to be true to myself, paying my bills, and perusing my needs as an artist?

Tigercandy Arts, Inc was the answer. I recruited my friend and colleague, Heather Schloss to help me realize this dream and together we founded a company with creativity at its core. As an artist and art educator my standards are pretty high when it comes to "craft kits". I can't help but cringe a little every time I see a commercial kit manufactured by a "big boy" toy company. Usually it is a super stripped down version of a genuine folk art. Perhaps it requires one to follow a step-by-step pattern, assemble a pre-fabricated, pre-cut, product into whatever the image is on the box, or decorate a pre-made item such as a purse. Then it is bundled up in a slick package and presented to an unsuspecting populace as "craft". With "push button" craft, toy manufacturers are sending the message that art for arts sake is worthless that the end result is much more important than the process by which we get there.

The Sockett KitThe creation of the Sockett Kit (a Creative Child Magazine 2007 Top Toy of the Year) was the first great achievement of Tigercandy Arts. In spite of the resistance we received from people (and leers and jeers from other toy makers) who told us that this type of product would not sell, that people wanted clear cut results and everything had to be outsourced over-seas, we stuck to our guns and made it our goal to design US made products that focus on facilitating the creative process rather than taking it over.

Our products embrace creativity in art making and play. The Sockett Kit includes 3 blank sock puppet bases with soft felt mouths and an abundance of bulk materials that enables kids to design their own characters and perform their own puppet shows. With respect to the process, we chose to include "creating suggestions" rather than restrictive guidelines and formal directions. Each kit makes 3 Socketts and the house-shaped box can be decorated to make a home for them. Our website features a customer photo gallery where kids can submit photos of their designs. The Sockett Kit was quickly followed by Stick Puppet Party! A puppet kit that while including pre-cut body parts still results in 5 unique one-of-a-kind puppets, every time. As these puppets require less time to construct, this is an ideal activity for schools and parties and can easily be tailored to any subject or event. Kids are able to make art, and create their own puppet shows.

From the Sockett Kit we launched a line of classic, designer, sock puppets called Socketts which are beginning to receive national attention. They bring smiles to so many faces. Kids and parents love performing with them and they are frequently purchased by teachers and therapists. Four custom-made Socketts will be premiering on television in a public service announcement for Partners for a Clean Community later this spring (2008).

The founding of Tigercandy Arts in itself has been a creative act for me and my business partner. We are no longer able to keep up with demand and I am proud to report that after two and half years my little company is about to undergo its first major expansion. Like all creation there has been struggle both financial and artistic but our focus has never waned. We continue to prove that with art if you can dream it you can create it. •

© 2008 Tiger Kandel. All rights reserved.

Learn more about Tigercandy Arts and its playful creative products at www.tigercandyarts.com.

2/11/08