Created: Oct 01, 2021 8:00 AM
Terri Mello is working hard on her Star Sprinkles peg dolls (Photo provided)
Terri Mello with Star Sprinkles mermaid doll (Photo provided)
Flora Duffy Star Sprinkles peg doll. The proceeds from the dolls went directly to the Flora Duffy Foundation (Photo provided)
Terri Mello works on Star Sprinkles peg dolls (Photo provided)
When Terri Mello started a business selling hand-painted ankle dolls this year, she had the perfect name – Star Sprinkles.
It was whimsical, imaginative, and she had waited her whole life to use it.
âWhen I was 3, I really wanted to be called Star Sprinkles,â Ms. Mello said with a laugh. “I think it was cartoon Rainbow Brite. My mom said she was so sorry, she just hadn’t thought of it when I was born.
Star Sprinkles started as a hobby in December of last year.
âI ordered these wooden peg dolls online,â she said. âI thought I would paint them to look like characters from my son Asa’s favorite books. I thought they would make a great Christmas stocking.
Asa, 9, was delighted. After seeing what she could do, he wanted her to paint him a Ninja and then a Diver. Soon he was drawing various figures and asking her to paint them.
When Bermuda entered a second lockdown, painting peg dolls became something to do for Ms. Mello.
âI had a great time painting them,â she said. âIt was relaxing. I would put on some music and just paint.
Her husband looked at her designs and thought maybe she could sell them.
So she checked out her friend Melanie Scanlon, owner of Bright Isle, an online toy and gift shop.
âShe sells all of these educational toys,â Ms. Mello said. âSo I thought she would be a good person to ask. She said there was a market for them and she would transport them. Then I thought maybe it was something I could do and other people would appreciate it too.
Bright Isle started selling Star Sprinkles this summer. Next, Heather Willens of the Messy Mama subscription box service asked if she could include peg dolls in her monthly toddler boxes.
âNow I’m making 25 peg dolls for her at a time,â Ms. Mello said. âThen she often asks for a few more for the orders that have just arrived. “
Ms. Mello quickly learned to do her assembly line style of peg dolls to get them out faster.
Sometimes she makes custom orders based on the time she has available.
âI recently had a bride and groom,â she said. He was given pictures of the bride and groom to work with, but the groom wore a kilt.
âIt was quite a challenge trying to figure out how to paint the plaid,â she said.
But she succeeded.
Ms. Mello has had a few special projects with the dolls. When Bermudan Flora Duffy won a gold medal – Bermuda’s first – at the Tokyo Olympics this year, Ms. Mello made a Flora Duffy doll.
When she posted a photo of it on social media, many people asked if they could buy one.
âI didn’t think it was fair to take advantage of Flora,â Ms. Mello said. âSo I contacted the Flora Duffy Foundation and asked them, ‘What would you think if I painted a limited number of these works and all the profits went to the Flora Duffy Foundation? “”
She made five Flora Duffy dolls and sold them for $ 25 each.
âBut we donated $ 200,â Ms. Mello said. âI also made a sixth doll to give it to Flora. I gave it to her mother, and she will give it to Flora the next time she sees her. It was a fun way to draw attention to the fund and congratulate her on winning the medal.
Flora is just one of over a hundred dolls Ms. Mello has painted since she created Star Sprinkles.
âThe challenge has been to buy the time, between home schooling my kids and trying to keep up with everyday household chores,â she said. âI do a few other things as well, with my church and my Bible study. I have a lot of obligations. It’s about organizing and planning my time to meet deadlines.
The tricky part of the business is sourcing materials like non-toxic putty. Sometimes its regular suppliers run out, and sometimes there are shipping delays related to Covid.
Peg dolls are sold via Bright Isle and Messy Mama for $ 16 each. Custom orders start at $ 20 depending on the job.
For more information see Terri Mello on Facebook @starsprinklesbermuda or by email [email protected]