Today we got to chat with Hayley from Marvling Bros about all things tiny and how to share a little wonder with others!

Meet Marvling Bros

Please could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I’m Hayley from Marvling Bros and I work with Emma. We create little gifts in matchboxes, presents that fit though a letterbox. They are designed to light up the world of your someone special.

Marvling Bros is such a unique idea, where did the inspiration for Marvling Bros come from? 

There was a competition at my son’s school Gidea Park Primary to see how much you could get in a matchbox. He didn’t want to do it but I was totally up for it. As well as items, I put ‘concepts’ on my list of things that fitted. For example, I put in a cumin seed and a grain of rice and added to my list ‘a curry take away’. Oxygen and Nitrogen represented the periodic table. A piece of paper with a smear of lipstick was also a beauty salon – you get the idea.

I did not win, but one person, Emma, a fellow parent at the school, also looking for a distraction from normal life loved the idea. A year later, Emma brought up the subject of the matchbox competition. She thought it could be developed into something people might want to buy.

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Portrait for EP 2023

The Matchboxes

I was lucky enough to receive a fantastic selection through the post from you and was absolutely enamoured with them immediately.  There is something so joyful about receiving something cute and unique.  Was this a factor in your design, thinking about the happiness these little boxes of joy would bring to your customers?

Spreading joy is totally what the matchboxes are about. People who like our stuff totally get that. It is all about the message and not the stuff. At the time Emma’s three children were all at primary school. There were 30 kids in each class, and the customary thing to do in the infants was to invite everyone to everything. Emma was either going to or holding a birthday party every week. It also meant a lot of lovely but sadly unwanted presents were bought. Eventually, it reached the stage where some were not even being opened and taken to the next party to give to someone else.

I was also aware of the wasteful gifting culture in the air. My mother, who was a carer, was receiving so many tins of biscuits at Christmas from her patients that she was giving most of them away at the next village raffle. Her only problem was hoping there was enough raffles before they all went out of date.

My grandad had recently passed away. When they opened his man drawer over 100 brand new leather wallets gifted to him by his many grandchildren over the years, were unearthed. He hadn’t used them, but he hadn’t wanted to get rid of them either. Token gifts!

Well meant and the sentiment was appreciated, but did people really need all this stuff? And of course, it’s lovely to get a gift, but usually because someone has thought of you. The sentiment of the gift is just as, if not more important than the gift itself.

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The Feel Good Factor & Mental Health

I adored each of the boxes I received; the Pricking Perfect Mini Cross Stitch, Kawaii Kross Stitch and Don’t Worry Box. My favourite must be the Pricking Perfect Mini Cross Stitch!  This was such an enjoyable self-care activity, taking time out to relax and complete a project that was not only adorable and easy to follow. It left me with such a wonderful sense of accomplishment and the cutest addition to my office!

When designing the boxes such as Pricking Perfect, did you consider the benefit of mental health in the miniature crafts?

I’m into mental health as I have an Aspergers son and partner. Our gifts are all about connection which is why it is important to us that the gifts can easily be posted. They can be given without the feeling of obligation (ie. You shouldn’t have spent so much, I didn’t get you anything, It’s not my birthday). There is an art and psychology to giving gifts. It is a powerful thing when done right.

Do you have a favourite matchbox?  Why did you choose that one?

That’s like asking what is my favourite child or favourite music. I love them all for different reasons – even the ones that have not sold well for us. If I had to pick I’d go for Marshmallows in a matchbox. All our boxes are ticked!

This one has a lovely message: “It’s the little things that make life big”, looks pretty – we arrange the marshmallows neatly in a tiny bag. Full to the brim, we rammed as much as we could in there; three candles, two cocktail sticks, a little candle holder, a packet of mini marshmallows and instructions on how to toast them safely.  

On the whole it is a mini experience that can be shared with someone. It is cute, silly and bizarre. This is totally what we are all about. Critics say we are expensive, but it takes a long time to hand pack and we use British workers. But the beauty is, if you think it is expensive, you can totally copy the idea at home yourself at home if you want to. We are all about ideas and are willing to share them.

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You also sent the Don’t Worry box, which is perfect for little ones, especially if they are struggling with their anxieties.   I found the mini cards and the little worry doll particularly good for my little one, who instantly took to it. 

Children’s mental health is so vital to their wellbeing and ability to express their feelings, whilst there is information out there, something like the Don’t Worry box appeals to their nature given it is cute and tiny just like they are.  They can have such big emotions and no way to truly understand them, especially when thinking about anxiety and worry, it is wonderful that such a tiny box could have big impact in helping them manage this.  What was the inspiration for this box?

My son is going through a hard time at the moment (the moment being over two years now and counting) and we have had lots of support through the charity Mind. When I saw these dolls and thought they’d be great in a matchbox.

I liked the idea of the worry doll because it is made in Guatamala through Fairtrade, mainly by women working at home. I wanted the box to be like a constant companion useful for adults and children, cute, but not trivializing this very serious issue. The dolls have a spiritual and traditional history behind them. The tips, recommended by Mind are real and done correctly can help with anxiety

Ideas and Fun

How much fun do you have when coming up with your ideas?

Lots. It’s the best part of the job. Emma is great at finding unusual and useful things to put in the box. I usually come up with messages and quotes. We tend to think of a concept, like “how about a marshmallow toasting kit in a matchbox’ or “a box for mindfulness” and try to find items and messages to bring it all together.

Who has the best ideas on your team?

Everyone. There is no “we can’t do this”. All ideas are welcomed and developed as far as possible. We’ve had ideas sit on the shelf for years and then the right item comes along and it comes to life. People we meet come up with ideas for us. Everyone has good ideas and people seem to be inspired by the concept – it is the execution that is hard.

The Wonder Collection

The Wonder Sketchbook! Being mindful is a not just rewarding but can also be a lot of fun.  Drawing helps stimulate the brain and can produce dopamine, improving concentration and making you feel more motivated, as well as being the hormone that lets us feel pleasure.

It doesn’t matter if you are any good at drawing, the point is to be in the moment and enjoy the exercise, just be present.  Draw anything – a self portrait, a plant, doodle, absolutely anything. 

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The Wonder Checklist! We believe self-care is vital to great mental health.  What is your go to self-care activity and why?

I read, books are a great escape from real life and also educational. They can invigorate you or send you to sleep. Books are like friends.

The Wonder Playlist! What song/artist do you find uplifting and listening to it/them boosts your mood?

Uplifting: Billy Joel, Abba, Queens of the Stone Age, 60s Motown, 70s one hit wonders.

The Wonder Bookshelf! Do you have book recommendations for our readers?  It can be a fiction title, non-fiction, something to help them learn more about the topic at hand or even one of your own books.

Non fiction:

“A Bird a Day” by Dominic Couzens – I’m not a bird watcher but this easy to read and fascinating book that takes you to another world.

Fiction: James Herriot’s Vet series. A humorous insight into life in Yorkshire pre WW2. It is a comment on people in general and very easy to read.

These little boxes of joyful wonder are an absolute hit with us. You can find out more about Hayley, Emma and Marvling Bros, not to mention check out the shop and their incredible, innovative selection of mini marvels here.

What do you think about them? What would you put in a matchbox if you created one? Let us know over at TikTok, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and Twitter and don’t forget to tag Marling Bros too!

About Author

Erika is bright, bubbly and friendly. Studying to be a counsellor, she is committed to helping others in the pursuit of better mental health. Having suffered from mental health issues herself including severe anxiety and PTSD, she wants to show others that the light at the end of the tunnel is not just a cliché!
Erika enjoys spending time with her little one, friends and family, crafting, reading, writing, music gaming, cooking, creating art, cacti and llamas.

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