A childhood favorite that went through US diplomacy to reach the British crown.
By Mary Elizabeth Collins
As we reach a certain age and reminisce about our childhood, many of us remember some of our most beloved toys, like wooden rocking horses.
Well, as it just so happens, they are back "in" and highly appreciated, especially when they are handmade. The American artist Jackie Wilson has become world famous thanks to one of her wooden horses; it was the gift chosen by the ex-President of the United States, Barack Obama, to give to Prince George of England on the occasion of his birth. The piece is a true work of art that was exhibited for months at London's Buckingham Palace, the official residence of HM The Queen.
Wilson creates her masterpieces in Oklahoma, US. Entirely made by hand with noble woods and genuine horse manes, they require dedication, patience and many hours of labor. "It seems that I was born with an intense love of horses. Since I can remember I wanted one, and at age 12 my dreams came true," said Jackie.
But it was many years later — while pregnant with her first child—that she found, in a magazine, a kit to manually make a rocking horse. That discovery allowed her to combine her two great passions: horses and wooden crafts she had learned from her father when she was a child. She built the first horse, then came another, and she could not stop working on her new-found hobby.
With a traditional and enduring style, her creations are an excellent birthday gift for a child, but they are also much more than toys. They are made with the same techniques used over 100 years ago and each shows their creator's love for antiques because they bring a certain vintage air to any room in a home.
She found one of the main sources of inspiration for her works in Victorian England. At the time, wooden rocking horses reached their maximum splendor since the industrial revolution led to the emergence of an upper middle class, which wanted their children to have one of these precious toys—which were also a favorite of Queen Victoria.
With a variety of colors, shapes and sizes, and prices that can exceed two thousand dollars, Jackie Wilson's wooden horses have become world famous.
The venture, however, was not easy. In 2011 Jackie, with the help of her husband Randy, opened a store in downtown Edmond (Oklahoma), and put her best horses on display. Unfortunately, it was a time of deep economic crisis: parents could not afford fancy expensive toys, and she had to close her business.
Undeterred, she opened her workshop behind her home in the forest, not caring if she could sell them or not, simply for the enjoyment of making them. One afternoon she received a phone call that changed her life. A stranger who claimed to be a member of the United States Department of State asked about a wooden rocking horse he had seen on a website that Jackie had forgotten to close. He told her that he wanted to buy a very special gift. Jackie asked who that was, but he answered that the information was classified. The rest is history, the story of Jackie Wilson. ■
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