With Technicolor sprinkles and icing-like stripes, Nicole Lewis’s mini doughnuts look good enough to eat. But they smell faintly waxy. “Lots of adults buy the doughnut crayons as decorations simply because they look so realistic,” she says.
Created in her McCordsville studio, the doughnuts—along with crayonsicles, dinosaurs, and custom sets spelling out a child’s name—are the product of thousands of crayons melted and mixed just so. Formerly an art teacher, Lewis first reconstituted crayons with her kindergarten classes. “We rounded up some nubs in the classroom, then we used a toaster oven from the science lab,” she says. “They enjoyed it, but it was really stinky. I thought, There has to be a better way to do this.”
She kept at it, and in 2007, Lewis opened an Etsy shop as a side project. She started with basic molds: a circle, a heart. But she quickly began making more adventurous shapes. Soon, she was doing custom orders for the likes of Oprah.
Lewis starts with a hand-drawn sketch, which is digitally re-created and 3-D-printed. The result is a positive, so she then makes a negative mold from that. Next, she machine-slices the labels off of individual crayons. Due to health regulations, Lewis now uses mostly new crayons. After breaking them up, she places them into the mold.
The stinky old toaster oven she used with her class is long gone. These days, Lewis has two ovens with a sophisticated ventilation system. Once the crayons cool, she packages and mails them.
Lewis, who ships about 5,500 orders a year, never imagined her hobby would get this big. But the same creative spirit that built her business keeps her from stagnating. “I’m currently making molds for the full periodic table,” she says. You might say she’s drawn to a challenge.
Custom Crayon Name Set (with letters 1.5” wide and 2” high). $19.95.