How much time to do you spend creating your wonderful toys? I wish I could say that I have my nose to the felty grindstone every working day. Unfortunately, I do tend to get a bit distracted at times. It’s easy to work away at creating when the ideas are flowing and all the other life bits and bobs are bubbling away nicely. It’s all about finding a happy balance that works for me and my family. I do try to work at least four days a week, while the kids are at school.
How can you bear to part with them? When I first started to make my own designs, it was the easiest thing in the world to send my softies and such out into the world. That was what they were made for and, for the most part, I was making to order. You can’t keep everything - not if you don’t want to be buried under felt, fluff and stuff! I think that’s why I decided to try my hand at sharing my designs as patterns. It allows me to dream, trouble shoot, tweak and perfect an idea (which are my favourite bits) and move on to the next one while still having the satisfaction of seeing my work going out into the world to be enjoyed by others.
Where do most completed softies go? Prototypes ALWAYS go to the children. They have some crazy little one-offs in their collections. Oddly enough, they tend to prefer them to the final designs. These days, most of my finished works are bought by people who like what I do enough to want to own a little bit of it. Being able to offer artist-made originals is one of the great pleasures of doing what I do. I sell them through my Etsy and Madeit stores. It’s nice to know that there are little clutches of my critters all over the world. Many of them are not alone. People often collect more than one. It’s one of the biggest compliments when someone comes back to buy “just one more”. I’m terribly thankful to everyone who buys one of my creations. I just wish I could go to some of the places my toys do!
What are the plans for the future of your crafting business? I’m never very good at thinking of what I do as a business because it’s just ‘what I do’. I’m also a bit hindered by the fact that I suffer from Shiny Things Syndrome. I’m easily inspired and I tend to get distracted very easily by the next thing. I always finish each design or softie that I start but I have to admit that business direction has always been a juggling act for me. At times, I think the future for me is pattern design and only pattern design … but then patterns have to be distributed, and I’m only one person and that market is so huge. Then I think perhaps my happy place is making one-off creations … but then you need to market them, too, and while you’re doing that, you’re not making. Is this what they call a swings-and-roundabouts situation? At the moment, I just do a little from Column A and a little from Column B and hope that everyone is happy. I’d love to find a crafting business mentor one day and explore the full potential of these silly little creations that live in my imagination. I’d also like to dabble in fabric design, whether it be through digital printing using Spoonflower or more home-based printing, like block or screen printing. Oh! I’d like to write and illustrate a children’s story book, too … and make the characters of the books into softies. If truth be told, there are too many things on my to-do list!
Have you got a favourite part of toy making? I really love it when the character and story of the softie reveal themselves as I work my way through my making process. Everything I make starts as a crazy pencil sketch. Often on the back of someone’s homework or an envelope to hand. I’ve actually had to wait until Monday to continue with one design because my scratchings were handed in by my child at school on Friday and I needed to wait for the teacher to hand them back. Goodness knows what she would have thought is she’d turned the page over. In my scribbles, the softie is usually doing something or is wearing something quite distinctive. That’s when a penguin dons a flight helmet to fly or a tortoise packs his shell with a camera and sandwich, and my pattern making skills have to run to catch up. In my mind, he stops being a toy and he starts being a tortoise that’s not too distantly related (because tortoises live for such a very long time) to Darwin’s own globetrotting Harriet. Maybe he’s heard of her through his Aunty Enid’s stories and feels he has inherited some of her wanderlust? From here my process turns to … if he were to wander what would he need? Wel,l he’d need a map, for sure, and something to eat. Would he need binoculars? Of course … but maybe a bit hard to fashion accurately from felt, so he’d definitely need a camera to take snaps. Inserting character and humour into something that would never have existed if you hadn’t taken the time to sit and make it takes creating to the next level for me. Meeting a new softie’s personality is a delight. Another aspect that brings me joy – although others may find it odd - is when something like a head gusset just fits! First time! No juggling! I love that, because a lot of what I do in the early stages of a design is often only judged by eye. I think I see it as a good omen. I’ve been known to have ‘sit back moments’ when the lines I’ve drawn on paper correspond perfectly when they make the leap to 3D. It’s a relief and a moment of joy at the same time.
How long do they take to make? How long is a piece of string? Sometimes, sitting and making a new design can take weeks. Things don’t fit, fabrics are just not right or the lines just don’t translate to 3D the way you’d hoped. Often, these designs turn out to be the best, because they’re the ones you give the most thought and time to. Although I have been known to design, make and write the pattern in a matter of a couple of days. Perhaps timing is more down to planetary alignment than my skill with needles and sharp things.
What’s your idea of the perfect crafting weekend? For me, crafting always happens at home. It’s my happy place and where all my materials are to hand. I’m always happy to have people join me to sew and, in fact, am probably more productive myself when people are around. Creating with friends is a wonderful way to pass time. I find that I’m always more inspired when I have a house full of people and the jug is boiling for tea to go with a piece of cake. The quiet and solitude of an empty room do nothing for my creative thoughts.
Does your family get involved much? As far as making Frazzy Dazzles tick, it’s mostly down to me. With that being said there’s nothing like a 14-year-old boy to help you with tech support. When things crash and important files can’t be found, I call for him and, in moments, the world is good and green again. Hubby troubleshoots other technical hiccups for me, helps me stay on track with planning what I’m doing next and acts as a sounding board for me when I need it. He’s terribly good to me. He also doubles wonderfully as courier. He travels around the countryside for work and has been known on more than one occasion to deliver patterns along the way. Our daughter is in charge of encouraging words. She loves every softie that rolls off the machine and has a good eye for colour and line. I often ask her thoughts on what I’m making, and she always comes back with useful and honest opinions. You can’t buy that kind of input! Whether they know it or not, I couldn’t do any of what I do without my family. They believe in me and support me in a hundred different ways every day.