How many softies do you think you’ve made over the years? More than 100! I have been designing softies for about 10 years and more than 100 have made it to the release point. And there are many more that haven’t made the cut.
Are you someone who needs to work on several projects at once or do you prefer to see one project through before starting on another? Ideally, I like to start and complete a project fully, then tidy my space completely before starting something new. Often, though, I’ll have a pattern design on the go, while at the same time working on a batch of ready-made animal sets for Evie and the Bear.
When did you first decide to start creating such charming little creatures? My creative journey started with drawing. I have always drawn these characters, and the natural progression from that, once I started to design, was to make what I was drawing into toys. I love to work with wool felt, yarns and cloth that are as close to nature as possible. I feel a real connection to them and love the knowledge that they have been worked/created by hand so that I now can design and bring life to my work. I have been using 100% wool hand-dyed felt for many years now, and all my creatures are made with this element as the core ingredient. The delicate palette of the hand-dyed felt colours has a beautiful softness and a reality to it. this helps to bring my creatures to life, rather than being too bold, cold and uniform, causing the creatures to take on a cartoon-like feel, which is not what my design heart is about.
Is this your full-time occupation? Yes, I fit it in around caring for my family. It’s not always 9-5, but it’s definitely full-time; my brain is always on. If I’m not sewing, I’m planning or drawing. I always start a new design on paper, drawing many shapes, referring back to previous designs for clarification of shapes, if needed. I also take lots of notes on my phone, especially when a new idea comes to me – I make notes on shape, colour, accessories, clothing etc.
Were you professionally trained in stitching and craft or are you self-taught? Self-taught. It has taken me many years to mould and work out the shapes I need for heads and bodies etc. Every animal has some feature about it that makes it that animal and not another. For example, a fox and a squirrel have very pointy similar-shaped ears, but it’s all about the angle they are on, their size and the positioning on the head that make them uniquely a fox or a squirrel. And it is the same for every other animal – they each have a characteristic that identifies them. It takes time to really work that out. I like to create an element of realism alongside an element of the fantastical.
Were your early attempts creatively and technically successful right from the word go? It is a mixture of both. Sometimes, it just comes together. Who know why? Other times, it’s a very tedious, frustrating process that results in scrapping the project. And, sometimes, it takes a lot of tweaking to get it right. The more I design, the less I have those wobbly moments. Over time, I’ve learnt the techniques and what works and what doesn’t.