The Back Story: the vanilla squirrel.
Do you have a favourite crafter, maker, artisan ie. a very clever person whose work you admire? I have quite a few.I am lucky to own some of the things they have made, whilst others I admire from afar. I am a naturally curious person a polite phrase which means
I am very nosey!
I like to wonder about those talented types and I always want to know more about them,for instance how did they get started and why?
Therefore I have decided to start a little series of posts for next year that I am going to call :
I want to ask some of my favourite ‘very talented people’ 5 questions, all those things I have always wanted to know about them…
I will start with Emma, an exceptionally talented lady who is ‘The vanilla squirrel’ She makes the most exquisite creatures and critters. Her attention to detail is astonishing and her little creatures always bring a smile to my face. So are you sitting comfortably? then we will begin…
Why the name ‘The vanilla squirrel’ ?
As a person who has had an affinity with bunnies, and ‘Flopsy’ as a nickname, it still surprises me that I have become a squirrel! The name was created by my family. My husband noticed that if I sew a lot during the day I sleep with my hands near my face like the paws of a little squirrel. I then thought of the name ‘the vintage squirrel’ but that had already been taken. Then one day in the car my children were laughing about the word ‘vanilla’…..not sure why, but on this occasion it seemed hilarious to them. I then just suddenly thought that ‘vanilla squirrel’ would be the perfect name……and as I have blonde (ahem….quite grey) hair I actually AM a vanilla squirrel.
When did you start creating?
Being artistic is definitely genetic for me and making things has always been part of my make up. Both of my parents are very creative – my father paints and my mother knits and sews. When I was little they used to sell their crafts to local shops and the money they made paid for our family holidays. I also had a very creative aunt who made beautiful dolls and toys for ‘Liberty’s’ and we loved going to her house and finding bins full of her little mice and caterpillars. When I was younger I was a professional singer and actress, and to keep me occupied in the dressing room when I was on tour I made a patchwork quilt (still unfinished!), handmade cards and calico bunnies for my friends.
Who or what inspired you?
Clearly my parents were a huge inspiration to me. Their amazing collections of paintings, antiques and vintage toys instilled a love of all things vintage and handmade. I love nothing better than foraging for vintage treasure and squirrelling for my inspiration…….a piece of fabric, a cute button, or a special scrap of lace can spark an idea for a critter and I run home to my sketchbook to quickly get my ideas down on paper. I also love Folk Art and in the 1990s was obsessed by Americana and the Shaker Movement. I loved the simplicity of the rag dolls and the idea of recycling old fabrics. More recently I have been inspired by the Granny Chic of Dottie Angel, and am a fan of the incredible Julie Arkell and her wonderful, whimsical creations.
How do you juggle family life and creating for the vanilla squirrel?
Both of my children are now at Senior School so I find myself home alone with my needle and the coffee machine at 8am. As ‘the vanilla squirrel’ has picked up momentum over the past 2 years I pretty much sew full time to try and keep up with demand. Each of my creations are unique and, as such, take a long time to make. I try and keep the ‘joy’ in making, so only sew if I am inspired and motivated…..which can mean I spend too much time pootling about in my sewing room but not actually doing very much. My husband works very late at night so I often find I am at my most productive in the evenings after the children have gone to bed……I suddenly find the inspiration I have been looking for all day and am on a mission. This can result in me falling asleep over my machine at midnight but not wanting to go to bed for fear of losing my momentum!
What plans do you have for the vanilla squirrel in the coming year and where can we buy your beautiful creatures and critters?
My sketchbook is full of ideas yet to come to fruition…..so I will keep stitching and creating new characters for the foreseeable future. Sometimes I have a flash of inspiration where everything else goes on hold until I have brought my idea ‘to life’ so who knows who or what is going to appear in 2016? Watch this space.
I am a disciple of Instagram and you can follow what I’m up to on my account. I always notify when I am about to list any new makes in my Etsy shop, as they don’t seem to hang around for long.
I have also discovered a love of stalling at Artisan Markets and, although they involve a huge amount of work and nervous tension, are an important way of meeting other makers and connecting with customers. I am lucky that there is a regular market in my hometown of Sherborne in Dorset, and am excited to be there on Sunday December 6th for the Christmas Market.
Emma thank you so very much for agreeing to answer my 5 questions. I promise I will now leave you in peace now so you can sew lots more critters for your stall at Christmas fair in Sherborne on the 6th December! see you there?
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