Meet Tina Crawford, the wonderful, quirky, fun and talented designer-maker behind the fabulous homeware and accessories that is Tobyboo – named after her little boy Toby. You probably have seen (or even bought) many of her finest pieces at places like House of Frasers, Museum of London, Not On The High Street, Etsy and many more. What I love about Tina’s work, a signature element to her design that distinguishes from the others, is her lovely free hand embroidered illustrations! I first bumped into her at the Made in Clerkenwell event back in November last year (see my blogpost here) where both her and her work made a great big lasting impression on me! And what’s even more admirable is how she’s made herself known in this competitive industry after facing a few obstacles of her own. Anyway, if you haven’t as yet come across any of her work…..well then here’s a glimpse into her work and what goes on behind the scenes of her creations!
- Tell us a little about yourself – Have you always wanted to be an illustrator/designer-maker? Oddly, when I was 15 I wanted to either be an artist of some sort or work in television… the first job I had was making the makes on children’s BBC art program SMart!
- How did you come about setting up Tobyboo? After years of working in television I became suddenly ill and was sent home never to be able to do ‘that’ sort of job again. Housebound and sometimes bed bound to stop myself from going bonkers I started making handbags which went really well. Our son Toby was born in 2007 after years of struggling and well, a sudden surge of baby gifts lead to the start of Tobyboo – named after our little Boo.
- What five words best describe you and your style of work? Ooh can I use other persons descriptions? Fluid, unique, nostalgic yet contemporary (yes I know that’s cheating a bit) and well, British
- What’s the main source of inspiration for your creations? So far I’ve not looked very far, pretty much looking into my childhood has given me both Oranges and Lemons (a collection based on the verse) and Wish You Were Here which bore out of a childhood holiday that – lets just say – wasn’t sun, beach huts and bunting!
- How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? My process for me is very organic and to most others an unpredictable risk – well I suppose it is. I don’t draw before I sew, my illustrations are all free embroideries – my sketchbook? scraps of fabric on the floor I literally draw with the needle. To be honest I don’t see the point in drawing before, why bother to sew it – its the sewing that creates fluid lines and mistakes that add charm. Some designers draw and sew over the top – what’s the point!
- Is there any craft/art medium you haven’t tried but want to? And why? Er…. I can’t think. During art foundation (before my degree) you get to try pretty much everything. My degree was jewellery.
- There’s been a huge boom in craft and design in the last few years – would you say it’s been difficult breaking into this competitive world? My need is because I have to – I have illnesses which mean that I can’t go into full time ‘normal’ work so its frustrating competing. I would love to have this as a luxurious hobby because making money from it is so so hard but it’s one of the only ways I can earn a living.
- What do you like most about your business? And is this a full-time 9-5 business? Full time doesn’t describe it! Theres no switching off I work though the night sometimes till 3am which with a sewing machine is slightly noisy. I love creating a design and seeing what it turns into, and when it does get onto a shop shelf its a great feeling!
- When you’re not in ‘designer-maker’ mode, what else do you enjoy doing? My husband and five year old do get some time with me! We tend to make the most of London – museums get a lot of visits from us.
- Have you any tips for like-minded creative individuals who would like to one day set up a business themselves in this field? Try to apply what you like and get employed by someone! It’s a jungle out there! I sort of think that but really – go for it, if it’s what you want to do you’ll regret not at least trying it. Get business advice; I did the Doug Richards School for Creative Start ups, joined Craft Central and make the most of the 1-2-1 mentor sessions and see an advisor at The East London Small Business Centre – I’d be lost without them.
- Are there any designer-makers out there that you find inspirational or are ones to keep an eye out for – if so, who? Eloise from Hidenseek I found on Etsy, she’s an incredible illustrator and was the first to tell me to go for it. I love Yas-Ming ceramics and have been lucky enough to be along side them at recent trade events.
- Of your current work, what piece would you say is your favourite? I really love the Gull ‘n’ Chips china pieces and the platter is probably my favourite – I think the stitching comes out so well on china. But I’m most proud of the work that I created for the Museum of London’s exhibition; Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men – it’s a fantastic exhibition which is on till April and well worth the visit.
- What would we expect from Tobyboo in the future? Hopefully a lot more, my designs have been taken on by other companies so there’s a large melamine collection – my fingers are crossed for more of this and collaborations.
- Finally, where can we find more of your wonderful creations? And can we find you at any craft + design events this year? My pieces have been taken by Somerset House, the Museum of London and House of Fraser there are new stockists in Ireland and Switzerland from this year too! The one thing about expanding and going into retail is that there’s less time for markets so 2013 seems to be the first year not doing any.
A massive ‘thank you’ to Tina for taking the time out from what is clearly a very busy schedule! Please do have look through her online shop or keep up to date on where you’d find her next by following her on Facebook or Twitter! Also, note this in your diaries: Tobyboo will be hosting a pop up shop at Craft Central, Clerkenwell Green for one week only starting April 8th!!!xx