This month’s featured designer-maker is the super talented and the lovely Michelle of The Fox In The Attic! Now, for those of you who may not have come across her work before, she’s the creative genius behind her gorgeous hand-embroidered plush animal cushions famously known for her bunnies and monkeys that you see featured on Etsy a lot, as well other blogs and recently in the January issue of Mollie Makes! I have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know her through the infamous virtual craft world and recently got further acquainted, chatting about craft, blogs and Etsy over a few delicious glasses of wine! :) Her hand-embroidery and workmanship is simply meticulous where each and every piece is beautifully crafted. Having been a recipient of her cheeky ‘Bunting Monkey’ (you’ll see the image below!) earlier this year, I can assure you, this is one talented lady to keep an eye out for! And with a busy day job and a wedding to plan, I absolutely respect and admire how she finds the time to design, sew and churn out all those orders she receives through her Etsy shop during her spare time! So without further adieu, here’s my interview with her:
- Tell us a little about yourself and what drew you into becoming a designer-maker? My name is Michelle, and I was born and grew up in a small town in South Africa. My creative mother was and still is a very big inspiration to me. I grew up with her always painting, making and restoring things. She started her own handmade business that became very successful, so I know it is possible to succeed. I studied Graphic Design at college, and later became interested in illustration and painting. A few years ago the idea of creating my own embroidered creations literally popped into my head. I bought needles, thread, fabric and a sewing-machine and never looked back!
- How did you come about setting up Fox in the Attic? And what is the story behind the quirky name? I love foxes, owls, hares, squirrels and all types of woodland animals and I knew I wanted the word ‘fox’ somewhere in the name, and the first idea I came up with was Velvet Fox. But after some more thought, the phrase The Fox in the Attic just popped into my head and my mind was made up. I always think of old attics as creative spaces where people write, paint or make things.
- What five words best describe you and your style of work? My style of work I would describe as naïve, delicate, quirky, colourful, tactile.
- What’s the main source of inspiration for your creations? My inspirations come from all over the place. I love going to exhibitions, luckily we live in London so there are many exhibitions and galleries to visit. My favourite artists include Van Gogh, Kahlo and Gauguin. Nature is a central well-spring of inspiration, along with looking at nature illustrations and paintings from the past and present. Trees, flowers, botanical plants, insects, animals all find their eventual expression somewhere in The Fox In The Attic, along with historic pattern and architecture and a whole host of other varied sources.
- I LOVE how you keep the art of hand embroidery alive. How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? I have a little dairy/notebook that I carry with me, all my ideas and little doodles start here. I usually focus on themes or seasons, like spring or Easter. After that, I create one prototype of an item to see if the shape and design works. If I am unsure, feedback from Etsy, Facebook or Instagram can help me. The part of the process I enjoy most is definitely the positive feedback I receive from customers who are delighted with the finished product. I especially like when I hear that young children have formed tight bonds with the animals and cushions I have made!
- How long would one of your products take to make from inception to completion? A difficult question… Designing and coming up with new ideas can take anything from a few minutes to a few days. Once I have the templates in place and I know what fabric and colours I will be using, I could probably make about 3 – 4 toys a day, depending on the amount of embroidery. The embroidery is the most time consuming.
- Is there any craft/art medium besides sewing that you haven’t tried but want to? And why? The idea of illustrating children’s stories appeals to me hugely, and I’m sure that one day I will give it a go. I would also love to do screen-printing. I make my own stamps and absolutely love printing on fabric, so definitely something I want to try in the future. I would like to combine printing and embroidery on my items.
- There’s been a huge boom in craft and design in the last few years but you seem to be doing extremely well with orders coming in 24/7! Would you say it’s been difficult breaking into this competitive world? On the one hand, the sheer number of people starting up shops and being creative has provided massive competition, it is true; but on the other hand, the tool of the internet has given people like me a great opportunity to sell hand-made products quickly and easily all around the world. It is difficult, but there is no short-cut for hard work and perseverance.
- What would be your ‘top three tips’ for like-minded creative individuals who would like to one day set up a business themselves in this field? I think the most important thing is to believe in your own product, make sure that it is an expression of who you are, don’t be afraid to ask for help and never give up no matter how tough it gets.
- What do you like most about your business? And is this a full-time 9-5 business? The Fox in the Attic is not strictly speaking a full-time business at the moment (even though it sometimes feels like one!), but I fully intend it to be very soon! I think that being at home, working in my own space and for myself would be the best thing about my business.
- Of your current range of work, what piece would you say is your favourite? I think my bunnies will always be my favourite, as a bunny was the first toy I made.
- When you’re not in ‘designer-maker’ mode, what else do you enjoy doing? Cooking, and particularly baking, is a huge passion of mine. I enjoy learning how to make different types of bread, and my husband-to-be enjoys any new cakes I like to try out. Reading biographies of historical characters is also something I massively enjoy, from Shakespeare to Queen Elizabeth I to Byron and Dickens. I also love visiting National Trust and Heritage sites and gardens of all sorts, as well as hiking and rambling in the countryside. Visiting pubs with friends is also unbeatable.
- What are your favourite book/s or blog/s at the moment? At the moment I am reading yet another biography of one of Henry VIII’s wives, this time about Jane Seymour. The whole Tudor period in history I find endlessly fascinating. Before this I was reading a Charles Dickens biography, and before that one about the romantic poet Byron.
- Are there any designer-makers out there that you find inspirational or are ones to keep an eye out for – if so, who? Very difficult! There are so many, but here are a few designers on Etsy that I love: Willow & Quail, The Bocket Store, Petitacosa, Anna Wiscombe.
- What would we expect from Fox in the Attic in the future? More creations, more animals, and more embroidery. I’m also hoping to get my products placed in more high profile locations. Watch this space!
- Finally, where can we find more of your wonderful creations? And can we find you at any craft + design events this year? Unfortunately there are no plans for any craft & design events this year, but you can find me at my Etsy Shop, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!
So that’s it from the lovely Michelle – thanks sooooo much for sparing some time from your rather hectic schedule for me! Not that you need much, but here’s wishing you all the best on the business front and best of luck for the BIG DAY! Looking forward to seeing more of your fabulous work. Well folks….hope you like what you see and if you’re looking for something bespoke for a new baby, birthday gift, baby shower or just fancy treating yourself to these cute critters then you know where to find Michelle! You will not be disappointed – fact! :) Enjoy!! xx