This artist has some wonderful things for the tots! Come and meet
Here is our interview with the artist, Gwen -
Briefly describe what you make?
I design and sew blanket dolls for babies and small children. They can also be called loveys. Blanket dolls have been widely used in Europe as a comforting toy for babies. The idea is that mom sleeps with the doll for a few days and the fabric will absorb her scent. Then when baby is snuggling with the doll it can smell the comforting and familiar scent of the mother and it will soothe the baby by letting it know that mom is near.
What mediums do you enjoy working in most?
Ever since I saw minky fabrics for the first time I have been hooked. The softness and texture of the fabric is just perfect for baby items. I have made so many minky blankets for my two babies and for friends. I just can’t get enough of that fabric. I’ve always been tempted to make a large blanket for myself, but somehow I just have not gotten around to it yet.
How long have you been creating craft?
I have been crafting for as long as I can remember. My mother always did little craft projects with my sister and I growing up. We mostly made little clothes for our dolls and as we got older we stared to make furniture for our dollhouse. I also had a wonderful grandmother how was patient and taught me how to knit and crochet when I was really young. Most of my crafting has always revolved around sewing or knitting. I have somewhat turned my love for creating and designing into my full time job. I have been working as an architect for the last 10 years and love what I do. It is another creative outlet for me, granted the materials used are not as soft, but I get the same satisfaction from my day job as I do from crafting.
How did you get started?
I got started with my Etsy shop just a couple of months ago, back in May. I’ve been browsing Etsy for the last 3 years and always thought that one day I would love to open my own shop. But being a brand new working mother I just couldn’t believe I’d somehow be able to manage my time well enough to pull of
such a big endeavor.
When my second daughter was about 9 months old I just had this urge to design her a doll that she could cuddle with at night. She was having a terrible time sleeping through the night and I thought that if she had a truly snuggly companion to hold on to it might help her. My husband and I also noticed that she was never able to find her pacifier in her crib in the dark, so I wanted this doll to help with that problem as well. I worked on several different prototypes and after a couple of months and a lot of input from family and friends I arrived at the Blossom Baby doll which is currently featured in my Etsy shop. I made a few of these dolls for my friends’ babies as well and everyone seemed to really like them. Especially the babies! Mabel immediately took to her Blossom Baby and by tying her pacifier to the feelers of her doll we have been able to enjoy long sleep-filled nights.
After having some success with my daughter and with friends, my sister encouraged me to look into starting my own Etsy store and I decided to just go for it. It has been a huge learning experience. Designing and sewing the dolls is the easy part for me. Setting up and promoting the store has been a wonderful challenge. I am constantly trying to improve the doll as well as my shop and am now working on a new product that I am hoping to start selling in August. I will also be adding new blanket dolls to my shop where the flower hat will be replaced with a star hat, the new Star Snuggles.
Where does the name of your shop come from?
The name of my shop “Mabelise” was inspired by my two beautiful little girls, Mabel who is just about to turn 2 and Elise who will be 5 years old soon. Initially I thought about naming the shop “Elise and Mabel” but after kicking around some other ideas with my sister, we came up with Mabelise. My husband was very opposed to this name in the beginning because it is just so similar to Maybelline but I simply loved that with one name I could dedicate my work to both of my children. Especially since the doll was originally designed for them. Elise has her own doll as well that she is really fond of.
What would you most want people to know about your work?
Making these dolls has truly been a labor of love for me. I have invested so much heart and soul into these little creatures and love the idea that somewhere out there another baby or child may be comforted by one of my dolls. Every doll is completely handmade. The production of these dolls is partly done on my Singer sewing machine and partly by hand stitching. The faces are all individually embroidered by hand and I feel that in turn each doll has it’s own personality and each one is unique.
What words of advice do you have for other artists?
My advice for other artists is to simply follow your passion. There are so many amazing shops in the Etsy community and so many talented artists who are just inspiring. Even if their medium is completely different from mine, seeing their artwork just encourages me to keep going. Opening and running a successful store on Etsy takes a lot of time and energy and patience. I am a very new shop owner myself and still have very far to go, but there is so much help out there in the community. Etsy is a great place to showcase your artwork and your craft, but it does take a lot of hard work. As I mentioned earlier, for me the hard part is not making my dolls, but it is running my Etsy shop itself. I think as long as you are able to take the time to learn all the different aspects of running and promoting a shop you can have a successful shop. The one thing that I never really considered when I started was how difficult it can be to achieve great photos of my items. It is the number one thing that I am trying to improve. Since no one is ever able to actually touch and feel my dolls, I need the pictures to really show off my items. So I guess besides following your passion, if you are considering opening up your own Etsy shop, learn to become a great photographer.
How do you comply with the CPSIA requirements for children’s products?
All my products are made from materials that are on the exempt list for lead testing. I am required, however, to have sewn on labels on my items for tracking purposes. These labels contain my brand name and website, the materials used, care instructions, and date and place of manufacture. Currently I make those labels myself with approved fabric and inks.
Great interview! Please come and look at what Gwen has in her shop! They make great gifts!