Meet Margeaux Davis, she is a maker from New South Wales, Australia. Before she opened her online shop, Willowynn, she was a park ranger. You can really see nature's influence in her soft toys. Her patterns and the fabrics she choices gives each piece a lovely nostalgic look. Her animals remind me of the last few pages of The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, when the toy rabbit finally comes to life and plays with all the other woodland creatures. In the interview below, Margeaux shares about her journey from park ranger to maker, her creative process and the crafting community in Australia.
You were a ranger, what inspired you to start making soft sculpture?
"I used to be a ranger with the Parks and Wildlife Service, so I would be out in the bush a lot, constantly feeling inspired by the natural world. I used to paint and draw in my spare time and have always been creative. When I took maternity leave to raise my two babies, I found painting wasn't practical for me at that time so I started sewing as my creative outlet and began designing and making my own line of upcycled bags under the name Red Tree Designs.
My passion for nature eventually led me to try making various animals like whales, snails, moths, rabbits and foxes which I absolutely loved doing. Something just clicked and I knew I had found my niche...that's when Willowynn began. Now I've started using wire and clay in my work so some of my creatures and (and dolls) are becoming less and less like soft toys and more like little sculptures. I could very happily sit making animals and dolls in my little studio all day and all night if given the chance."
How did you learn how to make them? Are you self taught? Did you learn the skill from a family member?
"I was taught to sew a little bit when I was a child. My stepmother, Rebecca Bruhn (who has been a huge inspiration) used to make the most beautiful art dolls for a living. I bought my own sewing machine as soon as I could afford it and taught myself to make my own clothes. I've just honed my soft sculpture sewing and design skills through lots of practice, trial and error, a few vintage sewing books and sheer determination."
What is your creative process like?
"When I have an idea for something to make, I spend time looking at photos and illustrations in books and do lots of drawings. I also decide what kind of personality and mood I'd like my creature or doll to have, and if there is a story that goes with it.
Then I design a three dimensional sewing pattern for the piece on scraps of paper. After that it’s just a matter of making lots of prototypes until I have something I’m happy with. Then I’ll spend hours perfecting - adding stitches here, needle sculpting there. Each piece evolves even after I’m initially happy with it."
Click here to see more photos, featuring how this little owl was made.
What is the crafting community like in New South Wales? Please list a couple of your favorite local crafters or events.
"I am very lucky to live on the far north coast of New South Wales in Australia. We're in the beautiful Byron Bay hinterland which has a very creative community. We have amazing artisan markets and galleries here even though we're in quite a regional area. My favourite design market is called Finders Keepers, which is in Brisbane (only two hours away). I also love the Tweed River Gallery in Murwillumbah where there is a beautiful (twice a year) local artisan market."
Thank you so much for sharing Margaux!