the gift of toymaking

A brown rectangular basket on a wooden background, filled with toffee coloured mohair pieces, a reel of quilting cotton and two sewn and stuffed legs. Just visible are the white plastic safety joints poking out of the mohair. The pieces will become a OOAK artist mohair bear.

There is some magic in handmade. And that magic seems to only increase when it comes to making a plaything for a beloved little person. Perhaps it is the thought behind it, or the hours of love stitched into every seam, but it is quite simply magic. The magic works both ways, to both the recipient and the giver, as making a handmade gift always feels seems to be a gift for me too.

hand work is heart work

A view from above of a mohair bear artist in a grey linen dress, stitching a teddy bear head by hand.
Handwork has always been a passion for me. As a child, some of my earliest memories are of me sat making on my bedroom floor, surrounded by scraps of fabric and cardboard boxes. Even back then, I was passionate about dolls & teddy bears, as well as enthralled by Doll’s Houses – more often than not, the things I made were so tiny that to properly appreciate them required looking through a magnifying glass.  As a child, then teenage maker, I never thought about why I was doing it.  I just knew that I felt better when my hands were busy, when my whole attention could be trained on something small and contained. It was therapeutic and soothing. And always resulted in something lovely to play with or love…more often than not I’d be so impatient for the object to be finished that I’d rush through and get myself into a pickle…Now that I’m an adult, I’ve learned the value of slowing down, taking my time and aiming for the very best finish I can manage. Whilst I still enjoy holding a finished object in my hands, it is often more the act of making itself which brings me the greater joy these days. It is a quiet, contemplative pursuit, which I can enjoy on my own at my own pace. Making has also guided me into building deep and satisfying friendships with whom I share a passion for mindful making, and who accept and know me as I am.

Making is a gift for me as a mother as it helps me rest and refill my cup in this particularly hectic season of life. I’m increasingly convinced that the work of my hands is first and foremost an overflowing of the heart, none the more so when it comes to the craft of making play things for my children. It is one of the many ways I connect with my eldest and am learning to bond with my youngest. At a particularly vulnerable moment in my life as a woman and mother, these slow stitches has felt akin to meditation or prayer.

why I work slowly

A OOAK artist's mohair bear, sewn from sandy coloured sparse mohair and with black glass eyes and a hand embroidered face..

I work at an intentionally slow pace, striving to create pieces imbued with longevity. My hope is that they will be around for a long time. It is labour intensive, but therapeutic work. It is also immensely satisfying to be able to combine so many of my fibre interests together into one piece. Last year, I created a small collection of bears that incorporated elements of hand-spinning, felting and lacemaking. I also started naturally dyeing my own mohair with traditional dye sources like madder root, weld and indigo. The only downside is trying to find the room in my studio to store all the paraphernalia that inevitably accompanies each craft.

a place to start…

Four palm sized artist mohair bears are lying in a cross shape.

For as long as I can remember, I have made little bears. As a child then teenager, my bears were made mainly from acrylic fun fur, sometimes wool felt and occasionally calico. Three years ago, as a grown woman and mother, I came back to this craft and find a deep satisfaction from taking my time to carefully craft each little bear cub from quality materials which will ensure the longevity of the pleasure the little bear brings.

I find great joy in every stage of the making process, and especially in seeing how the little bear slowly comes to life through the various stages; from the drafting, cutting out, sewing up, stuffing and finishing. So often the final bear has grown and developed a life & personality of it’s own, far beyond what I could have imagined at the start.

Most of my work is inspired by the breathtaking natural world that surrounds us in our mountain home. Although sometimes I find inspiration no further away than the toys and picture books left scattered around our little home by my boy.

To see more of my work and process you can find me on Instagram: or take a peep in my online shop.

a quiet place

I generally enjoy the hustle and bustle of other places, but just now there is too much going on in my personal life for me to easily manage being present there too. The desire to have a quiet place to call my own again where I can share my heart & hand work, explore my ideas and talk about life seems so appealing these days. If you are reading these words, I suppose you too enjoy spending time in quieter places.

Within its pages, I hope to find a place to catch my breath & gather my thoughts. To talk about my making and to delight in slow & sustainable creativity, with wool that’s been grown, gathered, and crafted in these Breton green hills: hand-spun on spindle & wheel, dyed with plants, knitted on my needles, stuffed into teddy bears. It is also a place to document the gentle path towards sustainable self employment.

 
Thank you for taking your time to come and have a look and I wish you a warm & cozy autumn time.

Warmly, Fran