I’m really excited to be starting a new series of interviews here on Oh My! Handmade. Interviews with makers, artists, designers and small business owners at all different stages of business. I’m always interested in how other adventurers in the world of creative entrepreneurs run their businesses, get inspired and how they got started in the first place. I was thrilled when Jennie of A Little Vintage agreed to join me for the first Getting To Know post.
Jennie Walker first came onto my radar via Instagram – her process photos of free motion sewing on vintage fabrics and gorgeous dolls never fail to delight. I simply had to know more about the artist behind the Frida dolls and jewelry crafted from vintage tablecloths. So, without further ado, let’s meet Jennie!
Hi Jennie! To start with, I’d love to know a little bit about you and your business.
I make hand painted dolls/soft toys, but also love repurposing fabrics into brooches, neckpieces and art works with free motion sewing. I’m originally from New Zealand, but have lived in England for many years and we are now residing in Australia!
How much of an impact has living and travelling overseas had on your art?
I think living overseas does open you up to other cultures and ways of doing things. The realization that not everyone is the same and that you don’t have to do things a certain way. (hinting at my ‘make it up as I go along’ way of doing things maybe).
How did you get started making dolls?
My daughter’s favourite stuffed toy (a lamb named Gordon) was looking rather slumped from so many hugs. So the Mr came home one day with a huge bag of stuffing. I had quite a bit left over, so thought I’d have a go at making my own soft toys! I actually started off with a bit of hand sewing :: my Grandfather had given me my Grandmothers linen tea towels after she passed away, so I had a lot of tea towels I had bought back to New Zealand from sales at Laura Ashley in England – I ended up hand sewing them all together to make a table cloth! Decided to buy a sewing machine after that!!
You predominantly work with vintage fabrics. Why do you choose vintage materials over new ones?
I don’t like seeing the same mass produced fabrics used all the time. It’s very boring. Using mainly vintage fabrics, or cutting up an old outfit even – it has a lot more meaning, creates a lot more interest and is different!
What does your typical work day look like?
It’s always changing. I’ve tried to have a routine, to plan ahead more – but I find that quite restricting. Things always turn out best when I don’t plan, when I am in the zone. Sometimes this means working on custom orders late at night, because I need to get them out of my head. I need to see how they will turn out.
What do you love about running your own business?
The main and most important thing is being able to be around for our daughters. But also that I have the choice of what to do/make – though I do need to learn how to say ‘no’ sometimes!
What do you find the hardest?
Probably the social media aspect. I love Instagram, but find the other forms very difficult to keep up with! They suck up so much time.
What is it about Instagram that you love?
It’s the whole visual aspect – the immediate inspiration from so many amazing views of life. Seeing things from different points of view, along with reading why something meant something to someone.
Do you have any secrets to balancing business, family life and self-care?
That’s a hard one. Making time for your children, yourself and making. Let alone the housework, partner, self-promotion and everything else … Prioritising is so important. The children come first and Facebook is way, way down on the list!
If you could give someone just starting out on their creative business journey one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t listen to negative talk from people around you. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if I had listened/believed what people (my parents) thought of what I was making when I first started. Move away from that negativity and find positive people to surround yourself with. Making evolves, what you are creating now will change slowly. Don’t give up on your first ideas, see where they take you. I would also say to push through the frustration barrier – we all have that. Getting through to the other side is a wonderful feeling. Just get on with it.
Where do you find inspiration for new products or when you’re feeling blocked?
This has happened a few times recently. I have made myself sew sew sew. Free motion sewing. This has turned into the neckpieces and big floral brooches. They started out as therapy sewing/gifts for some special friends – happy mail.
If you could spend a year living and creating anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you make?
I’d probably want to go back to Portugal or the Greek Islands. I’m not sure what I would make. I think the surrounds would dictate that. I know there would be a lot of colour, a lot of character. Above everything else, I crave making something different. Something that people haven’t seen anywhere else. Why bother if everything looks the same?
Treat yourself to some of Jennie’s work:
Connect with Jennie via Social Media:
Blog – A Little Vintage Doll
Instagram – @alittlevintagedoll
Facebook – A Little Vintage
Twitter – @alittlevintage1
Flickr – A Little Vintage