Friday, 7 November 2014

Materials and Techniques: Skaapie

The creative world is full of talented people doing amazing crafts. Every fortnight I talk with another designer about how they make their creations. Today's guest is Cathryn, a South African living in Jersey in the Channel Islands. Cathryn has the handmade store Skaapie and she makes felted, beautiful toys, blankets and accessories. Cathryn is a fellow member of EtsyKids.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I'm Cathryn, a South African living in Jersey in the Channel Islands with my husband and 2 beautiful daughters. I started up Skaapie (which means little sheep in Afrikaans) 7 years ago in Cape Town after my first daughter was born. I taught women from underprivileged backgrounds to felt and sew, and designed a range of children's toys, blankets and accessories which I sold at markets and in boutique shops. This wholesale business is still running in Cape Town, while I now concentrate on coming up with new ideas and designs and selling online in the UK.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I use 100% wool tops, mainly merino to make felt using wet felting and nuno techniques. I experiment a little with needle felting too. I think it's safe to say, my favourite material has to be wool felt, it's versatility is endless! I also dye my own felt.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

My biggest challenge apart from trying to balance family life and house work with being creative and productive is probably the pricing and marketing. It's not easy trying to sell your own product, especially online, with millions of choices and about 800,000 sellers on Etsy alone. My products aren't cheap to make and many people don't realise the process involved in making one toy from raw wool to the finished product. Trying to compete with a higher than average retail price and no marketing budget can feel very daunting. Not sure what advice I can offer, but what's worked for me is having faith in my product and going ahead in trust and following where the creative process leads. Everyone's journey is different, so believe in yours rather than try follow someone else's.

What drives you to create?

It's hard to say where inspiration comes from, but when it's there, you know it and have to run with it. I am a very outdoor person and don't think anyone could not get inspired by nature! I'm inspired by my children, by my amazing creative friends and family, by island life, by children's books and pinterest and dreams. And of course Africa and my inspiring childhood.

What is coming up next?

 I'm hoping to start working on a children's book soon, something I've wanted to do for a long time, mixing my felt creations with illustration. Can't say too much about it yet, but am very excited. Am hoping this will take me in a new direction.

Skaapie Instagram
Skaapie Pinterest

If you enjoyed finding out all about how Cathryn makes her products, you can read more interviews in the archive. Do get in contact if you would like to share your handmade story.

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