There is much to love about Jodie Carleton's Ric-Rac blog, I'm sure you could spend days lost there, learning new skills and admiring her amazing work. Jodie is a really talented crafter and a toymaker extraoirdinaire and she also writes with wonderful humour, she makes me laugh all the time!
Its fascinating reading her blog and sharing the process as her patterns come to life, she's a perfectionist and each stage is carefully tested so her patterns are just right. And come to life these little softies really do, Jodie shares some of their stories on her blog and if you haven't read dear Baxter's story or one of the others you're missing something great. It's no great surprise that her other role in life is as the 'Awesome Library Chick' at a local primary school.
Jodie is wonderfully generous with her knowledge, her blog is loaded with tutorials. In fact its quite apt that I discovered her initially through a zip pouch tutorial. If you want to make a racing snail or a computer bot, a party turtle or a pair of mice - this is the spot.
Lots of Jodie's projects are jaw droppingly amazing, but there are two I really should point out. The personalised doll she made of her son complete with accessories is one of these, and being Jodie she shares the pattern and instructions so you can make your own. The other is the now legendary Selvedge frock that she made with fabric made of selvedges, painstakingly sewn together. I can't even imagine the work and skill involved in this beautiful dress, its stunning.
Jodie's enthusiasm is contagious and her current rag rug project has been spreading like wildfire through the blog world. She is responsible for many a length of plaited fabric lurking in lounge rooms around the country, have you started one yet? Being one of Jodie's projects it also comes with fabulous instructions. I'm trying to resist but every time I see a picture of her growing rug I can feel my fingers twitch!
1. Can you give us a short description of your blog/style/work
My blog basically keeps a track of my makings. Sometimes I go off on little rants, or include the dog, cats or kids but usually it is about whatever craft has me excited at the time. I sew a lot of stuff and if you trawl through my blog you’ll find handbags, yip-yip suits, the occasional skirt and quite a number of selvedge items, but my real passion is toymaking. I think about toys all the time and imagine all the toys I could make if I had the time and skill.
2. Why blog? How did you start?
I accidentally stumbled across a blog when I was looking for a fabric online. I felt like Alice through the looking Glass. Having discovered this whole new world I just had to join in. It is the biggest and best ‘craft group’ I have ever belonged to. I have made so many virtual and real life friends and been involved in some awesome community events. I can’t imagine not blogging.
3. Family taught/Self-taught/Trained?
My mother sewed when I was small but I wasn’t all that interested. When I went to university and became a starving student, I turned to sewing to make gifts for people and have been sewing ever since. I got my first sewing machine 22 yrs ago and have made some spectacularly ugly things over that time. When my kids were small and unable to protest I made all sorts of hideous creations for them to wear. I just make it up as I go along and learn from the mistakes. The internet is a fabulous tool to learn new skills.
4. Workspace - studio or kitchen table?
I am lucky enough to have a dedicated sewing room, in fact I have just moved into what used to be my daughter’s bedroom. Rather sneakily I left my cutting table in the previous sewing room, along with a cupboard full of supplies.
5. Blog/Shop name, where does it come from?
I toyed with lots of blog names, but in the end Ric-rac was simple and it just felt right. I remember the era when ric-rac trim was seen as quite daggy, so that appealed to me as well.
6. Favourite media to work in?
FABRIC ! I especially love to work in wool fabric. Woollen toys are so warm and tactile – and they last and wear so well.
7. Ambitions/future directions/future projects/medium you'd like to try?
I would really like to try working with paperclay. Paperclay is airdrying clay and I can see little tiny jointed animals and dolls in the future. The scary bit is the painting – as a non drawer, I think I’d totally suck at that bit.
I got the chance to have a play with screen-printing last year and I am keen to take that further. I’d love to incorporate some screen printing into toy making. I have a slight obsession with mermen at the moment and can see a shaky plan evolving.
I would love love love to be better skilled in designy computer type stuff. I see the amazing things people create with spoonflower and I get so excited by the possibilities, but for now it is out of my realm. The thing is with a limited number of hours in the day (and most of those spent at my real job) I find it hard to dedicate time to learning computer skills, when I could spend that time sewing.
8. Are you neat and organised or, ahem, creatively messy?
I seem to buy lots of containers in the vain hope that they will magically keep me tidy. Certainly everything has its place, but when I am creating I usually can’t be bothered to put things away, so it’s a whirlwind of making followed by a tidy up and then back to the whirlwind. In theory I know it would be easier to tidy as I go –it just never happens.
9. Favourite handmade, handcrafted item you own not made by you
My friend Annie made me a quilt when I turned 40 and she used fabrics that she knew I would love. There is typography and crazy monkeys with their tongues poking out. The best part of this gift was that Annie is not at all precious about it. She comes to my house and sees it on the floor or crumpled on the couch-or under a cat and she doesn’t mind at all. The quilt was given to be used and loved, and that is a gift in itself.
10. Favourite food/recipe?
My favourite food is anything that someone else prepares. I am not an intuitive cook at all. I definitely have to follow recipes and while I dont mind baking that whole “whats for dinner “stuff just kills me. My son recently became a vegetarian, so we are all exploring new recipes which is both fun and a total pain in the butt at the same time.
11. Favourite colour?
At one point in my life I would have shouted Green and then for the past few years it would have been red. Just lately I find myself drawn to blues – Isn’t it weird? When I look at my fabric stash, the colour most underrepresented is purple.
12. Star sign?
13. Favourite place, landscape (not necessarily Australian)?
I love the beach – not in a bikini suntan kind of way – more like a winter walking kind of way. I love the smell of the beach and the flotsam washed up. I would like to live by the beach one day, in a town with a great craft shop.
14. Any tricks for juggling life/work/family with creative pursuits?
Lists! As anal and boring as that sounds, the only way the things that have to happen actually happen at my place is if they are on a list or on the calendar. If I don’t have a list then the toy that I promised to make for a shop sample will be forgotten in the rush of a new idea or a bit rag rug making. I have a list on my sewing table of things that absolutely have to happen that week and I love crossing them out as I do them… and if I manage to do something else out of the blue I add that to the list as well, just so I can have the joy of crossing it out!
15. Favourite artists, artisans, crafters?
Wow, this question is a killer so I am going to stick with toymakers. Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps is a brilliant toymaker, she investigates methods and theories and her toys are wonderful. She talks about the business of toy making and is always introducing me to new people or artists. I rarely buy craft books but Abby’s second book that she is currently working on is going to be a must-have for anyone involved in toy making or design.
Mimi Kirchner – Mimi’s toys are the toys that made me want to be a better toymaker. I distinctly remember seeing one of her robots and thinking, I want to make a toy like that, one that evokes an emotional reaction in people who see it. All my toys have lengthy often absurd back stories, sometimes shared and sometimes just kept to amuse myself. I look forward to owning one of Mimi’s toys in the future.
Jess from Teddybear Wednesdays makes toys with emotion. Each toy, whether it is a bear or a crocheted creature, is in turn, cheeky, shy and whimsical. I own one of Jess’ bears called Pikelet and he lives in my sewing room. He demonstrates not only beautiful design but a toy that is made with love. He is painstakingly cute.
16. Your favourite thing you've made/written/done.
My favourite things always seem to be the thing I am currently working on. Right now I am making a rag rug and it is a great craft, in that I can do it while I watch Dr Who. I love to multitask.
17. Three words to describe yourself?
Exasperating, irreverent, obsessive.
18. What do you like to do besides creating?
I am obsessively fond of animals, and am more than happy to cuddle a duck or stroke a llama at a moment’s notice. I could become a crazy cat/dog/lady with very little encouragement.
When I am not creating I hang out with my dog and cats, I am driven insane by the 17 year old and his constant noodling on musical instruments. I hang out with friends (often in a crafty context) and Mr Ric Rac (rarely in a crafty context)
I read a lot, mostly kids and young adult literature. As a library chick in a primary school this is part of my job but also something I really love. I usually read a few novels a week.
But no matter what I am doing, secretly, in the back of my mind I am usually creating something.