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Creative SA: Fairy Caravan

Last week we introduced our new blog series, Creative SA. In this series we will regularly feature South African makers. To kick off our very first Creative SA post we chatted with Capetonian illustrator, crafter, and design entrepreneur Liesl van der Hoven. Liesl is the owner of Fairy Caravan and makes stunning handcrafted toys and décor. 

Since we first interviewed her in 2014, Liesl has truly found her passion and niche which is evident in her growing range of delightfully whimsical handmade dolls. These are no toss-them-later Barbie dolls – they are future keepsakes – each unique in their own way and beautifully made…

Fairy Caravan - Fairy Dolls | via The Design Tabloid

Q:  Tell us a little more about your pillow friends. I believe that each animal friend has his or her own story?

A:  The sleepy pillow friends initially started with the idea of creating an animal character to depict each of the four temperaments from ancient Greek theory. I wanted to create characters with distinctly different personalities, because I have found that knowing the personality of each character makes it easier to write stories about them. They almost become “real” in my mind when I’m thinking about them, and I know how they will react in different situations.

I chose the four temperaments simply because four felt like a manageable number of different personalities to start with. I have since expanded on the idea when making the four different dolls and fairy dolls. For instance when I was doing research for creating the fairy dolls, I also discovered that each of the four temperaments correspond to the four elements Air, Fire, Water and Earth. I brought the colours of these elements into the illustrations I did for each fairy’s fabric banner.

Fairy Caravan - Animal Friends | via The Design Tabloid

Q:  You have recently added a few more friends to the fold; can you introduce us to the new additions?

A:  With pleasure! 2016 has been a BIG year in terms of new characters. I started the year by adding three more sleepy animals to the collection. 2015 saw the addition of Kiki the Klipspringer, and this year I also added Fantine Fox, Dana the Dassie and Cara the Caracal. So now there are a total of 8 sleepy animal friends.

In July I introduced three sleeping fairy babies. These are simple little baby dolls available in two different sizes – they look like little babies swaddled in leaves and flower petals. I have been wanting to make a simpler doll since making the larger dolls in 2015 – so very little girls could play with them. They also look lovely as hanging decorations –  each fairy baby has a ribbon loop at the tip of their hat from which they can hang.

I then developed the idea of my dolls a little further, turning them into fairies complete with wings. They are still called Daisy, Poppy, Violet and Lily, just like the bigger dolls, but now they are a little smaller and they are dressed in leaves and petals – and of course they have wings! (I have a story all planned out about how the dolls got turned into fairies which I will share at a later stage.)

Lastly I added a magical unicorn. Ever since making the first dolls I have become fascinated with the possibilities of making two-dimensional illustrations come to life as “real” three-dimensional characters. So I challenged myself with this one. I learned an enormous amount in the process of designing and creating this character.

It’s strange that it didn’t feel like I was being overly ambitious with how many new characters I was creating this year, but looking back on it all now… It feels like I need to go lie down and take a nap!

Fairy Caravan - Fairy Dolls | via The Design Tabloid

Q:  Tell us a bit more about your gorgeous and whimsical handmade dolls. A lot of work must have gone into their creation…

A:  Yes, designing and creating the dolls was a huge amount of work, and it still takes a whole day to create a single doll, as each one is made by hand. But it is SO worth it! I love making them and I am blessed to slowly be building a team of ladies who are helping me to bring these characters to life.

I think that it is important that we teach our children the value of quality handmade goods even when they are very young. We are living in a world that is completely flooded with mass-produced things, and this is definitely true for the toy market as well. Some plastic toys can even be harmful for children, as they release chemicals and gasses over time.

I do an enormous amount of research before I start making anything – from the details of which expression would be best for the dolls to have (neutral is best to stimulate creative play) to the safety of the fabric printing process and inks I make use of. I do this because I believe that there are plenty of people who share my philosophy of putting more thought into what we give our children to play with and what the impact of the making of these products have on society and the environment.

Fairy Caravan - Handmade Dolls | via The Design Tabloid

Q:  I believe you have even designed a pretty range of clothes for the dolls?

A:  To be honest, I did not enjoy designing the doll clothes very much! I realised in the process of designing the clothing patterns that I am first and foremost an illustrator, and that I LOVE sewing and making my characters come alive. There is magic in turning and stuffing a little doll or creature that you have made and watching it come to life.

But teeny tiny little clothes – not so much. I think there is probably scope here to someday collaborate with a fashion designer – someone who loves clothes and designing them a lot more than I do!

Fairy Caravan - Fairy Babies | via The Design Tabloid

Q:  Your fairy babies are ABSOLUTELY adorable. How did they come to be?

A: Thank you very much – I’m so glad you find them adorable! As I mentioned earlier, I basically got the idea of creating a simple baby doll almost as soon as I had made the first, larger Fairy Caravan dolls in 2015. I then put the idea on the backburner while I developed more story ideas. I knew that I wanted the stories to go into a more magical, fairytale-like direction, and I wanted to bring fairies into the story.

So while all of the story ideas were rattling around in my head, I one day realised that the simple baby doll should be a fairy baby! And even though the dolls are fairly simple so that they would be completely safe for a toddler to play with, they had to be beautiful and interesting enough so that even adults would fall in love with them!

I put a lot of detail into the illustrations of these babies and I added interest and dimension with the loose leaf swaddling on the front and by adding a leaf hat.

Fairy Caravan - Unicorn Doll | via The Design Tabloid

Q:  I see that you have penned a cute collection of bedtime stories on your website…

A: The stories are a very important part of what I do. They are my way of adding value to the characters that I create, and also a way to give something back to everyone – whether you have bought something from me or not. I want everyone – and especially as many children as possible, to share in the joy of having a bedtime story read to them, and getting lost in a magical, innocent world.

I have made a promise that I will always continue to share free stories on my website. The story writing has been a bit slow this year because I was creating so many new characters, but I feel that next year my focus will shift to telling more stories.

Fairy Caravan - Handmade Fairy Doll | via The Design Tabloid

Q:  Stories AND beautifully illustrated characters – have you thought about publishing your own children’s book?

A: I have, and it is definitely part of my big plan for 2017. My husband actually made me promise to start focusing on the stories more next year after I completed the unicorn! I agree with him that the time for more stories are perfect now that I have such a large collection of characters about which I can tell stories.

I also want to make more time for illustration next year – bedtime stories need to have beautiful pictures that go with them!

Fairy Caravan - Handmade Fairy Doll | via The Design Tabloid

Q:  What is next for Fairy Caravan?

A: I am working on a big plan for 2017 to make my dolls and toys more accessible and affordable to more people – and I am not thinking about having anything mass-produced!

The plan is still in the early stages of being hatched, but it involves lots of new stories, there are going to be story videos (little movies featuring my characters) and all kinds of exciting things happening!

At the same time I am working on expanding my team of seamstresses so that we can continue to make each product by hand, but also supply in a growing demand for the toys and dolls.

There is definitely going to be fewer new characters in 2017, but I know myself – I won’t be able to resist coming up with at least one or two…

Be sure to check out more of Fairy Caravan’s gorgeous products on their website. Our international friends can purchase her beautiful dolls on Etsy.

You can also follow Fairy Caravan on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest.

Amazingly Fun Bedding Your Kid Will Love

Astronaut Bedding by Snurk

The Astronaut

A lifesaving hero, a beautiful princess, a brave astronaut, or a graceful ballerina – what youngster hasn’t dreamt of becoming one of those? I know when I was a little kid I desperately wanted to be a ballerina (tutus – hello!)… well, it was either that or a forest fairy.

That is why I was immediately taken with the realistic yet playful bedding designed by SNURK, a Dutch company based in Amsterdam.  They have put together a range of gorgeous whimsical duvet cover sets that feature life-sized photographic prints of children’s dream counterparts – from a pirate to a soccer player.

The bedding makes the dream a reality. When your little one is firmly tucked in, with his or her head resting on the printed pillow, they are magically transformed into their fantasy alter ego. It is a splendid way to dress up your child’s bedroom and encourage imaginative play at the same time.

SNURK’s co-founder Peggy van Neer describes their design style as sleek and realistic with a fun twist. Their kids designs are poles apart from anything the current children’s bedding market has to offer, which in Peggy’s own words, is “very loud and Disney-dominated”.

It seems SNURK takes the business of being playful very “seriously”. The images they’ve used on their bedding designs were not sourced from some generic stock website. Nope. The astronaut suit, for instance, is not from the costume rental shop around the corner, but from the Space Expo Museum in Holland. For the Ballerina duvet cover SNURK collaborated with the Dutch National Ballet – one of the top 5 ballet companies of the world.

I love the idea that your choice doesn’t necessarily have to be so gender specific. If your little girl wants to be a fire-fighter instead of a princess – more power to her.

The best news of all? The SNURK bedding range is now available in South Africa! Check out the Robert Thomson website for more info.

P.S. They even have double and queen sized duvet sets for all you big “kids” out there.

Cute Children's Bedding by Snurk (6)

The Ballerina

Cute Children's Bedding by Snurk (2)

The Firefighter

Cute Children's Bedding by Snurk (1)

The Princess

Cute Children's Bedding by Snurk (5)

The Pirate

Q&A With Liesl van der Hoven of Fairy Caravan

“We chatted with talented children’s book illustrator Liesl van der Hoven about her online children’s décor shop, Fairy Caravan, and her adorable range of products…”

Meet Liesl van der Hoven and Fairy Caravan…

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and Fairy Caravan…

I am an illustrator who loves to draw for children. I believe in the magic of telling stories with pictures and also that stories need not be confined to books, but should be found everywhere they can be enjoyed.

For my business, Fairy Caravan, I have my illustrations printed on a range of high quality decor items for baby and toddler rooms, such as 100% cotton bed linen and pillows as well as matching wall art. These products enable parents and grandparents to add the charm of a children’s picture book to their nursery or toddler’s room.

Q: How did you get into the illustration business? Do you have an art or design background?

Education and work wise my background is very diverse: I started off studying Graphic Design, but then ended up doing my Master’s degree in Philosophy by accident!

I worked in a number of different fields, including for a large book retailer, as an editor, and in marketing.

The children’s illustration bug bit when I did my first short course in children’s book illustration with Marjorie van Heerden at the University of Stellenbosch in 2009. Children’s illustration suited my artistic style and I was inspired to pursue this field. Another, more intensive course in children’s book illustration followed in 2010. I also did a children’s book writing course with author Marianna Brandt.

Q: Why and when did you decide to take the scary step into retail?

After two courses to sharpen my skills as a children’s book illustrator, I felt ready to start freelancing for publishers. I completed a few illustrations for the educational market, but quickly became disillusioned with the opportunities available to children’s book illustrators in South Africa.

I started looking for ways in which I could create my own opportunities for drawing what I wanted to draw and getting paid for it, and that was how Fairy Caravan was born: My illustrations could be printed on a multitude of different surfaces where children could enjoy them!

My diverse background in terms of education and work experience has become an asset in starting up my creative business. I knew enough about retail and marketing to take the scary step towards starting up a product-based business.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from when designing?

I have quite a collection of children’s books that I love to page through for inspiration. Often I just look at the pictures and these pictures inspire new stories and ideas for new characters. There is always some kind of story idea behind my illustrations – even if the story is very simple.

I love drawing animals more than anything else. I am a big animal lover so my own pets are a constant source of inspiration. I love that animal characters appeal to people of different cultures – something that is important to me in creating products for the South African market.

I also love observing the way in which children experience the world. I have a little nephew who has inspired many of my illustrations and I am fortunate that many of my friends have little ones that I get to play with.

Q: Is there a certain style you admire or aspire to?

I have loved Beatrix Potter’s books since my very first trip to the library before I even went to school. My favourite has always been Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle!

I love the style of classic children’s book illustrations, and artists whose work look hand drawn. Emily Gravett, Quentin Gréban, Rebecca Dautremer, Marjolein Bastin and Lisbeth Zwerger (to name a few) all do amazing work and I love looking at their illustrations for inspiration.

Q:  Do you have a colour that you favour most and why?

I love all colours and my favourites are constantly changing.

Q:  Could you share your Secret Indulgence with us?

A visit to The Deckle Edge in Woodstock with lots of time to browse is a huge treat for me. I have a weakness for expensive watercolour paper and tend to overspend on quality art materials because now I get to say that it’s “for work”!

Q:   What is your favourite current décor trend?

I love that the woodland theme for nurseries and toddler’s rooms is not going away. It’s a classic theme and one that is open to a multitude of interpretations. Over the past few years we have seen rabbits, owls, hedgehogs and foxes have their moments, and I am loving the sweet little deer that have lately started showing up in nurseries and toddler rooms.

Q:  Tell us five things on your Bucket List…

1.  Visiting the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona with my husband once it is completed (in about 2026 – 2028) We visited in 2011 while on honeymoon and vowed that we would go back.

2.  Spending at least a week in Paris visiting the Louvre as many times as I want.

3.  Having one of my stories published – with my own illustrations.

4.  I would love to have a garden big enough to keep as many pets as I like, I’m thinking a rabbit or two, a handful of chickens; I’d love to have another big dog and a giraffe!

5.  Owning my dream car – a Jaguar.

Q: What do you have on your bedside table at the moment?

My Kindle with hundreds of stories, my smartphone and every morning my husband brings me a cup of tea – I am very lucky!

Q: Future plans? Can we expect to see more Fairy Caravan products?

I have already started planning my 2015 collection of illustrations, I’m not going to say anything about this just yet, but I can’t wait to get started on the drawings!

My plans in terms of products are to add more décor products to compliment the products that I already have, for example cot bumpers to go with my cot duvets and baby pillows.

I really enjoyed creating the animal pillow toys for toddlers this year, and they have also sold very well. I have a few ideas for adding more toy products to my range this year and am excited about where this may take me!

Be sure to check out more of Fairy Caravan’s gorgeous products on their website: here. You can also follow Fairy Caravan on Facebook: here.

Lovely Local Kiddies Wallpaper

By Marica

One of the easiest ways to incorporate instant fun and playfulness into your child’s bedroom or playroom is to buy a roll or two of quirky wallpaper. I think one can easily underestimate the power of well-chosen wallpaper – it has this amazing ability to tie all the décor elements of your room together.

Rose and I were recently reminded of just this fact. We are currently working on a very exciting interior design project and had a striking wallpaper custom designed to fit the space. Boy oh boy, did that wallpaper tie it all together – it complements our design perfectly. BUT more on that later, we’ll be sure to share the project with you once it’s completed!

Now, back to wallpaper! As we’ve said in past posts on kids’ bedrooms (read them here & here) it is very important to gift your child with a unique space that will encourage imagination and make your little monkey feel extra special! Wallpaper can add the interest needed to make your little boy or girl’s room the envy of the whole neighbourhood. You don’t have to paper the whole room – just a small feature wall can make the world of difference.

Need a bit of inspiration? Check out these funky wallpaper designs –all from local South African designers! I have to say I’m super proud of our local peeps – they are SO talented! The wallpapers below are either available through Robin Sprong or Design Kist – please see the image captions for more info…

{click image to enlarge & view sources}
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