Ria Crawford of Maisie Moo loves colour, and loves felt. Ria grew up in a maker family, but never thought she’d take take path herself until her maternity leave projects for her own nursery started being requested by friends, and then friends of friends… and soon a hobby was a full time business. She creates from her studio in sunny Tauranga, where she focuses on nursery decor, baby mobiles and wall art (and now sewing patterns), while still being able to be close to her own family.
What do you make?
I work with felt and pretty much everything I make is classed as nursery décor. Baby mobiles would be my most popular item, but I also make personalised name signs, garlands, decorations, hair tidies, tooth fairy pillows and most recently I have started creating sewing patterns. I make everything to order which means I can customise design, colour, whatever is required to suit my customer’s needs. It is great fun working with a soon to be mum or dad on a mobile to match a nursery that so much love has gone into creating.
How did you get into your craft?
By accident really… I was completely obsessed with making the most perfect nursery possible for my first baby. I had all these ideas but could not find anything to suit. My mum purchased a bulk lot of good quality wool felt from Trade Me and together we made a baby mobile for what was to be Maisie’s nursery. It was so much fun I then went on to make a few more creations. Originally these were only meant for me, however during my maternity leave I started to make them for friends, then friends of friends. What was a hobby soon became my full time business.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
None what so ever! The closest thing to formal training would be sewing classes in third form at Hamilton Girls. My mum taught me how to hand sew and I grew up in a family that ‘made’ things. Back in the 70s my parents crafted wooden toys, dolls and even furniture which they would sell at local markets. I have a few friends that commented ‘I was the last person’ they’d expect to ‘go all crafty’ hahaha I think it is kind of cool to surprise people sometimes.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Felt hands down. It is such a versatile material to work with. It can be made from 100% wool, woolmix and synthetic however I do not restrict myself to any one type. It does not fray, is tactile and robust. My favourite tool would be my teeny tiny scissors, perfect for the more detailed of my creations.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my customers. That soon to be mum or dad who wants a baby mobile to suit their well thought out nursery. I love receiving fabric swatches and paint samples to colour match and working alongside them to create something they will (hopefully) think is perfect. It is such a memorable time in people’s lives and I feel privileged to be able to play my small part in making it special for them.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I like to think that the enjoyment and care shines through in what I create. I try not to take on too many custom creations, which is why I can have a wait time of up to 6 weeks or more. One of the reasons I enjoy my work is that I have a good work/life balance. Maisie Moo has given me the freedom to work around and spend more time with my beautiful family.
Describe your workspace:
My studio is in the spare bedroom overlooking the garden which is bordered in native bush. I can stitch away to the sound of tuis or the screeching of the girls on the tramp. What is great is that I can still be working but not feel like I am missing out on too much when the family is all home.
As for what it looks like, imagine the chef off the Muppet Show, except instead of cooking it is making felt creations! Haha I find that when working on something, especially a new design, there is no time to tidy, I get carried away in the creative process. I also have two little gremlins who love to ‘help’. I have to do a major overhaul once a week and always promise myself to tidy as I go… it never happens.
One of the great benefits of what I do is that I can take my work almost anywhere. Sometimes it can be the couch watching a movie, relaxing at my mum and dad’s in the sun or over a cup of coffee with a pal.
Five words that describe your mind:
I asked my husband this one… here are his answers, all good except for the last one! Imaginative, creative, flexible, innovative, and frazzled!!
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I have a lovely lady from down Wellington way whom I have made over 15 creations for over the last 3 or 4 years. This for me is the greatest complement, to know that my work is so well received for a customer to return again and again really makes what I do worthwhile.
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I was always drawn to a book called Aesop’s Fables, I loved the illustrations and moralistic stories. My favourite was the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race. I do try to remind myself this often as I tend to do everything at high speed, a ‘bull at the gate’ my mother always says. Something good about hand stitching is you have to stop and take your time, it can be quite relaxing.
What are you reading now?
Tinkerbell and the Fairy Rescue (to the girls). I confess that most books I read these days are from the girls’ bookshelf. It has been an absolute age since I had the chance to settle down and enjoy and good book. Maybe on my next tropical island holiday (yeah right!).
Who is your hero/heroine?
Clichéd but hands down my Mum and Dad. Two wonderfully supportive, inspiring and loving human beings. They inspired me to follow in their footsteps and travel the world and step outside of my comfort zone. I feel so lucky that my girls are able to spend so much quality time with them both (they live just down the road). They even help me in my business, Mum will always offer to stitch the odd star or two and my mobile hangers are all made in Dad’s workshop.
A favourite quote:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
- Dr Seuss
Do you have any pets?
We recently moved to the country where we have a bit more room so just last week we adopted a 3-year-old black lab called Romeo. He has a lovely gentle nature and has just slotted right in to our little family.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
The Un-Tangler – able to untangle a huge pile of embroidery thread in a single bound!
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do it, you have nothing to lose! You can easily test the market for your creations with the help of sites like Felt where it is easy to set up your shop. It is also important to use social media (Facebook, Instagram etc) to get your handcrafts noticed. Photos are key, you put so much hard work into all you create make sure your photos show this. Have fun!
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I purchased a lovely coin purse as a gift from the Little Big Markets a few weeks back. There are so many wonderful makers in the Bay and on Felt so most of the gifts I buy are handmade.
What’s in store for 2016?
So far it has been a busy one for Maisie Moo so I shall continue to smile and stitch away.
Ria has very kindly offered two of her adorable tooth fairy pillows (pictured below), one for a boy and one for a girl, as a prize for one lucky Felt reader. To be in to win, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Ria’s story and her gorgeous creations. The draw will be made on Friday 22 April and is open to New Zealand residents only.