In September we went to several trade shows to look for
some new products for our Autumn and Winter ranges. We were lucky enough to meet Michelle Kreussel who is based along the South Coast in St. Leonards on Sea. We fell in love with her range of children’s products, which she designs from her home studio.
She creates beautifully soft cotton rattles and swaddles in various designs featuring cute and colourful illustrated animals with woodland, bunny and tropical themes. They have been an instant hit with our customers and we were keen to find out more about her, so this month we had a chat about her background, her inspiration and what she does with her time off.
Tell us about what you make...
My business is essentially me (with the occasional helper/husband/mother/friend) in my home studio, thinking up ideas based on nature, plants, animals and seasonal themes. I illustrate my ideas, paint them, print them, follow wherever my imagination takes me. I turn my ideas eventually into physical objects like cushions, baby rattles, stuffed toys and greeting cards.
How did you start out?
I started my business in 2011 whilst working full-time in a catering company in London. I desperately needed a creative outlet, and had always dreamed of working for myself. One day I just bit the bullet and bought a sewing machine even though I had little idea about how one worked! Through trial, error, perseverance and a little bit of magic, I made my first small, funny and misshapen stuffed animal toy, and I never looked back. As my creations became neater and more elaborate, I began selling on-line and doing the occasional craft market. In 2013 I was successful enough to be able to quit my full-time job to focus entirely on properly building and working on The Fox In The Attic.
What is your inspiration?
I love colour, fauna and flora and enjoy incorporating it into my designs for children. I find inspiration from Victorian floral illustrations, artists like William Morris, Frida Kahlo and Charles Voysey. My two daughters also inspire me every day!
What is your favourite product in your range?
It changes, but at the moment my favourite is the crocodile from the Safari range and I am also working on a new insect range.
What is an ideal day off for you?
Haha, what is that!? When you work for yourself and you have two young children a day off is a very rare occurrence, but if we have some time, we like going to a National Trust property, enjoy nature and have a lovely lunch after the kids have had a run around. In general, because I work for myself, everyday I start the day knowing I am just going down to the studio to work for myself, have coffee when I want and have my kids with me. It is pretty good!
What other artists & makers do you love?
i am acrylic ~ Amazing, fresh, colourful, happy jewellery.
Viktorija from And Smile Studio ~ Wonderful, unique illustrations. Her work is amazing and makes me happy just looking at it.
Lucie Ellen ~ Classy jewellery design from this very talented lady. I love all her products.
Mister Peebles ~ Original illustrations made with pencil, paint and water.
What advice would you give other people starting a creative career?
I would say that it probably took me about a year or two to really find my style, although I feel that a lot of what we all do as creative people comes from our whole experience of life, we soak up ideas and our styles develop as we develop as people. I think it obviously takes time to get established. You have to work hard, be visible on the web, constantly work on new ideas, develop perseverance and just learn to never give up! When you are self employed it can be very depressing going through a slow patch, but you learn that this is the time to work on new products, or do a blog post. It is all about prioritising your time. I didn't know much about sewing when I first started, but the key is to just jump in and do it! Try not to be daunted or afraid - easier said than done, I know. Just think of creation as an act of play - dive in and enjoy yourself. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get something right first time, or you feel you're not getting the results you want. Perseverance is another cliche, but for obvious reasons. I still have the very first toy I made, and it is far from perfect and very different from my more polished creations nowadays, but it is still one of my most treasured possessions, and reminds me every day that if you dream big and work hard, you can get there in the end.