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Monday, November 3, 2014

The Perfect Gift: Softies by Heather Campbell

Holiday decorations are already flooding stores, which means it's open season on thinking of gifts for our loved ones. When I discovered that my new friend (and fellow Kindergarten mom) Heather Campbell was opening an Etsy shop called Augustine & Isobel to sell her softies, I immediately asked if I could do a blog post on these precious ladies/gentlemen/creatures.

All the softies are special and the custom-made option allows your child to be their own designer (seriously, check out the custom-made softie/sketch below).

I know you started creating softies with your son. Please tell us how you went from making the first one to selling them on your wonderful Etsy shop.

I had been hoping for some time to open an Etsy shop. I knew I wanted to sell softies, but I felt there wasn’t anything that distinguished me from other sellers. I’m a big fangirl when it comes to other softie artists, and what I’ve learned is that each has their own niche. I really wanted to come up with something unique that set me apart—something that other artists didn’t offer.

I carry around a journal that I use to scribble ideas as they come to me, and while we were on vacation, my then four-year-old son took it and started drawing his own “dolls” for me to make. I loved the exuberance and freedom of his drawings—mine are often too controlled and too self-conscious. I knew immediately that I wanted to sew his dolls. I asked him for permission to sew the ones we made, and then I began to think about the possibilities of offering this service to other parents wanting to bring their kids’ drawings to life.

What makes softies a great gift for children (eh-hem blog readers, with the holidays coming up, nothing says “You’re special to me!” like a one-of-a-kind gift for the children in your life)?

It has been so exciting for my son to see his drawings in 3D. He’s been the designer—I’m just a collaborator. I think it’s really powerful for a child to see his or her imagination leap off the page like that.

I think these dolls would make the PERFECT reading/cuddle buddy. What ages do you recommend softies for?

Softies are wonderful for people of all ages! I have a commission right now to make one for an adult. I can make them very sturdy for kiddos to snuggle and child-safe for little ones who like to chew on their toys, but there’s also an artistic quality to them, and adults can enjoy them as well. 

Tell us about the custom-made option on your Etsy shop.
Custom-made doll from child's drawing

I started making dolls for friends’ children, and I would very specifically choose eye color and hair color for each child. I like the idea of a child being able to specifically choose a doll that has the same hair color/skin color/eye color as they do or as maybe a favorite storybook character does.

When I sew a doll based on a child’s drawing, I can incorporate colors from the drawing, or if the drawing is in black and white, I can use the child’s favorite color.

How do you find the time to brainstorm/design/create softies as a busy mom and editor?

Because of my love for stories, these ideas are always flitting around the edge of my brain—I just need to sketch them before I lose them. I find myself doodling at church, in the car, or while I’m waiting for the pediatrician.

As far as construction goes, once I’ve drafted a pattern and cut the fabric, I just sew in bits and pieces while my kids play or do their own craft projects. It’s really fun during the winter, because I’ll set them up with homemade play dough or a pile of markers, and we work on our projects together. When I get close to a deadline, I put in some late hours after the kids are in bed. But the good news is I love these projects, so it’s not like work at all.


Heather Campbell is a stay-at-home-mom/freelance writer and editor/softie artist. She lives in Palmer Lake, Colorado, a quirky small town northwest of Colorado Springs. Heather has a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature, and was a children’s & teen librarian for six years. She's been writing YA book reviews for School Library Journal for ten years, and seven years ago she began doing freelance editing of nonfiction books. Her Etsy shop, Augustine & Isobel, has been featured in Stuffed Magazine.