Sarah Dudley on “Stitch and Shenanigans”

I had quite an idyllic childhood, being born in a village on Exmoor, surrounded by woodland moorland and coastline. As a child there was lots to explore. Brought up within a family of animal lovers, there were numerous pets and rescues to care for and nurture, so I was never short of a companion!

With my mother and father both working, my beloved “Grampy Arch” took charge of my brother and myself.  He was a wonderful man with a twinkle in his eye and a wonderful creative narrative, with stories of the birds and animals we encountered on our walks together. He also used to read us Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Grahame, and Brer Rabbit at bedtime.

My love of all things textile I inherited from my Grandma whose “make do and mend” mantra led to her huge stash of wool and scraps of fabric which would all “come in useful one day”!!   Jars of buttons and beads were exciting treasures to explore as a child, and matching their colours with the scraps of fabric was a favourite past time. So there lie all my influences, buried in my subconscious for future reference.  Stitch’n’Shenanigans was born many, many, years later.

My characters are niche collectables, each one created is completely unique, being made from carefully sourced natural materials, a far cry from generic mass produced “cuddly toys”. Harris tweed is a particular favourite as it lends itself perfectly to my work with its texture and mottled colour palette. Also, its production history is very interesting too! Each creation manifests itself from my two main influences… wildlife and storytelling. My characters are quirky and whimsical, and whilst not everyone “gets it”, those that do are becoming regular collectors. I love getting ‘special’ commissions where the character is chosen, along with the colour palette and style of clothing, making a very bespoke and special gift for the recipient.  On occasions I have been asked to incorporate items of clothing from a passed loved one, and this makes it a very special keepsake pertinent to that person.

The Sussex Guild has been a fantastic support for me and since joining in 2017, I have become more confident, enjoying the camaraderie and gleaning lots of information and helpful advice. It’s a powerhouse with a wonderful support network.  Doing the Guild Shows is so enjoyable and although daunting initially, I feel my characters need to be curated… there’s always a story behind them.

And participating in shows allows me to express the narrative face-to-face, which is great.

I’ve learned a lot over this time, knowing what works and what doesn’t and I’m building a great customer (collector) base which continues to grow.  Moving on, I want to explore different techniques and materials, but continuing to maintain the whimsical and nostalgic nature of Stitch’n’Shenanigans.

After all, capturing and keeping your “child soul” is what it’s all about, isn’t it?   

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