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San Francisco's Favorite Craft Fair

Interview with Rebecca of Faerie Rebecca

Rebecca Besbris has been creating dolls in the Waldorf tradition for more than 10 years now. Inspired by her children and their homeschooling journey, Rebecca works with natural materials (wool, cotton and other natural or organic fibers) to create eco-friendly toys, dolls, and display items for the home. Rebecca also creates needlefelted tapestries and dolls, as well as goddess-themed items.

Rebecca will be at the November 2nd 2008 You Bazaar! in SF.

I like the idea of creating dolls from natural materials, it reminds me of Laura Ingalls and her corncob doll. Can you talk a bit about Waldorf (I’ve never looked into exactly what that means) and how that inspired you to start making dolls?
Waldorf education was developed in Germany by a philosopher named Rudolf Steiner. He envisioned a holistic education that met the child and worked to support and nurture the child. He and Maria Montessori were contemporaries, both working in the aftermath of WWI and dealing with so many damaged German and Italian children. Steiner based the early years of his educational philosophy on the realms of fantasy and play, putting off formal learning until the age of seven, where Montessori focused on teaching children to be self-reliant and learning practical skills.

I came to Waldorf education through my eldest daughter. We joined a parent child program at a local Waldorf school when she was two years old, and I fell in love with the classroom, the teacher, the philosophy–everything. Because of our experiences, I decided to homeschool both of my children using Waldorf-inspired methods.

Of course, one of the key toys in a Waldorf early childhood classroom is the doll. Waldorf dolls are unique, though, in that they are made from all-natural materials–cotton skin, wool stuffing, wool yarn for hair. They are also very minimalistic–the barest facial features, simple clothing, etc. This allows the child’s imagination to give personality to the doll. Today she is a queen, regally surveying her subjects; tomorrow she’s the little match girl, begging for money. Because the child isn’t locked into one way to see the doll, it becomes an open-ended toy for imaginative play.

What materials are you using to create your dolls? Any current favorites?
Beyond the cotton skin and wool stuffing, I have really been playing around with different yarns for hair. Right now I am *in love* with Lion Brand’s Organic Cotton yarn line. I have also been experimenting with soy/wool blends and bamboo yarns. Anything that comes from nature will surely meet my sewing machine or felting needle at some point!

When you are creating a doll do you think about it’s personality?
For the most part, the doll’s personality really comes out for me when I start thinking about the hair and the clothing. Since the basic structure of the doll is very simple, it really gives a nice canvas to try out different personas. For the most part, I try to keep it simple–lovely doll with minimal features and simple clothing. Sometimes I let it loose a bit, and that shows in the dolls and in their written descriptions.

Right now I have a doll in my shop named Ivy. With her hair pulled into a ponytail and a sweet ivy-covered dress, she looks like a quiet, pensive little girl. Then there’s Sam, my androgynous funkadelic doll. S/he has vibrant blue eyes, a wacky afro, and flared paisley pants. But that’s just how I see them–again, the child’s imagination can make them whatever they want!

I’m always interested in other peoples work habits and work spaces. Do you set specific work hours for yourself or work when you’re feeling creative? Are you super organized or messy? What does your workspace look like (include pictures if you like!)? What kind of sewing machine do you use?
I just moved to the Bay Area six months ago, and was lucky enough to find a house with an extra bedroom. I immediately claimed that as my craft room! I have a 6′ table (the same one I take everything off of and cart to craft shows!) with my sewing machine set up on it. The machine is a standard Kenmore machine that I bought about 10 years ago that I just love. I only do straight, zigzag, and some button holing, so I don’t need a fancy machine. I have a large bookcase from IKEA–one of those ones with 25 cubbies in it–and I have all of my stuff stashed into it. There are boxes labeled “skin” and “hair” (kind of Silence of the Lambs sometimes!), baskets of yarn, loads of fleece and foam pads for my needlefelting, and waaaaay too much fabric. Even though I have a room, I tend to only use it to hold what I’m not working on and to sit down and do machine sewing. I tend to machine everything I need for a project, then take it all over the house and world with me to do the hand sewing/body stuffing/needlefelting parts.

I tend to work in bursts. Since I homeschool, I’m busy with the kids. The nice thing about that, though, is that I can set them to their work and then go grab my latest project. Also, since handwork and arts are so integral to the Waldorf curriculum, we can all sit down and work on our individual projects together. Mara, my eldest, has made her first doll and loves to needle felt. Daisy, my youngest, is all into needle felting tapestries and is working on knitting a recorder case. They actually have their own Etsy shop: Once Under a Blue Moon (http://bluemoongirls.etsy.com).

I carry my work around with me–needlefelting at Irish dance class, stuffing doll bodies in the park, etc. That helps me pass out my card and drum up business. People are always interested in seeing an artist work, and homeschoolers especially will always ask tons of questions! I like working in public not only for the business it can bring, but also to get people past the idea that art is something that happens in museums or galleries. Art is everywhere–even sitting beside you waiting for a dance class to end.

Any exciting future plans or developments in the works for your art/business?
Right now I’m still settling in to the area and learning about how the craft scene works out here, so most of my work is of the online variety. I am very active with the NaturalKids Street Team on Etsy, and the group is working hard to get into the realm of cooperative ad buying in national magazines. We have a campaign coming up on Mothering.com beginning October 1, and we have our first print ad coming out in Living Crafts Magazine in their Winter 2008 issue (on stands November 18). My husband and I are working hard on the webspace for those campaigns, building a new site: NaturalKidsStore.com.

What are some other things you like to do when you are not busy making awesome stuff?
I’m a reader–right now I am devouring the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers (girl meets boy, boy is vampire, girl doesn’t care, danger ensues…). Yes, I know it’s a teen series, but whatever–it’s fun. I drink way too many medium-in-a-large-cup-decaf-iced-americanos (with two raw sugars before the shots are pulled, please, to melt the sugar, then add half-and-half). And I like hanging out with my husband and kids. I live for Sundays (football season is back in full swing–go Cowboys!). And I spend waaaaay too much time on Etsy.

Who are some of your favorite indie artist/crafters and why do you love them?
I could really go on and on here, but I will share two folks that I just love:

Ginger Smyers at The Alchemist’s Star (http://thealchemistsstar.etsy.com) is an amazing, amazing, amazing chain maille creatrix. What she can do with jump rings would make your eyes cross and your hands cramp, yet she makes it look easy and produces some of the most beautiful pieces of jewelry I have ever seen. Every time I go to her site, I just want to own more.

Kerstin at Chimera (http://chimera.etsy.com) has the best hand-dyed roving for needlefelting (or spinning, if you’re into that). I love going to her shop and just drooling over her fabulous wools. Makes my felting fingers itch to just look at it, and I click the BUY button more than I probably should. I am addicted to her roving!

Lastly, I love every shop that is a member of the NaturalKids Team. You can see them all at our blog (http://natural-kids.blogspot.com). I feel so lucky to be part of a group that is focused on cooperation within a given field instead of competition, that genuinely loves and promotes all of its members, and is committed to bringing quality natural toys to all children. I am really honored to be a part of this awesome team.

My Etsy shop is really my main online presence:
http://faerierebecca.etsy.com

You can use any large doll picture from this section:
http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5325342&section_id=5184593

I think this little one has lots of personality :)
http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=12608241

I also have a second shop dedicated to waldorf-inspired school supplies:
http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=6042025

And here are some pictures of my (messy!) craft room:

http://NaturalKidsStore.com
http://FaerieRebecca.etsy.com
http://FaerieWaldorf.etsy.com

***
Minnie, the interviewer, also blogs about crafts at Thank You For Not Being Perky.

3 Responses

  1. WoW! What a great interview with Rebecca! You call that work space messy? LOL! Such lovely dolls you have Rebecca!

  2. Avatar storybeader says:

    I know you’ll enjoy the SF area. I lived there about 30 years ago, and loved it. Like the idea of working out in the public on your dolls. Curious people will always ask what you’re doing. And that’s great that your daughters have their own shop. Many good experiences in having a shop. Good luck to you all. {:-Deb

  3. Avatar Becky says:

    Your work is beautiful Rebecca and I have to say that as one of our team’s administrators on Etsy you have done a great job there too!

    I already gave my daughter the doll clothes you made and she loves them!

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