I consider myself a maker, a maker of stuff, any stuff. I am not too hung up on what I am making or the techniques I use to make it, although I must confess: I cannot draw. So, my making tends to be sewing or cooking based. Although I have dabbled in other creative areas, these are the two spaces I feel most comfortable in. One of my favourite things to design and sew, since I was a little girl, has always been toys of some sort. Sometimes they turn out well, other times not so much. But, Scroll through my Instagram feed, or my Pinterest boards, and you will see I am very passionate about handmade toys, and I have huge admiration for fellow makers, who bring their unique voices to this art form.
I have had the privilege of meeting, and becoming friends with one such unique voice, Robyn Fuller, founder and creator behind the Ripleycatco brand. I wanted to feature her in this series on creative women in business, because as a single mom, of 2, she manages to support her family with her craft. This is an amazing achievement! I know I have learnt a lot from her, and I am hoping her story can inspire other creatives to follow their hearts.
Robyn Fuller, a unique voice
Robyn says,” I am a single Mom to 2 Magical Beings (my Daughters), 3 dogs and a tortoise called Lucy.”
She studied fine art, and majored in Sculpture and Printmaking, but says she has dabbled in various other art forms. “I am an avid learner and eternal student.”
Her passion is creating. “Ever since I can remember I’ve always created things. I love the idea of making something from nothing. Being able to connect with people through my work has been an added blessing.”
“Ripley was the name of my very first cat. He was the runt of the litter and grew to a whopping 22kgs. Not even the vet could believe his eyes. He was an incredible black cat and we had a very special bond. He was always in my art stuff and studio and would lie around my neck like a scarf whenever I painted which was constantly (until he got too big and I got too pregnant) Sadly he is no longer with me…”
This story made me giggle, because my business, Myang, is also named after the first cat my husband ever gave me, another incredible black cat. She too was the runt of her litter, and her quirky personality inspired my fun kids brand.
One of a Kind Dolls
Robyn started making dolls in 2010, when she made her daughters Waldorf inspired dolls for Christmas presents. She was hooked, the dollmaking bug had bitten!
“I make One of a Kind Dolls (OoaK). No two dolls are alike. So, you can be 100% positive that YOU will be the only person in the world that has that specific doll. No mass-produced copies. It’s not…just a doll. It’s an adventure.”
One of the things that drew me to Robyn’s dolls, were the beautiful little stories that accompanied each doll. Not only is each doll one of a kind, but so are their stories, clothes and personalities. I wanted to know what inspired her in her day to day life.
“I’m inspired by the possibility of something ordinary having the potential to become something extraordinary. I draw from everything around me, everything has the ability to inspire in one way or another. We just have to be willing to look hard enough.”
Sales at our finger tips
Because Robyn sends dolls out all over South Africa and the world, I wanted to know about her marketing strategy, how is she connecting with potential clients?
Robyn is very active on social media, her Instagram is always a fun one, #ripleycatco. She also advertises on online markets. She says she loves connecting with like-minded artists and fellow doll makers from all over the world.
“there are so many options to sell your goods online and fortunately due to technology, we can literally sell anywhere in the world. It’s all at our fingertips.”
She also says:
“I’ve collaborated with some well-known brands in styled photo shoots, word of mouth for local sales, and I’ve recently been pushed hard by friends to challenge my social anxiety enough to do local markets.”
I wanted to know as a single mom, how she manages to get everything done in the day, as well as remaining creative, and sane!
She laughingly says:”proper time management. I’m fortunate that most of my work is online. Which gives me afternoons with my kids, this is important to me. Working from home though means that the work never stops, once the kids are in bed for the night, and housework is done. Then the sewing comes back out and the audio books get turned on.”
She also says, remember to rest and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
“you aren’t a machine (I still struggle with this one – I call it #singlemomsyndrome).”
Robyn like many women in business, finds it hard to take time out for herself, without feeling guilty. And I must admit, I find the same thing. If I sit for 10 min reading a book, I feel guilty about the dishes in the sink, or the washing on the line. But, I have realised that I am left feeling depleted without those 10 minutes here and there. Like I have nothing left to give anyone else.
I know I am at my best as a mother, wife, creative and business person, when my tank is full, I am rested, and my soul is fed. Sometimes all I need is 10 min of quiet and a book, and other times I need 6 hours uninterrupted behind my machine. My business partner, disappears to a health farm. Without this bit of time to clear your head, the responsibilities of life can get really overwhelming.
What does the future hold for Robyn and Ripleycatco? Robyn hopes to establish a Doll studio, somewhere where she can teach and create. I think I will be first in line to sign up for a class!
To see Robyn’s beautiful dolls, and support this incredible artist, find her on Facebook, and Instagram, where she often posts shop updates and giveaways. You can also email her directly for custom orders, email@example.com