The toymaker

    Spotlight 3/2018
    Lion toy
    © Helen Stephens
    Von Dagmar Taylor

    When Alice Wood’s son was two or three years old, he loved dogs. So from a small piece of black and white fun furKunstpelzfun fur, Alice made him a little dog with legs that moved. She had made teddy bears before, but it was the little dog that attracted people’s attention. Her son took it everywhere with him. Soon, she began making dogs for friends, and the work grew on her. “The puzzleGeduldspielpuzzle of making different breedRasse, Artbreeds became too irresistibleunwiderstehlichirresistible,” Alice told Spotlight.

    Working in her south London studio, Alice uses traditional toymaking processes to create each toy from beautiful mohair fabricGewebe, Stofffabrics. She explained that modern fun fur is too elastic for toymaking because the back is usually knitted, whereas the mohair fabrics have a wovengewebt, gewobenwoven cotton backing: “It’s quite hard to work with, because it’s so tough and rigidstarr, steifrigid, but that’s also the good thing about it, because it makes the toys very sculptural.”

    Alice, who studied illustration in London and Cambridge, begins by drawing the dogs. It takes between seven and 15 hours to make one toy dog, depending on how many pieces it has. The silkenseiden, aus Seidesilken greyhoundWindhundgreyhound is one of the more complex models, with nearly 30 pieces. Alice uses her Bernina sewingNäh-sewing machine for longer seamNaht, Saumseams, but some seams have to be sewn by hand because the parts are so small. “When you stitch the mohair, you have to to flickschnipsen, zupfenflick the hair out of the seams,” she explained. “I have these little wire brushes and lots of funny tools I’ve to repurposeumfunktionierenrepurposed.”

    Alice began making toys as a girl of seven or eight and never stopped loving them: “I particularly like the ones with the movable legs, because they’re like little marionettes. You can make them wave their pawPfotepaws, sit down, lie down or lift their leg.”

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