Craft Chat: Bubbles & Bongo

This week I am delighted to bring you another “Craft Chat” in which we get to know the talented artists within our crafting community.  This edition is extra special since we will get to know TWO skillful artists who combine their love of crocheting, knitting, sewing and designing to create beautiful dolls!

Rosemary and her daughter Erinna hail from Australia, and they make gorgeous dolls that they sell in their Etsy store called “Bubbles & Bongo”.  They are both active on social media through Instagram as @petite_tini (Rosemary) and @littleaquagirl (Erinna) where they post photos of their work and are extremely supportive and encouraging of their fellow crafters.  This is where I first connected with them, and I’ve loved following their work.  Their dolls are always meticulously crafted and creatively posed, and I always get excited and inspired whenever their posts appear in my feed!

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I was incredibly honoured when Erinna and Rosemary asked if they could send me one of their beautifully handcrafted dolls!  I really had no idea what to expect since their dolls are each so unique and have so much personality, and I was BLOWN AWAY when I opened their beautiful package with Myla by my side!

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As soon as I saw our special fabric doll, I thought she looked just like me with her black hair and side ponytail!  Then I saw the lamb on her tunic and knew that this was inspired by Lambert, our amigurumi lamb and the Lambert Collection that we designed!  Here they are side-by-side!  What an adorable pair 🙂

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Myla couldn’t wait to start playing with her, and she immediately called her the “Mommy Doll”!  I can’t believe we have such a unique and special doll in our collection that was crafted with so much love and care!  The craftsmanship is superb as this doll is so well-made.  Just look at this beautifully embroidered face with her luscious lashes, sweet pink lips and rosy cheeks!  Her hair is sewn on so well, with parallel lines of stitches simulating strands of hair!

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I love how our fabric doll has a gorgeous knitted tunic dress and a crocheted lamb adorned on it!  The Mommy Doll really combines all three arts of sewing, knitting, and crocheting!

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I was so touched that Rosemary handcrafted this beautiful doll wearing such a stylish outfit just for us!  I LOVE how she looks both modern and whimsical at the same time with her black and white palette and touches of pink!  The Mommy Doll is very well-loved, and she will be cherished for years to come!

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Let’s get to know this magnificent mother-daughter crafting duo a bit more with these questions that I asked them!

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1) Where did the name “Bubbles & Bongo” come from?

Erinna:

The name “Bubbles and Bongo” stemmed from childhood nicknames that mum gave my sister and I when we were toddlers. Bubbles was a monkey and Bongo a bear, which we saw when visiting the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. I was nicknamed Bongo, as apparently I have a gait similar to little Bongo.

Rosemary:

And Erinna still does! Bubbles the monkey was as cheeky as Erinna’s sister…

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2) When did you learn how to crochet and sew?

 Rosemary:

I learnt to sew from my mum as a primary school student – just simple embroidery. She was an amazing seamstress and made almost her entire wardrobe. I remember her giving me a wooden dowel into which I hammered four nails to create my very own French Knitter.

From there, I learnt how to knit and crochet through books and have taken various classes on how to sew clothes as well as pattern making. Being a ballet mum, I had to learn how to sew lots and lots of sequins onto ballet costumes, as well as how to darn pointe shoes and sew the ribbons on. When we both discovered amigurumi, it reignited my love for crochet and being able to draw on my sewing skills to make dresses for the dolls just seemed like a perfect creative outlet using skills that I learnt from many, many years ago. How many years shall remain a secret….

Erinna:

I loved watching my grandmother use her old hand-crank Singer sewing machine. She would let me turn the wheel and sometimes I would drive her crazy with how fast I would spin it. We still have the Singer sewing machine and it has an enormous amount of sentimental value. I would like to say that I learnt to sew in Home Economics class in high school, but just quietly, mum made a significant contribution to a number of my sewing projects that I had to do. Alas, my sewing skills do not match my mum’s. I can sew straight lines on a sewing machine but that’s about it. I am proud to say though that I can use a needle and thread and do sew my own buttons on when they fall off!

I first learnt about amigurumi on the golf course. A playing partner had an amigurumi giraffe golf club headcover and from there, I slowly learnt about the creative possibilities that amigurumi presented. I thus knew I had to learn how to crochet. So about two years ago, with the help of books, online videos and blogs (such as All About Ami), I first learnt how to hold a crochet hook, how to chain stitches, how to make a single crochet and till today am still learning so much more to do with this craft.

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3) What is your favourite design/project?

Rosemary:

It is so hard to choose as each and every doll that I have made always have special moments associated with each of them. However, if I had to pick one, I think my curly haired doll, Emmaline, would have to be my favourite. I am not quite sure why, but she seems to have a cheeky little personality to me and I love the way the colours and patterns of the fabric came together to complement her curly burgundy hair.

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Erinna:

I love the creative process of translating an image in my head to an amigurumi creation. When I created and published my first amigurumi pattern, I was quite nervous, and still am to this day every time I prepare a pattern. I think it is because I love each and every one of the creations I make and hope so much that the person who is trying it out will love it as much as I do. I cannot bring myself to choose a favourite design but will say that I have loved creating each and every one of my projects.

4) Where do you get your inspiration from?

 Rosemary and Erinna:

The only social media platform that both of us use consistently is Instagram, and it has proven to be such a wonderful source of inspiration. The crochet community on IG is most supportive and we love how people are so generous with their kind comments. It is funny that though we have never met any of them in person, we feel like they have been a part of our crochet journey from the start.

Other sources of inspiration come from resources like blogs, books and children’s illustrations, as well as just everyday things around us!

5) Your dolls are always exquisitely detailed.  I love how you combine different mediums together with your dolls, such as knitting, crocheting and fabric dresses.  How long does it take you to make one of your dolls (crochet and cloth)?

Rosemary:

I am fortunate to be able to knit, crochet and sew and wanted to create dolls that would combine all of these elements. Each of my dolls would usually take close to a week to complete. It is always so exciting to reach the end of the process and see the final doll come together. Putting the finishing touches on each doll’s face is always so rewarding as it just adds to their personality.

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Erinna:

Hopefully one day soon I will be able to master the art of knitting and sewing and be able to combine the different mediums! Until then, all my dolls are created by crocheting. Each doll would usually take me about 4-5 days to finish and the best part for me is putting on the outfit and styling the hair! I think my amigurumi dolls have much better hair for styling than I do…

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6) Crocheting is a family affair for you two!  How does it feel to be able to craft and run a business with such a close family member?

Erinna:

From a very young age, mum has always made sure to provide creative outlets for my sister and I. She put us through painting, copper tooling, decoupage and paper tole classes. Even though she worked through the week, she always made sure she had time to ferry us around to these different classes on weekends.

And now, I am so lucky to be able to share my love for crochet with my mum. I remember that we were both unsure how to set up an Etsy shop and when we finally put our minds to it and got the shop online, we were both thrilled! The first sale was so exciting…then the first review…and now, even though we are still both learning so much about the process, we are just absolutely grateful for this outlet through which we are able to share our love for craft and crochet (and fund our serious yarn budget)!

Another plus that we both crochet is that she understands my need to go yarn shopping despite the stacks of yarn we have at home, and she understands that when I am counting stitches that I am not to be disturbed! 🙂

Rosemary:

I have always loved all sorts of crafting from clay modeling, cross-stitching, pergamano to making glass-beaded hand-sewn shoes and wanted to make sure that my daughters got a chance to experience using their hands and imagination to create things.

When we first discovered amigurumi recently it was just something that grew naturally between Erinna and I. We both helped each other learn the various skills
that were needed for making amigurumi creations. But at the same time, we each developed our own style. I love making dolls and creating little outfits for them using the different mediums, whereas Erinna finds joy in creating original patterns.

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7) Do you craft full-time?

Rosemary:

Apart from the unyielding need to do housework, I would say that crafting is a full-time job! I am extremely fortunate to have the time to craft and will hopefully one day soon set up my own “craft office”!

Erinna:

As much as I wish I could craft full-time, unfortunately crafting is only an after-work or weekend activity. I am a cancer researcher by day and crafter by night! I am very lucky to be able to hold two “jobs” that I love!

8) How has social media played a role in helping you connect with fellow crocheters and crafters?

Rosemary and Erinna:

As mentioned previously, social media (in particular Instagram) has been an amazing source of inspiration and is just a bubbling cauldron of crafting creativity. The diversity and originality of fellow crocheters and crafters is just so special to be witness to.  In the same way that Picasso said, “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”, each individual’s feed is like a diary that we have had the good fortune of being allowed to be a part of.

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9) Who are some of your favourite crafters/crocheters to follow?

Rosemary and Erinna:

This is a really tough question as there are just so many to name and we would hate to leave anyone’s name out!! But @allaboutami is just a perennial favourite of course 😉

10) Do you have any advice for people who are interested in starting a handmade business or Etsy shop?

We still have so much to learn with regards to running an Etsy shop and have no doubt that we would benefit from the advice from many of your blog readers! But these are some things that we feel are an integral part of Bubbles and Bongo’s philosophy.

1) We only ever list and sell creations that we ourselves would be happy to receive if we had bought it from someone else, particularly in terms of the quality of the finished product.

2) We try our best to respond to enquiries as quickly as possible and offer as much help as we can. In addition, we also make sure to say thank you to those who take the time to leave lovely reviews as we appreciate these very much.

3) We do our best with taking good quality photographs of our creations for our listings and try to show as much detail as possible.

4) We pack our creations with lots of love and always make sure to include a handwritten note to show our appreciation.

5) And finally…..we never thought in our wildest dreams that we would be selling our creations to people from all around the world. It has been a most exciting experience and reminds us why we enjoy crafting so much when we hear from happy customers with whom we can share our love for creating dolls! We took a leap and could not be happier with the journey that we are now on! So go for it!!

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I LOVED reading Rosemary and Erinna’s answers as their relationship is so sweet and inspiring.  I was really touched when Erinna mentioned how her mother always made the time to provide creative outlets for both her and her sister.  Rosemary stated how important it was to her that her daughters had a chance to use their hands and imagination to create things, and I love how they now craft and run their store together!  I hope to foster my girls’ creativity and imaginations too, and I hope that they will be able to find the joy in crafting that Ryan and I love so much!  How amazing would it be to craft together as a family?  I am delighted that we could learn more about Rosemary and Erinna and be inspired by all that they do!

[GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED!] They have generously offered a PATTERN GIVEAWAY so that you can make one of their whimsical designs as well!

To enter, simply visit the Bubbles & Bongo Etsy store HERE and leave a comment below telling us which pattern you would like to win!  This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE and will close on Sunday, April 10th at 10 PM MST!  I will randomly choose THREE WINNERS from the blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (you can enter through all these different methods to increase your chances)!  Have fun browsing through their lovely shop!

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Don’t forget to follow Erinna and Rosemary on social media (@littleaquagirl & @petite_tini on Instagram) to keep up with their work!  Their exquisite dolls would be a welcome addition to any stuffie/doll collection (your children’s or your own hehe)!  Thank you for taking part in this Craft Chat, Erinna and Rosemary!