Valentina Felce is crafting fabulous toys for the young and the young-at-heart that are unique and sophisticated. Her individually designed and crafted “plushies” are for children (or anyone really) “who push the envelope of style and creativity, and think outside the box”.
Iced Vovo fell in love with these wonderful toys on-line and had to find out more of the story behind their maker and their creation.
A: I have always wanted to be an artist and have been inspired by toys for as long as I can remember. I would make little dolls out of clay or alter toys that I already had even when I was a small child. Throughout college I was dabbling in a lot of different artistic endeavors without knowing what I wanted to be doing after graduation, all the while being surrounded by toys. When the idea came to me, I was getting ready to go to bed for the night and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I stayed up for days sketching and thinking in what was the beginning of the best period of my artistic life. I have so much fun doing this and I am honestly surprised that it took me so long to get started!
Q: Have you had any training or did you teach yourself the skills to make these wonderful toys?
A: I have a Bachelor’s degree in the Fine Arts in stage design, so I was trained to know what looks good and what doesn’t. The basics of design can really be used for anything once you find your style. I had a few sewing class sessions as part of my theatrical training and my mom taught me the rest after college.
Q: Each is so individual and unique how do you come up with the variations in shape and design?
A: I love exaggerated forms and proportions. I think you can tell a lot about a character’s personality by his posture and shape. I wanted my dolls to look like illustrations that had come to life.
Q: I love the colours and the tattoos on many of your dolls, they seem to be a trademark of your creations – what inspired the tattoo designs?
A: Originally, the store was going to only offer circus performers, hence the conjoined twins in my collection. I had a few characters that were ok, but I didn’t love them. The overall aesthetic that I was aiming for was that of old circus sideshow pictures. Once I made the tattooed man, I loved him so much that I made another, and another…I had found my niche. It just evolved from there.
Q: I like that the toys are uni-sex or would appeal to both boys and girls – was this intentional or how did it evolve that you have both male and female dolls?
A: My shop was always meant to be unisex- but it was more than that. I wanted my dolls to appeal to boys and girls but also to children and adults. I wanted them to be looked at as works of art as well as toys and friends as well as decorations. If I see an opportunity to make an interesting character, I make it regardless of the gender.
Q: Have you made many toys that you just haven’t been able to part with and if so, what made you keep them?
A: Only one. It has been very difficult to part with some of my dolls. I will admit that in the first days of selling them at art fairs and craft shows, I had mixed feelings about making a sale. But now that I have had more sales, I am happy to see them go- they will be much more appreciated in someone’s arms than on the shelf in my studio.
One doll, however, was impossible to part with. She was a cuddly and adorable version of Frida Kahlo. I have sent dolls to customers living everywhere from Ireland to Israel and even though I wanted her to be liked, I didn’t want to see her go to far. I have never seen anyone appreciate and admire a little doll as much as my sister loved Frida, so I gave it to her.
Q: What was your most treasured toy as a child?
A: My most cherished toy as a child was a rabbit looking mess that I’m sure used to have a defined shape- but by the time I was done with it, it was just a scrap of fabric. It went everywhere with me. Some kids have a blanket that brings them comfort- I had this. No one has ever asked me this before and it is actually kind of funny- this toy was handmade by my mother!
Q: With so many kids stuck behind electronic gadgets these days what role do you see toys like yours, playing in a child’s life?
A: I grew up in the nineties when video games were the primary form of entertainment at my friends’ houses. My parents actually didn’t allow video games in the house and I still don’t know how to play. I never missed them. It is alright to like your electronics, single player games and headphones, but nothing beats a good toy collection.
I was inspired to make dolls that I would have wanted as a child; artistic dolls that send the message that it is ok to be different.
I feel like trends go through cycles, and that luckily, handmade items are growing in popularity again. Parents who value this kind of play know the importance of having unique and cherished items in a child’s room and I am excited to be a part of that.
Q: What are the toys made from?
A: They are made of muslin then stuffed with fiberfill. I use a wide range of permanent markers and waterproof paints to decorate them.
Q: What is the story behind the name of your shop?
A: When I still had the vintage circus idea, my shop was only going to produce dolls with red, blue and yellow coloring with red and blue, of course, being the predominant colors of the dolls’ clothing and tattoos. I felt the name incorporated both masculine and feminine colors and reinforced the idea that the shop catered to everyone and didn’t follow strict gender roles.
To take a look at Blue Raspberry Designs entire collection of crafty creations follow the link provided.
(I must say my treasured childhood toy is a stuffed creation I called “Pixie” – pictured below)