HAVING LIVED for three years in London while I completed my degree in Costume for Performance, I always looked forward to coming back home to Lincolnshire. I feel more at peace here, which makes it easier to work. I moved back immediately following graduation and haven’t left since. That’s the beauty of the internet; one can access the resources to run a business even in the middle of nowhere! Here I’m surrounded by open fields, my lovely dogs, (greyhound Woodie and German wire-haired pointer Demo), and our three plump chickens, who never fail to provide eggs for my breakfast.
My mother and I bought this property 11 years ago. Our house is a former 1867 railway station, part of the old Lincolnshire line that ran from Stamford 3 miles away. It closed in 1929 after a general railway strike led to its failure. Many of its original features were depleted when we first moved in, but over time we’ve replaced them in our own creative way. Our dining room wall is lined with old station-style clocks, and everywhere you look are traces of time gone by, such as old suitcases and laundry baskets that we cleaned up and enlisted with a new sense of purpose. The white painted walls are almost completely covered with grouped collections of photographs and art work. The walls in the living room are filled with framed photographs commemorating the station’s history. Other intriguing finds are scattered about the rooms, such as old score cards from a local cricket grounds, an antique dummy in the dining room and an old perpetual calendar
next to the back door.
Certain newer pieces my mother and I have cleverly aged with varnish to tie in with the older pieces. We’ve also revamped salvaged items, such as old boards in the dining room that we converted to a “Victoria Plum Conserve” sign.
“Working in the countryside works for me.”
— Grace Lane
As far as my handmade animal characters go, they all have an aged feel resembling the look of a family teddy bear or doll that’s been loved and used over the decades. Much of the fabric, charms and oddities I use to embellish the characters come from my friends and family. My father and my uncle, a collector and textile designer, both work in leather and fabric. My mother’s friends frequently donate odd pieces of jewelry and antique finds, and of course there are charity shops where I find my fabric scraps. Even the smallest item of clothing can go very far when dressing a bear or rabbit. Staple materials, such as calico and netting, I buy off the internet.
The base of my characters is a plain calico body. The limbs I stitch on with my sewing machine, and the head and ears I stitch on by hand. I begin by collecting fabrics in similar colors, depending on the character I’m working on at the time. I then set off to find the charms and accessories that really bring the character to life.
Most of my work is done in my garden studio, which we built in just under two days, thanks to some very welltrained builders. I persuaded my dad to build a bespoke shelving unit out of old scaffolding planks I found in a skip to stow all of my materials. He also built two identical tables that can move around depending on the amount of floor and table space I need. The interior is forever changing as I work on new projects and add sketches, fabric samples and other imagery to the walls—much in the same way our house has evolved. As soon as I am finished with a character, I post it to my website.
Every once in a while, I carry the odd project into the house to watch a favorite TV show or chat with my mom in the dining room as I’m working. Both the house and my studio are an extension of my work. They offer the perfect recipe to the wonderful working environment that produces these incredible characters.