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What skills do you have that are no longer taught in school?
On my run this morning (oh who am I kidding, it was a walk-run), I wrestled with what to write as an intro to our third “Where Artists Create” feature. It isn’t that I am uninspired by the visit, it’s how do I share all the great information I learned? How do I let you know what an amazing woman Mathilde is? I believe that we all have opportunities to share our wisdom with one another and inspire them to create, and meeting Mathilde was no exception.
As I was on my walk-run, breathing in the spring air and appreciating the view, I recalled an insight that one of my valuable mentors said to me. “Kate, write down 5 things you want to say about this visit with Mathilde.”
So, with that in mind, this is what I wrote:
If you are curious about how these 5 thoughts came up in my conversation with Mathilde Fabry of Petit LouLou, continue reading. And if you are so inclined, please leave a comment, sharing how you have been inspired to be creative, or learn something new….a life skill perhaps.
Mathilde did not start her life here in Canada. Born and raised in Paris, France is where her love of nature, her love of creating, and her career began.
As a child, Mathilde expressed her creativity making elaborate structures for her Playmobil toys. And her love for animals (especially bears) grew as she daily passed by the Jardin des Plantes on her way home from school. These and other influences would end up coming together and shaping both her career and where she would end up living one day.
In 2002, Mathilde graduated from university as a graphic designer, and worked on TV shows and movies, such as, Despicable Me, Hotel Transylvania, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, to name a few. It was in this environment that she met her husband, Adrien, and together they began to build a future. They found that they both loved nature, hiking, and….bears. It was in 2012 that they decided to make a big change to their lives and move. They made a list of all the things they loved. Top of the list were bears, camping and being outdoors. So they took out a map and, equipped with their dream location, they searched. Vancouver answered all of their needs.
Upon arriving in Vancouver, Mathilde secured a position with Sony, to continue her animation career. While working at Sony, Mathilde decided to try her hand at needle felting and found she enjoyed recreating some of the characters she was working on in animation. But her love of creating in the physical world, was never far away.
In 2014, her greatest creation, her son, Helio was born, but while pregnant, Mathilde contemplated what kind of Mom she wanted to be. The love-values that were important to her were: “I want to see my son”, “I want to raise him”, and “I want to make things for him”. Working in the film industry would not give her the time she needed to spend with him as there were always long hours, and tight deadlines. Mathilde also wanted to provide toys that were both safe for him and for the environment. So, being the incredibly creative person she is, she decided the best toys for him would be hand-sewn plushies.
Now, here’s the thing; like many other people of her generation, Mathilde did not sew. In a busy world of throw-away fashion, sewing has become a lesson that we no longer teach our children. In years past, this skill was handed down from mother to daughter as a necessary skill for life! But not only did Mathilde not know how to sew, she had no idea how to sew or even where to start, let alone how to make a pattern for the toys she was drawing.
So she decided to take a few sewing classes. Noticing that the teacher kept referring to YouTube for instruction, she soon thought “I can do that at home!” Shortly after joining a French ladies social group, she was introduced to a seamstress who taught her, in one hour, how to make patterns for her own designs. With the inspiration of her son, and the sewing mentor she found, Mathilde made adorable plush hedgehogs, mobiles, music boxes and more.
Soon, she had an idea to design her own fabric. Using her experience in the animation industry, Mathilde painted relatable characters for kids, which she then set to print on the softest plush fabric. This would allow her to create ‘pillow’ stuffies that were much faster to sew, therefore more affordable!
But before she could print the fabric, Mathilde spent long hours on the phone with Health Canada regarding the Industry Guide to Health Canada's Safety Requirements for Children's Toys and Related Products. She researched safety requirements for the US and Europe as well, selected the most stringent regulations to follow and now has beautiful fabrics that are kid-safe & super soft! “It’s been a nightmare”, she states with a giggle, “but [kids’ safety] is important to me”.
With a now full line of plushies and a growing business, you’d think that she would be ready to take a break from creating something new. But Mathilde wasn’t done yet.
She noticed that her now 4-year-old son was drawing, and had designed his own character. He told her that he wanted to make his own monster plushie. Teaching him to hand-sew his own little monster inspired her to mentor other little ones and teach them to sew, to be creative, and to make what inspires <em>them</em>. Creating a series of classes with Bird On A Wire Creations, Mathilde is able to do just that. And when equipped with the skills she teaches them; their imagination will be their only limit.
Four years ago Mathilde wasn’t able to sew and today she teaches classes at Bird on a Wire Creations to little ones (ages 8 – 12). Now, her work can be found in three stores in Vancouver (Bird on a Wire Creations, Giving Gifts and Redfish Kids), a store in California and even one in Hong Kong!
What goals does Mathilde have now? “I would like to be in more stores, and I have signed up for the One of a Kind Show, in Toronto, this November.” She also plans on participating in a toy trade show in Japan next year.
The sky is the limit for this amazing maker, and if you are like me, you look forward to see where her dreams take her next.
Visit our website to shop Petit LouLou, and visit us in store to see the full selection of products and designs!
Next month we visit Robbie Vergara and his printed tshirts!
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