Encouraging imaginative play with Pingvini
If you've had a chance to flick through our Spring 2019 catalogue, you might have been wondering where we sourced all of the cute little toys and animals peeking out of the top of storage baskets or sitting sweetly on shelves. Well, we found them on Etsy in a shop with the unusual name of Pingvini.
The shop's founder, Yuliyana, makes her dolls, animals and mobiles based on the Waldorf/Steiner principles which sees creative activity and the development of the imagination as integral to learning. And she started her business in order to follow her dream of doing something artistic and to work from home and be more available for her children.
Want to know more? Have a read of our interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist and took some art courses, but studied management, thinking it was more necessary. As I child I enjoyed crafting a lot. When I had two small children, working from home seemed like a great solution. I can say that being a mom and crafting are the two occupations I have enjoyed most in my life.
You have an etsy shop, Pingvini. What does the name mean?
I knitted a penguin for my first baby and he used to call it Pingvini, which means penguins in my native language, Bulgarian. Soon afterwords I heard about Etsy and couldn’t wait to open a shop, even though I had only the penguin and one or two designs more to show. I had to find a name for the shop fast, so I borrowed this word.
Your children's dolls and animals are based on the Waldorf/Steiner principles. Can you explain the connection?
My children have now been in Waldorf daycare and school for over 10 years. I loved the natural materials and the simple designs from the start. It is fascinating that one can make a toy out of a square. It feels very rewarding to craft in this way and I am convinced this is the best kind of toy for a child, as it appeals to their emotional intelligence and encourages imagination.
Natural materials are very important to you. Are you seeing an increasing demand for eco-friendly products?
Yes. I often receive comments from buyers that it is difficult to find organic and natural toys. Some choose my toys because of allergies. For many it is important that even the stuffing is natural, even though polyester is easier to clean. I have also crafted for moms who are phasing out conventional toys from their homes and replacing them with natural and organic versions.
How do you come up with ideas for new creations?
The market for certified organic fabrics is limited, so I would make a fox simply because I have found red plush. I also respond to buyer requests. Many of the animals that sell well in my shop started with: what about a bear or can you make a cow? I wouldn’t have thought of crafting a gorilla or a T-Rex myself. Then I just do what I can to make something that looks cute and recognisable as that particular animal. Otherwise I have a long list of animals I would like to craft, and when I have the chance, I choose something from there.
And do you have a favourite?
I love every single design. Even if the crafting is a bit difficult, in the end I find a lot of joy in seeing the finished toy in my hands. My favourite are the sheep baby mobiles. I have made hundreds of them, so by now it is the easiest thing to make.
Children across the UK are currently crazy for unicorns. Is this a worldwide phenomenon or do you see a difference between countries and which dolls and animals they order?
Yes, I have noticed unicorns are popular, but I can’t say that they sell more than the other animals in my shop. I have noticed Australia pays more attention to my versions of their local animals, sheep, crocodile, koala. The same with New Zealand and sheep. US and Europe buy across the whole range in my shop.
You started crocheting at a very young age. For someone wanting to learn or who has a child who wants to learn, what tools do you need to get started?
Thick yarn and thick crochet hook are the easiest to start with.
And finally, what makes a happy home for you?
Being grateful for what you have, being patient with what is difficult, and finding time to be together.
Visit Yuliyana's shop, Pingvini, on Etsy.
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