Paloma Pizza, complete with a woodfired oven in the garden and they are also right next to The Watermill Theatre.”
Jenny admits she is always drawn to independent shops, especially B the Lifestyle in Newbury’s Bartholomew Street
– a boutique selling womenswear, jewellery and homeware items. “It is my absolute favourite place to shop when I get time alone,” she says. “Emma, who owns it, has such an eye for detail and stocks really interesting brands. I can’t leave empty-handed!”
Jenny originally trained in theatre and completed a master’s degree at Goldsmiths University. “As well as working on theatre projects in my 20s I landed a job in the fashion industry and spent three years travelling across the world attending trade shows to sell luxury handbags and shoes to wholesale clients,” Jenny says. “I loved the travel and excitement but towards the end of my 20s I wanted to work independently.”
Jenny retrained as a Pilates teacher and taught people privately in their homes. She is now an up-and-coming
“I’ve always enjoyed making my own gifts for friends and family; they are much more thoughtful and personal,” says Rebecca Robinson from Tilehurst, Reading.
“When I had my son, Rufus, now two, I used to dress him up every Saturday for the first year of his life and made his outfits and props, which were often out of felt. I was then asked to make a felt crown for a friend’s son and I had a lot of people telling me that it was something I should share. One day, I decided to make myself a flower hoop and the business idea spiralled. I now sell my felt flower hoops and home decor.
“I suffer from anxiety and find sewing is the perfect distraction. I never expected my hobby to be received so well but I’m grateful.”
Rebecca used to be a florist and says flowers are a massive part of her felt creations. “My most popular products are the pumpkin ceramicist. Her signature nesting bowls are her most popular items and her aqua turquoise glaze sells out very quickly.
“I work on the pottery wheel with stoneware clay and I also create some forms that are sets and autumnal floral hoops,” she says. “I love gothic home decor, which comes from my love for Tim Burton. In November, Tilehurst has a celebration for Remembrance Day called Turn Tilehurst Red, so I have also been making poppy hoops with a charity donation from every sale going to the Royal British Legion.”
Rebecca feels lucky to live in Berkshire. “We have the loveliest neighbours. Everyone looks out for each other,” she says. “The best bits about the Royal county are hand-built. Everything is then trimmed and dried in my studio for a few days and fired in my kiln. Each piece is glazed and left to dry again before being fired for a second time. Pottery is a long process and it has taught me a great deal of patience,” she says. “I also love the photography and marketing side of my work. In my photographs I use a mixture of dried and fresh flowers alongside produce from our cottage garden. The soulful music of Lianne La Havas is always on in my studio and her music is really important to my creative process. I am always inspired by the work of artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
“It is strange how through trauma with our daughter’s illness we have found something wonderful at the other end. We have all grown stronger as a family,” says Jenny.
When asked about her future goals, she says: “I would like to get a second kiln so I can increase production in 2021. We don’t know what the future holds but we continue to try to take each week as it comes.” jhoppspottery.com
‘Clay gave me something tactile to focus on’
all the beautiful places you can go for walk, like Dinton Pastures and Virginia Water. We live on the edge of Sulham Woods and have discovered Wilder’s Folly, which my son loves to go to. It’s a brick tower with amazing views.”
So what’s next for Rebecca? “I want to continue creating beautiful things that people will enjoy and make a happy home for my son to thrive in,” she says. “He’s so creative already and he’s my drive behind everything I do.” Find Rebecca on Etsy under the shop Felt Cute
“I am really just a big kid and have never grown tired of soft toys,” says Amanda Berry, who lives in the centre of Reading with her husband and a huge collection of knitted toys. “I always doodled cartoon animals, so when I rediscovered knitting for pleasure I decided to try combining both, which was much more fun than knitting a scarf.
“A decade ago I left my career in accounting to pursue a creative career and enrolled at London College of Fashion. While completing my degree I started to build my portfolio and designed for several knitting magazines. Since graduating, designing toys has become my full-time job.”
Now Amanda sells these beautifully designed knitted toys stuffed with fluff and fuzz and they’re going down a storm.
“My designs are inspired by animals and nature; I often make sketches of things I see when I am in the countryside to convert into a knitted toy later,” says Amanda. “I love the River Thames and take regular walks on the Thames Path to Sonning and Henley. Windsor is also a quick train ride away for a day out shopping and sightseeing. My husband and I also love to visit Caversham Court – it is perfect for picnics, and occasionally we spot
Muntjac deer there too.”
Amanda’s latest creation, Andy the Llama, has been a bit of a hit with her fans. “He is a little toy so he doesn’t use a lot of yarn, so it is a great way to use up any leftovers,” she says. “My most popular designs are Moss the Sheep, who makes a sweet little ornament, and my Great White Shark for the adventurous knitter.”
For Halloween, Amanda has designed a few creepy patterns, including vampires, bats, witches and pumpkins. “My personal favourite is a voodoo doll pincushion,” she says.
To keep knitters busy during lockdown earlier this year, Amanda designed a set of free knitting patterns for toy vegetables. “I published the first one, a baby beetroot, in May, then regularly added new cute veggies throughout the summer. It kept me busy in lockdown and I hope it helped others pass the time creatively too,” she says. “Knitters have also been making pairs of my knitted hearts to share with their loved ones during this difficult time. It is always a joy when knitters share photos of the toys they have made with their new owners, and that inspires me to create more.”
Amanda admits she is only a beginner in crochet, so she is learning more in her spare time. “I would love to master crocheting so that I can add crochet patterns to my range,” she says.
“I would encourage anyone who has never tried to knit before to have a go as it can be very rewarding for your mental health. YouTube has plenty of videos to help you get started, and my friends at LoveCrafts.com have plenty of tips and tutorials too.” lovecrafts.com/en-gb/c/article/ learn-to-craft;
Find Amanda on Etsy under the shop Fluff and Fuzz and at fluffandfuzz.weebly.com
‘I am really just a big kid’
ABOVE: Rebecca with her son, Rufus
BELOW: Her felt creations
ABOVE: Amanda loves to knit BELOW: Andy the Llama, her Halloween bat, a spooky pumpkin and cute veggies