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MEET: Tina Crawford, An Unnatural History

Today we are pleased to meet Tina Crawford, aka Tobyboo. With her first solo exhibition coming up we wanted to find out what inspires her original and unusual textiles...

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started. 

My name is Tina not Toby, Tobyboo came about 8 years ago when our son was born. When I started I was pretty much making kids and baby gifts from personalised name frames to bespoke unique blankets. I trained at St Martins many moons ago, and even though I studied jewellery there's a real natural evolution to what I do now.

An Unnatural History

What drew you to working in textiles?

Well, I was working in TV production when I became ill and housebound - there was a massive sewing shop near where I lived and I got myself a sewing machine to keep me sane. Half teaching myself and going to adult education classes learning free embroidery - I quickly fell in love. 

English Heritage Plate

Where do you get your inspiration from?

As cliche as it sounds (and as Paul Smith says) everywhere - there's nothing even during a dull day that doesn't make me think of something I'd like to work on. My health played a huge part in creating pieces for my first solo exhibition which starts on the 11th February. It expolres the idea of stitching being like our skeleton and what lies beneath.

St Pauls Bauble

I'm lucky that I get to work with some of the most amazing museums and heritage places, I get to try and find something to use that isn't the obvious, for example my latest range for St Paul's Cathedral is a fine leather accessory collection. The design came from a Grinling Gibbon wood carving on the choir stall. It's not the first thing you think of but it's beautiful and hopefully might make people go and find which one it is.

Please tell us about your working space.

My working space is - well - some would say creative but the truth is it's a mess! I start tidying, then I see something and want to work so the tidying never gets done! My studio is our spare room - it has a lock on the door so is truly mine!

3D Snake

What is your favourite tool of the trade?

My new favourite toy is my 3D pen, I bought a 3 Doodler and am working with it as I would free embroidery in a continuous stretch - as someone said, it brings my work to life!

Who are your favourite designers?

I love works from taxidermy artists such as Walter Potter, as well as artists such as Grayson Perry to Paul Smith.

Elephant Man

Please tell us about your upcoming solo show?

An Unnatural History is my first show, I have some three dimensional pieces alongside framed work using soluble fabric. The theme started with my skeletal work, and looking at the idea of 'sewn together' creatures so from mythical centaurs and Fiji Mermaids to the real and incredible illnesses such as tumours and FOP - a disease that turned flesh to bone. http://rise-gallery.co.uk/exhibitions/

Tobyboo Card Range

What are your goals for the next few years?

My designs are licensed out to a fabulous card range, I'd really like it expanded to stationery and wallpaper.

What advice can you give someone starting a creative business?

Don't do it (half joking)! I think enjoy it as a hobby as long as you can, once it turns into a real business it is lots of work and to a certain extent some enjoyment can be lost. I was thrown into it as a business because when I became ill in 2000 I had to earn money, I think if I had a paying job I would have taken it slower.

Where can we find your work?

My stockists include: St Paul's Cathedral, English Heritage's Down House, Hever Castle, The Globe, Kew Gardens - I made a decision to concentrate on bespoke work for museum and heritage shops as it's more creatively rewarding.