When we saw the softies for sale in Olga Zamyatina’s Etsy craft shop Wassupbrothers, we immediately fell in love – and fell hard. From hedgehogs and owls to sheep and deer, everything is handmade from vintage fabric and old clothes and completely one of a kind. Olga even dyes her own material using natural resources like tea, coffee and cinnamon! Here’s what life is like as a craft enthusiast in Moscow.
“From early childhood, I loved doing things with my hands – thanks to my mum, who always made clothes for the whole family, and my dad, who loved to carve wood. I even wanted to study furniture-making and wood-carving, but the courses didn’t accept girls as students.
“I can never understand it when someone says they’re bored, because they don’t know what to do in their spare time. I think there are so many opportunities around, and your own two hands are such multifaceted and versatile tools – they can work miracles with such simple things. I remember as a child, I made a huge bear out of an old black fur coat. He was a huge, strange creature and on his stomach were pockets, leftover from the coat.
“I'm so happy that my childhood wasn’t spent in a big city, but in a place where there was a forest, a river nearby and a friendly atmosphere with our neighbours. It was a small town where everyone knew each other and where they weren’t afraid to let their children go out late at night.”
“Most of the best things I’ve ever made aren’t toys. My two simple wedding dresses for my own wedding only cost me a maximum of $80 to make. The worst thing I ever made was an embroidery piece of a beautiful colourful bird when I was seven or eight, which I mistakenly sewed into my skirt, getting carried away by the process. Unfortunately, I had to cut it off!
“I sew on my grandmother's and even great-grandmother’s old Singer machine, which is nearly 100 years old. It reminds me of grandma every day and inspires me for my new creations. I use my Singer machine every day. I had the other modern ones machines before, but no machine can be better then the classic Singer! I can sew thick layers of faux fur without any problems and she is so beautiful. Maybe I will buy a digital machine if I need it, but for now my Singer is enough for me.”
Crafting in Moscow
“It’s like everywhere. The supplies and materials are expensive and there isn’t a huge choice, but as a recycler I have no problems finding materials. I am a big second-hand hunter! Moscow is the one of the most expensive places to live and it’s not that easy to sell handmade things here.
“I hear it everywhere – when somebody sees something handmade and says, ‘why should I buy it? Oh, its so expensive and easy to make. I can make it for myself’. Usually the person does nothing with it in the end!”
“I didn’t realise how successful my Etsy shop was until I became featured seller on the site in October. A year ago, I couldn’t even imagine that I would end up on the main page of Etsy and be there for a few days in the same list as so many remarkable sellers, crafters and shops! A year ago, I hadn’t even made my first owl!
“My proudest moment was when my first toy reached a US customer and she liked it and left lovely feedback, even though this shipment was failed from the start, because the operator at the post office made a mistake and shipped my parcel snail mail, not via Avia Mail.
“Almost all the materials I use are recycled .I am huge fan of second-hand pieces. I have vintage fabrics and clothes from my mum and grandma, and I recycle my own clothes. My relatives and friends give me what they don’t need, like clothes, scraps and cuttings. Sometimes I use new buttons, lace and ribbons, but not often.
“I love to work with natural materials like cotton, linen and wool, and fabric with different textures, like corduroy, cord, eyelet lace and lacy trims.”
“Right now I’m in the middle of a custom orders marathon and don’t have much time to start new toys, but I have a half-made platypus, a wolf and a piggy, and some new birds on the go. I’m also trying out new lace for the owls’ faces.
“I just love owls. They’re so beautiful and versatile, and there are so many different varieties of them in nature, so I have many ways to portray them. I often try to make another animal or bird, but in the end I always go back to those sweet owls.
“I’m not a trend follower. Everything I create is about being natural - natural colours, textures. I make bright toys sometimes, but I prefer natural, beige, brown, green tones. Although I just heard that the trend for 2013 is blue and turquoise, which I like.”
Out and about in Moscow
“I love Gorky Central Park. It’s a large space, where you can go skating and drink Glintwine in winter. And in summertime, you can dance the tango or salsa on the open platform by the Moscow River. They upgraded this place and it’s very clean and there is always a path to relax, or go walking or roller-skating. Also we have great places like Arma and Zavod-Flacon, which are big art spaces with little shops, showrooms, art exhibitions and festivals.”
Do you love Olga’s owls as much as we do? Well, keep an eye on the blog if you do because we’ve got a great little competition coming up where you could win two of her creations – Rita and Naiton. We think they’d make such lovely Christmas presents!