Home Interviews Secret forests, ballerina mice and a French château with pointy turrets – enter the world of Wilderstitch
Wilderstitch heirloom doll on a table with craft scissors and buttons

Secret forests, ballerina mice and a French château with pointy turrets – enter the world of Wilderstitch

by Camilla

Meet the Maker: Wilderstitch

Erica Jane Waters from Wilderstitch is a storyteller who stitches the characters of her imagination. Her own life reads like a picture book – when she’s not making dolls in her chocolate-box cottage in the English countryside, she’s sharing her skills at workshops in a real French château. Erica talks to fellow Folksy seller, printmaker Melanie Wickham about living the creative dream…

Shop Wilderstitch on Folksy folksy.com/shops/Wilderstitch

The ultimate dream would be to have my very own château with pointy blue turrets and a secret forest. Until then…I’ll just keep on stitching.

Hi Erica! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do?
Hi, I’m Erica and I spend my days (and nights!) dreaming up mouse families, forest creatures and heirloom dolls. I also write and illustrate children’s books, which I think may be why my textile work always seems to have a little story to go along with it.

Heirloom Dolls by Wilderstitch on a table with yarn

I was told at school that I was a hopeless stitcher and knitter, so I shied away from it for many years until the urge to turn my imagination into something you could hold, touch and feel became overwhelming.

I’ve had so much fun looking through all of your beautiful work. What has your creative journey been? Have you always worked with textiles?
I started making funny little mice when I was pregnant with my first baby, who is now 11. I was told at school that I was a hopeless stitcher and knitter, so I shied away from it for many years until the urge to turn my imagination into something you could hold, touch and feel became overwhelming. I cleared out the cupboard under the stairs to use as a tiny makeshift sewing room and bought a sewing machine. I taught myself to knit with the help of friends and I haven’t stopped sewing and knitting since.

Heirloom dolls by Wilderstitch

The dolls can take weeks to make but I feel it’s important that they get everything they need from me. It’s like they have really been created and nurtured rather than just made.

Your work is so intricate. How long does it take to design and make an heirloom piece. What’s your process?
The intricacy is what draws me to heirloom doll-making and the process is very slow but so enjoyable. I’ll usually pick a theme, such as Spring Blossom or Antique Rose, and then start sketching in my sketchbook. I’ll begin to collate fabrics and laces, buttons and wool that remind me of my theme. I usually do sets of two or three dolls for each theme, all a little different in their dress design, their hair and eye colour, their shoes and their boots. They can take weeks to make but I feel it’s important that they get everything they need from me. It’s like they have really been created and nurtured rather than just made.

Watch Erica’s Ballerina Mouse come to life and dance with a blue tit in this Folksy Friday animation by Leanne Warren and Yas Bowley.

Your creatures are so characterful, it must be hard to part with them. Do you create their stories and family trees as you work on them?
Sometimes I don’t know what my mice will be like until I put their little eyes on. They all have such different expressions, only then do I discover what their favourite cheese is, what they were up to last Friday night and why all the other mice whisper about them.

Heirloom Doll mouse with hat, scarf and satchel by Wilderstitch

It’s only when I put their little eyes on that I discover what their favourite cheese is, what they were up to last Friday night and why all the other mice whisper about them.

Your cottage and the château are such lovely locations. How much influence do you think they have on your work?
My cottage was built in 1650 and is called The Wilderness, hence Wilderstitch. It inspires me daily and is a wonderful backdrop to my creations. I can easily imagine a whole city of little mice living within its thick, stone walls.

Erica Jane Waters from Wilderstitch in her cottage kitchen
Fireplace in Wilderstitch cottage
Pretty Cottage Window at the home of The sewing room of Erica Jane Waters from Wilderstitch
The sewing room of Erica Jane Waters from Wilderstitch
Heirloom doll by Wilderstitch on a shelf in a cottage

My cottage inspires me daily and is a wonderful backdrop to my creations. I can easily imagine a whole city of little mice living within its thick, stone walls.

The château where I run courses belongs to friends and is completely perfect for the heirloom doll workshops. There’s a sewing room lined with sewing machines along one wall, a large walnut wood table in the middle and a twisty staircase leading up to its attic location.

Chateau Heirloom Doll Stitching Kit

Your Instagram account is fab and like a magical world to dive into. How important is it to your business?
What’s important to me about my Instagram is how I can use it to both showcase what I’m making, as I want others to see it, and also use it as a mood board for my own reference. It’s a fantastic way of really letting people know what Wilderstitch is. It is magical, it is timeless, it is escapism and I love being able to share my vision with others.

Follow Wilderstitch on Instagram

Running workshops is a big part of your creative work. Do you find they inspire your own making?
The workshops certainly are a fabulous way to focus and knuckle down on an idea or a theme. I would love to host a workshop where we went foraging for mushrooms or truffles in France or England. Then I would design Boar Dolls for the truffle course or perhaps a Huntress Doll for the foraging one. A mix of food and fun and stitching, all linked by a theme.

Heirloom mouse doll stitching kit by Wilderstitch

The château where I run courses belongs to friends and is completely perfect for the heirloom doll workshops. There’s a sewing room lined with sewing machines along one wall, a large walnut wood table in the middle and a twisty staircase leading up to its attic location.

Your photos are beautiful and have a real sense of fun and storytelling. Do you have a top photography tip?
It really is trial and error for me. Technique-wise I will try staging my mice all over the place until I find somewhere that the light just looks right. This can be on a random windowsill or on a chair. Always natural light, never direct sun (apart from my Christmas collections – they always have fairy lights involved!). With the dolls, I love playing around with props such as antique picture frames or old books. I scatter buttons and spools of thread around, anything that adds to the story of the creation and helps people understand what I’m trying to say.

Dresses for heirloom dolls by Wilderstitch

I have a set of Victorian tea party dolls in my head… they’re rabbits and deers wearing white dresses and pretty hats, like Picnic At Hanging Rock but for woodland creatures.

Are there any creatures that you would love to make but haven’t yet?
I have a set of Victorian tea party dolls in my head. They’ve been there for years. They would be rabbits and deers wearing white dresses and pretty hats, like Picnic At Hanging Rock but for woodland creatures.

Heirloom Dolls Ballerina Shoes by Wilderstitch

I’m pretty much living the dream right now.

What would be your dream commission or workshop opportunity for Wilderstitch?
I’m pretty much living the dream right now. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to pass on my passion for creativity to others. I suppose the ultimate dream would be to have my very own château with pointy blue turrets and a secret forest. Until then…I’ll just keep on stitching.

Heirloom Doll mice by Wilderstitch

Shop Wilderstitch on Folksy
folksy.com/shops/Wilderstitch


printmaker Melanie Wickham in her Bristol studio

Meet the interviewer

The maker asking the questions this week is printmaker Melanie Wickham.

Read our interview with Melanie here – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/05/28/melanie-wickham

Shop Melanie Wickham on Folksy here – https://folksy.com/shops/melaniewickham

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1 comment

CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM June 16, 2019 - 7:13 pm

I’m a textile artist too, creating wall hangings from recycled materials and embellishments. I am self taught, relying on the techniques I learned at school. I have always been creative, having learned to knit (from my grandma) and crochet and sew (from my Mam) aged three. I work from home, am inspired by my garden and love to collect from charity shops and carbooties. I use original poetry, hand embroidered in wool and silk threads, to provide an emotional layering to works, capturing the essence of my experiences.

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