The day could have been written for a Fawlty Towers script. We were travelling from Wolverhampton down to Devon for my Granny's 90th Birthday Party when our little red car kicked the bucket. We were stranded for 2 hours on the side of the motorway playing 'Spot the Pink Cars', a game of our own desperate invention with our two preschoolers where we were promptly attacked by a swarm of nasty biting red ants. When the recovery vehicle finally arrived I was determined to make the end of the party so asked to be dropped off in Devon rather than heading back home. However things continued to conspire against us and shortly into the journey my Dad called with the revelation that I had been given the wrong start time for the party. Despite my best efforts my attempts to get down to Devon and be fashionably late were futile.

We missed most of the family, but managed to stop over night and I had time to chat to my Granny while my cousin and Uncle who luckily own the local garage sorted us out a car to get us home.

As only family can do my Granny told me how to run my business properly over several cups of tea. I come from a long line of shop keepers so she could certainly tell me a thing or two. She suggested that I should be making toys to sell as the profit margins would be so much better. Then she started sorting out all sorts of bits of fabric as I really shouldn't be spending on materials as again this would eat into my profit margins. As she sorted through her button box full of decades of memories she told me about the second hand shop that her family owned during World War II in Plymouth. This was at the time of rationing and new materials were hard to come by so the family worked together to up-cycle all sorts of things to sell on. This included making boys trousers from worn out men's trousers and little raffia baskets from old milk cartons, but the thing I was most interested in was the toys. They would make patterns and sew soft toys from old clothes including some little grey elephants made from one of Granny's old skirts.

button box

I'd spent many a summer holiday as a child in Devon with my Granny buried under piles of fabric and haberdashery learning to sew and I loved the idea of designing and making some really unique toys to sell in my little shop. So when I got home I hatched a plan.

I persuaded Creative Black Country who aim to make the most of creative talent in the Black Country to fund a creative project. I will be working closely with the fabulous artist Elena Cassidy Smith to explore the history of the toy industry during World War II and how it was affected when most factories turned their focus towards the war effort. We will also be gathering oral histories from anyone who has been told stories about toys of the period, or remembers playing with toys as a child during the war. We will then use this research to design and produce a small range of toys to sell in the shop.....hopefully just in time for Christmas!

Sadly in April this year my Granny passed away. I had just been awarded the funding for this project and was so excited to tell her all about it. I'm devastated that I won't be able to share it with her. She was a fantastic inspirational woman and I'll be doing this now in her memory and hope that this project can become the seedling that will grow into something really special.