We meet Tina Crawford, designer and creator behind Tobyboo, and find out why Elle Decoration rated her as a ‘Name to Know’
All of your designs are free machine embroidered – when did you learn this and what were you before you turned it into your business?
After graduating from St Martins with a degree in jewellery I went to work in television production. In a nutshell I had my perfect career and fell ill, was sent home and never got to go back to it. My mobility was affected, I was in severe pain and needed something to keep me going. I found an adult education centre that did a course in machine embroidery. The women that had done the course were amazing and so inspiring.
I bought a sewing machine and it went from there. During all this my husband and I were trying for a baby, after seven years and three goes of IVF Toby was born.
One of the things that goes with having a baby is present giving to other babies and well, that was the start of Tobyboo – trying to save money by making presents, then selling on Etsy and now in John Lewis!
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
Crikey, where don’t I? I genuinely get ideas from everywhere. Quite a lot of my designs are story based – Oranges & Lemons just came about because I wanted to do something London based, but different. The song came in my head and the obvious thing to do was to illustrate the churches in it.
Some designs come from my experiences. Take Wish You Were here – there were a lot of lovely coastal designs about; beach huts and bunting. I looked back at my holidays over here and well it was more like clouds, hideous chalets and vulture like gulls. It doesn’t take away that I liked the holiday, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek, real look at the Great British holiday.
Is it true that no two of your designs are alike? Why is this?
The way I work is like handwriting. I don’t draw first, I literally go to my machine and the needle is my pen. It means that I can’t repeat the same thing and once its done its done. I do a lot of bespoke work for museums in London and it’s really important to me to have different designs out there – I hate going into gallery shops and you see the same products but with a name change. I like to bring a fresh, original design to whatever I do.
Why is it so important to you to keep your products, from design to conception, 100% British?
For me it’s just plain simple – I don’t know why you wouldn’t. To see your products being made over here with ease, to deal with with the manufacturers and if there’s a problem you can nip on the train and sort it out. I make a lot of bone china products and there are a number of designers that use imported mugs and just have the transfers that decorate them applied here, and say ‘made in Britain’. We are so lucky to have the remains of what was a thriving pottery business in Stoke on Trent – I understand that for the large companies they go else where to save money, which is why I feel as a sole trader its stupidly important to buy British. If we don’t all we’ll be left with is transfer makers.
It’s not rocket science, if something is on your doorstep, use it – some things are worth so much more than saving a few pennies.
You were named by Elle as a ‘Name to Know,’ what’s next for you?
Well, I have more fantastic collaborations from museums for 2015 that I’m really excited about (all a bit hush hush for now I’m afraid!) some amazing partnership projects and more diverse work for existing clients. I’ve got a fresh new design and products for St Paul’s cathedral that I’m really proud of.
I’ve had a great year and yes, it seems like my name is known so thank you Elle Decoration!
Tina’s designs will be designing the front cover of the show brochure for the inaugural Make it British Meet the Manufacturer event on 11-12th June and a chance to win some of her hand-crafted designs will be coming up soon. Keep checking the Make it British website for more for details.