Interview with Visual Artist Emma Johnson of Gigglemay

Sometime in late 2014, I during the midst of a scrolling spree on Instagram I stumbled across @gigglemay. I was instantly smitten by her account, because I love crochet and also small adorable things. Interspersed with photos of her sweet daughter were detailed photo after photo of these tiny crocheted dolls posed in subdued whimsy.

As someone who does not have the ability (patience or focus) to crochet tiny adorable things, I waited with baited breath for @gigglemay to launch an Etsy shop, but shockingly no shop materialized. I clicked on her profile, but there was never a link to a website or even blog.  My OCD begged for an answer. Where do all the dolls go?

I finally broke down and asked Emma, the woman behind @gigglemay, for a formal interview, because it seemed like the least socially awkward way of getting all of my burning questions answered. Graciously (and mercifully for me) she agreed.

GRACE: Emma, your Instagram handle is @gigglemay. My first burning question is where does the name come from? 

EMMA: It's a mixture of my daughter's middle name "May" and thinking of a word that expresses something whimsical - what better word than Giggle.  Especially when my target market eventually is children, I thought it best to go with something fun. 

GRACE: I think the first post of yours that drew me in was a crocheted doll. When did you learn to crochet? 

EMMA: I learnt to crochet when I was pregnant (4 years ago)  I had recently moved to Brisbane (a northern city in Australia) and was not working.  I was a little bit idle and wanted to learn a new craft. It was great until I develop carpal tunnel!  I resumed again when my daughter, Abi was born.  

GRACE: What were some of the first projects you made? 

EMMA: I started making a blanket - I still haven't finished it!  I had always loved crochet animals though and immediately wanted to learn how to do amigurumi. There's something very magical about bringing something to life out of yarn. 

GRACE: Tell me about the dolls you make.  When did you start creating them? What made you decide to initially start and what keeps you going? 

EMMA: I've always been a crafter - mainly sewing, and love the idea of creating storybook character dolls. I think I made my first doll a year after Abi was born - it still lives in her toy box. I love fashion and fabric also.  When I finished school, I studied fashion design and later in life studied to become a PreSchool Teacher - which I was for many years before I had Abi.  I guess it combines my two interests together.  Making something for children out of fabric and yarn. 

GRACE: How has your doll making and crafting evolved? 

EMMA: My main idea is to illustrate children's books with the dolls. I started the Instagram account mainly to plot my creative process.  Learning the process of dollmaking and now delving more into doll photography and animation. 

GRACE: Where do your dolls go after you craft them? Do you sell them, give them away, hoard them? Inquiring minds want to know:)

EMMA: A bit of both.  Abi claims a lot of them and I have given a quite a few away. I have made a couple special requests for people that kept asking about them.  But mostly they are in a drawer in my studio.  A drawer that Abi frequently goes to play while I occasionally get the time to create some more!  My perfectionism is debilitating and I never think that they are at quality that I could sell - am still working on that.   

GRACE: It feels like your Instagram shifted at some point from sharing more in progress craft projects to more of what you call visual storytelling.  What made this shift?  

EMMA: The journey of my vision for my dolls I guess - plotting the creative process and moving closer to illustrating a book using them as storybook characters. 

GRACE: Where do you draw inspiration? How do you stay inspired? And, where is your favorite place to craft? 

EMMA: Mostly children's books and traditional fairytales.  I love all the Instagram accounts that create woodland creatures and fairytale characters.  IG is a huge inspiration.  I try not to let it overshadow my own originality though and really try to stay true to my vision and my own creative journey.  I want to create something unique - which is very hard in today's world. I have just recently created a actual studio for myself which has made a world of difference to my inspiration - I am not sure why I hadn't done it earlier.  Every time I walk into the space I am instantly transported to my own magical wonderland.  I am so very lucky that I have this space and I am grateful for it everyday.  

GRACE: Any suggestions for people new to crafting, crochet, or doll making? 

EMMA: I guess just keep at it.  Unfortunately creativity isn't a relaxer for me.  Whenever I create, I start on a journey of ideas and it can get a little overwhelming for me.  I know many people craft (especially crochet) because it relaxes them.  So if that's the case - just keep doing it.  Learn new patterns and keep practising.  It took me quite a while to 'get' crochet, so persistence was definitely key for me.  There are some great IG accounts that sell cheap patterns.  

GRACE: You are extremely talented and so darn creative, what are some of your other creative pursuits? 

EMMA: I love to draw - but am pretty rubbish at it.  I also just recently renovated our house and took a break for the whole doll making book thing to focus on that.  I love to be able to put colours, fabrics and textures together but actually selecting tiles and designing rooms was a challenge for me.  It's finished now and we are so happy with the results.  

GRACE: I am always curious about the daily life of other creatives. What does a day in the life of @gigglemay look like? 

EMMA: Oh! what is it they say about perfectionists?  They are the worst procrastinators? I am a little like that. I am a full-time mum so I spend everyday with my beautiful 3 year old, doing 3 year old activities like the park dates and playgroups.  We are pretty busy during the week.  To be honest, I never feel like I have anytime to create.  I am lucky enough to be able to dedicate one day a week to my project. Since I have my new 'studio' I feel like I am back on track a bit.   

GRACE: What are your plans for the future of gigglemay? 

EMMA: My main project is working on illustrating a children's book that I have written.  Plus I love the idea of making a range of dolls too. So I hope to have a range available to purchase before November. 

To see more of Emma's beautiful creations and to hear more about the launch of her line of dolls and her children's book, follow her on Instagram