Emma Rouleau’s unique felt creations entirely hand-made

It began with a tiny elephant, lovingly hand-crafted out of felt.

In June 2010, Emma Rouleau was asked to create a get-well card for a hospitalized little girl.

She decided against drawing a card.

“I found some blue felt and thread, and sat down and pretty much just sewed for eight hours straight.

“And I came up with an elephant,” she says.

The elephant was a big hit. Requests for her toys rolled in from others.

Although Rouleau didn’t realize it at the time, a small business — and a new passion — was beginning to unfold.

“I designed some new things and people kept noticing. Word of mouth spread around, and I have been selling my toys ever since,” Rouleau says.

Dragonflies,  Emma Rouleau says they are her personal favorite.
Photo by: Karry Taylor

Creative interests abound

Rouleau’s blog — where she currently sells her work — says she is “a toy designer, a toy maker, a writer, a cake decorator, a graphic designer, and a filmmaker.”

This impressive list belies one fact: Rouleau is only 16 years old.

But despite her young age, Rouleau is well on her way to making her artistic mark.

For three years she worked as an intern at 15 Pound Pink Productions — a Calgary-based animation studio.

Carol Beecher, co-founder of 15 Pound Pink Productions, says that Rouleau took on many tasks at the studio.

“Interning with us means you can be expected to do anything from sorting reference material, scanning and cleaning up animation drawings, and if you stick around and show some potential, then you might get to do some actual animating.

“Emma was able to do pretty much anything we threw at her, and she worked with us for so long, and in a really dedicated manner, that she did get to animate,” Beecher says.

Toys that have a life of their own

Janet Kelly, who runs a website dedicated to plush art called “I Only Like Monsters,” says Rouleau’s work goes beyond the concept of a toy.

“Plush art is now becoming more well known,” Kelly says.

“They are not just toys. They really have a life of their own due to being so unique and having been handmade with such love and talent.”

Kelly says that Rouleau was one of fifteen artists she commissioned to make a plush sculpture of her website’s mascot.

Later, when she wanted a special gift made for a friend, she again called on Rouleau.

It was not until later that she discovered how young Rouleau was.

“I had no idea, since she was just as professional, prompt, and talented as those three times her age,” Kelly says.

Emma Rouleau in her workroom.
Photo by: Karry Taylor

Toy making is a careful process

All of Rouleau’s toys are made of felt and are sewn entirely by hand.

Originally, she made them without a pattern.

“I would just sit down with thread and felt and scissors. It would just happen,” Rouleau says.

“That was fantastic — until somebody asked me to make another one.”

“Then I would have to do it all over again, figuring out the same problems I had the first time.”

She now creates toy patterns by hand, drawing out her designs and saving them on her computer for future use.

The most satisfying aspect of her toy making, she says, is the reaction her toys get from others.

“It’s the way that people look at them, and the way kids hug them. It means something to them.”

“Toys have always meant a great deal to me. My bedroom is packed with them. And it’s great to be a part of that in someone else’s toy collection,” Rouleau says.

Rouleau sells her toys at the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association holiday craft fair.
Photo by: Karry Taylor

An open future

For now, Rouleau makes each toy by customer request.

But she is working on a plan to sell her work on Etsy– an online marketplace for hand-made products.

Rouleau has recently taken another step towards expanding her business. In December, she displayed her work at the annual Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community

Association holiday gift fair.

She plans to take part in more craft fairs in the future.

“It’s very exciting. I am branching out,” she says.

As for her plans for after she graduates from high school, Rouleau says she plans to focus on her toy business.

“I would like it to become sustainable as a living and as a proper business. I would like to see how far I can take it.”

Rouleau’s toys can be viewed online at feltoriginaltoys.blogspot.com.

ktaylor@cjournal.ca