For many people, the idea of turning a hobby into a fruitful career and being your own boss is just a dream. But for Warragul based creative Wendy Hill, fantasy has become reality, after turning a childhood skill into a thriving full time business.
As owner and designer of the Small Forest Shop, Wendy has grown up designing and sewing her own natural fibre clothes, coats and dresses. Wendy began selling her dresses and children’s clothing after friends and people on the street started commenting on her unique style. Originally working from various markets in the area and running her online business through the Etsy store, Wendy now has the luxury of working from her own workspace and store. Opening just before Christmas in 2013, Wendy has been surprised by the success of her new enterprise. “I never dreamed of opening my own store. For me, going to the markets was just something I enjoyed doing on the weekends. I’ve always made my own clothes, and my husband is an artist, so making things and creating comes quite naturally to us. It’s pretty exciting to own my own store and sell my designs to the public.”
Stepping inside through the delicate blue front door, your eye is drawn to each corner of the room by some eye catching knicknack, delicately sewn piece of children’s clothing or a uniquely designed coat made entirely out of recycled blankets. At The Small Forest Shop you will find natural fibre clothing for children and adults, each piece having been individually made using second hand wool, cotton, linen, velvet and corduroy with touches of vintage embroidery and crocheted lace accents.
The store is intimate and inviting, and feels almost like stepping between the pages of one of the many Enid Blyton books stacked in bundles decorating the room. “I love Enid Blyton. I was searching through second hand book stores looking for as many copies as I could find, and then a girlfriend gave these to me. I want to live inside one of her stories,” said Wendy. From the delicately hand painted sign to the bunting hanging in the window, it’s clear that Wendy takes pride and joy in the making and selling of her wonderfully delightful wares. And with plans to begin running quilt making classes in the next few months from the store and a backlog of dress orders, Wendy has no plans to bridle her passion.
A passionate recycler and scavenger, Wendy wastes nothing. Bending down over her antique Singer sewing machine, her fingers work quickly to stitch together many variously textured and coloured patches for a new quilt she’s working on. “I made some quilts recently for little twin babies. I’ve actually made the patches for this one out of some fabric I was going to turn into a nighty for myself, that I never got around to making. I’m a big fan of recycling.”
From an old nightgown to blankets salvaged from friends, Wendy can turn anything and everything into a beautiful handmade piece a clothing, and has successfully turned a private passion into a livelihood for her and her family.
The Small Forest Shop
WORDS Madeleine Stuchbery PHOTOGRAPHS Adele Van Es