Meet & Greet: Sam, The Felt Pony Maker

Sam Dawson has turned a hobby for hobbyhorse making into a business.
Some girls dream of growing up, meeting a handsome man and living in Paris. Sam Dawson, 26, has lived it. After falling in love with a Frenchman named Jerome, she found herself, at 20, living in a town near Bordeaux for three years. "He was like, 'Would you think about coming back with me?', and I was like, 'France, hmm, that's a tough one!'" she says. 

No stranger to the nomadic life, having attended no fewer than 16 primary schools in her youth, Sam and her beau enjoyed the spoils of a "love and fresh water" existence, travelling around Europe on a shoestring budget. Then Sam found herself pregnant with their first child. This put their plans on fast-forward, and the couple were married in a modest mayoral office ceremony before honeymooning in Andorra, where Sam learnt to ski.

Having Saffron, now three, was the official start of their "grown-up" life. After some difficulty getting a Visa for Jerome, they returned to Australia where he works in I.T. and Sam puts her creativity to work cutting out patterns, sewing up a storm and placing the hobbyhorses she makes on Etsy between breastfeeding their son, aged one, and entertaining little Saffron.

"I started felting last year," she says. "My sisters and brother are educated in the Steiner philosophy, so they have all those lovely handmade toys made with sustainable materials sourced from things from nature. So I started making hobbyhorses out of fabric. I've always been horsey – I've always ridden and loved horses, but now I'm a mum, I don't get to ride as much as I'd like to."

Sam is energised by the art of making something from scratch with wools, felts, fleece, leather and wood at her "Wild Woollies" store disposal. Her knowledge of horses also adds to the authenticity of her work: she knows, for example, how a bridle should sit. But can still hardly believe her horses have proved to be so popular. "DIVINELY beautiful! When my boys outgrow them, will be proudly displayed in my home FOREVER!" reads one of the comments on her site.

"I put them on eBay at the end of last year and people just bought them," says Sam. "I couldn't believe it. I was really nervous because I didn't know how they'd be received, but I got really positive feedback, so it was like, 'Wow, okay, I'll definitely keep going with it.'"

It was a friendly lady with an encouraging word in the Post Office that prompted Sam to experiment with felt playmats and expand her Etsy store offering with seasonal mats such as the 'Autumn Scene with Purple Flowers & Creek'. These felt and wool creations provide children with a setting to act out their own plays with wooden animals and figurines.

Sam did a lot of drawing as a child (now she just doodles on the phone) and writing ("now the only thing I write is my shopping list"), but it's clear that her experience of the world and its landscapes, adds a richness to her work, and so too her life and wardrobe, which she populates with those things she's naturally drawn to: an interesting group of girlfriends, a style that's practical but on the "Wild Woollie" side, too. 

You can buy a Wild Woollies hobbyhorse ($120) or one of Sam's playmats ($45-$80) at her Etsy store.

Girl With a Satchel