JANUARY is usually a stress-free month for crafters to relax after the Christmas flurry – but that’s certainly not the case for one local maker.
Donna Simpson has seen her polymer clay Mootie Me bobble head figures become so popular that she can’t take any more orders until her pending pieces have been produced.
It comes after a “stressful” festive period that saw the Lerwick-based 25 year old race against the clock to complete a slew of orders.
The self-made entrepreneur began her craft company Da Local Yokel in July last year, but she never envisaged the project becoming so popular.
Her pièce de résistance is the caricature bobble head figure, which can often be seen on Facebook feeds in the hands of their beaming lookalikes. “I’m really shocked at how successful it’s become,” she admitted.
“Originally I thought I’d maybe sell one or two a month. Most folk initially said that there wouldn’t be a market for it.
“With that kind of feedback, I didn’t think many folk would buy them.” The idea for the bobble heads came during a trip abroad when Simpson, who first used polymer clay in her teens, saw someone making sculptures of shoppers.
“We got ones done, but I thought that I could probably do better. I started doing something slightly different and cartoonifying them, and I made them with bobble heads.”
The lifelike nature of the figures, married with their accentuated features and personalised accessories, has made the Mootie Me brand a smash hit in the isles.
Over 80 have been hand-crafted so far, whilst Simpson is currently sitting on a list of 60 orders, despite Facebook and word of mouth being her only marketing tools.
The Local Yokel’s transformation from a hobby to an in-demand business has given Simpson the confidence to cut back the hours of her ‘normal’ employment.
“I currently have two part-time jobs that equate to 15 hours a week,” she said.
“I work with Allied Taxis and I cut that by half to accommodate this. But I still need my jobs to keep me sane.
“When I’m not doing those, I’m sitting in the house by myself working away. It’s rather dull at times.
“I do enjoying making them, although I can sometimes get a bit fed up. If I can’t get a face right, I’ll launch it across the room.”
Each model usually takes four or five hours to make, with Simpson’s favourite order so far local stalwart Stanley Manson, who was topped off with a regal Jarl’s helmet.
She also made a special figure for folk musician Seth Lakeman, who was gifted a cartoony caricature when he played in Mareel last year.
“I did that because I like his music, and it’s a chance to get your name out there. Whether it made it home in one piece or got thrown in the bin, I’ll never know,” Simpson joked.
Shetland News contacted Lakeman about his bobblehead – and it seems the bin is the last place he’ll be putting the figure.
“I was really flattered to be given a bobblehead figure of myself – it was a first for me and it’s great! He’s at home,” he said.
One isles resident meanwhile who has also undergone the Mootie Me treatment is 22 year old Stuart Donald, who ordered a figure last year.
Things took a heartwarming twist, however, when a friend asked Simpson to make a model in secret of Donald’s late father, who had just passed away, as a gift. “I was very surprised when she handed me the one of dad,” he said.
“I was on my way out of her house after picking up my own bobblehead when she came through and gave it to me. I was very grateful for the two of them to do that.
“It wasn’t an easy time, but it’s always nice to have things like these, especially when it’s done by two of your good pals, and the effort and attention to detail from Donna was outstanding.
“She had dad playing his accordion which was brilliant as that’s one of the things he was renowned for.” In a period of austerity cuts and a dormant economy, it’s heartening to see a self-made business emerge from the ground up.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, seeing as she has countless polymer clay palms, fists and fingers surrounding her, Simpson isn’t looking to take on an extra pair of hands to speed the process up – she’s “too fussy” to hire an apprentice.
So why have the bobbleheads become so popular?
“I think the quality of them has become pretty good. It’s something folk have never really seen before in Shetland,” Simpson surmised.
“It’s maybe like a 3D version of Smirk. It’s a unique present, but I’m still flabbergasted by their success.”
To find out more, visit www.facebook.com/localyokelshetland
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