Christmas crafting is extra special in Ballettoons Land, as it’s linked to the tale of how Hedgie evolved. Read on to enjoy the Hedgie story.
Ballettoons – the early days
When I started sketching Ballettoons in early 2020, I mostly drew human characters. The first dancing animals I explored within Ballettoons were cats. And, based on requests from new Instagram fans, a few foxes and bunnies.
The first regular and named character to evolve among the toons was Panda. Panda was an alter ego of sorts but hers is a story for another day.
There are quite a few cats in the early Ballettoons collections. I couldn’t get the cats to look anything like I hoped so kept on drawing in them in the hope that I’d nail it. Everyone loves a cat but I’m still not convinced I’ve figured out the true form of the Ballettoons cat.
As I gained momentum, every now and then I’d try my hand at a new creature. Owls were an obvious choice as I had been doodling lots of owl greetings cards before the toons began. There were also a couple of koalas, a trio of dinosaurs and occasional ad hoc hedgehog experiments.
I had sketched some fun but not cartoony hedgehogs as mini greetings cards and, based on a request from someone who wanted a hedgehog painting for their mum, developed some of these into paintings. The first couple of hedgehog Ballettoons (including the one above) convinced me that the round and spiky hedgehog shape was not a good fit for a tutu. So, believe it or not, I originally abandoned the idea as an unworkable one. I did try again a couple more times but it just didn’t seem to work as well as my non-toony hedgehog drawings had.
Ballettoons – Hedgie’s festive debut
Most years, I’m quite good at sending cards (not so good this year with the upheaval of relocating). My mother loved calligraphy and paper crafts and always invested a lot of TLC into her Christmas cards. Since I was required to help her with this mammoth task, her festive homemade card making tradition was passed on.
When the time for Christmas crafting came around that first year of Ballettooning, I was deliberating whether to do another parliament of festive owls or a new take on Christmas trees. Inspiration struck: I had the grand idea that an upright hedgehog might look a bit like a Christmas tree if you balanced a star on its snout and added a few decorations. And so began the hedgehog trees.
As my confidence grew, the hedgie trees began to dance. Rather than being poised on demi-pointe, they acquired pointe shoes and began to stick their limbs out in awkward arabesques. A couple acquired some poinsettia tutus and other festive costumes to spin around in too. And, despite all this exercise, they got fatter and cuter and more graceful. And I had lots of fun.
After all the Christmas post had been sent off, I realised I didn’t want to stop drawing hedgehogs and began to experiment with iconic ballet poses and dressing them up in a variety of ballet costumes. My Ballettoons Instagram followers began talking about Hedgie as a character (thanks for bestowing the name). Soon, Hedgie became my most popular Ballettoon and I began to experiment with more animal characters and name more of them. Lily, Dan and the others have their fans – but Hedgie remains the prima ballerina of your hearts.
By the 2021 Christmas crafting season, I was back at the Hedgie trees and had also branched out into a range of festive themes and ballet characters. I did a market in Reading and was surprised how well these sold. I was even well-short of cards for my own Christmas mailings.
I hadn’t intended to include the Ballettoons on my art website when I first launched this. But I kept getting commissions and requests to buy these on social media (thank you kindly). In response, it seemed a wise idea to make more of them shop-able. The Ballettoons had taken on a life of their own.
Among other commissions and sales, Hedgie was also invited to be featured in a book about creativity by writer, Laura Jaworski, this year. It’s not yet available but I’m hoping to have news of the publication date to share with you in the new year.
The festive Ballettoons were my best sellers at the Otley coffee culture market this year. In fact, I had to create some extra ones in order to have a few to put on my website for you this festive season. Have a look.
Thank you to everyone who has encouraged the Ballettoons over the last couple of years. Next year, I hope to finally nail the feline form of the Ballettoons cat and introduce a range of Ballettoons merchandise for you. Watch this space …
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