Ever since I was little I've been rubbish at making pom poms, which is a shame really because I don't mind saying I'm completely pom pom mad! So, when I laid my starry eyes on this fantastic wreath, I just knew we'd have to chat to the Somerset maker who created it.
Meet Jan Ollis, founder of Chi-Chi Moi, a colourful Somerset company designing and creating 'handmade happiness' - gorgeous gifts and homewares that are often 'traditional with a twist'. They're usually knitted, crocheted, embroidered and of course, they're perfectly pom-pomed too! :)
To discover more, we asked Jan four questions we thought you'd love to know the answers to - and here's what she had to say:
1. Can you tell us a little bit about Chi-Chi Moi, where your name came from and how you got started?
I'd always loved creating and I come from a family of 'crafters', but it was my hobby really, until the early 2000’s when I decided to gain more qualifications. I began a BTec National Diploma as a mature student at Strode College in Street, absolutely loved it and from there went on to complete a degree in Fashion and Textile Design at UWE (University West of England), specialising in digital print.
On graduating, I was approached by two print agents so I did that for a couple of years but in 2002, when my partner Ben and I bought a cottage in desperate need of renovation, any ideas of creating fabric designs were well and truly put on hold. We just didn't realise how much would need doing in the cottage! It took ages to renovate and three years later (and after spending the first nine months in a caravan in our very small garden), I decided to begin designing again. There wasn't really anywhere for me to work though, so I started knitting and crocheting - skills I'd been taught by my Mum and Great Aunt. I'd completely forgotten just how much I love knitting and crochet, and I began to make small crochet accessories. I was very lucky that a couple of local shops took my work and I was in business!
Now for a name! Well, my fabric designs were under my own name so I wanted something different for my new business. My original idea was ‘Mabel Candy’. It was my Great Aunt’s name and I liked the idea as she taught me to crochet. My partner said it sounded like a washing machine company though, but oh how I wish I'd used it!
My other idea was ‘Chi-Chi Moi’. I wondered what ‘Chi-Chi meant and looked it up in an old Thesaurus. It said ‘Fashionably Frilly’. Perfect, I thought. Just add ‘Moi’ (me) and it was all done. People seemed to like the name, but nobody could pronounce it. I say Chee (like the start of cheese) but I've heard so many variations. Delivery men seem to find it really hard to say!
2. Which is your favourite piece to make and why?
It always tends to be the last piece of work I've made, so it has to be the pom pom bouquet. I love the endless possibilities with them and can't help but visualise a whole shop full of pom poms to choose from and to put together however you wish!
I also love making our new 'Mum' travel cup cosies.
3. If you could invite four people to a pom pom making party, who would you pick and why? :)
Four strong women would be my choice - Frida Kahlo, Vivienne Westwood, Tracey Emin and Helena Bonham Carter. I can just imagine the stories that these iconic women would share and Frida Kahlo could certainly pull off a 'pom pom' headband!
Vivienne Westwood has been an inspiration throughout my life. She is always ahead of the game. I've also always admired the work of Tracey Emin and I'm not sure what she would make of pom poms, but I'm pretty sure she'd make something radical. I've heard Helena Bonham Carter interviewed and she has a wicked sense of humour, which would make the party great fun. She also bought one of our pom pom trees a couple of years ago, so I think she definitely likes a pom pom... or several!
4: Tell us a secret about Chi-Chi Moi that no-one else knows!
I'm the world's worst keeper of secrets, so I'm really struggling to think of something I haven't already shared on social media. I don't think I've told anyone this yet though... the sticks on the pom pom bouquets are willow, picked from the Somerset Levels. My partner's family owns land which has willows on it, so I always have a steady supply.
Ahh - we absolutely loved catching up with Jan, hearing all about Chi-Chi Moi and we love the idea that small pieces of 'handmade happiness' are being created right here in the heart of Somerset.