Theresa van Gessel is the little bird who makes stuff. From the age of six, when her grandmother gave her a Singer sewing machine, the pull to make things grew stronger. She started with dolls clothes, graduated to her own clothes and then, well, stopped actually.
Life got in the way for 20 years until one of her children asked her to make something. And the addiction took hold again. “Sewing is the first medium in which what I imagine and what I make are the same thing” says Theresa, for whom designing and making are now an obsession that needs regular feeding.
Theresa started A Little Bird Made Me to give direction to her passion and now sells a range of accessories in beautiful fabrics at the Handmade Shop and on occasion, the markets. Her children’s range includes bibs with teething chews, change mats made out of absorbent bamboo, superhero capes and practical pencil cases. Her adult ranges include sumptuous handbags, shopping bags, wallets and tablet & laptop cases.
All of her pieces are functional and born out of a need that Theresa has identified. She decides for example, that a handbag needs a pocket for a parking ticket, and works backwards until she has the perfect pattern. “I dream that I’m organised,” she says, “but it’s an organic process.” Her inspiration comes from Pinterest and the wonderful range of bright and quirky fabric in her collection. She also responds to the needs of the Handmade Shop. Gaps are identified in the market by the wonderful Handmade shop girls and Theresa often responds to these calls with new products, the latest of which is a waterproof baby range.
Theresa isn’t originally from Canberra, but has found her home on a property in Bywong with her three children, parents and a variety of animals, and she wouldn’t be anywhere else. “Canberra has so many hidden jewels. Everything’s accessible and there are incredible things to eat and places to go, so you can fit several things into one day.”
Theresa is loyal to Handmade’s stable of designers, citing Kim Aitken Ceramics and Spunky Bruiser as two designers to watch. And with a rebrand, big plans afoot to reopen her online store and an expanded range, you’d better watch out for A Little Bird Made Me as well.