12 December 2022

Riverina Made: Tiny Creatures By Bel is set to appear on BBC next year

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Miniature felt animals

Wagga local Bel Johns creates tiny felt animals for customers worldwide. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Who are you and what is your business? My name is Bel, I’m a Wagga girl and my business is Tiny Creatures By Bel. I make miniature one-of-a-kind felt versions of people’s pets and favourite animals.

Where did you begin? I began here in Wagga at the beginning of COVID. I lost my job before JobKeeper came in, so had to think fast. I’d been wanting to get back to my creative side, as my background is largely in television production – writing, directing and producing. So when my boring day job disappeared, I took it as a sign to get back to creating – and I’m so glad I did.

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What do you produce? Mainly, I make miniatures of family pets. They’re small enough to sit in the palm of your hand, like little tiny pieces of art. Because I work in fibre, there are no two the same. I don’t work from patterns, I create the Tiny Creatures entirely from observing photographs.

Where can we buy your products? In person at The Little Yellow House Gallery & Studio [Wagga], which has a bunch of pre-made Tiny Creatures – tiny owls, a Christmas robin door hanger and teddy bears, to name a few. Online through Facebook or Instagram. I think everyone should have access to special things, so I’m always happy to do tailored payment plans if that helps. Through this, I’ve been able to help a few local kids with part-time jobs afford to get their mums Tiny Creatures, which have been a one-of-a-kind gift for a special occasion and are greatly appreciated.

Miniature felt animals

Each miniature animal takes about three weeks to make. Photo: Tiny Creatures By Bel.

What should we buy for gifts this Christmas? Definitely the best option at this stage is a Tiny Creatures By Bel gift certificate. I deliver them digitally up till Christmas Eve. For $100, you can give a loved one a personalised gift certificate, which will get them a bespoke Tiny Creature delivered at their convenience in the new year.

What’s your favourite product that you make? All of them! Puppies to celebrate a new addition to the family, koalas to send overseas. I’ve just made a gorgeous Ginger Cat to celebrate the real Kitty’s 20th birthday in New Zealand, and then there are all the darling memorial Tiny Creatures who have helped grieving families remember their fur babies with a smile. It takes around three weeks to make each Tiny Creature, and they’ve got to be cute before I send them, so I end up falling in love with each and every one.

Miniature felt animals

The cute-as-a-button animals are made with alpaca and merino wool. Photo: Tiny Creatures By Bel.

What would you make if you could do anything? My dream would be to make a big felt menagerie, with lots of local native Tiny Creatures alongside all the common farm animals and popular pets in our beautiful region. I’m slowly getting there, and am hoping that some kind of grant might be available so I can exhibit locally and still pay the bills.

How would you promote the Riverina? I promote the Riverina by using locally sourced alpaca and merino wool wherever possible. One of my Tiny Creatures is due to appear on the BBC next year in the UK, and they’ll be noted as using local Riverina alpaca and merino wools.

Miniature felt dog

Another adorable character from Bel. Photo: Tiny Creatures By Bel.

What’s your favourite coffee spot? The Curious Rabbit (Wagga). Apart from the fact that owner Vickie Burkinshaw is a total legend who goes above and beyond to support local creatives, the coffee is delicious and the staff are amazing. If you look very carefully, you might find a Tiny Creatures bunny hiding in there, too.

Coolest local thing you’ve ever bought? Alpaca wool. Lots of lovely alpaca wool.

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Who is another local producer you admire? Maggie Deall is a wonderfully talented local artist who not only manages to create, but also runs The Little Yellow House Gallery & Studio, which supports a whole bunch of local artists. Maggie’s gallery has introduced me to a load of local artists who are so inspiring. Debbie Wood and her beautiful traditional weaving skills are just magic.

What do you want for Christmas? A grown-up-sized cubbyhouse for the backyard so I can set up a studio in there and really focus on creating!

Dog with miniature felt version of himself

Ruby with ”mini me” Ruby. Photo: Tiny Creatures by Bel.

You can learn more about Tiny Creatures By Bel or pick up something delicious for Christmas here.

Region Riverina is committed to celebrating our local producers and creatives and encourages everyone to buy locally.

If you’re aware of someone who’s making something amazing, let us know!

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