Handmade toys at The Toffee Gallery


Currently on view at The Toffee Gallery is an exhibition of handcrafted toys by Darling resident Jacqui van Staden. This is the perfect exhibition for the holiday season thanks to the playful wit of these beautifully crafted colourful creatures, all made by Jacqui herself.

The incredibly talented maker of these creatures refers to them as her “fantastic monsters”, hence the title of the show.

For Jacqui, who is an avid collector of toys herself, making toys has been an adventurous journey that started with her love for drawing and illustration whilst still at art school. She used drawing to invent imaginative, outrageous characters and then dreamt up stories around these, which she illustrated. “I’ve always had a fascination for all things out of the ordinary and I draw great inspiration from reading and looking at fantasy novels and illustrations,” she says.

The monster as character-type has always resonated with Jacqui, as she explains: “I love everything about the monster. By Google definition it is ‘a large, ugly and frightening imaginary creature’, but in my own monsters I combine these extreme qualities with more gentle human-like traits, like curiosity and charm”. She goes on to say: “Giving objects human characteristics allows people to relate to it, even though the character still has the head of a traditional monster.”

Jacqui’s Fantastic Monsters are a playful synthesis of scary and nerdy charm. The creatures’ nerdyness comes from their pristine attire, which often include beautifully embroidered suits and shirts, ties, bowties, glasses and scarfs. Even though the heads of her creatures are those of traditional monsters with crazy hair, horns and zig-zag teeth, their eyes are always large, droopy and dreamy, which further enhance their aura of otherworldly innocence and charm.

Jacqui made her first Fantastic Monster about eight years ago, having drawn and illustrated these characters and stories around them for some time before that. Since then she produced a slow but steady stream of these creatures, working mainly at night and over weekends, while making a living as a freelance photographer and working at a photography shop in Cape Town. Earlier this year she resigned from her full-time job, moved to Darling and, in collaboration with Darling Sweet, started the hugely successful Evita’s Crafters women’s empowerment project. This project, which falls under the umbrella of The Darling Trust, provides the infrastructure and resources for Darling women without an income to create needle-craft objects, which are then sold to generate an income for themselves. Jacqui saw the start of this project as the perfect opportunity to take her Fantastic Monsters into full-time production, which she did, and since then her monsters, produced by Evita’s Crafters, have become highly sought-after by both children and collectors of handmade toys.

Jacqui designed and personally crafted ten unique oversize Fantastic Monsters specially for this exhibition. Apart from these, visitors to the exhibition will also be able to see and buy Jacqui’s monsters that are produced by Evita’s Crafters under her watch.

Exhibition will run until 13 January 2019.

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