Silver Circus kids’ clothes

Angela Holtslag

When people ask what I do, I often say that I’m a full-time mum and a part-time artist. But to be a bit more accurate, I make clothes. The artist bit (“artist” in the traditional sense) was kind of left behind when I was pregnant. Solvents and paints are super-toxic and messy.

So I spend my time hunched over a sewing machine and surrounded by mountains of fabric, with a mission to create original kiddy clothes. They’re often unisex, or at least are not all pink flowers for girls and blue trucks for boys. I use vintage fabrics and natural fibres (including hand-dyed hemp and handmade felt), and I dabble in screen-printing (mainly New Zealand plants such as cabbage trees, flax, kowhai and nikau palms).

I make children’s clothes because they are smaller and faster to make. They use less fabric, and I feel I’m getting more done in the limited time I have – before my gorgeous girl settles herself on my knee to play with the moving needle.

Recently I set up a business for making and selling the clothes under the label Silver Circus. I work from a studio space at home (the biggest room of the house) and sell my work mainly at markets, fairs, and boutique shops. The main fuel for Silver Circus is not the possible income, it’s more the expression of creativity. I have a constant desire to be creating something and, according to my mum, always have had.

If I’m not sewing, designing or printing, I find myself feeling a kind of unconstructive uselessness, or hanging the washing in rainbow sequence, or making muffins with a bizarre mix of ingredients, or just getting too into Lucy’s play dough.

I just have to be doing something. Sitting on the couch watching TV or reading a novel gives me pangs of guilt about not doing anything practical. I have an itch to sew, and the only way I can afford it is to sell it.

Angela Holtslag’s house has wooden floors, partially obscured by thousands of pieces of fabric.