Heather Cadieux had only been doing felt work for a year when the Netflix show Maid approached her to make a number of props for its fictional preschool.
A soon-to-be single mom working to make her artistic endeavour profitable, the opportunity to have her handmade creations featured on a global streaming service was incredible for Cadieux. The Victoria resident spent weeks needle felting a giant dragon, toucan and baby orangutan and hand sewing play foods to decorate the show’s prestigious ‘Island Kids Preschool’.
For Cadieux, getting to contribute to the show was about more than the work, though. She felt a personal connection to the protagonist Alex’s story of fighting through difficult relationships and financial woes to support her child.
In Maid, Alex is a young mother who finds herself homeless after leaving her abusive boyfriend. Driven by the need to provide her daughter a better life, Alex manages to secure a house cleaning job that she juggles amidst custody battles and supporting her mentally ill mother. It’s a story of grit and the will to survive.
“I think it seems to be triggering for a lot of people just because it touches on so many difficult subjects,” Cadieux said. “I’m sure everyone can relate to an extent.”
Like Alex, Cadieux had an artist for a mother who battled mental illness. And, for Cadieux too it was a cleaning job that signalled a major change in her life.
Laid off just before Christmas in 2019 and knowing she couldn’t afford presents for her two young kids, Cadieux decided to try and make them something out of felt. Her first attempt was a fried egg.
“It turned out way better than I thought, so I posted online to see if anyone else was interested and I had seven orders in the first 24 hours,” Cadieux said.
Over the next year, she took part in a government-funded self-employment mentorship program, and in July 2021 Cadieux officially launched her business, Felt Mercantile. She now sells her patterns online and posts weekly tutorials on YouTube in hopes of giving other people the tools to create their own gifts and businesses.
“If you start somewhere and keep taking little, little steps you eventually create something awesome,” she said.
The beauty of a show like Maid, Cadieux said, is that it reflects so many people’s difficult experiences back to them. It shows them they aren’t alone in what they’re going through and that there can be a way out.
Cadieux said she wants to create an online course on how to turn hobbies into businesses to help provide those new paths.
Her YouTube tutorial videos can be found by searching Felt Mercantile.
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