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Founded by Michelle Busl, Busl Barn is the creative result of a happy relocation of the six members of the Busl family from Tennessee, USA to Kafue, Zambia.
With her mother a master seamstress, Michelle learnt to use a sewing machine, read patterns, and embroider at a ripe young age, and sewing is now Michelle’s favorite way to spend “spare time” as full time mommy to four active children.
Michelle’s husband grew up a missionary kid exploring the wilds of Africa and now with four kids in tow, the family have returned to his familiar stomping grounds to experience the same upbringing of cultural awareness, lack of materialism and consumerism, and just plain adventurous living.
Stationed on a 3,000 acre farm producing mainly bananas, wheat and soy beans in southern Zambia, Busl Barn also provides jobs and training opportunities for hundreds of local people and operates a primary school, health clinic, tailoring school, mechanics shop, woodworking shop, grinding mill, and education department.
But we think Michelle tells her tale best of all, so without further ado:
“As for my upbringing in the hills of Appalachia Tennessee, I can remember as a child my mother hand making pixie rag dolls for us to play with. Simplicity at its best…natural materials, sweet friendly characteristics, vintage fabrics. With the upcoming birth of my daughter, I began hunting for similar realistic looking dolls for her to play with. Let’s face it; every little girl needs a doll, right?! Unfortunately, I was disgusted with the mass produced make-up plastered dolls on the market. Ugh! Doesn’t anyone value simplicity anymore? That’s when I stumbled upon a few of my mothers handmade pixie dolls tucked away in the attic. From a simple pattern along with my own drawings, I designed a larger version of her rag dolls imagining what I would want for my own little girl…and so, my rag dolls were born.
The natural fibers of cotton and linen are warm and feel more ‘real’ than plastic. My dolls, quilts and quiet books flow out of a desire to recreate the beauty and purity of times gone by…the good ole’ days before plastics were even invented
Doll making for me is a fluid process…I am constantly adjusting patterns and improving processes such as the way I embroider, attach the hair, or appliqué. Despite the tedious process of stuffing the arms and legs, my dolls are so much fun to create because of their vintage look, warm natural feel and the way each doll develops it’s own personality upon completion. In an effort to reduce our global footprint and make a happier planet, I love using true repurposed fabrics and eco-friendly materials whenever possible. In fact, my grandmother just recently cleaned out her attic and I inherited her huge collection of ancient sewing supplies-threads on wooden spools, antique buttons, left over lace from my mother’s wedding dress, and fabric remnants; all of which I love to utilize with almost every doll, quilt or quiet book I make!
Hurray for Etsy, the bridge from my creative home in Africa to you! I’m amazed and humbled at how small this planet really is and how global my dolls have become, shipping to 11 different countries such as New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Israel! My shop, The Busl Barn, is where I get to share my handmade original designs with you. Join in the creative process too by customizing your doll to look just like the child it is gifted for. I love creating custom rag dolls for my nieces, nephews, and many of my friends children. They make the perfect keepsake gift for Christmas and birthdays and are sure to become an heirloom for generations to come.”