In the idyllic Byron Bay hinterland, artisanal toymaker Margeaux Davies spends her days hand-sewing childrens’ toys, using traditions handed down to her by her stepmother. Her creations are insanely popular, often selling out within minutes — and it’s easy to see why.
When Margeaux Davis was a little girl, she loved to draw princesses. “I think of that now when I’m making these little dolls,” she says. “I still draw them exactly the same way — I sometimes feel like I’m going back to when I was eight.”
Today, this former park ranger lives in a 100-year-old weatherboard cottage, surrounded by macadamia nut farms and cow paddocks, in the lush green hills of the Byron Bay hinterland. Here Margeaux spends her days in an airy sewing room, creating exquisite cloth dolls and soft toys.
In the front garden, her sons William, seven, and Wynn, six, are playing in a tree house that looks like it’s straight out of a storybook. The neighbour’s gentle black labrador, Daisy, is a constant presence. It’s in this idyllic spot in a small village 20 minutes’ drive from Bangalow in northern NSW, that — an amalgamation of Margeaux’s children’s names — were born.
Chestnut-coloured foxes with tails spotted in elegant French knots, perfectly stitched blue whales to fill imaginary seas, red-capped mushrooms with pleated undersides, and beautiful cloth dolls that could have been inspired by the heroines of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
“I love the idea of kids having handmade toys again,” Margeaux explains quietly. “Not so long ago, mothers, grandmas and aunties would make dolls, and it wasn’t such an unusual thing. But it’s starting to come back into fashion.”
People all around the world eagerly wait for Margeaux to put these magical pieces into her online store. “I use an email newsletter and social media to tell people when they’re going to be listed, and they sell within minutes. A lady from America emailed me recently saying, ‘I set my alarm and I missed it. When are you going to do more?’”
After working as an education ranger for the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service for nine years, Margeaux is delighted this strong desire for the handmade has allowed her to work from home and spend time with her young sons. Each day she walks them to school before returning to her sunroom overlooking the garden. “I start work by 10 o’clock, otherwise I feel like I’ve lost my day. There’s always something that needs to be done. At 2.30pm I stop and go and get the boys. Sometimes, if they have a friend over, I’ll just keep sewing, and they will all come and sit with me. They do a bit of craft or get out their drawing pads — we sit and talk until I have to start making dinner.”
Margeaux’s creations are made from material found in local op shops — “I think the small community here is wonderful. If you walk to the shops, you’ll bump into two or three different people and have a chat. It’s just so lovely” — and she can’t understand why anyone would ever buy new fabric. It’s hard to disagree with her as you admire a tiny warrior queen’s gown, which was once an old curtain. “A lot of people give me material,” she says with a laugh. “I have customers who send me packages in the mail full of antique linen and beautiful handkerchiefs that have been passed down to them.”
Her former job as a ranger has proved to be surprisingly helpful when it comes to designing her fabric animals. “When I was a ranger, my days were spent thinking about wildlife, sometimes even drawing wildlife, so I feel like what I do now is quite similar,” she says. “I’m still thinking about animals and doing research to look at their features. Even their habitats sometimes help me because when I’m making an animal, it’s more than just what they look like. I try and imagine what sort of character each one has, and what sort of thoughts and feelings it has as well.”
Taught to sew by her stepmother when she was a child, Margeaux’s new career has taken her a little by surprise, but she says, “My love for it just grows and grows. I can’t imagine stopping any time soon. It doesn’t really feel like work.”
Clearly, this creative satisfaction is something to be treasured. Hanging in the living room is a small landscape painting by Margeaux. On the back is written: “I love that hill. If you climb to the top of a very high hill you can catch a bit of sky. If I did that I would give it to you.” They are the words three-year-old William used to describe his mother’s work as he watched her painting. And they are a lovely reminder of why we should never forget the magic of
a child’s imagination — clearly his mother never will.
To see more of Margeaux’s work, visit or follow her on Instagram .