When her husband was posted to Afghanistan for a year in 2011, Tracey Radford started writing a blog. It quickly became a place to share new craft ideas and led to her first book, Make Your Own Zoo. It features 35 projects for you and your kids to make using recycled cardboard packaging. Tracey tells us more…

What gave you the inspiration?

ZOOMAKE1I never set out to write a book, it was an idea that slowly took shape as our animal collection grew. I’ve always loved all kinds of craft, and was using a fantastic kids’ book I’d found in a charity shop to make things with my daughter Daisy.

It got me thinking about using stuff we had lying about at home to make animals. So we started with a lion, a lioness, then a zebra and a giraffe. The more we made the more ideas we had.

I shared each project on my blog and the zoo started expanding! As it did, I could see people were picking up the projects on social media, and that got me thinking about a book.

I took a deep breath and started approaching publishers.

How have you found the process whilst juggling Army life?

ZOOMAKE2Although I was making things with the kids, the crafting and the writing gave me a focus away from the daily routine. It was a great distraction too.

Like many Army spouses who find themselves looking for work while juggling Army life and kids, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I could do from home.

Craft fits the bill for me. I develop and write projects when the kids are at school, so I can be totally flexible. The only downside is our kitchen is always full of cardboard.

What advice do you have for other Army families?

I’d say go for it. This whole process has made me realise it is possible to turn a hobby into much more, especially if it’s something you’re passionate about.

My advice would be to explore ways of developing skills and getting out there. Sites like Etsy are great for starting up a small craft business and testing the water – and social media platforms are good for meeting like-minded makers and spreading the word.

Have you had support from friends and family?

They’ve been brilliant – I just wish they weren’t so far away. Both our families live in Northern Ireland.

What’s next?

I’ve started doing some workshops to promote my book and it’s been great seeing kids making animals and giving them their own unique twist.

That’s what it’s all about really – promoting creativity, having fun and getting a bit messy. I’m taking it slowly at the moment as my husband’s back in Afghanistan until April. I’d maybe like to get going with a farm project or something along those lines.

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