Caution: When you see the brightly coloured animated peg dolls made by Rachelle Drenth, you may be hit by a wave of nostalgia.
As a young child, this Bridgewater resident says she hated colouring, as the idea always seemed tedious to her. Her interests lay more in painting. And, this morphed into the idea of painting peg dolls.
“I have always loved the simplicity of the Little People from my own childhood,” says Drenth. “There are no accessories to get lost, no posable parts to break off, no small choking hazards; just a simple figure that has the ability to stimulate your imagination.”
So, Drenth moved out of her comfort zone and gave it a try, recreating fun characters that she and her children loved.
“It certainly wasn’t my intention to try and bring peg dolls back into popularity, but I am so pleased by how receptive people are when they see them,” she says.
Drenth has now taken this hobby, which she says she learned mostly from watching many episodes of The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, and turned it into a sideline business.
“I am a full-time stay-at-home mom, and I’m also studying to earn my diploma in early childhood education, which has certainly opened my eyes a lot on the benefits of playing with simple, natural, wooden toys!” she says.
Drenth’s business, Pegster, now focuses on painting wooden peg dolls, keychains and ornaments. The most popular design, she says, is a tossup between the superheroes and princess sets.
When looking for inspiration for her designs, Drenth says she turns to her children. While watching movies and shows with them, she says she is often trying to work out in her mind how she would make them into a peg doll design. Her kids, she says, also give her their own requests, which can give her fantastic ideas for whole new sets and designs.
Besides scrolling through her albums of available characters, Drenth says she loves filling custom orders.
“It can get pretty repetitive painting the same characters over and over again, but when I get custom orders in, I get a chance to figure out how that person or character would work with my personal aesthetic,” she says.
Drenth says she can paint specific people and loves it when people give her a reference photo to work off of. In the past, she’s done entire families, including cats and dogs, as Christmas tree ornaments, key chains and full-sized dolls.
“I try to make custom orders of specific people as personalized as possible so that little kids can really see that this is them by using their favorite colour, or a familiar outfit that they love,” she explains, noting how she does her best to really pay attention to little details.
To view Drenth’s peg dolls, or to place an order, visit Etsy or Facebook, searching for Pegster. Locally, Pegster can be found at the Bluebird Boutique consignment store in Bridgewater, and a few local craft sales around Christmas. Be sure to watch for the Pegster nativity set.
“It truly makes me feel so honoured to think that people find my work worthy enough to give to their children to play with, and hopefully cherish for a long time!” she says.