Interview: Alison McIntyre of Marsupial Mother

By Beth Manning

Last month Nora and I traveled to Scotland to interview Marsupial Mother, Alison McIntyre. Okay, we only traveled through cyberspace, but I can fantasize about a real visit, right? Check out the pictures on her site, and you'll want to book your flight, too.

Business Questions

Q. Describe your business in one sentence.
A. I design, make and sell baby carriers, mostly ring slings.

Q. How long have you been in business?
A. I started the business about two years ago.

Q. What inspired you to get started? Your website says, "It started with a kiss, but that's another story..." Now that sounds interesting! Care to share?

A. Yes, I guess it all did start with a kiss - New Year's 1999 - when I fell in love with my partner Jason. A year and a half later I was pregnant and so began an amazing life-changing voyage of discovery. I have to thank my friend Rachel for inspiring me to become a marsupial mum. Rachel came to our antenatal yoga class with her new baby in a sling. It was the first time I'd seen someone slinging and I knew that's what I wanted to do. It looked so beautiful and natural. The next day I got curtain rings and an old sarong and sewed up my first sling! Teddy seemed to like it but would my baby? When Stella arrived we used it to bring her home from the hospital and she definately liked it. Soon after, I read the "Continuum Concept" which really changed everything for me. I understood.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about making and selling baby carriers?
A. Well, I reckon the most challenging thing is finding the time. With my kids and their needs growing and changing all the time it's a real juggling act trying to get any slings made. Working from home is both great and frustrating.

Q. What is the most rewarding?
A. I love to get emails and letters back from satisfied customers. It's great to know that I'm helping mothers and babies to bond. Maybe I'm doing my bit to save our messed up world.

Q. You say you make and sell ring slings, but there is a picture of a Korean-inspired back carrier on your site. Do you make those, too?
A. I do make a Korean style podegi though it's not for sale on my site yet. Since I had my wee boy I've made some alterations to it - I added a wee pouch inside to put a young baby in so there's no danger of him falling out when you're getting it on and off. And I've also designed another back carrier which I hope to get on my site too, sometime...

Q. Do you sew other non-sling items?
A. I sew a few things for my kids. I made a "cozy cape" which is a poncho with a hood, which is a fantastic sling accessory.

Background Questions

Q. Where do you live? The outdoor pictures on your website are quite lovely.
A. I live in a small town on the east coast of Scotland called Carnoustie. It's by the sea and some of the website pictures were taken at our old house which was right on the beach. Really handy for photo shoots!

Q. With whom do you live, and how are they related to you? Please describe them a little bit.

A. I live with my partner, Jason, who's an artist, mechanic, and a stay at home dad; my daughter, Stella, (3); and my son, Rocky, (8 months).

Q. Do you, or did you in the past, have any sling babies? If so, do you have a story you can share about it?
A. Both my babies are lucky enough to be sling babies. Stella is quite a confident, chatty wee girl which I'm sure has a lot to do with slinging. Like they say, sling babies are included in conversation.

Q. Do you have any other hobbies? If so, what?
A. Hobbies? Hmm...having babies, designing carriers, does that count?! I love gardening in the summer but at the moment I'm learning how to bake bread.

Q. What did you do before you went into the sling business?
A. Before I went into the sling business I was a potter. I trained at art school in photography; then when I left, I had a change of direction and set up a pottery. It went really well for about 8 years, then I had Stella and it was time to do something else. Running a pottery is a huge commitment and I realised my priorities were completely different now that I was a mum. A sling business has fitted in perfectly. Jason even learned how to build the website.

Q. How do you manage balancing personal life with making slings?
A. Well I'm not sure I've got a balance yet! I snatch a bit of time here and there. Jason's around a lot and he takes Stella away when I need to get on. I put Rocky on my back and can get some work done as long as he's happy.

Q. Choose any day of the week and describe it in as much or as little detail as you wish.
A. Our days are all much the same - we're often not sure what day it is! We get up about 8am, have breakfast, get the kids dressed. Jason gets started on the tidying up while I take the dog for a walk with Rocky in the sling. Then it's time for a cup of tea. In fact the rest of the day often seems to be just tidying and cups of tea!

Fun Questions

Q. What is the last good book you read, and why?
A. After getting two little ones to bed I have real trouble reading anything without falling asleep! I buy parenting books and dip into them when I can. At the moment it's "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen - he's a psychologist who who uses play therapy to reconnect with children. Fascinating!

Q. The last good movie?
A. "Jungle Book" - as good as it was when I was a kid!

Q. What's the most useless talent that you posess?
A. Worrying - I'm an expert but what a waste of time!

Q. What are your three favorite websites?
A. ebay, amazon, natural-parenting.com

Q. What is your favorite baby carrier, and why?
A. I hope I don't sound too big headed - I'm not, really - but I love my slings. They're the only carrier I use every day.

Q. Assume money and time are no issue - where would you most like to visit?
A. I'd love to visit Bali - sun, sea, sand and babywearing.

Q. Describe your sense of humor.
A. Elusive! too busy taking life too seriously!

Q. What is one important thing you think we could all do to make the world a better place?
A. Well, I can think of two important things we could all do; carry our babies of course and get rid of our televisions.

Q. Is there anything else the babywearing world would be interested in knowing about you?
A. Sorry, can't think of anything! Love to you all from Scotland...Alison, Jason, Stella and Rocky


© Beth Manning, March 2004. All rights reserved.