The Making of Charlsea

September 01, 2015 2 min read 6 Comments

Maplelea Girl Charlsea, from Canada’s west coast, was inspired by the many letters and emails our office receives each week. Online research helped us to learn about the history
 and geography of the area, but it was the trip to Salt Spring Island when specific details about her experiences and character really came to life.


Whether a descendant of an original farming family, or a recently arrived escapee from hectic urban life elsewhere, 
everyone was eager to share their knowledge of the Island and its community.  They told us about Salt Spring’s need for exceptionally high recycling rates, the wide-spread love of gardening, the frustrations of a life ruled by ferry schedules, and the mystery of fairy doors in the forest.

Maplelea families welcomed us into their homes, eager to tell us what it was like to be a girl growing up in the Gulf Islands of BC.  A grade 4/5 class answered our many questions about everything from their favourite field trip to their footwear 
of choice.  Teachers graciously stayed after school to continue the dialogue.  And, a local historian and former teacher, an original Salt Spring back-to-the-lander herself, put the Island in context for us.

We experienced the spectacular view of the Gulf Islands from atop Mount Maxwell and the liveliness of the Saturday Market in Ganges, where even young Island entrepreneurs offered their hand-made goods.  Events were attended – a house concert, a fall festival, a church fundraiser, a community forum on children and youth, and more.  And how could we not stop at the ubiquitous unmanned farm stands that offered their fresh organic bounty with the trust that a deposit would be made in the moneybox for the produce taken. 


After a ferry trip, we were 
on Gabriola Island to meet with a Maplelea family whose kayak  trip inspired the one taken by Charlsea.

Laden with hundreds of photos and many pages of notes 
we returned to Ontario to collaborate with a writer, an 
illustrator and a sculptor to create the story journal and 
doll that would become Charlsea.  Our in-house production
 team worked hard to design outfits and accessories to 
reflect her lifestyle.

We would like to thank all the girls, families and community members who so openly and kindly shared their stories and experiences, only a few of which are shown here. The information was extremely helpful in the creation of our Charlsea Woodhouse character.

6 Responses

Tara Benwell

May 25, 2023

As a BC girl myself, working on Charlsea’s story with Kathryn and Maplelea was one of my favourite writing projects to date. I was so happy when my niece was finally old enough for her first Maplelea doll!


January 04, 2021

Charlsea is a wonderful, beautiful, doll. Her clothes and character are wonderful. Though, I think you pronounce it Charl-see. Thank you Maplelea for another wonderful doll.


June 03, 2020

Do you pronounce it Char-al-see?


May 23, 2020

I think you pronounce Charlsea charl-see

Georgette Cameron

May 11, 2020

I bought Charlsea and some outfits for my grand daughter and she is so in love with her but she asked me how to pronounce her name and I was not quite sure. Can you help me with that please. I told her I thought it was Charl-see-a. Is that correct?


December 09, 2019

What if there were Maplelea BOYS?

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