Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mr. Funky Interview and Giveaway!

Narumi Ogawa is the clever brain behind Mr. Funky! She has a recent book full of easy-to-follow tutorials for adorable dolls and accessories. You can make hats, scarves, flowers and even a water bottle carrier (my personal favorite). She was nice enough to do an interview with us, and she's even offering up her new book, Mr. Funky's Super Crochet Wonderful, as a prize for one lucky Plush blog reader. Leave a comment to be entered! Thanks again to Narumi for the interview. We loved learning more about her.

S - You've been crocheting as Mr. Funky since 2003. How long did you crochet as a hobby before you decided to make the leap to business?

MF - It probably took me 1 year to establish Mr.Funky. I had never crocheted in my life until year 2002. I started going to crochet class at yarn shop every Saturday for 2 months. I was crocheting ALL THE TIME!

S - Since you began, have you been able to turn Mr. Funky into a full time job, or do you have another profession you balance as well? Do you have any advice for people who want to make their craft their business?

MF - In 2003, I started showing my Amigurumi dolls to store owners. I also showed my creations at parties, clubs, art walk and sample sales... basically anywhere I went. There were so many events in Los Angeles, and I just took advantage of the opportunity of living in La La Land. I talked about Mr.Funky to every single person I met. At that point, I was working as a movie editor for a small company and a model scout for movies. I didn't think Mr.Funky would turn to be my full time business, but I participated in 2 trade shows in summer 2003, and I received huge orders from the shows. After that I started working with sales reps in California, Texas, Georgia, and Massachusetts.

S - You grew up in Tokyo, Japan. A lot of the cutest Amigurami books and patterns I've seen come from there. Do you think growing up in Tokyo had a large influence on your work and style?

MF - Most definitely, and I am lucky to be born in the 70's. I LOVE 70's culture. I am inspired by the cool Japanese animations, cartoons, TV shows, and music and they are mostly from 70's. Also my dad was musician, and he's taken me to see lots of Jazz concerts and live music since I was a little kid. I often create Amigurumi dolls by listening good music.

S – Are there certain musicians in particular that inspire you?

MF - Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Zakir Hussain, Fela Kuti.

S - On your website, you talk about your work being inspired by fashion from the 1920s through the 1970s? Are there specific designers or pieces that inspire you as well?

MF - I have lots of designers and art pieces that inspire me. I think that good color coordination is one of the most important keys of my creations. I often see greatest products come from simple designs with great color combinations.

S - Last July, you came out with your book Super Crochet Wonderful. It's great! Can you tell people a little more about both the experience of creating it and the book itself?

MF - The experience of writing this book was amazing. It was like having 2 full time jobs, and I worked really hard for this book! The book shows how to make Amigurumi dolls and crochet accessories like hats and scarves. I included both written and diagram instructions. If you know single, half and double crochet, you can make most of the projects in the book. It's really fun, and I want everybody to check it out!

S - I like that the book has a mix of both crochet accessories and dolls. Which did you begin making first? Do you find you have more fun with one over the other?

MF - I started making both accessories and dolls at the same time. I like working on both projects, so I don't have more fun with one over the other.

S - When did you start coming up with your own patterns and designs? How often do you find you create new patterns, and do you have a particular process that helps you invent new pieces?

MF - I started coming up with new designs soon after I started crocheting. When I come up with new ideas, I usually draw sketches and sleep on it for days, sometimes weeks. After that I review the idea, and if it's doable, I go to the yarn store, get some yarns and actually create the piece. So creating new designs take one day to weeks, it depends on my mood.

S - The book is great because the instructions and patterns are easy to follow, but I also love your book's emphasis on being able to use inexpensive yarn. Do you have favorite places to buy yarn or favorite brands you would suggest?

MF - If you live in LA area, I would suggest going to Yarns Unlimited on Pico Blvd in Santa Monica.

S - Your website is adorable as well! I love the introduction with bunny in the boat. Do you find you do most of your business online? How often do you update your shop with new things?

MF - I used to do online business well, but I had to stop for a while because my wholesale business became more demanding. Right now, I am selling only Mr.Funky book on my website. I should be able to update my site within 1 month for new products. I will definitely let you know when it's ready!!

S - Lastly, any upcoming plans you'd like to share?

MF - I am focusing on more new Amigurumi dolls and Hyperbolic crochet and free form style. I also have been working on Amigurumi kits. Besides crocheting, I am learning web designs and I hope to update my site on my own!

Everyone should check out Narumi's new book! You can buy it directly from her here, or leave a comment for your chance to win one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mochimochi Land Interview and Giveaway

This winter I had the pleasure of meeting Anna of Mochimochi Land. If you don't know of Mochimochi Land yet, where have you been? Anna makes some of the most cleverly cute knitted creatures I have seen to date. From Tubby, to the Luvgun to Pepto, she has something for everyone. The best part is, for $5.00 you can get one of her patterns and make one of your very own and occassionally she has a FREE pattern up on her blog. And what's even better than that is if you leave a comment here you have the chance to win a $15.00 gift certificate to Mochimochi Land! I will be meeting up with Anna again in NYC in a few weeks so I think we will choose the winner on March 31st.

S- How long have you been knitting and when did you start designing your own toys?

MmL- I first learned to knit in high school, but I really picked it up again about five years ago in college, when I met my then-boyfriend, now-husband's mom, Bonney. She is an expert knitter, and encouraged me to try all kinds of projects. She also gave me tons of free yarn from her gigantic stash, so I couldn't refuse!

The first knitted toy that I made was my own design -- it was in late 2006, when my coworkers and I were getting ready to open our new gallery. The gallery logo looks a little creature-like, so I thought it would be fun to make toy versions of it to give as gifts to my coworkers. They were so much fun to make (and so well received), that I soon had a shelf full of all kinds of knitted toys.

S- How long does it usually take you to come up with a new design? What's your process?

MmL- The longest part of my design process is coming up with an idea. I like for each of my toys to have something a little unexpected about it, and good ideas are not always forthcoming.

When I finally do come up with a concept, and it seems do-able, the actual making of the toy design doesn't usually take me so much time -- anywhere from an evening to a week or so. I do a combination of writing out a pattern in advance and writing things down as I improvise. I often have to rip everything out and start again a few times, but since all of my toys are relatively small, that's not so heartbreaking.

S- I know you have at least one job, working at Gallery Hanahou, do you have any other jobs or do you get to spend the rest of your time concentrating on Mochimochi Land?

MmL- Working at gallery hanahou and CWC-i (the illustration agency that produces the gallery) is my only job. I used to work there full-time, but I started working part-time in early 2007 so that I could have a good amount of time to devote to Mochimochi Land. Not because I had a very specific plan for Mochimochi Land, but because I was excited to see where it could go with some dedication. I'm really happy with the way I divide up my days now -- I think I have a very good balance of the gallery and Mochimochi Land. And the two are also mutually inspiring!

S- You launched Mochimochi Land a little over a year ago now. What have been some of your fondest moments since you began?

MmL- I have so many great memories already! Probably the best ones have to do with the amazing photos knitters have sent me of their finished Mochimochi Land toys. I held a photo contest last year in my Flickr group, and I received the funniest, most adorable, most artistic entries, all featuring toys people had made from my patterns. I'm definitely going to hold another contest this year.

Another wonderful memory was the day that I tentatively stepped into a yarn store in Tulsa called Loops to introduce myself. I was visiting my parents in Oklahoma over the holidays, and on a day when there wasn't much going on, I decided to meet the staff at Loops and let them know that I make patterns for toys. When I mentioned my website to them, all of them instantly knew who I was, and they gave me the warmest welcome ever! One of ladies there had just bought a pattern off my site, and she asked me to autograph it. I couldn't believe it. Now I have plans to teach a class at Loops in June, with a new pattern that I made with them in mind.

S- Unfortunately part of being an artists is that you have to promote yourself and be a business woman. How do you approach these aspects of your art?

MmL- I think I've had a lot of luck with getting my patterns exposed to the right people without doing so much promotion, largely because the online knitting community is very supportive and sharing, so once I caught the attention of a few people, word of mouth really worked for me. I've also found that Flickr and Ravelry (a new-ish networking site for knitters and crocheters) are very helpful in helping more people to find my work.

The business aspect of my work is also pretty simple, at least for now. Because most of my sales are of pdf patterns, I have virtually no overhead, which is great. However, I'm starting to sell more printed patterns at wholesale, and I'm also contemplating selling kits for my patterns, which will mean a little more budgeting. But that aspect of a craft business is also a little exciting to me at the same time.

S- I have seen so many patterns being sold for great prices on etsy and other sites such as your own, obviously. How often do you try to update your patterns and site?

MmL- Lately, I've been trying to update my website with a new pattern about once a month. Maybe that doesn't sound like so often, but it usually takes at least a month to get a pattern tested by a few people, so I have to plan ahead, which isn't easy! I also try to update my blog a few times a week.

S- I have to ask about your Martha Stewart appearance. How did that come about and what was it like?

MmL- That was the craziest thing! My mother-in-law Bonney signed us up to be in the audience for the taping of Martha's "knitwear" show, and they had asked all of the audience members to bring something they'd made. Before they brought us into the studio, they looked over everyone's creations, and picked mine out along with some others to be on the show. The actual moment of talking to Martha on her show was kind of a blur (you can see it on my blog), but the coolest thing about the whole experience was meeting the other knitters in the audience, along with Martha's production crew, who were all super nice and complimented me on my designs.

S- Gallery Hanahou had the Luvable and Hugable show several months ago and has really amazing art shows to boot. Were you very implemental in having the plush show? What is your job at this gallery?

MmL- The original "Luv-able and Hug-able" show was held in 2006 at Gallery LELE in Tokyo, which is also produced by the CWC Group. I didn't have anything to do with the organization of it, but they let me put some of my toys in the first show in Tokyo and also the recent one at gallery hanahou, which was awesome. Both shows were big successes, so we're planning to do the show annually now.

At gallery hanahou, my job is mostly pr-related -- I write our press releases and the copy for our invites and websites, among other things.

S- What are your goals for Mochimochi Land this year?

MmL- Since so much of my interaction with knitters is over the web, I'd like to start doing some in-person events and workshops for people to get together and knit Mochimochi Land toys. Maybe some pattern debut parties? I haven't started organizing anything yet, but that would probably happen in New York, where I live. I'm also starting to put together some ideas for a possible book of patterns, though I don't have a publisher yet.

I'm also thrilled to be participating in Plush You again this year along with the show at Double Punch. It's a lot of fun to make some more complex, one-of-a-kind pieces, and that way my toys can reach some non-knitters as well.

S- Any other exciting news you might like to share with us?

MmL- I just released a new pattern on my website for Butterfull, the world's fattest butterfly! He comes with a pattern for dead flowers (whom he's inadvertently squished), and he's been well received already.

Thanks Anna for the awesome interview! Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a $15.00 gift certificate to Mochimochi Land!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Claire Chambers Interview

I have been talking with Claire Chambers for awhile and finally was able to schedule this interview. She has been busy, quit her day job, has been making awesome videos to promote her art business, started The Needle and is a member of the Etsy Plush Team. With all that on her plate she still had some time to do a little interview for us. Thanks Claire!

S- Your recent stop motion animation films are amazingly cute and a fantastic way to promote yourself. Since your first one have you seen an increase in business, etc?

CC- Thank you! They are a lot of fun to make. I've noticed a definite increase in recognition for my creatures since releasing these videos. One of my Chickenpants Limited prints
( user_id=5069584§ion_id=5275279) even made it to Etsy's front page recently, too.

S- How long have you been working on plush?

CC- I started in plush about a year and a half ago. One of my first creatures was one of the prince's cousins from Katamari Damacy. Followed quickly by a "French Bulldog" that looked more like a bunny. (

S- I noticed that you started your etsy shop a little over a year ago. What have you learned since beginning your shop that might be useful for people interested in starting their own?

CC- I feel like I've learned so much in the past year! It's hard to sum it up without sounding hacky, but here we go: Don't be afraid of the trial and error proccess- you're certainly not alone in going through it. Don't be afraid to reach out to people who's work you admire. It's ok to be scared, just don't let the fear stop you from doing what you've got to do. And take the best photos you possibly can.

S- I also noticed that you recently quit your day job. Does this mean you are now a full time artist? What made you take the plunge?

CC- I am indeed! It really was just time to take the leap. My art had expanded to the point where I just couldn't keep any balance between it and the rest of my life. Of course, having an extremely supportive husband helps enormously.

S- You started the site Can you explain a bit more about what this site is?

CC- The Needle is a collaborative blog for plush artists. I am a big fan of sites like Sugar Frosted Goodness and Three Thumbs Up, which are collaborative blogs for illustrators and visual artists. I think it's a wonderful idea- it gives artists a place to show off their work and it feels like a sort of community. There is something amazing happening with plush. It truly is developing as an art form, and I wanted there to be a place that would give a sense of the scope of the movement from the perspective of the artists. If you're interested in joining, send an email to

S- You are also a member of the Etsy Plush Team. Could you also explain what that is exactly and how one might go about becoming a member?

CC- I can't sum it up any better than what the team statement already says, so here it is:

"Etsy Plush Street Team consist of a group of etsy artist supporting and furthering the ideas behind plush dolls, toys and all the soft areas in between."
Basically, it's a great supportive network of plush artists. We hold various events and contests, all in the name of...well, getting our names out there.
If you're interested in joining, shoot an email to

S- What would you say is your favorite part about making plush toys?

CC- It's a toss up. I love putting the faces together- when I see the personality of a piece really start to come together. But I also really love it when I can see people's happy reactions to the creatures.

S- Since you do photography, painting and plush, do you try to switch up your activities during the day to give your body a break and to break up the repetition in work?

CC- Actually, no. I'm really bad about this. When I get started on one thing, I have a very hard time switching to another sort of project. When I start off making plush creatures, I get tied into that for days. It's the same with painting, or photography. (and answering emails!) I get obsessed with seeing that pieces get finished. I like your idea though- I'm going to have to try that.

S- I also noticed your list of things to do and or remember when feeling a little less motivated. It sounds like you have read the book, Getting Things Done. I am a big fan of this book as of late and have found it very useful. Have you read it?

CC- I haven't yet, actually! It's on my list. I've learned about it online, and what I've heard seems impressive.

S- What is on the horizon for you and your business?

CC- So many things! I have a few gallery shows coming up- including one in April that is going to be a sort of installation. I'm quite excited about that one. (keep tuned to my blog and flickr for updates on that!) This week I'll be releasing March's Chickenpants Limited print. And of course, there will be more Chickenpants movies.

And check out this awesome video made special for this weeks interview

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Croqzine Interview and Giveaway!

I have been eyeing Croqzine for awhile now and finally purchased a few copies several months ago. I thought it was such a great little zine that I decided I would like to interview the editor. So I did. Heather was very gracious and said she would throw in a giveaway. If you leave a comment here we will choose three lucky winners who will get a copy of their latest zine. Croq is full of awesome interviews, information and resources written by some of our favorite crafters. It's something you will keep on your shelf to look at from time to time for information and inspiration. Thank you Heather for this awesome interview and generous giveaway!

S- How did Croqzine come together?

CZ- Several crafty people were brought together via The Sampler. We were all interested in reading a zine about crafts, but we weren't finding a lot of them, so we decided to
write our own!

S- One thing that I noticed was your recent switch over to 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper. Do you have any thoughts or good resources for other crafters that want to keep their business as environmentaly friendly as possible?

CZ- My thoughts are this: it's more expensive for us to go 100% post-consumer in terms of the cost of our paper, but it's too expensive responsibility-wise to NOT got 100% post-consumer. We love the earth and we want to do whatever we can to reduce our environmental footprint. Yes, using 100% post-consumer paper brings the cost per issue up a bit, but it is so worth it in the long run! Since we frequently write about environmentally friendliness, it made sense for us to (um, how to say
this without using a cliche?) practice what we preach and spend a little extra to buy environmentally-friendly paper. We are by no means perfect, but we would like to find other ways to reduce our environmental impact and will seek other ways to do so. Possible ways we will do this in the future: use soy ink when printing (when we start to do larger print runs), donations of a percentage of our proceeds to charitable organizations, other ways we have yet to research and discover.

We encourage all of our readers to do whatever they can to make their lives and businesses more environmentally friendly! And don't forget to recycle your CROQ zines (hopefully by passing them on to others who would enjoy reading them)!

S- What I really love about your zine is the variety of submissions in it. It is a really great resource for a lot of crafters not only for the business side of craft but you guys also give a lot of very helpful tips for kids projects, on the road projects and yummy vegan recipes. How do you guys figure out what the main focus of each issue should be? and what submissions you take?

CZ- In the past several issues, we have come up with random themes (examples: The Trash Issue, and Travelin' Crafty) and given them to our regular contributors as a starting point for story ideas. There's no real method to our themes, we just settle on whatever seems interesting or fun. In every issue, we try to cover the following topics: craftivism, interviews with crafters, craft scene news, parenting, a few craft or DIY projects, and recipes (usually vegan/vegetarian). We accept submissions of all types! Check out our Submissions page for more details ( If you have any
ideas (large or small), feel free to contact me!

S- I really loved #10 issue: Travelin' Crafty. There were some really great articles on crafts to do in the car, traveling for craft fairs, eating cheap on the road and a great interview with Jenny Hart. Does Croq do a lot of traveling for events? How do you guys spread the good word of Croq?

CZ- We haven't done a whole lot of CROQ-specific travel, although our staffers live in all parts of the USA (and also in other countries), so we are represented in different regions by our staffers who attend craft shows and events. Maybe someday when we get a bigger travel budget, we'll be able to do a bit more!

How do we spread the word? Well, lots of online methods (advertising, giveaways, blogging), and donations (goodie bag donations for various craft shows, prizes for shops and other websites). I also leave CROQ at my local hip hairdresser's shop! Ha ha!

S- I feel so lucky to be apart of the craft community. As a kid I would never have imagined that I would actually have a wide community, all over the world, that enjoy the same sorts of things that I do. It is a really great time to be involved and to see it grow. Portland seems like an amazing place to be for the craft community. It seems like a strong place for community and craft events. For people that aren't so lucky, do you have any suggestions for how to build up their own craft community in their local town?

CZ- Before I answer your question let me just extol the virtues of the internet! Without it, we would not have this awesome craft movement! It's the juice that makes the craft scene go. Next, let me say how great of a craft scene Portland is... on ANY given day there are multiple crafty things happening. We have so many things happening that we have our own email list that emails us about every week's events ( - it's AWESOME!). I wish I was twenty again so I had enough energy to go to every craft event... there are so many great things happening in Portland.

Okay, so now to answer your question. How do you build up your craft community in a town that isn't so craft-crazy as Portland? Use the internet to find others like you in your community. If you can't find any, make sure you post around on all the crafty sites to let others in your community know that YOU are out there (sites that come to mind: the regional boards on,, and Create groups on your blog site, Facebook, or Myspace. Post notices on Participate in any small craft happening that happens within reasonable driving, biking, or bus distance. Put on your own events - organize a knitting group, a Church of Craft, or a Dr. Sketchy's. These can be done with as few as two or three people. Once you establish a regular routine, more people WILL come. Organize classes or a craft show. Again, these can be done with a few people working together.

Not to tease, but we have an excellent article about "Crafting in a Small Town" in issue #11 of CROQ... it addresses this question better than I have here.

S- Dayna Mankowski of had a great idea she mentions in Issue 10 to be a crafty ambassador. I thought that was a great idea. Do you know if anything happend with that?

CZ- Actually I don't! I need to find out.

S- Do you have any suggestions for someone that might like to start up their own zine?

CZ- Yes, I have a LOT of suggestions. DO IT! It's so fun and worth it. Regarding starting a zine, the first issue is always the hardest - it's hard to try to define the look, content, etc. Keep a notebook - I usually keep a running list of stories that I would like to see in the zine.

If you are going to accept contributions from others, it might help your contributors to know if you have any specific vision about your zine and whether there is anything that you are not interested in including (for us, we don't include poetry or personal promotional stories.) You should also let them know what's in it for them. We give each story a byline with name and website, and then we give a complimentary copy of the zine to contributing writers.

If you don't know anything about making zines, check out the book "Stolen Sharpie Revolution" by Alex Wrekk. You can get it at (it's a zine distro). It will get you started, and it's really inexpensive (like less than $5).

Also, a special note to parents: making zines could be a GREAT creative outlet for your kids (any age, although the younger they are, the more you will need to help them!), as well as bringing them some pocket money. Just a thought. If you are interested, give me a shout and I will discuss this more with you!

S- If someone lives in the Portland area and would like to volunteer some time to help what should they do?

CZ- Well, I just moved about forty minutes south of Portland, so if you live in Salem (or you don't mind driving), email me! I can always use help! If you want a crafty friend to hang out with, I'm your gal!

S- If someone has an idea for an article, how do they go about submitting their work?

CZ- Check our aforementioned submissions page, and email me your query.

S- What's on the horizon for Croqzine?

CZ- Well, I just re-opened the CROQ shop after a two month hiatus in which I moved, had a baby, and went insane. Now that I have found my marbles, we're planning to collaborate in some way with our sister craft zine, Australia's "Mix Tape Zine." (If you like CROQ, you must check them out!) Other dreams include podcasts, video casts, and possible a book version of our back issues. The dreams don't have any specific dates attached to them, though! In the meantime, look for our issues to come
out quarterly, with the seasons.

Thanks Heather!

Thank you so much for asking me!

* Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a free copy of the latest Croqzine! We will choose winners on March 19th.