Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ariana Marinelli

I really try not to have favorites but I have to say, Ariana Marinelli is one of them. Ariana has participated in Plush You! every year and each year her work arrives there are gasps of delight from anyone that lays their eyes on her work. It's really a work of art with great attention to detail and the love that goes into each piece seeps out of the seams. Ariana is a true inspiration and I hope you agree. Leave a comment at the end of this interview and one lucky winner will receive two albino hedgehogs. Winner will be chosen on May 7th. At the end of the interview is another added bonus from Ariana.

S- When did you start making plush toys?

AM- I actually remember specifically what introduced me to the online craft/plush world. I was browsing the magazine section at my local library. I was thumbing through Budget Living (I still miss that magazine!) when I saw an article about Jill Bliss and her website blissen. I went straight home and looked up, which led me to many other online craft sites. These led to other craft sites, one of which was Loobylu’s Month of Softies.

I made a couple of small plush pieces and something about it just clicked for me. I believe that was sometime around the fall of 2004. Loobylu is how I found out about Plush You. Without the Plush You show I don’t know if I would have taken plush making to the next level. The show definitely inspired me to push myself.

S- A lot of your work are really small detailed pieces, do you mainly hand sew or use a machine?

AM- I would say it is pretty close to half and half. I sew what I can by machine, but I do a lot of hand sewing. I wouldn’t be able to make what I do without all of the handwork. I am actually kind of a hand-sewing evangelist! It might be a little more frustrating at first but it really can’t be beat in terms of the control it gives you over the sewing process. I am always so surprised that more people don’t start with hand sewing and then move on to the machine because it requires so few supplies. It also builds your skills and makes you a more versatile sewer.

S- As you have been in the Plush You! show all these years; I have been able to see your work change and progress. Last year you did awesome plaques which I own one of :) What do you think has influenced your work through the years the most?

AM- Wow, that is a good question! Creative inspiration can be very difficult to pin down. I would say it is a combination of many things. Most of my ideas come from the process of making things. I make something and as I am making it I see how it could be different, or better. I then make something along the new parameters and the process repeats itself, so I guess it is literally the evolution of ideas through making. I am also inspired by my environment. Many of my ideas come from things I see on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, who isn’t inspired by the many talented plush makers creating great work?

S- Your work is very artistic. Did you study art?

AM- Yes I did. I graduated from the Oregon College of Art and Craft in 2002. This is where I shamelessly plug my Alma Mater! If you are looking for an art school with dedicated instructors, a challenging curriculum and a beautiful campus, this is your school.

I actually started out at the now defunct Atlanta College of Art and Design, where I was majoring in sculpture. I transferred my junior year to OCAC where I majored in metalsmithing. I don’t work with metal anymore (it’s very toxic) but it definitely prepared me for detailed handwork.

S- So many folks are moving to Portland these days. How has Portland fostered your creative side?

How hasn’t it?! I am from Portland and while I’ve lived all over the world I always come back. My parents moved to Portland right before I was born, they were attracted by the strong alternative medicine community that was just beginning to flourish in the late 70’s. I grew up surrounded by free thinkers; my parents had a lot of friends who were artists, they sent me to a Montessori school, we even lived in a communal house for a while. I think these experiences helped shape my creativity.

After living in Atlanta for a while I ended up moving back to finish my art degree at OCAC, which is an incredibly supportive community.

Outside of my personal experience, Portland can be both good and bad for fostering creativity. Portland is literally brimming with creative, talented people. This is good because there are always great shows to see, lots of inspiration, lots of creative thinking that ends up making the city a great place to live. The down side is that tons of people are competing for finite opportunities. Also Portland is a notoriously difficult retail market. People are tight with their money here. (I know I am!) There is even a saying,” If you can sell it in Portland you can sell it anywhere!”

S- Do you participate in any of the crafty events in Portland? Any favorites?

AM- I have been a vendor at Crafty Wonderland several times. It is a really well organized/publicized event. The ladies behind it do a really great job! I think it is a good event for getting the word out about your small craft business, as it tends to be well attended.

While it isn’t in Portland I think my favorite craft show on the West Coast is Felt Club. Since it only has two shows a year, they are really huge, massively attended, and tons of fun!

S- What is a must have for your studio space?

AM- My studio is located in an artist co-op. There are some fairly strict noise restrictions as the walls don’t go to the ceiling, so if you want to listen to music or the radio it has to be turned down really low, to the point where you can barely hear it. This is where my iPod saves the day! I am far more productive when I have something to listen to, it helps me concentrate and get into a productive zone.

Other than that, I have to have all the usual tools that most plush creators have: sharp scissors, sharp needles, sewing machine, and I really can’t live without my pliers!

S- You conducted a workshop for Plush You several years back. Is teaching something you do as well?

AM- OCAC has a really great summer camp every year for kids and teenagers. Most of my teaching experience has been for their Art Adventures program. I taught ceramics for an entire summer one year. I have also taught some teen painting workshops. I’m hoping to teach some teen workshops this coming summer.

S- I am so glad to see that you got yourself a website! I know a lot of people that will be overjoyed. Part of starting your shop is that you really have to promote yourself. Something that cuts into your creative time and is really time consuming. How have you approached this part?

AM- Honestly, I am still figuring this part out! I think a lot of it comes down to perspective. I try to approach all aspects of my business as a way to express my creativity. Looking at it this way helps me to be more engaged and prevents me from feeling discouraged or becoming resentful that self-promotion is necessary.

It also helps that the Internet is brimming with fantastic advice regarding self-promotion. So far I am working my way through all of the great articles on I am also looking into some of the classic crafty promotional tools like The Sampler, and sending media packets to magazines etc… Logistically I try to spend a day or two working on self-promotion, and my other free days are spent working in the studio. I will have to wait and see how this works over the long run.

S- What are your goals for your plush creations in the next few years?

AM- Other than keeping my website updated and participating in awesome plush shows, like Plush You! I would really like to create larger pieces that, when shown together, would tell a story. I have some ideas involving many plush Chihuahuas, and another idea involving disappearing figures. Ultimately I would see these being placed in a gallery setting.

On top of the awesome giveaway Ariana is providing, you can go here to download a pattern for these adorable hedgehogs!


Sweet Pea said...

Her work is adorable. Funnily enough, I was painting a little hedgehog in one of my illustrations today - would be nice to own a 3-d one! :)

Harpy said...

I'm fond of the mushroom plushies, like a forest floor from an alternate universe. They're prodigious. :D

michelle said...

i wish i could sew!

the white hedgehog looks just like my friend's hedgie, nigel.

stephanie said...

I love Ariana's work!!
I love the hedgehogs!!!
Too cute!

Eva said...

oh i adore ariana's work! i bought her plaque mushroom pictured in your interview and can't wait to collect some more of her pieces. i also LOVE hedgehogs, so of course I have to enter this giveaway.
Thank you for the generosity!!!

Rosalie said...

I'll be really sad if I don't win an albino hedgehog plushie. REALLY sad.

Beeper Bebe said...

great interview. I am not sure I could love those mushrooms more.

Beeper Bebe said...

great interview. I am not sure I could love those mushrooms more.

Original Cyn Studios said...

Oh my goodness, they are so cute! Thanks for sharing her work and interview.

Original Cyn Studios said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

Since my cats will not allow me to have a pet hedgehog, a plush one will have to do. So cute!

artmomma said...

The small white dog with the scarf has the most expressive face! I am so impressed with the talent it takes to sculpt like this with fabric.

Rhonda said...

What a great interview and fun project. I wish I had the skills to work with plush, there's so much inspiration here! I was drawn to the interview since hedgehogs are one of my collections. Really cool to find out Ariana's from Portland (Yea!) and to read her thoughts on the Craft Scene here :-) Thanks for bringing this to us.

abominablesarahmonster said...

I adore your mushrooms! They are very organic. And the animals are simply adorable!

Rhonda said...

Oh my gosh your plushies are all too cute! Impossible to choose a favorite.

A glance at my world said...

I love the little hedgehogs and the dogs, makes me want to make some plushies myself!

antisuperdelegate said...

I love the scrappy little brown dog!

Nell said...

I can't have a real hedgehog, but I'd be very happy to share my home with the plushie versions!

RobynE said...

God, they're all so cute. I love the little dog sitting on all the tuffets. I used to own an albino hedgie, her name was Fiona and I miss her tons.

Karen L. said...

What a great interview! It gives the reader real insight into who you are and how you got there. It's nice to read about how someone gets into the craft they do. Thanks!

Jordan said...

Her work is amazing and she seems so nice. I LOVE hedgehogs! I sort of have a collection of them..I used to own a hedgehog, but unfortunately he died a year ago :( I'd love the plush ones though!

lee said...

Ariana,your hedgie is very cutie...
I love hh.and feed them 7 hh.

Marsha said...

I totally need to learn how to sew now. My three-year-old daughter is obsessed with hedgehogs!

Laura Lee said...

This post couldn't come a better time - not only am I teaching a young neighbor friend (12 year old delightful girl) how to sew and our NEXT project was going to be a plushie but she is a hedgehog NUT (her best friend is taking care of a hedgehog)! When I sent her the link to your blog I swear I hear her squeal with delight!!! Thanks for your inspiration and keep us in mind for the two sweet albino hedgehogs!

Natalie said...

Wonderful interview & I'm so thrilled to see her website is up. Ariana's work is AMAZING, she's definetly one of my favorite's too!!! My fingers are crossed but either way what a super sweet giveaway.

Jeff said...

I was introduced to Ariana through my wife. She loves her work!
My wife would LOVE these hedgehogs!!
I am keeping my fingers crossed!
Good luck everyone!

Khaleidascope said...

i love Ariana Marinelli's work! the plushies are soooooooo adorable! =) it would be so AWESOME if i won a cute hedgehog plushie from her. =P *crosses fingers*

Jocelan Thiessen said...

I think ariana is an awesome fellow plush you artist that i find truly inpiring! Her feel for texture is really great.