Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jenny Harada Interview

If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Jenny Harada then you know how awesome she is. I finally got to meet her last summer at Renegade Craft Fair and then was lucky enough to hang out with her at the Etsy Labs this past December. And as cheesy as this might sound, Jenny is seriously like a ray of sunshine. She's passionate about her work, her family and helping Plush You to be a success. I think Jenny kicks ass and I think you will too. At the end of the interview are the details of her awesome giveaway! Don't forget to leave a comment.

S- Were toys the thing that got you into sewing or had you mastered the art of sewing before?

JH- I wouldn't say I have mastered sewing yet, even though I have been sewing for 28 years. The first things I ever sewed were clothes for my dolls. Stuffed toys soon followed because my dolls (and me) needed little friends. I pretty much started sewing because my mom was doing it and I wanted to do whatever she was doing. It was fun, so I stuck with it.

S- What drew you to making toys in the first place?

JH- I was a kid when I started making them, so it was just natural that I wanted more toys! What better way to get more toys than to make them yourself? I never really stopped since then. I don't want to grow up. Then I studied toy design in college but decided to persue animation instead of toy making. Is wasn't until years later that I began seriously making lots and lots of my own toys all the time.

S- A lot of your work uses a lot of recycled components such as doll
heads and limbs, jewelry parts, etc. Is this something you try to
incorporate in all your work or is it more of a organic process when
you find something cool?

JH- It is a result of being a collector. I collect things. I have a hard time throwing things away. I will save something thinking, "Oh I could make something out of this!" It may be years later that I actually use it. Lately I try not to save things anymore because my collection of stuff is seriously out of control. I am trying hard to whittle down the accumulation of stuff, and that is how I started using doll parts in my plush. I had a handful of them that I wanted to use so I sewed them into some plush. I had so much fun with it that I ended up buying more doll faces! Now I have twenty times more than what I started with. A friend of mine just sent me a box of super crazy old doll heads too. I can't wait to use them.

S- When we did the Etsy Lab Plush You! book party, you said that 2008 was going to be your year of organizing and getting back into your groove. It seems like you are doing it from my end of things! How is that going?

JH- Things are going along much better than last year, that is for sure! When I was pregnant with my second child, I was nauseous almost all the time, so it was really hard to get anything done. Then when she was born, adjusting to having two kids was rough for a while too. I can't complain, it's great in so many ways, but it left no time for plush making. Now that she has grown up a little, I can give more attention to my art. Getting organized has been a challenge because of the stuff collection habit that I mentioned in the previous question. I have so many ideas that are waiting to come to fruition. Not actively creating stuff for over a year meant that all those ideas have been just circulating in my mind, festering, oozing, waiting to break free. I feel like I have the energy to bust out some good stuff right now. If I can conquer the organization thing, I think I will be able to create some great things. When my space is organized, it makes it so much easier to sit down and make something without any distractions.

S- A few months ago you taught a class at the Etsy Labs for making a
little monster. How did it go? Is this something you would like to do more?

JH- It was tons of fun. I had a great group of students and it was a relaxed and happy atmosphere. Everyone at Etsy is so nice! I am going to teach another class there in June. It will be about how to sew a stuffed animal from a pattern, and how to customize it to your own liking. Watch the Etsy Labs shop or my blog to find out when sign ups become available.

S- You also paint. Is this something you would like to do more of?
Do you balance your time with
both or concentrate on one more than the other?

JH- I don't paint as often as I would like to. There are so many things I would like to do that painting is low on the totem pole right now. I do think about it often though. I like working with fabric in 2D as well. I call it "soft painting" but some people might call it patchwork or quilting. I think maybe I am a little intimidated to paint more. I definitely have not come anywhere near mastering paint, so I get frustrated that I can't get the paint down how my mind envisions it. With fabric I know what I am doing a lot more, so it is easier to just forge ahead. I also feel like I have just begun to explore the possibilities of working in 2D with fabric, so my ideas for 2D art tend to materialize in the form of, well, material! I haven't painted in months actually. Hey, now I have a strong desire to get out my paintbrushes! Perhaps some kind of paint/sewing combo is in order. I will add that to my totem pole.

S- You have been doing plush for a long time now. As a
veteran of plush making, do you have any advice for someone just
starting out?

JH- Sew sew sew! Just keep making stuff and your skills will improve. Have patience. Rip some stuffed animals apart to see how they are put together and what the pattern pieces look like. Try sewing things from commercial patterns and other crafter's patterns. Make some plushies from the Plush You book! When you start designing your own plushes, make them your own. Don't try to copy your favorite plush artists. You will shine brighter if you do your own thing. Start with your favorite materials in your favorite colors. Making something based on your favorite animal is a good place to start. Learn from your mistakes and most of all have fun!

S- What is a favorite tool you have that is a must for any craft room?

JH- I always like to have an old hairbrush on hand. When working with plush, especially long shaggy plush, it is handy for getting the hairs to do what you want them to. Not everyone works with the fuzzy stuff though, so my second answer is a good pair of scissors. Dull scissors suck the joy out of cutting. I got a fancy pair from my mother for Christmas a few years ago and they are so special to me because they cut like a dream!

S- I find it a little difficult to use all the furry fabrics. It
seems messy and harder to work with. You use a lot of it! Any advice
to cut down on messes and to make it easier to use?

JH- Keep your dustbuster nearby! I am constantly sucking up fuzzy bits. It's true, it is messy. There's no way around it. I just deal with it because I love the look of it so much. It does take patience to work with it. I am not sure what advice to give on making it easier other than just using it a lot to get accustomed to it. After I finish a project, I do a big clean up before starting something new. Masking tape is great for removing furry fibers from your clothes. Or you can wear Bill Cosby style sweaters so noboby will notice.

S- The Dali Lama is here this week in Seattle. He has driven by Schmancy numerous times and never stops by to say hello. If your plushies could help him save the world, what ideas do you think they would have for him?

JH- Keep your smile on. Even if you aren't feeling like a smile, just force it. Very soon you will be smiling sincerely and it will spread to other people. It is very easy for stuffed animals to give this advice because their faces never change. I saw the Dalai Lama speak in Central Park in NYC many years ago. It was very inspiring but he didn't say hello to me personally either. Also, the plushies have this advice: hug bigger and more often!

Giveaway details are:
Jenny will make a custom plush for the winner based on their two favorite colors and two favorite animals, so leave your choices in the comments! The rest is up to her. It will be a surprise! Winner will be chosen April 30th



ahhhhh jenny harada is one of my favorites!!

yellow, mint green
panda, grizzly bear


Harpy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harpy said...

I feel her on the never growing up. She's a really novel artist, and her work is amazing.

burgundy, brown
parrot, wolf

orangefishy said...

It's great to hear someone who has been sewing for 28 years say they haven't mastered sewing yet!

orange, vermilion
koala, squid

Bunny B said...

Adorable!!! I love purple and cream. And I love bunnies and unicorns :P

Nichol Brinkman said...

Ohhh!!!!! How exciting

sage green, lavender
penguins, octopus

Trisha said...

i just love your plush!

orange and turquoise

porcupine and kiwi

Laszlo said...

HaHaHa HaRaDa HooRah!
purple pangolin
kumquat komodo dragon

Violet said...

Ha, someone else who understands the traumas of creating whilst also giving birth and rearing kids!

khaki, orange
Owl, giraffe!

jenn! (knits a lot) said...

jenny has some serious skill all of her monsters are wonderful! although i think the one with the clown face in him is a little scary, then again they are monsters!

plum, teal
penguin, moose

Amanda said...

Very cool plush!

neon pink, plaid (thats a color isn't it?!)
Hippo, unicorn

Kimmy said...

Your work is beautiful. You have a great eye for color!

red and blue
bear and peacock

Heather said...

Jenny I just saw your Mermarvin and Merlinda in the PLUSH! show at Hello My Name is Gallery. They were adorable!

blue, brown
ferrets, echindas

Sarah H. said...

i love plushies!

blue and red
owl and yellow labrador retriever

Kari said...

I love the fuzzy cone-shaped guys!

red-violet, cobalt blue.
cat and kangaroo.

Jeanne M. Wigoena said...

I bought Plush You! book recently, and I looooove it!!
Janny Harada's creations are so different, unique.. her works are amazing.
I wish I can make things like hers, but I find difficulties in finding furry materials in my hometown.

blue, pink
pig, dog and rabbit (sorry, can't choose two from them)

s glasscock said...

sooo cute! jenny is very inspiring:)

colors: olive green and eggplant
animals: ostriches and pugs

thesugarmonster said...

I love her work so much!

Pink and teal
Octopus and hedgehog

© Eclisse Creazioni Art & Photography said...

OMG i love your creatures!!!!!!! I like White, blacxk, red, gray... i hope to win this!!!

desertdaisy said...

You rock Jenny!!

I love cats & octopuses in red & turquoise!

Anonymous said...

lovely contest!

kelly green and bright sunshine-y yellow

dachshunds and lemurs!

Jeff said...

orange, purple

parrot, kangaroo

garyfields said...

great interview!

red, purple
monkey, dog

Annette said...

Thank you for this interview, I love Jenny's creatures!

green, blue
puffer fish, antelope

mr_thye said...

I am really liking some of your more sculptural but still creaturific pieces.

I would have to say avocado and brown are good colors.

My favorite animals are the majestic narwhal or caterpillars one of my favorites is the tomato horn worm.

TruLeo44 said...

I love your plush!

I love red/black and lobster/jellyfish!

jpw120 said...

indigo, pink
cat, turtle

John said...

blue, green
rabbit, moose

the_duck_show said...

Speaking of totem pole, those look like a troll baby totem pole. Very cool.

My favorites:


T. Walters said...

Love them, seriously.


Steel City Heather said...

Great interview!!!

deep purple - like the Joker from the 1st Batman movie

periwinkle blue

animals: panda & owl

icecevici said...

neon lime

Lee said...

Oh, oh, OH!

Black and metallic orange.
Crab Monkey!

Fun contest!!!!

Wendy said...

It's fun visualizing combos of everyone's favorite animals and colors!

purple, blue
kangaroo, butterfly

Anonymous said...

You're work is always so amazing and very inspirational on a bad day!

Sea-foam green, Scarlet red

Echidna, Manatee,= both so adorable!!

Jill said...

Oh this would be so great! I adore these creations, and one would look so good in my craft room.

orange, lime
owl, deer


Jordan said...

These are the coolest creatures i know what to do with the extra barbie doll heads i have from when my brothers fed them to the dogs!

lime green, lavender
fox, lion

Jenn said...

These are all so cute :) Hopefully I'm not too late for the contest...

My choices
Colors: Turquoise, Plum
Animals: Mongoose, Monkey

Patti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dodo Castagna said...

AHHH!!!!!!!!!!! i love these little creatres!!! ive always attemped things like these, but they never turn out that cute!!!!!!!

light blue, light pink
cow, (with big noses and feet like a hippo) and a wolf. lol two total contrasts, but then again aren't we all???