Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ana Paula Rimoli Interview

I have mentioned before that I am a huge fan of amigurumi. Once I discovered my love for crochet, it was all over. I really wish I had more time for it these days. I am so glad people like Ana exist. She was a wonderful person to work with for the Plush You book, she has always been very generous and most importantly, her creations are adorable. Any age would love a treat from Ana OR from you as you can make your own. You can get her patterns on her Etsy shop or purchase her new book, Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet. The title sums it up. You can also leave a comment here (with your email or way to contact you) and possibly win your very own signed copy directly from the creator herself!

S- When did you begin making amigurumi toys?

AP- I started making lots of them when I was pregnant with Oli (5), but I had made some (without knowing they were "amigurumi") when I was little (I started crocheting when I was 6 or 7)

S- Were you a huge hit on etsy right away? How did you try to increase your etsy business?

AP- At the time I was working full time in an office type place, and wasn't taking Etsy that seriously. Once Martina was born (she'll be 2 in September!) and I was in maternity leave I started making a lot more toys & patterns and posting a lot more and finally realized that I could Etsy full time, and I quit! :) I've never done too much advertising, but I did join Flickr right away and started posting in different amigurumi/craft related groups. I think that's helped a lot!

S- You have an awesome book out recently that I will get to more later, did a publishing company contact you or did you contact them?

AP- I had been thinking about the possibility of a book for a while, and I finally wrote a proposal and sent it to Martingale. I was super lucky and they contacted me right away :)

S- How has Etsy helped you as an artist with exposure, etc?

AP- Etsy has been a great way of showing what I do/getting exposure. It's an easy way to get seen by tons of different people from all over the world that appreciate handmade stuff, crafting and the arts. I would have never thought about the possibility of writing a book if it hadn't been for all the nice people that wrote, bought so many patterns and were so nice and encouraging.

S- Do you ever teach crocheting? If no, would you?
AP- No, I've never tought. I tried to teach Oli a couple of times but she's left-handed and it was difficult for me to show her, we're going to try again, though :) I would love to teach a little ami class, and I'm kind of planning one. Hopefully in the summer I can start :)

S- How often do you update your site with patterns?

AP- I try to post a new pattern or toy at least once a week, but right now I'm working on a couple other projects, so it's been difficult. I'm hoping to get back into that in September, with good news to share :)

S- Do you feel like you try to keep a certain demographic in mind when working on a new piece or you just feel the mood to do something new and do it?

AP- Not really, but I think most of the toys work for everybody :)

S- How long did it take you to work on your book from start to print?

AP- Most of the patterns in the book were already in my Etsy shop, so I just had to make the toys and take the patterns from the Etsy shop. I think it took a couple of months to have them all done and ready to go, and then around 7 months for the book to be out. I guess it was pretty fast :)

S- Do you have any favorite moments since the beginning of your amigurumi career?

AP- My favorite part are the nice, nice people I get to meet, and the letters!.
I got one from a mom that works full time and has little kids. She told me that following the patterns she can crochet a little bit here and there, in her lunch time or late at night, and make toys for them :) That felt so good! I know how difficult it is to work full time and have little kids and knowing that I'm somehow helping moms makes me happy. I love the feeling of seeing Oli & Marti play with toys that I make for them, and I imagine that happens to everybody.
Lots of people are saying that they're learning how to crochet just to make the toys, or with the help of the toys, and that's great too. Crocheting has been the old lady/toilet paper cover of the crafts for way too long, and I love to be a tiny little part of bringing it back.

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

AP- I hope I can continue to do what I love, and that I can grow, get better and try different things too. I hope this doll-making thing lasts forever. When I was little I used to always think how cool it would be to just make toys all day, and here I am! I don't think it can get much better than this :)

Thanks Ana! Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I have a lot of gratitude towards Claire Robertson of Loobylu. When I was on the fence about blogs and blogging, I found her site. It was what tossed me over to becoming obsessive about blogs. I read her blog all the time and wanted to move to Australia and force her to be my friend. She makes wonderful things from paintings, sketches, plush and so much more. Her site is beautiful, her studio is lovely and everything she mentions makes me happy. I love that she is able to share her work honestly and even shares the bad times with her readers. When I decided to start Plush You! I contacted Claire and asked her if she might mention it to her readers. She did and voila, Plush You! was born. I was really excited that she decided to do an interview with us so I could learn more. Enjoy!

S- I started reading your blog years ago. It seems like you were one of the first bloggers. Why did you start blogging and how did it change your craft?

L- I started blogging at the end of 1999. I was working in web design and started documenting my life online. I guess publishing has always appealed to me, and my own (not very exciting) life provided limitless content and the instant feedback was / is very seductive. The support I got from the visitors to my blog gave me the confidence (and clients) to eventually quit my job and work as a freelance illustrator. With the emergence of the 'craft blog' scene I found huge inspiration and a wonderful community atmosphere to start exploring all sorts of crazy, previously unthought of (for me) areas of work such as softy making. No matter which direction my work goes in I know
there will be someone somewhere visiting my blog who will say "go for it!". That kind of support is pretty vital to me because I work at home in the suburbs with really only my mum, dad, husband, a five year old and a 2 year old around to say "hey, that looks cool! Keep going!".

S- Your art is really lovely. From the looks of it you have been doing more painting and stenciling these days than sewing. Do you go with your mood or do you methodically go about your various art and craft interests?

L- Thank you! I most definitely go with my mood - which is a blessing and a curse. It means I never get bored and I get to try lots of fun things but I tend to spend a lot of money on art supplies as I flip-flop around, and I never settle down enough to really perfect any one technique. I always have my favourite things I crave getting
back to and making softies is one of them. Next I want to try some wood block printing, and my uncle is turning some dolls for me to paint...

S- I am not sure if you are aware of this but the first year I did Plush You, I asked you to put up a post about my show on your blog.You were the only one I had contacted because I really enjoyed looking through the photos "Month of the Softies" that you do. I was astonished how many responses I had gotten the next day thanks to you.
How do you choose the themes for Month of the Softies?

L- A Month of Softies has become a bit of a community driven project now utilising the wonderful Flickr. We've changed moderators a couple of times and sometimes it's a case of members suggesting themes and then one is eventually settled on for the month. I haven't been personally involved in the running of the project for a long time now. It's great that a project that was started years ago continues to grow and flourish and attract new members all the time despite the occasional lack of nuturing it gets. It's a very simple idea - create a softie based on a theme every month... it manages to accommodate people who are just starting to find their crafting feet to seasoned softy creators who need a little focus for a month.
Visit here

S- When I look through your blog I have a hard time understanding how you can balance your art, your craft, your children, your blog and your store. How do you explain your mastered skills?

L- Balance? What balance?? I haven't mastered it all! It's a continuing frustration for me, and I am sure I'm not alone in this. My house is a mess. It's a bit sad, but something had to give. Housework gets the lowest priority - children the highest. I have recognized since becoming a mother that if I don't have a chance to be creative then I become depressed and resentful and absolutely not much fun to be around. Because of this, my art work - whatever it might be at any given point - is pretty high up on that list of priorities too. My blog has stopped being so important. I used to spend a lot of time on my blog and it had become a part of my identity. I would meet people who I hadn't seen in a while and they would say "err... so how's your blog?" and I realised I wanted that question to be more like "how is your work going? What are you making these days?". I have come back to it this year with a promise to myself that my blog is my side project. Another thing I have discovered since becoming a Mother is that if you have limited time your production goes up drastically. I look back on the years I was doing freelance illustration before I had children and wonder what on earth was I doing with my time. Now I try to use every spare minute. Every nap time is a flurry of activity, every spare couple of hours when my Mum might take the kids for a bit I rarely sit around doing nothing. As cheesey and as cliched as it
sounds, It's all just a case of prioritizing and making time work for our family. This doesn't mean we find ourselves being an exhausted, over-scheduled family, it just means I need to get plenty of sleep so that i can keep my energy levels up. It certainly doesn't always work, but I keep trying new ways.

S- I loved your findings after having a No Spending Month. What precipitated this act?

L- A lack of funds! Also - our family is going through a bit of a self reflective stage where we are looking at how we spend our money and the effect it has on our long term goals and also the impact it has on the planet. The most amazing thing about the No Spend Month thing we did was that we cut down on the amount of garbage we produced by half without even really thinking about it.

S- Do you have a nine to five job where you have to go and spend your day or is your art your full time job?

L- My 9 to 5 job -- (my 6am - 7.30pm job - with stints occasionally at 4am) is being a mum. The art fits in around that. When both my kids are in school (3.7 years away, but who's counting?) art will be my full time job. I have between now and then to work out how to make that possible. (S- I think you will be fine!)

S- What I absolutely love about your blog, which can also be seriously bad at some points, is how many amazing things you find. Everything is beautiful and makes me want it right away. Where do you spend most of your luxury time on the web?

L- Flickr, Etsy, and about a zillion blogs which are mostly craft, art and design related. Currently I spend copious amounts of time on interior design related blogs. I guess it must be some kind of vicarious-living thing because our house is so out of control.

S- Do you have any new plush projects in mind for yourself that you would like to work on?

L- I do. I have some ideas which I just need a little time to sit down and start. I am keen to follow some ideas about my family ancestry and make strange creatures based on my heritage.

S- You are also the chief editor of Kiddley (now I am totally do you do it???). Sorry, I digressed. Anyways, can you tell our readers more about Kiddley as I am sure many of them would love to know about it!

L- Kiddley is on a permanent hiatus (we just didn't have the time to keep doing that one!) but the archives are all still there. It's a blog which concentrated on great things to do with kids - lots of crafts, links, ideas and projects. It's a blog which has awesome archives because we used to get lots of really great guest bloggers.

S- What are some of your goals for this year?

L- I am planning on starting a shop on etsy (or similar) and I am planning to keep on getting as much art-for-art's-sake done as possible.

You can also see work here

Thank you Claire!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Jess Hutch Interview

Jess Hutch is a lovely person. She has participated in Plush You since it began and I am pleased as punch that she is still going strong with her plush making. I had the pleasure of going out to dinner with Jess last year and it was great to be able to sit down with her and chat about her work and to get to know the woman behind these amazing creations. I can't wait until Friday when I will be able to hang out with Jess again as she will be showing her work at Schmancy. In a few hours you can visit our new Schmancy Gallery site to see what will be at the show and to purchase any work before it is up this Friday. Until then, read a little more about Jess.

S- When we met about a year ago you mentioned that you might like to stop blogging. This Jan. you made the plunge and said good bye to the blogging world. How has it helped your creative process? Is it everything you hoped it would be?

JH- It's been great in a lot of ways... using my blog and flickr to show my work to the world was hugely, hugely important for me while I was trying to work out my aesthetic and my creative direction. However, I got to the point where the number of comments or hits I got had an effect on the projects I chose to work on. I felt that as I was creating things, it was almost like I had a hundred people in the room with me. So I decided to step back a bit and create in a more silent, personal space. It's been great. However... I've also found that it's kind of hard to work without the encouragement of other people, artists and people who like my work and pay attention to it. Like I need their support to keep my motivation going. So it's mixed! But I think it's been useful and a good experiment.

S- Looking through your work, you seem to have gone through some phases. From knitting more, embroidery, screen printing and now more painted stuffed toys. Do you just go with your flow or do you dabble in everything all the time?

JH- I get bored pretty easily, at least with various media. I seem to always stay within a pretty narrow range with what I represent (usually weird serene little animal/human hybrid characters) but I am always, always thinking about different ways to go about it. I even want to try wood carving, I'm not even kidding. I think I just want to explore everything... just different ways of depicting what's in my head. Comic books, oil painting, etc. There's so much out there, and I just kind of follow my bliss with it.

S- I noticed that a lot of your work has little stories involving ghosts and spirits. Are you really into ghost stories and mystical beings?

JH- Yes. What I really love is the idea that our normal world, the one that we can study and observe, is just a shell. That unusual beings and strange occurrences occasionally present themselves, and we just have to be open and aware. I'm not sure I really believe any of this, but I'm open to it and love to contemplate the possibilities.

S- One thing I really love about your work is the color palette. It varies but seems to stay within certain families. Where do you get a lot of inspiration for your work and color combinations?

Well, my stuff is very modern and graphic. Super simple. I am always concerned that the cartooniness of what I do, coupled with really bright colors, would just completely shove it out of reality. So I like to use more natural, muted colors, because I think it brings it back a bit. It's a little more relatable (which is always what I'm try to achieve). Rust, grey-green, ocean blue, brown, etc.

S- You giant knitted guy was amazing. When we met you were working on it. How long did it take you and what is he doing now? When did you learn to knit and then go to designing your own patterns?

JH- He took forever. I don't really remember how long - 20-30 hours perhaps? He's in our workroom, just hanging out. I think I'm going to take some more photos with him doing various human things - that was the original idea, then I got sidetracked with some other projects - then I think I'm going to sell him. I want him to hang out with someone else for a while.

I learned to knit about, oh, 5 years ago? My sister taught me. I started doing my own patterns almost immediately, when I realized that no one had written patterns for the types of clothes and toys I wanted to make.

S- You seem to be a very discipled artists that might try something once and realize that it's not for you even if the demand is there or whatnot. How do you decide what works best for you and when to say no?

JH- Heh. Well, the fact that I have a fulfilling full time job (as a data analyst at a non-profit) allows me to be very, very selective about how I spend my creative time. It also, unfortunately, forces me to be very selective. It's kind of a lucky/unlucky thing. I have limited time outside of work and personal commitments, and I want to spend it doing only what is personally fulfilling to me. The worst thing ever is getting home from work, making dinner, taking care of various home things, then slogging through 4-5 hours of creative work that I don't really want to do. It just sucks any enjoyment out of it. So I made a decision fairly early on to only ever do what I enjoy, or what satisfies me creatively. I don't rely on the income from it so I'm able to do this. However, it can alienate people who really want particular things from me, which is something I've never really learned to deal with. It's definitely complicated. But I'm glad that the things I work on are always, always, done with love and care and interest.

S- Every time you have participated in Plush YOu! your work sells like hot cakes. You definitely have a fan base out there. Now that you have stopped your blog and do not use flickr as much, how do you keep connected with your fans?

JH- I don't, really. Which is hard. As I mentioned above, I really miss that interaction and the feedback. I'm currently thinking of ways to have it both ways, if that's even possible.

S- I love your work that is two dimensional with the same thing also three dimensional. How much time difference is there between the two and do you like one more than the other?

JH- It depends on the medium. Recently I've been working on 2D oil paintings and those take just about forever. I think that in general I will always gravitate toward 3D work. There's just a relatability there that I love so much. I create these characters to depict something very personal and I want people to see them and understand. I want them to feel something. We're 3D ourselves, so it just takes that much less effort to relate to something that's three-dimensional. I think.

S- When you started blogging, etc. you said that was your first time sharing your art and showing people. How did that help your art career and do you have any favorite moments?

JH- It helped a lot. I needed to hear from people. And hearing from people who are themselves so, so talented helped a lot too. I think my favorite moment, or series of moments, is looking at something I'm working on and finally feeling like I'm doing what I always wanted to do, which is showing my creative work to people.

S- Anything on your horizon we should be looking out for?

JH- I'd like to show my oil paintings at some point. I want to do more photography of my dudes, perhaps within an actual narrative that I can then print as a little book. Maybe I'll try some more realistic stuff. I don't know, I guess I'm just always doing what seems like the right thing at the moment!

Thanks Kristen, that was great - can't wait to see you this Friday!