Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Coco Howard Interview

I am trying to remember the first time I saw Coco Howard's work. (I went over the questions and now I do) I had heard of her because her son Atticus shopped at Schmancy and told me his mom made some plush creatures. All I can remember in my sleep deprived state is how much I was in awe of her work when I finally got to see it in person. I do remember emailing a bunch of folks telling them about it and how they had to see it! It's really amazing-that's all there is to it. I am thrilled that she will be showing this year at Plush You! and so excited to see what she does next. Until then, here's more information about Coco for you. Leave a comment here (with your contact info please) for your chance to win your very own Coco Howard design!

S- Where to begin....Well for our readers that might not know much about you yet, can you please tell us more about you and your work?

CH- I grew up in Hawaii but have been living in Seattle for the past 20 years. At age 21 I had my first child, Atticus. He started drawing at an early age, and his artwork was my original inspiration for getting into character design. When he started school, I volunteered so I could be with him more often, and it was there that I got the opportunity to start an art therapy program. The program focused on plush toy making, and seeing what the kids made inspired me to start making plush on my own for fun. I’d been selling and giving creatures to friends and family, and a lot of people told me that I should try to sell them professionally, but I never thought it would be practical. Then last year I became a single parent and now I need to financially support my family on my own. My hope is that building the Softlife business will allow me the flexibility to parent while earning an income at the same time.

S- The first things I saw of your work were your amazing needle felted wall art at Anne Bonny. Since then, you have moved on to HUGE installations, recycled materials, various animals and creatures. Was the needle felting where it began or just the first stuff I saw?

CH- My first plush were felted dolls and creatures made from recycled sweaters that I made with the kids in my art therapy program. It wasn’t until I started making things at home on my own that I developed the felted paintings, which are my real passion, although they’re extremely time-consuming!

S- You started a blog sort of recently. I love looking at it to see what you are up to and read all the cute stories, see the clever pictures and whatnot. How much time do you spend on your blog daily and how has that helped you as an artist?

CH- The Softlife blog started in February, sort of on a whim. I had an idea to do a daily creature blog and started it the next day. I think I spend 3-4 hours a day on the blog, including making creatures, taking photos, and writing the story. Sometimes I feel limited by all the time that I have to devote to it, but it’s also good because it keeps me disciplined and forces me to create a steady stream of a variety of characters in order to keep the blog fresh. I’ve also really developed as a photographer, which I had no experience with before starting the blog.

S- Your work has a Japanese feel to it. Like your creatures belong in Miyazaki films. Where do you get your inspiration from?

CH- Japanese character design has been a huge influence on me. As a child of the 70s growing up in Hawaii, I was exposed to Japanese character design like Sanrio early on. Aranzi Aranzo has been a big influence on my work. The idea for the blog was inspired by an early Aronzo photo book that I found in the 90s. My kids really love Miyazaki and I’ve watched all his movies with them. His work is incredible. My biggest source of inspiration continues to be children’s art. I like things that blend light with dark to create a sort of mystery or surrealism.

S- You have some big pieces up in Seattle but you mentioned recently that you would like to do larger installations. How long do those big guys take and do you sell them?

CH- It takes me about 2 full working days to complete one of the 5-foot tall Denizens. The tough part is finding materials to fill them with. The Denizens that I make have inspired me to do larger things. My dream art project is to do life-size plush environments. I’d also really like to do needle-felted murals.

S- What have been some of the great unexpected pleasures you have received since you started crafting?

CH- In just the first year of starting Softlife, I’ve met a ton of other artists. It’s been really fun to share ideas and get inspiration from them. I’ve also been amazed at how much positive feedback I’ve gotten from people. Another thing that’s surprising is the fact that the more I do, the more ideas I have for new things I want to do.

S- Your pictures are great. I especially loved June 19th with the slug. Have you ever thought of making a little book or something for all of them?

CH- Doing the photography for the blog has opened up a whole new world that I’m really enjoying. One of my motivations for doing the daily creature blog for a year was the collection of photos that I’d have when I got done. I’ve recently begun to toy with the idea of putting together a photography show of photos from the blog, and I’d love to make a book out of the blog one day. If anyone out there wants to give me a book deal, I’m ready!

S- What are some of your big goals as an artist for this year?

CH- I have a lot going on this year. I’m doing the Plush You show in Seattle, as well as the one in San Francisco. Then there’s a third show in New York with Gallery Hanahou. A big goal of mine is to get the Softlife business up and running, and to expand awareness of it. Keeping up with the blog is another big one. I also want to look into getting grants that would allow me to do larger installations.

S- What are you most excited for in your career thus far?

CH- What I’m excited about in my career is the idea that this could be a career at all—that it might be possible to do something I love and make a living at it.

S- Where else can Plush You readers find you?

CH- Anyone can find me at my open studio at the Anne Bonny in Capitol Hill. I’m usually here for a good portion of the day, Tuesday through Sunday. I love to talk to visitors and share ideas. I’ll also be at the 3 shows I mentioned—Plush You Seattle on October 10th, Plush You San Fran on November 7th, and Lovable Huggable in New York on January 7th. You can also communicate with me on the Softlife blog ( that I’m working on everyday.

Friday Coco brought me this! I sure am one lucky lady.


Erin M. Evans said...

Great interview and Great Work! I love the one with the snail too!

Sarah said...

Really wonderful work! I've been reading the softlife blog all day instead of working... so lovely!

Eva said...

like the variety of work :D please count me in!


Anonymous said...

These are the friendliest, most cheerful little friends! I love them. Thank you for the interview and for the giveaway.

lookwhaticando said...

Wow...thanks for introducing me to this amazing body of work. xoxo :)

Kitty Vane said...

Such a wonderful array of work, and everything is so unique and super cute too!
Also, plushie art therapy is a fantastic idea, and if you don't mind, I'm going to pitch it to a friend of mine who's an art/occupational therapist working with kids.


flurogoddess said...

Aww how beautiful


Funky Finds said...

i would love to win one of these fabulously funky creations!

jessica hood

info at funkyfinds dot com

Beetlegirl said...

Coco Howard's work is so enchanting. I love her needlefelted paintings.

Claudia said...

Everything is cute. Hard to say which one is the one!

Nicole said...

Wow, those are fantastic.

christy said...

Such cute results with the anime influence - they are adorable!!!!

The Peppermint Tree said...

Great inspiration I love the one that is pinky like and looks like a bug I might find in my flower garden. Is there a place online to buy your work?

.girl ferment. said...

These are just so tremedous. I would love one to bits.

stephanie said...

Her work is amazing!!
Wonderful interview.
Love it!


Aaron said...

Awesome interview, amazing work, love it!

Jake Ookamika said...

It was cool to learn a bit about Coco. cute!