Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Geek Freeks Interview

One of my all time favorite shows is called Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series. I might have already mentioned that. Something about freaks and geeks always gets my goat. I love the work that the folks behind Geek Freeks have been doing. It's another geek freak combo that is too hard to resist.

S- Please explain who Geek Freeks are for our readers.

GF- Geek Freeks are the little critters we make out of felt, polar fleece and stuffing.
They are designed by Xander and then sewn together by Karla.

S- How did you get interested in the plush medium?

GF- Through our many many hours of blog exploring we'd discovered lots of talented
people out there who were producing really cool styley and original plush toys and thought "We can do that!"

S- You both have other full time jobs, what do you do and how do you
balance plush making with your day jobs?

GF- Karla is a Tattoo Artist here in Auckland (www.artofkarla.blogspot.com) and Xander is an animator/character designer (www.mukpuddy.blogspot.com)
The balancing part can be really hard, especially with our day jobs being so involving. It does help that those jobs are also creative so we're bringing different influences to the table. There's definietly alot of late nights and weekends taken up sewing and cutting out toys, it can be very tiring but thankfully we still enjoy it, and it's very rewarding when people want to buy your stuff!

S- How is the craft/art community in New Zealand?

GF- Well, as you'd imagine it is pretty small but there seems to be a resurgencence in craft making worldwide recently, especially with young people and we, as well as, a bunch of others down here in NZ, are definitely trying our best to do our bit. Karla and her friend City have just started organising a craft market here in Auckland, Kraftbomb (www.kraftbomb.blogspot.com) to help launch and showcase local crafters...It's gonna be huge!

S- As you are both surrounded with art, what are some of the most
inspiring things you encounter?

GF- As the designer behind the plushies Xander derives alot of his inspiration from cartoons and things from his childhood like "The Muppet Show" and the awesome toys he grew up playing with in the 80's.
As for Karla, she gets inspiration from her day job as a tattoo artist (you will be able to see this in our latest Plush You entry!)

S- Where would you like to see Geek Freeks in the next 2 years?

GF- That's a hard one, obviously we want to be successful in whatever we set out to do. But it's a really hard thing to do part-time, especially when everything is completely hand stitched (that's right, no machines are used in the making of our toys) I think the main thing is we just hope to still have fun doing it! If it stops being fun then I think we'll find something else to do!

S- If your guys could give advice to the world, what might they say?

GF- "Don't judge a plush by its cover!"

S- Where would you guys go on holiday if you could go anywhere in the world?

GF- Right now it's the middle of a miserable winter here in NZ (it's been raining almost every day since May) so we've been dreaming of going to a tropical island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and just lying on the beach for weeks sipping cocktails! Yum!

S- What are some of your favorite plush artists?

GF- Geez, there are so many, but here are a few off the top of our heads: Lauren Faust, Jared Deal, Jen Rarey, Heidi Kenny, Anna Chambers, Cutesypoo.......

S- Any places our readers might be able to see your work?

GF- Geek Freeks blog
Geek Freeks website
Geek Freeks on Myspace

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beeper Bebe Interview and Giveaway!

I really like the work by Beeper Bébé. It's really cool to think that this woman has only been making toys for three years now! Her work is really amazing. It's my great pleasure to interview Holly this week. Leave a comment here for your chance to win your own Woodland Baby Beasts, Your choice of which animal you would like too! Leave a comment along with your contact info.

S- How long have you been making plush?

BB- I’ve been making plush since my son was about 1 year old—which is the marker in my mind because his birth really gave birth to my interest in making toys. I have always been crazy about toys—although it was largely in secret from my friends and family because I felt it was kind of weird to be an adult and still love plush toys so much. Then, I had a friend who offered me the opportunity to participate in tandem with her in a neighborhood art crawl so I thought I would finally give it a try and make some patterns for some plushies. And they sold really well, and it all evolved from there. So, all said, I guess I have making toys for about 3 years now.

S- It seems like you use a lot of recycled materials. Where do you get most of your supplies?

BB- I do use a lot of recycled materials. I have utterly fantastic thrift shops in my neighborhood in south Minneapolis and I buy almost all of my stuff from one in particular—Savers. Although, I do have friends who offload their old sweaters and crafting miscellany to me knowing I will find a use. But I buy loads of wool and cashmere sweaters at my local thrift store, and unused fabric that they always seem to have in unreasonably large pieces (especially fleece), wool tweed suit coats, and then anything extra I might be looking for to make a particular piece. And I find a way to use most of the items I thrift—for instance, with a cashmere sweater, I will save the cuffs and make little scarves and cardigans and hats for my smaller plush, then I make little cashmere hats for babies from the bottom portions of the sweater with the ribbing, and will make larger plush from the body and arms of the sweater—and scraps that are smaller are made into smaller plush like my Beddy Bye Beasts, or if they are too small to use, I toss them in a sack and use some of these in combo with fiberfill to stuff my plush. So it is really like the native American philosophy of using the whole animal and wasting as little as possible.

S- You have been making those adorably small bitty bebe's a lot more. Is a lot different making items that small? Why did you choose to go so small?

BB- I chose to go small because I personally love bitty things and think when things are smaller, they are somehow more adorable. And I had this image in my mind of a little hand sized doll I had when I was 6 years old and her little clothes and how easy it was to carry her around in my little purse and always have her with me— I always found having to my toys with me to be comforting. So I wanted to create something that could create that experience for other kids.

Certainly, working smaller has its challenges. It required a whole new set of tools to be able to turn out all those little corners smoothly and firmly stuff the doll. And I also had to trace my patterns onto the fabric (rather than pin them on as I usually would) because such little pieces require much more accuracy in shape or you end up with blobby, instead of bitty, baby parts.

S- Where do you get inspiration?

BB- My son inspires me. All the time. I started with making plush animals of every variety because my son is MAD about animals of all varieties and creed. I love to observe his creative play because it always inspires me. It just so funny how he will have a Batman action figure interacting with a rubber alligator (hugging it, for instance), inside of a vintage Little People hospital or something. I also get a lot of inspiration from nature--my woodland Baby Beasts were actually inspired by the real animals you can find here in the forests of Minnesota.

And of course, other plush makers inspire me. It is an ever evolving list of who I find inspirational, but Jess Brown, Eveluche, November Moon, Fern Animals, Flying Star Toys, and Clive + Sunshine are who I am in love with right now. And I always love Lizette Greco—everything she makes and how she makes it is phenomenal.

On a non-plush related note, I also find this sight about thrifting and living greener to be both hilarious and inspirational: Secondhand Nation.

S- If you told a stranger what you make, how would you describe your work?

BB- Handmade dolls and plush made from other people’s unwanted stuff. That’s it, in a nutshell.

S- When are you the most productive?

BB- Anytime I can find a quiet hour or two in my workshop—usually during my son’s naptime, or at night, with a cup of green team beside me, maybe a little piece of dark chocolate. I also go into productive overdrive about a month before I am in any sort of art fair—I tend to procrastinate and find the pressure of impending deadlines to be, well, hastening to the need to SEW NOW.

And I do a lot of hand sewing and embroidery work on airplanes while I am held captive by the airlines for my day job—although I do find that the motion of a needle is unnerving to fellow passengers—and I do get various sewing implements confiscated by security from time to time (seam rippers, bigger needles, etc).

S- What do you like most about working in this medium?

BB- I love working with reclaimed materials most—it aligns with my values around using what you have in the interest of using fewer resources from the earth. We are a total throw away culture so there is loads out there to work with. And it is always a surprise what can be found at the thrift store and this in and of itself brings me inspiration—I mean, a shaggy white faux fur vest? How could I not find inspiration in that (it became a Woodland Baby Beast bird, by the way)?

But I love making plush because I like to think they can offer comfort, innocence, happiness, and creativity to the world. As sappy as it is, I like to believe the caring I have in making my plush, are somehow felt on the other end with the kids who receive them.

S- Where do you live and how long have you lived there for?

BB- I live in Minneapolis and have lived here for almost 10 years now. We own a great old house that was built in1920, that is in the midst of a diverse neighborhood. Minneapolis is a truly cool city—it has a great music scene, has a deep dedication to the arts, and there are loads of parks to get out and enjoy the seasons in. There are so many art fairs that take place here, and so many galleries to peruse, and also, great ethnic restaurants. Although we do talk about moving away to the “big woods”, I am not sure we are honestly prepared to leave the opportunities of the city behind.

S- What are you most excited for in this year?

BB- Being in the Plush You show—really, I am! And I am excited about working on several new plush designs—I have a whole 5 page list of ideas just waiting to be designed and sewn up. I want to make some plush based off some of my childhood drawings I recently blogged about, and I have at least 2 new dolls designs, and I want to make a snake that can swallow some things because my son is crazy about snakes, and I have some all new animal designs I am working out…

S- Any news you would like to share with us?

BB- News? Well, I have a blog I just started a couple of months ago and am still working out the flavor—it is evolving. It is called Chez Beeper Bébé. It really covers my life as a plush artist, my home life (lots of cooking and recipes), and some of the more fantastic parts of my boring corporate day job (mostly the travel part).

I am anticipating being in the No Coast Craft O’Rama again this December, so am already preparing for that. I love the vendors at the sale and I love the shoppers—and the location is just a few blocks from my home. And the girls who run the sale rock. One of my best friends joined me last year to help out in my booth, and we just chatted and drank coffee and ate coconut popsicles from the Latino grocery in the marketplace where the sale is held, and watched the ocean of holiday shoppers. I am hoping she will join me again this year because it was a blast. Popsicles and plush with a friend—does it get any better?

Don't forget, leave a comment here for your chance to win your choice of one of these!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Love and a Sandwich Interview and Giveaway!

I have never met Chelsea but I sure would love to. Chelsea sent me the sweetest email along with her answers that put a smile on my face. I forget that some folks have been reading this little blog of mine for awhile and it's nice to know that it has inspired folks. I started seeing all of Chelsea's creations on our flickr pool and each time she updated a photo I thought, man I wish I felt ok about talking about her again! It is my great pleasure to have her up for an interview. Please leave a comment for your chance to win your own monster made by Chelsea herself along with your favorite color and contact info.

S- What was the first plushie you created? How did it go?

LAAS- I think my first ever plush was in my home economics class in middle school. I chose this super difficult cocker spaniel plush to make. The pieces were all there and all I had to do was sew them together, but I got bored of it real real fast. My mom finished it for me so I guess that doesn't count, haha. After that I tried it when I was 18, and I made this panda pillow out of an old tshirt and some night sky fabric from an old crafty christmas present. Oh boy was that horrible. It took me a good 10-12 hours to finish it, and it was lopsided and more bordering the lines of scary than cute. I gave it to my little sister.

S- How long have you been sewing and how did you learn?

LAAS- A little less than a year, actually, haha. I picked it up last summer while I was working at a craft store. One of my favorite artists, Brandi Milne, had started making these creepy cute dolls and I thought they were awesome & wanted to try it myself. I didn't know how to sew at all, I knew the basics of a straight stitch just from stitching random things to my clothes or to my backpack. So I took out some embroidery and doll making books from the library and taught myself! It took a lot of trial and error, and I learned a lot from plush specific books. I've made one (or more) almost every day for the past year. I still haven't mastered the art, but everyday I get faster & learn more. It's like anything else... the more you do it, the better you become.

S- How is your alphabet project coming along? What made you do that?

LAAS- I finished it! A little less than a week ago. I put them all together in a nice little digital collage to show them all together. I started it because I wanted to have some sort of plush-specific goal to work on. Something that would take awhile but I'd have a lot to show for it. Plus I've just always loved projects revolving around the alphabet, because I'm always thinking things like "oh man, what are they gonna do for X!? or Q! Those are toughies!" Things like that are exciting to me.

S- How do you promote your work? What do you think has helped you the most?

LAAS- I try to be active on as many sites as I can find. I'm a part of myspace, craftster, getcrafty, indiepublic, livejournal, deviantart, flickr, conceptart, etsy and probably some others I can't think of. I contribute, enter contests, update often. I figure the more places I'm on, the more chances of getting noticed I have. Probably what has helped me the most was updating so often, and keeping my work fresh in peoples minds. I was always working on new things and updating, and I think that always helps a lot.

S- Have you made more mini plush earrings? Those were super cute!

LAAS- Haha thank you! I havent made too many recent ones, but I remake the popular old ones because they sell really well. I've remade the yeti ones a little less than 20 times. I do want to come up with new designs, and this reminded me! I probably will real soon. I didn't realize how popular wearing little fuzzy guys on your ears would be. I've made about 15(?) earring monster designs, plenty of room for more.

S- What is your most popular character? What is your favorite character?

LAAS- My most popular is probably my first big monster, Weeko. I've remade him about five times, two were special orders. They were my most expensive monster by a longshot, and every time I listed one they were gone so fast! One of the special orders I did was a 2 foot tall Weeko! And he had a 3 foot antlerspan. It was excitingly huge & the biggest plush I've made (so far).
Oh man, I couldn't choose my favorite plush, that's like asking a mom to choose their favorite kid! But if I had to choose I'd probably choose one of my 90s rappers bears I made for the Crammed Organisms shows. I worked on them so hard. Fresh Prince of Bear-air probably was the best, because the name just worked so perfectly & he had the best accessories. A huge flat top, shutter shades, neon striped hoodie and an attitude problem.

S- Where can folks find your work?

LAAS- on my shop! http://loveandasandwich.etsy.com or my blog http://threeeasysteps.livejournal.com

or on a lot of sites, but I update & post the most work on
http://loveandasandwich.deviantart.com &

S- Name the top five albums played during your plush making.

LAAS- Chromeo= Fancy Footwork
Daft Punk= Alive 2007
The Essential Michael Jackson
Run DMC Greatest Hits
Any album by The Knife

I also listen to a looot of audiobooks. Roald Dahl books are the most fun to listen to. Especially when read by a very old british man.

S- What is your favorite part of making plush?

LAAS- It used to be writing their mini life stories & giving them names. But I recently moved from a plain flat city in Illinois to a green mountainous small town in New Hampshire, and now my favorite part is filling up a backpack of my monsters and taking them around to rivers and up mountains to take pictures of them in their "natural habitat". Or just thinking up cute scenes for pictures in general. I really want to make a monster photo book.

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

LAAS- I have a website in the making! loveandasandwich.com Right now all it is is an enter page, but it's a damn good one! It's fairly close to done, it might even be done by the time this interview is posted! But probably not.

Thanks again for wanting to interview me!