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!