Thank you for joining us today on Kels Shark, Laura! Can you tell us about yourself and your business?
Hi Kelsea! Thank you very much for this feature and your time. :) I'm a part-time small-business owner/full-time office worker who dreams of working only for myself someday. I love animals, toys, dolls, and fantasy lands. My small business is a collection of many talents and hobbies of mine: designing and drawing, sewing and writing tutorials, and helping build the plushie revolution. I was always somewhat creative, but wasn't really sure what I wanted to be when I grew up.
In college, I helped make ends meet by selling various crafts and plushies. After graduating with a degree in Japanese, I finally figured out that I wanted to run my own plush-based business. I announced my plans to my family and found out that I come from a line of business owners. Though I wish I had a business degree or attended a school for toy design, I don't let it hold me back. I continuously push myself and my abilities by learning and trying new things. Despite this, I never feel satisfied with my work, which seems to be part of being an artist.
Since a young age, I've been enraptured by stuffed animals. I used to spend my entire allowance on beanie babies, digging through entire bins of them for the highest quality ones. In high school, I learned about custom plushies and Japanese UFO Catchers from DeviantArt. I admired these photos every day, but didn't believe that I had the skill to make my own. At first, I bought and collected as many as I could, but I wasn't satisfied with just owning them. I wanted the ability to make anything I wanted that looked better than "official" mass-produced plush.
In a Pokemon-collecting community, I noticed there were tons of characters without official plush representation. I wanted to fill this need for the fandom. I started making simple plush Pokemon from fleece based on basic geometric shapes. I combined spheres, cylinders, and flat shapes to form the entire creature. With a lot of practice doing this over the years, my skills grew and I kept pushing my techniques.
Once I decided that this was pretty much the only thing I want to do for the rest of my life, I pursued learning how to sew from books and classes and invested in higher-end equipment and supplies. This really helped boost my knowledge; I wish I had learned from books and classes earlier.
For someone (like myself) who doesn't know much about sewing but wants to try plush-making, what advice do you have for getting started?
First off, congrats for considering it! It's an amazing and rewarding creative outlet and worth the plunge. You need to believe in yourself and don't fear failure; failure isn't messing up, because making mistakes is part of the learning process. Failure is being too scared to try.
I recommend starting with an easy pattern with detailed instructions. It's best to learn from others' experience. It's fine to hand-sew if you don't have a machine. Some of my favorite projects and most intricate plush have been entirely hand-sewn. There are so many resources available so you don't have to feel lost and alone in your pursuits.
I actually created a free lesson set for plushie sewers; it's great for beginners and there's helpful info for people at all sewing levels. You can find it on my site here.
In my Etsy shop patterns, I teach various super-helpful techniques in detail. I have step-by-step photos and written descriptions.
Other options include doll-sewing books at the bookstore or library, cute easy patterns on Etsy, or sewing tutorials on YouTube. You can also go to your local thrift store and buy some stuffed animals, then carefully seam-rip them apart to see how plush construction works.
I tend to make only as many plushies as necessary to perfect a pattern. Once I've finished the final version, I move on to new patterns. I recently unearthed a whole pile of plushies (bunnies, bears and fox) in a storage container in my closet, so I'll be listing these guys shortly in my handmade plush shop.
I keep a just a few of the final plushies made for patterns, in case I want to sell my patterns at a craft show someday. I don't have much space in my apartment, so I have to be really stingy about what I keep. Then there's the question of what to do with plush I made that aren't good enough (in my eyes) to sell. I either host giveaways, donate, or scrap them for materials. These poor little owls were scrapped.
Do you have a particular theme or animal you tend to collect?
Oh~ :D I love unicorns, white lions, alpacas, and white deer. If I had more space, I'd just fill it up with more plush, haha! I really love anything fluffy with a cute face: pink and white girly goodness. Japanese design really inspires me, so I like a lot of plush and dolls made in kawaii or mori styles.
Who are your favorite plushies in your personal collection and do you have stories to share about them?
I have so many sentimental plushies... it's really hard to choose! My most cherished plush are ones given to me by friends and loved ones. I adore the Plush Kitten Bouquet my boyfriend bought me for Valentine's Day this year.
My good friend KC made me a little amigurumi white lion as a gift - she used this cool technique where she brushed the fur in areas to give it a fuzzy appearance. She's very talented, making her own crochet patterns for amigurumi, scarves and other accessories. I keep trying to get her to open her own Etsy shop.
The first teddy I made was a little kitten from a JennyLovesBenny pattern and kit. It was so well-packaged and the mohair was wonderful to work with. It was also the first plush I made from someone else's pattern. I was thrilled to bring someone else's creation to life. This is one of the reasons why I decided to start selling my patterns: they make people happy.
Who are your favorite plush artists?
I have so much inspiration! I suppose the artists that inspire me most are my friends and peers. We're all in this together. Hatsuko | WhittyKitty | Usakochan | Haunted Needle | Magnastorm | Caffwin | Nazegoreng | SugarStitch
I don't talk much with all of them, but their work inspires me daily. This is just a short list. :)
Are there any plushies you can't wait to make, whether they're for your personal collection or to sell as a pattern for your shop?
All the time! I have a binder full of over 100 sketches that I want to turn into patterns or custom plush someday. Each one is begging to be made "real". I feel especially pulled to make a cuddly baby panda, fluffy flat dress-up alpaca and kitten dolls, big cuddly circus animals, and mini teddy woodland animals. I have a problem where the grass is always greener on the other side; whatever I'm not working on looks more appealing than what I actually am working on, haha.
For my personal collection, I'd like to make my own mascot sometime: little pudgy white lion in a plushie teacup! Full of gorgeous embroidered details and a squishy little beanie body. I'd also like to make a pose-able, graceful, standing unicorn. I'm itching to make labor-intensive, detailed plush with intricate patterns and machine embroidery.
Thank you for taking the time to share your stories and plush collection with us, Laura!
Thank you very much for interviewing me, Kelsea. It was a real treat! :)
Check out Laura's incredible work and free sewing resources:
All images used in this post belong to Laura of Teacup Lion.
This is the first of the Indie Interviews series - stay tuned for more! You can always see all Indie Interviews posts in the new page I made for it here!