Saturday, February 16, 2008

Featured artist: Beetlegirl Design

Tell us a little about yourself; what you do for fun?

I am Becky of Beetlegirl Design. I presently reside in the lovely city of Santa Cruz (where the sea otters and banana slugs roam), along the central coast of California, with my husband and Holland Lop rabbit, Pesto. I have only been here for a year and a half, but it continues to feel a bit surreal to walk ten minutes from our wee apartment down to the ocean. For the decade preceding my current California adventure, I lived a few years in Eugene, Oregon, and another few in Portland, Oregon.

Although I was born and raised in California, my heart really belongs to the Pacific Northwest.
For fun I like to take very slow walks to the library, taking pictures all the way, and spend an hour looking for no book in particular. I also love to daydream (to the extent that I nearly miss my bus stop each morning). Most of all, I love to pursue my dream of being a jack-of-all-trades in the art world with no particular training at all.

How long have you been making plush toys?

I have always loved stuffed animals. I was one of those kids where you couldn't see the bed for all the fuzzy beasties piled on top of my blankets. I still have my favorites with me, and most of the others are still safely boxed away in my parents' attic. The very first plush toy I made was a green brontosaurus out of a pre-printed cotton panel. I sewed it when I was ten years old on the WWII singer my mom bought me for $20 at a garage sale.

Although I have been making plush toys throughout my life, it is only in the past year that I have been exploring my own pattern making. It has been a pokey process with a severe learning curve, but that is mostly due to my own desire to venture down the most complicated route first.

What do they mean, represent to you?

I used to believe that I wanted to be a writer, but I never really enjoyed the writing process. I did not want to create a narrative thread; I simply wanted to produce a central image. I loved to orchestrate these surreal moments in the midst of a story where the reader would, I hoped, experience a specific emotion or sensation. I thought of these as moments of wonder.

I am still creating these moments of wonder, but rather than being described in words, they are contained in a tangible form. The snail, for me, is one such object of wonder. One summer my brother and I found baby snails in my dad's tomato garden. We would let them slide over our hands and kept them in fruit jars filled with leaves. I never looked at a snail the same way again, and I found myself rescuing snails on occasion, and having a tremendous feeling of sorrow when I saw one crushed on the pavement. For me, the snail represents the pace of life that it is necessary to move at in order to experience moments of wonder, and to maintain the open wonder of a child to see beauty in the most unexpected places and forms.

Your favorite materials, tools?

To begin with, nostalgia and memory. At the moment though, I have a particular fondness for pure wool felts and thrifted high quality suiting wool. I have quite the collection of pin-striped suits that desperately need to be made into beasties. I love working with natural fibers, and wool is quite forgiving and durable for the combination of machine and hand sewing I do. It is also important to me that I am able to use locally produced and recycled materials in my creations.

My most favorite tools are my collection of scissors and the hemostat for stuffing and turning teeny pieces. I also love doll and curved quilting needles.

What inspires you?

Besides what I have already mentioned about wonder, I am inspired by naturally occurring shapes and color combinations. On a foundational level, I am inspired by my family, who are each artistically inclined. I tend to challenge myself with complicated visions of what I would like to create, and I always have someone to call on in my family if I need advice. I am also inspired by the spirit in which Jim Henson lived his life, and in turn, the illustrations of Brian Froud (who did conceptual design for both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth), and the eclectic worlds of Tim Burton. My workspace also inspires me on a daily basis. Despite the small size of our apartment, I have found a little crafting nook to call my own, where I have surrounded myself with small objects and clippings I have collected.

What has etsy meant to you and your creations?

What I did not mention above is that I am also continually inspired by the crafting/artisan blogging community that initially led me to Etsy. Etsy, for me, is a further extension of this very same community. It is a marketplace in cyberform where the community gathers.

What inspires you to make handmade goods?

I have always created objects with my own hands, and so I have always understood the value of handmade. What inspires me to share my handmade creations with those other than friends and family is that I believe I am not alone in understanding the integral value of handmade. With a handmade object comes a piece of the identity of the maker. Through my designs, I hope to inspire others and extend some wonder into their lives.

What's next for you?

New patterns and beasties of course! I love to participate in Plush Team challenges because it encourages me to make something I wouldn't ordinarily have produced, like my spider. I hope to create at least two new patterns and creatures in 2008. I am presently working on a pattern for a fully-jointed lop rabbit (inspired by my very own fuzzy beastie).

I, too, am a part of the craft blogging community. You can find me here:


moogan said...

great article!
love the studios pictures

ChristinaWard said...

Wow. Great article.

Strikethru said...

Your studio looks lovely. I went to college in Santa Cruz and oh boy, do I miss it there.

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