Friday, April 18, 2008

Featured Artist: dkoss2

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Diane Koss and I currently live in Westmont, NJ, which is a very short train ride outside of Philadelphia, PA. I am 25 years old and am currently a student in the continuing education department of The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I will (hopefully) be completing the Print and Web Design Certificate Programs there by the end of this summer. I also have a BFA from The College of New Jersey in Photogtaphy, Video, Performance, and Installation. I have grown into an artist with two very different sides to my art, one very serious, personal, and inquisitive and one very whimsical, fun, and playful!

When I am not in class I am a full time plushie designer and artist and researching graduate schools in the arts for the near future. I live with my kitten "Baby Wonderful" AKA Panther who follows me everywhere around my apartment and has successfully learned how to turn doorknobs. She loves soft fabrics like I do and it's always a struggle to keep her away from them, as it would be for me.

How did you get started making plush creatures?
I began making plush creatures a little over a year ago when I was working as the manager of a small café in New Hope, PA. I started out making small felt ornaments around the holidays that I sold at the café to local customers and tourists. People really seemed to enjoy my creations as they were always asking if I made bigger stuffed animals. I began to make some larger more detailed stuffed animals and soft sculptures and soon had the idea of using recycled, repurposed clothing to make fun, playful monsters. I had a closet full of clothing I never wore but was keeping for the "right" project and this seemed to be it! Then I learned about Etsy and began selling my monsters there with great response!

How do you feel your work represents you as an artist?
I think that both my soft sculptures and my plush toys represent the playful, innocent, childlike part of my personality. I have always had a heightened sense of touch and a fascination with textiles and fabrics. I am extremely hands-on as an artist and feel that it is very important to me that everything is hand-stitched rather than machined, in that way it is much more like building and sculpting than anything else. My life has always, always been filled with stuffed animals and plush toys of all kinds and it only made sense that I start making my own so that others can enjoy my love for plush as well.

Can you describe your process?
I have never been much of a planner when it comes to my artwork. I rarely do sketches before I begin and prefer to dive right in and start working, especially with the monsters. Generally I choose a fabric that calls to me and I start cutting the fabric. Sometime I have an image in my head of what I would like to create and sometimes I don't and I just follow wherever my hands take me. I sometimes will do sketches for the more detailed soft sculptures as they are much more time consuming and need a bit more planning. As I mentioned before, everything is hand-stitched and I never use a machine. Once I begin sewing, I build my creation from the ground up just as one would with any other sculpture. I generally start with the basic shape and structure and then move on to the more detailed parts of the piece as time goes on.

I am a sucker for faux furs and felt. There's something so simple and basic about felt that I am determined to push it and see how detailed I can get with it. Like with the "$.25 Dream Machine" life-size plush gumball machine. And how can I resist faux furs? Besides the huge mess they make when I cut the fabric and the looks that I get when I'm waiting in line at the fabric store, I think faux fur is essential especially for monster making. The crazier the pattern and the longer the fur the better, I say. It's just so warm, and comforting and inviting.

Do you have a favorite tool?
My favorite tool is my right hand and my needle! I have tried investing in thimbles but generally just suck it up and deal with the pain. I try not to sew when I am too tired as I find I poke myself less when I'm more awake.

What else inspires you?
I find myself inspired by other plushie makers and artists in general, as well as, people in my everyday life. I tend to use aspects of various personalities I encounter in my daily life to create the personalities of my monsters. In that way, I feel that my monsters become something that many people can relate to on varying levels.

There's nothing more inspiring than beautifully, creative, well made plushies that I discover online, on Etsy, or outside in the real world. And I will take any chance I get to head to a designer toy store or read a designer toy book.
I absolutely love gallery and museum hopping and good in depth discussions about art with fellow artists. I am constantly researching new art and artists and always looking for inspiration and trying to learn new things.

What has joining Etsy meant to you?
Joining Etsy has been the best thing to happen to me so far. It has not only provided me with an outlet for my creativity but it has inspired me with the confidence I needed to show my work elsewhere. Etsy has not only taught me what it means to run a small company from start to finish but it has also provided me with various custom order and gallery show opportunities. Most importantly, Etsy has introduced me to an endless, inspirational network of support through my fellow Etsians. Etsy buyers and sellers are extremely helpful and supportive of one another and Etsy wouldn't exist as it does today without this wonderful support we all have for one another.

What has the Etsy Plush Street Team meant to you?
Being a part of the Plush Team has been all that Etsy has been and more. It is so wonderful to be a part of a group of like-minded individuals working towards a similar goal. The goal of the Plush Team is to promote the group and each other's work rather than just our own which is something that doesn't always happen outside in the real business world. Even though some of us live very far from one another, we are able to come together online to form a tight-knit support group. I can only hope that some day the Plush Team has a reason to all be in the same place at the same time so I can meet everyone face to face!

What's next for you?
As I mentioned before I am currently finishing up a print and web design certificate program and looking into graduate schools where I can possibly further my knowledge of toy design or pursue my passion for photography and fine art. In the meantime, I have had my work in a few galleries in the Philadelphia area and hope to continue to do so. I think no matter what I do, I will always be making plush toys, it's in my blood!

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