Monday, July 12, 2010

Meet the Maker Monday: Raggy Rat


Toymaker extraordinaire Catherine L Owen (The Raggy Rat), doesn’t just stitch front to back. She designs and sews jointed, poseable plush. See all her gorgeous vermin at http://www.etsy.com/shop/raggyrat and get the dirt on the real Catherine L Owen in this interview by Sarah Raymond of Wooldebeast.

Tell us about your process of making plush items.
I love to be busy. Often I start with a combination of fabrics and create a pattern by sketching, cutting, sticking bits of paper back on, and filling up my waste paper bin! I love also adding embellishments and finishing with lovely bright eyes to bring my creation alive ... unless it's a bus or a ray-gun!


Where did you learn your skills?
When I was 6, I made a mouse from a few gleaned scraps from school. My mother found me a book in a jumble sale, full of ideas. I set out to teach myself. I also went away to art college and got a degree, and love to work in mixed media especially. For part of my applied arts degree, I did machine embroidery—a good way to make the change from hand sewing, and an introduction to an appliance I rarely put away nowadays!

Describe your workspace.
I have a very young family, and I work out of my dining room, often along side my young girls doing their paint, play-doh—or even these days, some hand sewing. I make lots of mess and then have to sweep it all aside for dinner, although I do have side tables for longer projects such as a large plush, a costume or a puppet that may lurk in pieces. I have fabric in the bedrooms where I can fit it in! On a nice day, I sit in the garden and sew.

Discuss your inspirations—plushy, artistic, musical, personal ….
About 3 years ago, I fell in love with Flikr, and started collecting favourite images. I learned a lot about what can be done in the art of plush. I love reading blogs such as Penguin and Fish, Softies Central, and The Needle where the content is exciting and varied. I have been a member of The Plush Team for 18 months, where I find juicy challenges. They help me try things I wouldn’t think of if left to my own devices.

I love to sing in a community choir and even perform solos. My musical tastes are eclectic, but must usually be played nice and loud.


How do you promote your work?
I love to keep my blog lively and interesting, and to read comments people leave. Visit www.raggyrat.blogspot.com
The Raggy Rat also has a facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/The-Raggy-Rat/352336335045
and a twitter account: http://twitter.com/raggyrat
I also list work on Teddy Talk and sometimes chat there.

How do you fit plush-making into the rest of your life?
Three of my four daughters are at home with me daily, but we all get on with our things. I believe it does them good to see me at work, and lends a relaxed atmosphere. Sometimes I wield glue guns when they are tucked up in bed, but I don’t do much in the evenings. I pick up and put down sewing projects all day, in between other 'chores'.


Describe your dreams for new designs or projects.
I still need to make the ultimate jointed, well-proportioned rat. I also keep having to make pigs ... things just pop into my head and ask me to make them ....and maybe a fox? Oh yes - someone asked me to have a go at molly the owl.

What advice can you give makers who dabble in plushiness?
Don’t be afraid to stab your fingers - quite a lot; nor to throw things half done in the bin and not feel guilty. The more you do, the more you learn. And never run out of stuffing. You might cry!

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