Monday, August 30, 2010

Meet the Maker Monday: Plush Goodness

Leeanna Butcher, a Canadian living in Northern California, stitches creatures that look like they leaped out of the pages of children’s picture books. Meet the maker behind the lovable characters here. Stop by her shop, too! www.plushgoodness.etsy.com


How do you make plush?
All my plush start with sketches, as many as it takes to get the design the way that I want it. Usually I draw until I start giggling to myself. Then I know that sketch is the right one. I make the pattern, choose fabrics, and head to the sewing machine.

Where did you learn your fancy skills?
I received my BFA degree in Character Animation from CalArts, so that's where the drawing comes from, but the sewing is a different story. I had one sewing class in Junior High, which I HATED. Sewing clothes and following a traditional pattern still makes me want to climb the walls. Many years later, I was doing an illustration when saw a pile of leftover felt. I wanted to do something creatively different than painting. I grabbed my emergency sewing kit, cut out the pieces of my creature, and hand-stitched him together. It was total love at first sew. I knew as soon as he was finished that this was something that I wanted to do every day for the rest of my life. Definitely one of your ah-ha moments!

I hand-stitched my first 15-20 creatures, but the tendinitis got so bad that I had to buy a sewing machine. I worked out patterns based on sketches and have learned to sew plush designs by trial and error. I'm constantly learning from my mistakes. I still have a hard time following other people's patterns, which is sad, really.


What’s your work area like?
I turned a spare bedroom into my studio. This past fall I was lucky enough to get my mother-in-law's old sewing table, so now I have better organized space. It's filled with bins of fabric, buttons, bags of ribbon, and of course, my whole plush collection. It's really inspiring to look up and see work from so many of the artists that I admire. Helps to keep me on my toes!


What inspires your plush designs?
I am definitely a kid of the 70s and 80s. All those Hanna-Barbara, Saturday morning and after school cartoons were a big influence. Not to mention Nintendo. Reading gets me to think differently too. We have a house full of art books—great for a good dose of inspiration.

There are so many makers that I admire. I’ll only name a few: Dolls for Friends, Scrumptious Delight, Herzensart, Greenstarstudio, Astulabee, Ninon, Junker Jane, Kup Kup Land, Siansburys, Cutesy but Not Cutesy, and the list goes on. I am constantly inspired to by the talent and drive of my peers on the Plush Team, as well as the amazing art I see on flickr and blogs.

How do you promote your work?
I have a blog which I try to update at least once a week: www.leeannasthread.blogspot.com
and I am on flickr as well: www.flickr.com/photos/designsbyl/

How do you fit plush-making into the rest of your life?
I’m lucky to be able to devote myself full-time to plush-making, which is fantastic. When I’m on a deadline, it can get a bit crazy in my house. The husband and dog have to fend for themselves, and they can feel a little neglected. I do have to remind myself to get groceries and do some cooking. It's too easy to get into a sewing groove and forget what time it is.

Any dreams for new designs or projects?
I just came up with a concept and sketches for new designs that I’d love to exhibit in a solo show. I also want to keep improving my sewing skills and getting my name out there to build my business.
I'd love to someday make my versions of the main characters from Alice in Wonderland.


What advice can you give makers who dabble in plush?
Have fun. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and most of all, be true to your own creative vision!

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