Polka & Bloom on Etsy

June 2, 2011

Getting to know you - Jennifer Rydell of Plushpussycat

Aloha! Time for another crafter interview. And time for some serious cuteness with cute on top! Jennifer of Plushpussycat makes the most adorable plush and then she uses them in little scenes for extra cuteness. I'm sure you're going to go "awww!" or "squeee!" at least once when you see some of Jennifer's critters. :-)

Thank you, Jennifer!

Your name
Jennifer Rydell of Plushpussycat :: blog :: shop ::

Where in the world are you?
I live in beautiful and funky Portland, Oregon in the USA.

Self-Portrait of Jennifer Rydell
Briefly describe yourself and what you make
I’m a sensitive person who appreciates nature, quiet and peaceful surroundings, both wild and companion animals, and loving friends and family. I enjoy walking in nature and a good cup of herbal tea shared with a friend. I’m married to a loving husband.

I hand sew plushy critters from super-soft vintage and other repurposed fabrics. I feature these critter characters in miniature story vignettes that I design, photograph, and post on my blog. I have also created a line of greeting cards using those same mini plushy scenes.

Actually, I started out with an infatuation for critter plushies, and that, combined with a renewed interest in miniatures from my childhood, ended up morphing into whole new areas of creativity. These include designing mini scenes made from recycled materials and found objects, photographing these scenes, telling the plushy critters’ stories, and now taking single frames (a photo and a line) from these stories and turning them into greeting cards. Who knows what it will lead to next?!

Who or what inspires you?
The inspiration for my plushies and vignettes, and everything that I do, really, comes foremost from an appreciation of nature, including animals, and a desire to leave a small and gentle footprint on the planet.

I've always loved vintage fabrics, so many of my stuffies are made from them. I am sensitive to scratchy fibers, so I only employ the softest repurposed wools, cashmere, and other fabrics in making my critters.

It’s not just the fibers that inspire me now, though. I love vintage toys and miniatures as well. Sometimes one piece will inspire a whole plushy multi-scene story with characters!

When/how did you learn?
I learned how to sew when I was young from my mother and grandmother. Those skills were always there, but I mostly used them for “practical” projects until I discovered plushies. That’s when I became smitten and jumped in head first! I found out fairly quickly that I most enjoyed hand sewing plushy critters using felted soft wool and cashmere. I’ve had to renew some skills since childhood, in sewing, as I mentioned, and also in
embroidery and photography. It has been really fun.

Why is making things by hand worth the “effort”?
I notice that when I buy some mass-produced plushy, or anything else for that matter, I don’t have as much invested in the object as when I buy something directly from the artist. In a few months’ time, I’m usually bored with the former and can easily sell or donate it. On the other hand, when I’ve purchased something from the individual artist, as long as the experience has been a positive one in terms of customer service, I feel a certain “loyalty” and connection to the creator and feel a much deeper joy when I see the plushy or other item. It would be difficult for me to let that item go. This makes me think that if more of us made and purchased handmade items, there would be fewer and smaller landfills.

What is your craft philosophy?
I’m not sure I really have a craft philosophy! I enjoy doing what I do for the reasons I’ve mentioned, but I also appreciate the work of others and their contributions. I’m not stuck on any one “right” way to be or to do crafts. Maybe I’m too much in an “explorer” stage to have a craft philosophy! OK, I have it now. My philosophy is: “Have fun!”

Can you reveal a little about your creative process?
Often one piece from a thrift store will inspire a whole sequence of scenes for me. I’ll know which characters I want to use to tell the story, and I’ll picture the scenes I want to photograph. Often I start there, begin shooting photos, and then develop the story further, perhaps with more photos, and finally with specific lines of dialogue. Sometimes I put the edited photos in front of me on the screen in Blogger and then write the story, including dialogue, around the photos.

Do you have a designated craft space? What does it mean to you?
Yes, I have a small bedroom in our home that is my designated craft space. It used to be my office, but my husband suggested that we combine offices (his and mine) so that I could have my own craft room. This allows my creativity to run wild. I can let the room get messy when I’m in the middle of something, which is great. I also don’t have to work around a computer or other non-craft-related objects. Trouble is, my creative space has expanded! My craft room is too small for my photo lightbox, so that is in my family room,
along with the vintage heirloom dollhouse that I’m in the middle of refurbishing. I hope my husband doesn’t think that he has created a monster! :-)

What impact (if any) has the internet had on your craft?
The internet has had a huge impact on my work. A friend suggested that I get a camera and start blogging. If I hadn’t done that, I’m not sure my interests would have morphed the way they have. Communicating with and being supported by other bloggers means so much to me. I learn, I’m inspired by others’ work, and I even make friends, all because of the internet, and blogging in particular.

Why is crafting good for you?
Crafting IS really good for me. It puts me in “the flow,” in the mindfulness of being in the present moment. The creative process is like a meditation when I get in that flow. Hours pass without me being aware of it. I am relaxed during and after working on my craft. It is healing.

I also think there is a human need to create and express ourselves. That creation can take many forms, from being a mother to designing and preparing gourmet meals to writing a novel. Crafting also fulfills that need. I spent a number of years in denial of that need, and it started to get really uncomfortable. I finally realized that I was missing this creative outlet, and now that I’m able to express myself, I’m a much happier and more fulfilled person. And that energy rubs off on others, which is a great “side benefit”!

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