I met the lovely Danamarie at a Plush You show a few years back. She was one of the first people to come out for the show where I thought "Holy Crap, You came out all this way????" I was touched. She's coming again but now has more of an excuse as her brother now lives here and works right across the street from Schmancy. Let the games begin.
S- What have you been up to this summer? I know you have participated in some events, how did those go?
GS- I tried something really novel this summer... I went on a vacation! I never do that, so that as a big deal. Family reunion of sorts, in Pigeon Forge, TN. I knit in the car, on the way down but otherwise, I didn’t do any work for a whole week and it was great. I came back the day before my first summer show and just slid right back into action. I’ve added a lot of new stuff to my catalogue, so I was really excited to share everything with everyone. I love doing shows; getting to put names with faces and see who reads your blog and hear stories about reactions people have had to getting your work as gifts. It’s so much fun. Plus, art can be a lonely business if you spend all your time in the studio, so actually getting to hang out with kids & adults who love what you do do is a really wonderful gift. My whole business is centered around art being FOR people, public, accessible & affordable, so getting the chance to talk to people about my murals or to demonstrate how to knit or just to watch a couple of kids making up a Knitimal show right there in the booth, that’s just awesome.
S- What made you start knitting animals?
GS- you want to long story or the short one? well the first thing I ever knit (other than the scarf I taught myself on) was a gift for my then “just friend” (now my husband) when we were in college--- he’d always lamented that they didn’t make dolls of Hobbes (from Calvin & Hobbes) when Hobbes was the stuffed tiger, because he really wanted one. So, I taught myself to knit and died my own yarn to get the perfect shade of orange, and knit him the first piece of plush I’d ever made, as a “I don’t know how to tell you this, but maybe this plush realization of your boyhood dream might indicate it, yes, I love you” gift. And it worked.
The first Knitimal™ I ever made came not too long after that. It was almost 11 years ago, and I was in college and my roommates had gone home for fall break, and had a terrible flu. I was basically sequestered in my room with no one around, feeling awful and totally lonely. I had done this painting at the beginning of the school year, of this little flying cat character, just to be silly and it was hanging across from my bed, so I was basically staring at it 24 hours a day. So, maybe it was a fever dream or just some lucky stroke of coincidence but I remember thinking “I wonder if I could knit that”, and I just went for it. I knit for hours and just kept going until it was done and my fever broke and I had fell asleep with this weird, wonderful thing in my arms. That was over a decade ago and the plush boom hadn’t happened yet & it never occurred to me that a.) I’d ever make another one, b.) that anyone else would want one or c.) I’d even be interested in doing it again. But after the break I showed BeeCat to a good friend who flipped out over him and insisted that I start making them for profit. For the first few months he was my only customer... then word got out, and next thing I knew I was the go to person for interesting gifts and Knitimals were official. I was studying Children’s Illustration, so my goal had always been to make art for kids; it just didn’t occur to me at the time that that art would be fiber based. I think the Knitimals continued to appeal me and got the attention they got from others because they blurred the line between childhood & adulthood/ art & play; and that’s what I’d always wanted from my work.
S- What would you like to see for knitimls in the next year?
GS- You mean besides being the art doll of choice for all celebrity babies?:)
Well the Knitimals will keep being Knitimals... I don’t use any patterns and I never repeat a design; I’ve made over 600 of them in the last 11 years, and I’ve got no shortage of ideas! I use local materials, compost whatever wool I can’t knit with or felt & don’t use extra electricity ( I sew by hand), so the Knitimals already have a teensy weensy footprint, but I’ve also found some great new yarn options from some local farms, and will be doing more 100% organic Knitimals, as well as experimenting with some different fibers for people who have wool allergies— like cotton and bamboo! Last year the Knitimals welcomed a new cousin to the family: Recyclimals, which are Knitimals made out of donated knits, like sweaters and baby blankets. People can give me their kids’ grown out of sweaters and I’ll re-purpose them into friends. Those are extra eco-friendly, because they’re using existing materials & are sewn by hand (not a sewing machine). But they are wallet friendly too, so they’re making it easier to own handmade plush. And this year, making their west coast debut at Plush You, are the OoAKies, which are hand drawn & hand painted plush pieces. Each one is signed and numbered on the back. I designed a Kokeshi for a big show in LA in July, and working on that piece got me thinking about how I could bring that aesthetic off of something wooden and onto something soft.
S- What are you excited for this year for Plush You?
GS- I’m excited so show off my new work; I’ve been working on 3 very special pieces especially for this show. I’m really excited to meet some of the designers I haven’t gotten to meet in the past, and to reunite with others I have. I had such a great time the last time, and left feeling totally honored to be a part of such an incredibly talented group. aaaand, I am excited to shop... of course! You can’t have all that amazing plush around and leave empty handed. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with THIS year!