Saturday, May 01, 2010

Leeanna Butcher Interview

 Seeing Leeanna Butcher is always a treat.  It really is a testament to the awesomeness that is the internet because I might not know her otherwise.  She has participated in Plush You!, she has attended many of the shows here and in SF and is just an overall nice lady to talk to.  She is releasing her plush exclusive through Schmancy on May 5th HOWEVER I just want to give you a heads up that I will not be in Seattle.  So if you make a purchase, they will not go out until after May 10th.  Until then, read and enjoy.

S- What was the inspiration behind this exclusive?
LB- I used your suggestion of maybe doing something Cinco De Mayo themed as a springboard. I did a lot of research online and in books, looking at a lot of images. I knew that I wanted to do pieces that were Mexican in nature, but not stereotypically Mexican. I love looking at all the ancient Mayan, Toltec, etc carvings- there's something fascinating and beautiful about them that kept drawing me back. Going to Mexico as a kid and visiting some of the ancient ruined cities left a big impression on me- and started a lifelong love affair with Mexican food! :) I wanted to somehow incorporate some of those ancient symbols into plush pieces that were also fun and playful. When I remembered Mexican Jumping Beans, it all sort of fell into place, and my Ancient Mexican Jumping Beans were the result.  
S- Recently I have gotten several "fan letters" from an 11 year old.  It makes my day.  It makes me think of my favorite store when I was a kid in DC.  We went there a lot as a kid as I would have to go to the hospital a lot.  As a treat after a long few hospital days my parents would take us to The Red Balloon in Georgetown.  They just had a bunch of little tiny toys and I LOVED it!  Especially the jumping beans!  What were some of your favorite toys as a kid?  How do you think that influenced you as an adult making toys? 
LB- Wow- where to start? I could write a list as long as my arm, but I will try to narrow it down... I remember being hugely into Tinker Toys, Lego's, etch-a-sketch, Tonka trucks (growing up with boy cousins as my constant playmates- my sister and I got introduced to a lot of "boy" toys that we might not have, otherwise), Lite Brite, Barbies, Star Wars, Nintendo, Transformers... if it had a cartoon on Saturday mornings, I was into it. :D
I loved anything that you could use to create your own things/ideas with, and it goes without saying that I loved stuffed animals, too. I had a Woodstock plush that I loved to death- my parents had to take him away from me after he started hemorrhaging beans out of more holes than they could fix. I distinctly remember saying to my mom when I was little that when I grew up I "would have a room in my house that was just for stuffed animals"- and the fact that I am living up to that promise to myself by making my own plush and filling my studio with plush from fellow artists is sometimes still a little hard to believe.   
S- What is your favorite thing about making plush and being in the plush community?
LB- I get a huge creative rush when I see a sketch of mine transformed into something three-dimensional and huggable- it's an amazing feeling that I hadn't gotten from any of the more traditional art mediums that I was doing before I tried making my first plush.  Being part of an art community that is so welcoming and diverse is so much fun and constantly inspiring! There is so much amazing stuff being made around the world, and being able to see it online everyday is fantastic. I love seeing how many people are making art that is so wonderfully accessible to people of all ages. Plus, the artists are so nice- it's great when I get to meet fellow plush-makers and plush enthusiasts at shows and craft fairs- I think it must be impossible for artists who make plush to be grouchy or mean people. :)  
S- Since you seem to be a prominent member of the Etsy Plush Team, can you tell us more about it?  How one would join?  The benefits of being part of this amazing group?
LB- Well, I don't know about prominent- I'd say I'm just enthusiastic and involved. :D  Being a member of the Team is really wonderful- it's a group of artists from all over the world, with so many different styles, techniques, and points of view. That makes it a diverse group with all sorts of different experience to draw on- and they are always there to offer support or advice to help you grow as an artist as well as a business person. I've learned a lot, that's for sure.  As for how to join, here are the official guidelines:
"The Team considers new members at the beginning of each quarter (Jan 1, April 1, July 1, October 1); potential members should be plush makers who champion high quality original designs in their work.  They should sell on etsy, with more than 60% of their shop devoted to plush art.  Potential new members are reviewed by a committee of members and either approved or encouraged to further develop.  Plush Team members also commit to actively participating in Team activities and discussions. The Annual fee is $20."

The quarterly Challenges (like the current Mythology Challenge that we have going over on the PT blog) are totally fun, and really make you stretch as an artist. I know that for myself I don't want the rest of the Team thinking that I just "phoned it in" and made something less than my best- there are too many good artists on the Team to make me comfortable with that! It's that sort of creative boost that makes you want to continually get better as an artist. We also do a volunteer critique of member's etsy shops to help each other get the most out of them that we can. The Team gets involved in fundraising and charity work, and tries to have one Team showing at a Craft Fair every year- this May we will be at Maker Faire in San Mateo, and there will be ten of us from all over the country flying in to be there, which will be so fun! If you are in the area, come on by our booth and say hi. :D  
S- What plans do you have for the summer?
LB- Besides making more plush? ;) I am excited to be going back to Canada in July for a few weeks to celebrate my little sister's first baby being born! I'm doing a bunch of sewing for that, of course. It will be a fun break, but with no sewing machine up there, I will be very happy to get home after my visit and get started on the next batch of projects and commissions that I have lined up. I get sewing withdrawal when I'm on vacation, so I just have to draw all the ideas that pop into my head in my sketchbook, and jump right into making them when I get back. I also hope to get caught up on all my reading- I have a pile of books just waiting for me to have the time to open them up and dive in!


becky said...

I too am thankful for the internet that has allowed me to meet Leeanna and all the awesome members of the plushteam and other crafty people.
Great interview and awesome jumping beans!

Jewelry Making said...

I have a fun time looking at these. I remembered ginger bread - my favorite fun time stories.