Are you or your child (let's be honest, I mean you) seeking a new plushie bestie?
Look no further than the sweet plush from JanieXY, the plush toys that Matt Groening (creator of the Simpsons) once said "has soul."
Read on for some drops of inspiration and insight.
Where do you draw inspiration from or what inspires you when creating a new piece / item?
I can't really pinpoint one place that I draw inspiration from, but I guess if I had to boil it down to something, it would be things that make me laugh or bring me joy--and let's be clear, almost everything makes me laugh.
What (or who) has influenced or even empowered you to launch JanieXY?
My whole journey to making toys kind of feels like one of those moments where you're falling so slowly that you have time to cycle through lots of thoughts including, "oh no, I'm falling" to "why am I not doing anything to stop this?"
I was fresh out of dropping out of college after my freshman year realizing that I had no idea what I wanted to do but knew that I wasn't getting closer to that answer in Anthropology 101 and didn't want to keep spending money to find that out. All I knew was that I wanted to run a business--both my parents ran businesses at different times in my life (my dad owned a mother of the bride fashion line and my mom ran a Thai restaurant for 11 years) so it was an educated decision. I always loved product, so I experimented with designing and silkscreening t-shirts, creating paper goods, and even self published a little magazine about crafting. Nothing really stuck, so I was frustrated.
My boyfriend (now husband), Sergio who is the most supportive and encouraging person I know, was frustrated that I wasn't sticking to anything, so I told myself the next thing I attempt, I'm going to stick to it and prove to him that I'm not just wasting time. That happened to be the year that Sergio's niece, Emma was born and I really wanted to find her a simple plush toy that she could go on imaginary adventures with, which was something my sister and I consider some of our fondest memories growing up. We happened to be visiting my sister in Boston at the time and during the couple days we visited New York, I figured I'd be able to find the perfect toy at FAO Schwartz, THE toy store. We spent a whole afternoon there, mostly playing with all the toys ourselves, but I just couldn't find a toy that felt right for her. So, I told him I'd just make her a toy when I got home. He lovingly reminded me that I didn't know how to sew or make patterns, but I didn't really care. Remember, I had to prove him wrong this time. Spite is the ultimate motivator folks. I'd spent all my summers, nights, and weekends hanging out in the garage with my dad, watching him make patterns and sew, so I figured I'd be able to figure out how to do it. Right? I drew up my first sketch for a whale plush and everything just flowed. Somehow I came up with the pattern and it actually worked! And I kept going from there. I decided to post my first creations on Etsy, was surprised when I sold one. I signed up for my first craft show and kept going. I wouldn't say it was an overnight success, but I still consider it a success. It's definitely lead me down a route that I never could have imagined.
Can you tell me a little bit about your inspiration for the Drumstick Rattle?
The drumstick rattle was inspired by a niece of mine. The summer before she was born, I thought it'd be hilarious to make a plush turkey leg, so I made a bunch and sold them at craft fairs. People thought it was funny and bought some, but it wasn't my best seller or anything.
Then, my niece Mia was born. I was planning on visiting my cousin A.J. and meeting Mia but I didn't want to show up empty handed. My family is big on food. I'm Thai/Filipina so everything is about food with us. So, I thought, A.J. likes food and has a good sense of humor (she's always cracking me up). I'll size down the turkey leg I have to a chicken leg size and to keep the rattle sanitary for the baby, I'll put it in packaging--a little foam tray like they do in markets. As I mentioned earlier, my mom ran a restaurant for so long so our house always had really random restaurant supplies laying around and I happened to find the perfect sized tray. I sewed it up, put a rattle in it
Please describe how you feel when you are creating a new plush design.
It's kind of a rollercoaster, in that it's exciting but also makes me feel sick, and then I get right back in an hour long line to do it over again. My process typically goes like this:
1) Get idea.
2) Go about my life and mentally work out what what pattern would consist of.
3) Gather up the courage to sit down and actually start drawing out that pattern and testing it out on random fabric that I can't seem to get rid of.
4) Revise the pattern after I think about having to sew it 50 more times during production.
5) Keep repeating steps 2-4 until I'm happy with the pattern.
6) Ask Sergio to name the plush, write up a story about it, and photograph it.
7) Get super excited about sharing it followed immediately by anxiety about sharing it with the world.
8) Share it anyway.
All those nervous spots are kind of like the drops on the rollercoaster which happen to be my least favorite in the moment, but most favorite in retrospect. I think it's what keeps me coming back over and over again. Creating (even something as seemingly simple as a plush toy) is so personal so it can be scary sharing it with the world, but I do it anyway, and remember that I never regret it in the end.
What, if any, other creative outlets do you have?
My mom is so fascinating because she has so many hobbies. She's incredibly knowledgable about so many different subjects and her curiosity is never ending. I definitely take after her as far as the curiosity goes. I love to learn new craft techniques whether I use them in my everyday work or not. I'll obsessively research something for a few days, try it out, and then mentally store it away to draw inspiration from in the future. When I'm not actively researching something new, I kind of cycle through a few things like knitting, crochet, cooking, writing, journaling, and making silly zines that I sometimes send out to friends.
Do you feel that you chose your "passion," or did it chose you?
Passion is a funny word for me. I think it holds so much weight because it gets confused so much with obsession. So when people ask what I'm passionate about, I'm always hesitant to answer because I don't want people thinking that that's all I will ever want to talk about, or that it's the only thing I'll ever want to receive as a gift. But, plush does make me really happy. I love creating it, so maybe I am passionate about it. Plush toys definitely chose me. I absolutely loved the time I had growing up with my sister and playing with our plush dogs, Patch and Westcliff.
I knew toy design was a career but it just never seemed like something I would end up doing or even enjoy doing. I definitely look back at things and feel like it all just fell into place, but don't know if I would have discovered it if my shopping day at FAO Schwartz was a bust, and especially if I didn't pursue to prove to Sergio that I was capable of sticking to something.