Australian textile artist Trevor Smith learned how to crochet from his mother when he was just a child. His first projects were baby blankets for family friends and doll clothes for his younger cousins.
He’s been experimenting and perfecting all manner of applications ever since, recently creating imaginative tea cosies, retro appliances, and platters of colorful food. Most of the pieces shown in this post were part of a large-scale exhibition held at the Michael Reid Gallery in Sydney last year. It was called “Cocktail Hour” — retro-domestic bliss with a touch of humor.
What’s especially impressive about Trevor’s work is that he doesn’t use any patterns or make sketches ahead of time. He’ll look at images of what he wants to make online and then proceed with a plan of what he wants to do in his head.
For his tea cosies, he’ll first crochet a traditional cover for the base, then build a 3D form out of foam or wire for whatever animal, person or object he wants to add, and then crochet a cover for it. Finally, he’ll crochet any other loose accessories or finishing details to sew on later.
1. Can you guess who painted the above piece? Let me give you a few clues: he’s a legendary musician, poet, and songwriter who loves to watch “I Love Lucy” reruns, he makes a mean meatball, and he just happened to win the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.
And yes, my man Bob Dylan is also an accomplished visual artist. His second graphic release from The Beaten Path collection is now available worldwide. There are 15 hand-signed limited edition prints (some are already sold out), depicting the main routes and back roads of America.
Choice of subject is just as interesting as his unique perspective. Of course my faves are the eateries — this time there’s a hamburger stand and a diner. 🙂
When it comes to eating utensils, spoons reign supreme.
I’ve always loved them more than knives or forks, with their aggressive blades and tines, slices and stabs.
Spoons are friendlier, nurturing. Their rounded bowls invite you to dip, sip, and slurp. The word “spoon,” with its fun-to-pronounce double ‘o,’ has a charm all its own. Say it now:
See how your lips gently touch like a soft kiss? Adorable. 🙂
For most of us, spoons came first. Our hungry baby mouths opened wide for rice cereal, puréed peaches and strained peas. And when some of the food missed its target, the edge of the spoon magically corraled any oozy bits from chin and cheek. So accommodating!
And what about Spoon’s most important function?
SOUP! Ah, soup . . .
I was delighted to discover Joan Logghe’s “Ode to Spoons” recently. Love how she celebrates the divine in the everyday. I was happy to learn she shares my love for Maira Kalman, for whom ordinary objects also take on extraordinary significance when viewed through the lens of history, heart, memory.
Hot diggity dog! It was love at first sight when I stumbled upon this adorable wiener sandwich plush toy on Etsy not too long ago.
This cleverly conceived canine looked so well made with his soft floppy ears and bun, and he even had pickles, mustard and ketchup on him. 🙂
Just too cute! Nevada-based artist Kristin Mayberry’s favorite saying is, “Toy making is joy making,” and her handmade plush toys truly bring a smile to your face. Though she makes several different types of animals (octopuses, owls, bears), I especially love her food plushies (no surprise). There’s just something about those shiny black button eyes and simple embroidered smiles that make me want to hug myself. The facial expressions have so much personality!
I’m so glad Kristin graciously agreed to tell us more about her Mama Mayberry toys. It certainly looks like she’s having a lot of fun making them. What could be better than spreading happiness with your art? I’ll have a side of fries with my hot dog, please. 🙂
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🍑 SPOTLIGHTONKRISTIN MAYBERRY 🍐
Name of shop or business: Mama Mayberry’s Cute Plush Toys
Year established: 2012
Items you make: Custom plush toys
Studio Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Three words that best describe your art: Funny, Silly, Cute
Self taught or formal training? Self taught seamstress (with some help from Mom), BFA and MFA in Fine Art
Tools of the Trade: Janome sewing machine, Brother embroidery machine, my hands, and anything that works! If there’s a trick, a hack, or a gadget that makes things easier then I’m first in line to try it out.
Inspirations and influences: Japanese Kawaii, My family, Norman Rockwell, Claes Oldenberg, Wayne Thiebaud, and Santa Claus!
Three significant milestones in your career: The day I realized making toys was fun. (I had to make more!) When my daughter received a handmade blanket while she was hospitalized with an illness. (Handmade is wonderful and thoughtful!) The first time I received feedback on Etsy from a customer. (I can make something others can cherish and that may even bring them comfort and joy!)
Food that inspires your best work: Anything bright or colorful.
Bestseller: Take out noodle box, and the blueberry.
What is your earliest memory of being creative? What is the first thing you ever made as an “artist”?
I loved to draw people as a child. I often drew clothing and dreamed of becoming a costume designer. My first real piece of artwork that was my own and not a study or still life for class was a 5×8 foot pastel self portrait from an ant’s eye view of me. All throughout art school my work tended to be very large and now I make little toys that fit in your hand!
What prompted you to start making plush toys? Was this your first time creating three dimensional art? Was there a big learning curve?
I first started making plush toys when one of my children asked for a plush version of a character named Ruff Ruffman from her favorite cartoon. I decided to make one for her since it wasn’t available in stores. I drew out the shape of the character and made a small flat pillow-like toy. It was very simple. I didn’t know how to embroider so I painted his facial features with fabric paint. Now I look at that toy and think of all the ways I could make him look better, but it does make me smile when I realize he has survived all these years intact. My daughter still loves him.
I had created a few 3d works in art school. But they were made from wood or metal and not fabric. I had also created costumes and apparel for myself and my children for years but never a toy. The learning curve was huge! Making a three dimensional object from fabric requires a different way of thinking. I guess I’m lucky that I can visualize things this way, but if I had to sit down and draft a flat pattern using a ruler and math then I’d struggle a lot! I approach toy making in a more sculptural way by draping the fabric around a form. But I also make tons of mistake toys. Trial and error helps me figure out the best way to construct the toys. Our home is full of misfit toys that didn’t quite work out. Many of them have odd heads, missing limbs, or other flaws, but I hate to throw them away. My children are always happy to rescue them from the trash bin.
Back before I thought of making and selling toys, my daughter was hospitalized with an illness. She received a handmade quilt from some lovely ladies – whom I’d never met. We were so touched that a group of women would put so much time and love into making something and then give it to a stranger. A gift is always nice but a handmade gift is extra special. This got me thinking about handmade items and my handmade toys. At that point I had only heard of Etsy, a website for selling handmade items. A friend encouraged me to check it out. I opened my Etsy toy shop soon after.
Not long after that I sought out the ladies group who made the blanket for my daughter. I was amazed to discover it was a group of more than 100 women who hand make all sorts of wonderful items to distribute to hospitals, and shelters. I joined them and now I try to donate toys to their cause as often as I can. However someone receives one of my toys, I hope it brings a bit of joy to their life and makes them smile.
What is your favorite part of the process? Are most of the items in your shop made from original patterns?
My favorite part of toy making is stuffing the toy. It’s so much fun to see it take shape. I also love adding the expression. It’s when the toy really comes to life.
I make some of my own patterns and I also use patterns designed by others. I always try to give credit to the original designer and add a link to their pattern in my toy shop descriptions. Drawing up a pattern is a lot of work and I want to support those who share this talent. Thanks to the many patterns and pattern books I’ve purchased over the years I have learned many new ways to create toys. I’ve discovered many techniques I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.
I especially love your food plush. The humorous touches you add to your toys are adorable. Who or what makes you laugh?
Thanks! I love making the food plush. I think it’s safe to say that most people love food. I certainly do! Making funny food plush for foodies is a perfect pairing. A teddy bear is sweet but a bit expected. A plush blueberry or peach is a goofy surprise. I want people to have a reaction when they receive one of my toys. A giggle and a grin are the two best responses!
I love to laugh and be silly with my family. I usually watch or listen to my favorite TV show, Seinfeld, while I sew. I quote it often to people who look at me like I’m crazy. At my day job I listen to comedy pod casts on my headphones and laugh out loud like a weirdo while I paint. Comedy and humor make my life more fun and I think they make my toys more fun as well. I have a blast brainstorming with my husband and kids who also have great senses of humor. They come up with some of the best and most hilarious ideas for toys! My oldest child came up with the meatball and spaghetti on the fork plush. She keeps a running list of her ideas and frequently asks me when I will make the next one. Of course she always expects the first prototype to become a part of her own collection!
Did you have a favorite stuffed animal when you were little? Who were some of your favorite children’s book characters?
I adored my stuffed animals as a child. And oh boy did I have a huge collection! Each night my Dad would choose a stuffed animal for me to sleep with. It was our tradition and a tradition with my children as well. All of my stuffed toys had names and I still have many of them today. They have become some of the toys my children sleep with at night too. When I was young I also had many handmade toys given to me by family members. Those toys hold a very special place in my heart.
I related a lot to Christopher Robin from the popular Winnie the Pooh series. His toys were more than play things, they were his companions. I used to think of my stuffed animals in the same child like way. Winnie the Pooh was my favorite character and to this day his sayings and euphemisms still make me chuckle. My favorite, “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
Like most kids I was also totally enamored with the Rankin and Bass Christmas TV programs. Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph and the Misfit Toys are still fun to watch. It’s magical to imagine a special toy is being made just for you far away in Santa’s workshop. When I make a toy I am thinking about the person who may receive it. I offer to customize any of my toys for my customers to make it extra special and personal. A special gift hand made just for you.
Describe your studio or workspace. How have you fashioned your work environment to enhance creativity and maximize productivity?
I wish I could say that I have a beautiful organized studio overlooking a garden or something. I see pictures of amazing sewing room ideas on Pinterest and drool over them all the time. Instead, my studio is smack in the middle of our home. My family is very forgiving about my clutter and the noise. The “sewing room” is actually the dining room and most of the living room. In some ways it is ideal. Our family desk and computer is right next to my sewing table and the family TV is right behind that. I get to spend time with my husband and kids while I sew. The kids can sit nearby and watch their favorite TV shows or read while I sew or stuff toys. We chat about the day’s events and they give me critiques of whatever I’m working on. I like that they get to see something being created from start to finish. My hope is that it will inspire them to create things of their own and learn to enjoy the process of making something.
Which of your custom orders was the most fun to make?
I enjoy making odd custom order requests. They are often a challenge and I always learn something in the process. The best part about the custom toys is that I get to know my customers more personally. There’s always a story behind the toy they want. Whether it’s a sentimental memory, a gag gift or a joke, or a unique gift for a special occasion, I am always excited to make specific personal gifts for people.
Any tips for those wanting to make plush toys?
If someone wants to make toys now is the best time to start! Thanks to Etsy, craft is having a well deserved moment in the spotlight. Because of this it is easier than ever to buy affordable toy patterns and to connect with others who make toys. There is a ton of information on toy making on the internet and even at the library. The best part is that you can make a toy from just about any type of material and all you really need to start is a needle and some thread.
Any new projects you’re especially excited about?
I am starting some new toys that are a cross between animals and desserts. It sounds odd but hopefully the end result will be a perfect mix of cute and yummy. I have a marshmallow chicken cupcake in the works with her comb made out of tiny strawberries and a baby chick made from cookies. I am becoming obsessed with Japanese Kyaraben Bento boxes which involve arranging food into little scenes, shapes, people, animals, or familiar objects. I’d love to offer my customers Kyaraben Bento boxes that are cuddly and never spoil!
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🐶 Thanks so much for visiting, Kristin! 🐥
♥ See more of Kristin’s plush toys at her Etsy Shop, Mama Mayberry’s Cute Plush Toys.Everything is made to order, so do allow some lead time. Kristin is also open to custom orders. It’s not too early to think about holiday gifts! 🙂
♥ You can also keep up with Kristin’s new items via her Facebook Page.