Ran across this Boomer Girls anthology a little while ago, and it’s all coming back to me now. As Rita Randazzo says in the opening lines of her poem, “The Sixties,”
I remember them/which proves I didn’t/ fully participate.
I may be slightly partial, but I think Baby Boomers are the finest generation. After all, we had the Mickey Mouse Club, Barbie, Beatlemania, bell bottoms, princess phones, saddle shoes, hula hoops, Woodstock, the counterculture, the civil rights movement, and were generally associated with individualism and social activism. 🙂
Since it’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, thought I’d share a poem by boomer girl Cathy Song, a native of Honolulu. Until I read her poem, I had almost forgotten about a special summer.
THE GRAMMAR OF SILK by Cathy Song
On Saturdays in the morning
my mother sent me to Mrs. Umemoto’s sewing school.
It was cool and airy in her basement,
pleasant — a word I choose
to use years later to describe
the long tables where we sat
and cut, pinned, and stitched,
the Singer’s companionable whirr,
the crisp, clever bite of scissors
parting like silver fish a river of calico.
The school was in walking distance
to Kaimuki Dry Goods
where my mother purchased my supplies —
small cards of buttons,
zippers and rickrack packaged like licorice,
lifesaver rolls of thread
in fifty-yard lengths,
spun from spools, tough as tackle.
Seamstresses waited at the counters
like librarians to be consulted.
Pens and scissors dangled like awkward pendants
across flat chests,
a scarf of measuring tape flung across a shoulder,
time as a pincushion bristled at the wrist.
They deciphered a dress’s blueprints
with an architect’s keen eye.
This evidently was a sanctuary,
a place where women confined with children
conferred, consulted the oracle,
the stone tablets of the latest pattern books.
Here mothers and daughters paused in symmetry,
offered the proper reverence —
hushed murmurings for the shantung silk
which required a certain sigh,
as if it were a piece from the Ming Dynasty.
My mother knew there would be no shortcuts
and headed for the remnants,
the leftover bundles with yardage
enough for a heart-shaped pillow,
a child’s dirndl, a blouse without darts.
Along the aisles
my fingertips touched the titles —
satin, tulle, velvet,
peach, lavender, pistachio,
sherbet-colored linings —
and settled for the plain brown-and-white composition
of polka dots on kettle cloth
my mother held up in triumph.
She was determined that I should sew
as if she knew what she herself was missing,
a moment when she could have come up for air —
the children asleep,
the dishes drying on the rack —
and turned on the lamp
and pulled back the curtain of sleep.
To inhabit the night,
the night as a black cloth, white paper,
a sheet of music in which she might find herself singing.
On Saturdays at Mrs. Umemoto’s sewing school,
when I took my place beside the other girls,
bent my head and went to work,
my foot keeping time on the pedal,
it was to learn the charitable oblivion
of hand and mind as one —
a refuge such music affords the maker —
a pleasure of notes in perfectly measured time.
Surely the best part of winter is having reason to drink evenmore tea. Gotta keep warm, right?
‘Tis not the season for mug-in-the-microwave tea. Nay, winter tea calls for the careful selection of just the right teapot, just the right cup and saucer, and your favorite silver teaspoon. It often means turning your nose up at tea bags (gasp!) in favor of that raise-the-eyebrow indulgence, loose tea. Oh yes — you’re worth it, you tea slut, you.
Loose loose loose.
Don’t worry, I won’t tell your mama.
And as long as you’re gonna brew a perky pot (better look sharp as Mr. Darcy is sure to visit), you know very well this will require some patience. Once it’s ready you’ll want to sip and savor ever so slowly, while you dip into that bodice ripper socially redeeming literary novel, or skillfully chat up your dapper British tea companion.
It was for times like these that lovely, adorable, whimsical tea cosies were invented. They likely appeared around the same time the Duchess of Bedford popularized afternoon tea in late 19th century Britain. With so much serious chit chat and juicy gossip going on — and when one is trading scandalous bon mots, one must never rush — they had to find a way to keep their teapots warm.
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.
Somewhere in San Francisco, Osaka-born artist Miyuki Sakai is busy creating yet another gorgeous sewing illustration.
Using only a standard sewing machine, about 200 different thread colors, and a basic straight stitch, she fashions amazing pictures of everyday objects and scenes, from the dining room and kitchen, to the office, street, cafe, garden, and supermarket.
Miyuki grew up watching her mother make clothes and decided to adopt the sewing machine as her primary tool. After graduating from art college in Kyoto, she worked as a freelance illustrator in Tokyo before emigrating to the U.S.
Her unique style is characterized by lush colors, meticulous detail, and studied compositions. She works freehand, leaving uncut threads that give her illustrations a charming human touch.
Back in 2011, she earned a Bronze Medal in Editorial Design (NY ADC Awards) for her “Viva la Tarte!” stitched plates that showcased real food in Martha Stewart Living.
Her work has also been featured in various periodicals such as Country Home, Vogue, GQ, Seventeen, and The New York Times Magazine, and she’s done ads for SONY, Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Hitachi, among others.
At her site, she shares photos of her “darling sewing machine” and her “good friends” (BandAids). 🙂 I’m totally in awe.
Of course I’m referring to the nine perky, uncommonly good-looking, crazy-talented women who’ve visited Alphabet Soup this past year to share their wares in our Indie Artist Spotlight series.
If, like me, you’ve already shifted into holiday gift-buying mode, you’re probably hungry for some good ideas. Supporting independent artists is always a win-win — your lucky friends and relatives receive unique heartmade-handmade gifts, and you’re helping to ensure that these ingenious, inventive people can continue to make the world a more beautiful place with their delightful creations.
Just to refresh your memory, I’m linking to all the Spotlight interviews and sharing two new items from each of their Etsy shops. Click on any image to be taken directly to the listing. Be quick about it, especially if you want to place a custom order. Enjoy!