"You know, he was always like a fish out of water around her...poor Lumpers, never mind, I says, plenty more fish in the sea, plenty more."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The final lap

by Anna, 4

Guess what? I'm in the final week of softiemaking. The home stretch! And my little sewing machine that I bought at London Drugs four years ago, is now sick! I've cleaned it, oiled it, replaced the needle and re-threaded it, and finally took it to a sewing repair shop only to find that the cost of servicing it would be more than what I paid for it. The same model is still available at LD, but I really don't like the idea of disposable sewing machines.

Luckily I have a spare, an old Beaumark that I bought off a friend for $40 a few years ago. This one will hopefully see me through the last few orders.

Today, a seventy-nine year old grandmother came to help me with some hand-stitching. We sat on my sofa in the afternoon sun, sewing together little red and yellow felt fruits, and we chatted and she shared news and highlights from her recent trip to her village in the Italian alps.

by Jayden, age 5

Unfortunately, I don't get many social opportunities like this in my softiemaking. It's usually just me, a radio and a chugging sewing machine. It's been a couple of months of feeling like I've been pedalling my sewing machine non-stop (inside a pressure cooker), and although I love this work, I am looking forward to the last order on the list. When this last order is done, wrapped up and shipped out, there will be a small exhalation before I turn my attention to all the things that have been calling for my attention: the clutter in our house, the garden, cobwebs on my ceiling, winterizing our car, a haircut, and holiday preparations with my family.

Aren't these cars cute? The yellow one went to Kiev, Ukraine, and I'm hoping it's made it there safely. Jayden's vibrant car has tiny rear tires beneath the enormous purple striped spoiler. Maybe by the time Jayden is old enough to drive, cars will look like that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pirate ship and a mystical creature

by Benjamin, age 7

by Morgan, age 5

Whew, it's been a long day. Just finished answering e-mails - I try to get to them as often as I can or they start getting too numerous and unwieldy. And before I toddle off to bed, I want to post about a couple of recent projects. Colleen sent me drawings by her nephew and niece as well as several footnotes. The pirate ship is pretty straightforward, but I sure was glad for the clarification of the drawing by Morgan. It's a mystical creature, with black spots on its body, like a cow, multiple legs, whiskers around the mouth and a bunny drawing on its back (like a tattoo?) Now, I could have told you it was a unicorn, but then a preconceived notion or an image might have popped into your head. If you look closely at her drawing, you can see another, fainter drawing of a horse-like unicorn in the background - done by someone else, showing her how it's done? Clearly, that's not what young Morgan had in mind. When she unwraps it at christmas, ooooh, I wish I could see her reaction. Will this softie satisfy Morgan's imagination adequately?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cyborg and DJ turntable

Thomas and Calvin are twin boys, 9 years old, with very different interests.

by Calvin

by Thomas

I think it's a really good thing, that they have such disparate interests. Not only because it's less likely that they'll fight over their toys, but also because they probably respect and appreciate differences in themselves and in others.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

All you need is love

What does love look like to a child?

by Caroline, age 4

I used my favourite cuddly pink fabrics, which made this softie even more huggable.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fredrick and Tobias

by Connor, age 12

Every so often, I get an e-mail from someone asking if I could make them Calvin and Hobbes softies.

Bill Watterson, the creator of the characters and widely syndicated cartoon strip, was staunchly against licensing Calvin and Hobbes products for many reasons, but the main one being that he felt it would in some way demean the art of Calvin and Hobbes. From the beginning, this has always been his unique position in the matter.

I don't make licensed or trademarked characters, mainly for two reasons: 1) I'm not really allowed to and 2) it's soooo hard to make them.

However, if Bill Watterson, himself, were to contact me and ask if I could make him a Calvin and Hobbes, I'd certainly reconsider my position.

In the meantime, I made Fredrick and Tobias for Connor who publishes his cartoons in his school paper.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Beet Boy

I really like getting drawings by older boys. Because I have the challenge of making a doll, ahem, softie for a BOY. How do I make sure that the final product looks "cool" enough for their discerning taste?

Well, you have to start with a cool drawing:

by Jackson, age 9

"Beet Boy vs Licorice Man" got Jackson top prize in a school art contest. I love that he created a superhero with a root vegetable - how imaginative is that? Note his beet-like helmet and his arsenal of beets. Luckily, I found a great cotton print with lightning that looked almost like roots.

Don't mess with Beet Boy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Suddenly I have "followers"! Over there in the right bar, there's a collection of little photos of people who've joined this blog and are smiling at me, wondering, "what does she have to show us today?"

Or, what does she have to say?

Once, things used to be pretty quiet. I'd average about 200-300 monthly visitors to my website, and I'd receive maybe 5 orders a month, if I did some marketing. At one point, I began looking for another job.

Last month, I had over 70,000 visitors. I never expected this. My family never expected this. My web host never expected it. I've had to turn away orders, or ask them to come back in January. I'm working away like a mad-woman, in a self-imposed sweatshop. I haven't figured out how to hire help, because it was so all of a sudden.

I also hear that Child's Own Studio has been in national newspapers in other countries, and recently was found in the corner of The Approval Matrix in The New York Magazine (in the right corner!). All the nice comments that people send me are making my head swell up so that soon, I won't be able to fit through a door.

So, it's a good thing that I'm busy sewing up softies, because I wouldn't know what to do otherwise.

At the same time, I know that this is just my 15 minutes of fame. What I've been doing for the last four years is a fresh and novel idea to others, something that they are just hearing about. But sometime, next month, next year, it'll be old news. Or, others will start to do the same thing, custom making soft toys in countries where labour is cheaper: I can already hear them oiling up their sewing machines in eastern Europe. And then I won't be able to compete. And the deluge of e-mails from almost-desperate people with their drawings will abate. And once again, it will be quiet.

drawing of cat by Mauro

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Little Boy Blue

by Lucas, age 6

Lucas lives in Taipei, Taiwan. His mother sent me his drawing. I clarified that the yellow thing in his right hand was actually his hand and that the red rectangle in front of his tummy was his clothes. She asked that he be made holding a musical note.

My parents are from Taiwan (I was born and raised in Canada). Although I make my toys just like the drawings, I knew that I should not make the boy's hair white nor his hands black. I e-mailed his mother to ask about the hair colour. "Blue," she answered," like his clothes."

Little Boy Blue, come play your music.