Why this particular craft? I grew up seeing my mother and grandmothers sew, and I feel like it all comes together with my plush designs. I’ve been obsessed with toys for as long as I can remember! I designed my own Strawberry Shortcake dolls when I was a kid and spent every time I had at the Hello Kitty store at the mall. Making plush toys is a link from my past to my present. It keeps my best memories alive. Sewing and making is a common thread through all of the generations who came before me, and I feel like it is my legacy.
Have you tried plenty of others? Definitely - I think I’ve dabbled in just about every medium. I follow my passions and love to learn new skills. Handmade cloth rag dolls were a natural progression for me, and there was a huge learning curve - new materials, many more steps to construction and years of trial and error. I’m not shy about putting new work out there into the world, even if it’s not perfect, and I always feel like my designs and technique can be improved. Just when you think you’ve nailed it, you find another way to make it better.
Who taught you your crafting skills? I’ve been making art since I could hold a crayon. Plus, I was an arty kid, so I took whatever art classes I could find and majored in Fine Art for a while in college. My mum was an artist also and I remember watching her paint and sew. I also remember asking my Mema to make me dolls’ clothes on her sewing machine. I thank my lucky stars every day that I was raised in a family of makers.
How would you describe your style? What makes it unique? My sewing style is one part 1980s tacky, one part 1970s folk art and one part kawaii. I think what makes my style unique is that I like high contrast, bold and simple design. All of my designs stem from my simple original sketches - I try to retain that simplicity but make it bright, modern, and wickedly cute.
Where do you live and work? I live in a two-bedroom flat in St. Louis city [Missouri, USA] with my husband and son. I’ve turned the dining room into my workroom, so it’s crowded with sewing equipment.
What are the lessons learnt from your stitching background? Don’t ever forget what it was you wanted to do before the world told you “you can’t do that.” Those desires we have as children sometimes get stifled under the weight of adult responsibilities; we need to unearth them and let them breathe. Also, don’t be afraid to share your gifts with the world. There’s always going to be other artists or makers who are more skilled, better trained, and more successful. So what? Let your light shine! Your perspective is not like anyone else’s, and all gifts take time to develop. Last, a maker needs to spend time with other people who are comfortable taking risks and exploring while also being encouraging and supportive.
Riley Construction Toys