Sunday, 6 February 2011

Interview # 6 : Bloofbird

How did you start making plush toys?

Over the past few years I’ve become more and more of a geek. A love of robots is partly to blame, so that was the first plush I made. I was just getting back to grips with a sewing machine, but Robot No.1 was possibly the most complex plush I’ve made and a great chance to learn new techniques. Soon after this I was introduced to screen printing. Printing an intricate design onto felt worked well and looked so striking against the bright fabric. I did a run of 6 robots in this new style and gave them out as gifts, and they were a hit! This became the standard for all my creatures when Bloofbird was created.

What or who would you say inspires you?

The first existing products that inspired me were UglyDolls. I love their kooky designs and the little stories behind each character. They have a consistent, simple style to their artwork, which I love.
From day to day my friends and family are my biggest inspiration. I have a lot of creative friends with great little ideas that get me thinking. They’ll often have a bespoke request which may become a regular character for me. But most of all it’s my boyfriend. He’s an awesome graphical artist and his drawings have been the inspiration for many of my creatures. I love creatures that aren’t quite the norm and, of course, they’ve got to be cute!

How do you make your toys?

I start by transferring my idea from paper (or my head) to computer, producing a black template of the screen printed design. I then prepare the screen and print a run onto felt pieces. Once dry and ironed, I hand sew on any details (such as button or googly eyes) and pin together all elements of the creature. I sew them right side out, unlike most plushes, then I trim the excess felt leaving a few mm overhang. I then stuff and hand sew the gap closed. The designs sometimes require altering after the first attempt if it doesn’t look quite right, so it’s back to the computer to make the body wider, limbs longer or such like.

What are your favourite materials to work with?

Felt is what I use most of the time, and I have recently discovered eco-felt, which is made using recycled plastic bottles and appeals to the environmentalist in me. I recently made a yeti using faux fur and (like Strawberry Kitten) I really enjoyed working with it, though it does make a mess!

Tell us about your work space?

Right now I’m in the process of doing up a new flat and creating my own studio! I’ll have a long work bench/desk, all the storage I need, and a utility room perfectly designed for printing, it’s very exciting! At the moment I’m staying with my parents and my stuff is spread over 3 rooms and a garage, which isn’t ideal.
How has making toys change you as an artist?

People are usually quite surprised when they find out I studied Music Technnology at University and worked with computers before starting Bloofbird. It’s a very different thing for me to focus on, but I’m really enjoying screen printing and sewing. I’m always investigating and learning new things - from new computer applications, to perfecting screen preparation, to figuring out how best to sew together a dinosaur!

What medium of art did you use before making toys?

I’ve been into performing arts since I was 7, singing, playing and writing music. Alongside that I would always be doodling on my book covers and I painted the odd canvas, I love graphics and fonts and playing with words. I dabbled in all kinds of art and design but when I had to choose, Music took over. It’s great, now, to try and master something and create my own style.

How did you come up with your company name?

The Bloofbird creature was created before I decided to create a brand. My boyfriend decided to draw a monster and asked for 3 features. I said it should have 3 eyes, be blue and furry, and look a bit like a penguin. This monster was then named Bloofbird, because it suited them! When I decided to start the company I was very aware of bad brand names that are hard to remember or spelt strangely and hard to find, especially in a search engine. I thought Bloofbird worked perfectly, plus I had a main character to represent my brand.
And finally where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I really hope that Bloofbird takes off this year. I’m learning all the time, promoting and developing my brand. Maybe in 5 years time I will have a Bloofbird shop of my own!

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