Kristen Rask is a crafter and owner of Schmancy a cool toy store in Seattle. It also doubles up as a gallery space for the upcoming October 6 – Nov 2 show, Plush You. Plush You has garnered so much attention that Kristen recently just signed a book deal, so look for a Plush You book in the future sometime! Recently, Kristen and I got to talk shop about her store, the Plush You event, and tips on how to market the toys you make.
Nat: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and about the store/gallery Schmancy.
Kristen: I was selling button rings to Sally Brock at Fancy (www.fancyjewels.com) starting in 2003. She was really friendly as
soon as I met her. She helped me think of new places to sell my work in and was very supportive. I began visiting her at Fancy fairly often. The space next to hers opened and she suggested I open a shop there during one of my visits. I had finally graduated with my bachelor’s degree and was pretty unhappy at my current job. I felt a little stagnant in my life so I jumped on this opportunity. I had always wanted to open a shop when I was younger but as I got older I thought it sounded impossible. Sally made it seem possible and her positive energy must have rubbed off on me so I said yes and two days later I had a lease. I blame her ever since :) just kidding. I started painting the store, purchasing merchandise and then opened my doors in September of 2004. That’s how Schmancy was born.
Nat: Please tell me more about the Plush You! event and how did it come about?
Kristen: I decided to do the first Plush You! show in 2005. I didn’t really know what to expect or how to get the word out. I was a big blog reader at the time (i would still love to be but don’t have as much time) and visited Loobylu fairly often. She features “month of the softies” so I figured I would tell her about the show and see if she might mention it on her blog. The next day I got to work and had 50 emails (at the time this was a lot). She had already mentioned it and I was amazed at the enthusiasm and interest for this show. I took 50 participants and that was that. The show was such a success and so much fun to do that I decided to get Sally on board to make it an even bigger event this year. We have 100 artists from all over the world for Plush You! in October of 2006. I created a blog so I got a lot of interest from that and from other artists spreading the word about the show. It’s so much work but the best thing I do all year.
Nat: What is involved now gearing up for the big October show?
Kristen: Well I finally got an intern, Yeaseul, who is awesome and helping a lot. Right now she is putting press kits together while I type this up. We are still working on getting more sponsors for the show, organizing all the artists information and pieces, organizing the workshop, etc. etc. etc. Needless to say things are pretty crazy around here. I am never bored!
Nat: What kind of toys do you like to make? How do you make them?
Kristen: I actually like to do a lot of stuff but I am currently obsessed with crocheting blankets for several friends of mine who have just had babies. I sew some toys and sell my owl pins at Schmancy. I love to sew, knit and crochet but right now crochet is my favorite. I still need to make a final decision on what to use for the show.
Nat: Is there a special process or tip you have with your craft that you can share?
Kristen: I think having a product that you really want to market really requires having a whole package. A cute note, card, logo, etc really appeals to customers and can really sell the product. Items that fly out the door (ranging from expensive to inexpensive) have a cute drawing, funny story, cute logo to them and I really think it completes the work.
For instance, Mark Hundley has tags where on one side he paints a smaller picture of the piece you are buying and on the other side he writes a little story about the creature. Sewdorky uses heavier tags that he simply ties on the side of the product with his logo and website. Parapluesch Dolls have tags in various languages, stories about the item you are buying and a letter you get from the psychiatrist with the idea that you are now the new psychiatrist. These simple things can really complete your work and it means a lot to your buyers.
Nat: What are some fun things in the Schmancy store you’d like to show us?
The first item I carried in Schmancy was from a local artist, Stuart Bloomfield aka Sewdorky.com.
I started selling his donuts and now carry his teeth as well. In fact the first thing I sold was a sewdorky donut. It was a proud moment.
I also love work by Mark Hundley of bisbeestitches.com. His work is really well made, very artistic and imaginative.
I also love work by Maria Samuelson (blobbyfarm.com). She has great characters, uses great colors, and can also be sold for babies and/or children.
Thanks Kristen for the stellar interview!
Up next for tomorrow for Week of Toys is Sewdorky!