It’s Monday, start of the work week but here on the CRAFT blog it’s Day 5 of our Week of Toys. We finish off the week with Beth Doherty of Gourmet Amigurumi. Beth makes the most amazing crochet dolls that mixes downtown punk style with Japanese cuteness. Beth took time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about Amigurumi, her projects this summer, and her latest feature in the upcoming CRAFT magazine.
Nat: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Beth: My name is (Elisa)Beth Doherty. I am a 26 year old Chicagoan. I have a degree in Fine Art from Columbia College. I have a husband and two cats. The cats are obviously a must since I work with yarn.
Nat: What is amigurumi and what first got you interested in making these kinds of toys?
Beth: This is a deceptively simple question. I have been looking for answers to both parts for quite awhile now. There is a lot of debate as it what “amigurumi” actually means. A very sweet Japanese girl emailed me telling all about her research on the word but basically it was inconclusive. So I have decided to go with my own definition based on stuff I found on Wikipedia which suites me just fine: “ami” is a shorting of the word “amimie” which means “stitch.” “Gurumi” is a shortening of the word “nuigurumi” which means “stuffed doll or toy”. Smoosh the two together and you get “amigurumi.”
The second part of your question is equally hazy. This shouldn’t be the case right? Because it is a question about my personal life and feelings, but it is. I started making the dolls around the same time I was hospitalized for amnesia. Honestly, I am not trying to make myself mysterious or anything. Around February ’06 I got a bizarre migraine headache that triggered an episode of amnesia. Before getting sick I had quit my job to do pop-art paintings. I already knew how to crochet and had made a doll or two, but after the hospital I thought amigurumi would be a good way to express myself without all of the heavy emotional baggage that painting can carry with it.
Nat: Your amigurumi seem to have so much personality. How do you come up with ideas and inspiration for new amigurumi? How much of your own personality goes into each one?
Beth: I like to the start a doll by making the head first and I sort of let the personality evolve as we go along. Every time I start a doll thinking, “OK you are going to be sad…” that never works. It’s like as soon as their little craniums start to take shape we work together on who they are going to be. I know I sound a bit nuts, but it would drive me more nuts to force them to be someone they did not want to be. I guess it is very much like a mothering situation. Obviously I made them. They look like my work. They look confused, sad and a bit angry, like me sometimes; oh and they like nice clothes. But they also hate being told what to do by their mother.
It is really hard to say where my inspiration comes from. People have been calling my work anime inspired, but that was kind of a surprise to be honest. Maybe it’s the Japanese thing. I think my biggest inspirations are glam rock and Andy Warhol. I mean I was thinking of Ziggy Stardust when I made this doll’s wig…
Nat: How do you make them? And why did you choose this medium?
Beth: At first I crocheted almost everything on them. But then I got back into knitting (I used to really hate all those needles. That was what drove me crochet in the first place) and found it fairly easy to incorporate into the dolls. This little guy’s shorts are an example. Now I find myself wanting to sew clothes for them too. This is my first sew project for the dollies.
I have always done a bit of bead work on them. I chose crochet at first because that is what make an amigurumi an amigurumi. The new medium/techniques I chose are because I have a something that I want to get across and I chose the technique best suited for it. At least that is my hope.
Nat: Is there a special process or tip you have with your crochet that you can share?
Beth: Don’t be in a rush. These things take time to do properly.
Nat: What are you working on right now?
Beth: I am writing a pattern book for Lark Publications which is due out in the fall of ’07. I am also going to be participating in a few art shows:
The Needle and Nostalgic Fun here:
Soft Sell here:
I am also still working on this kitty (her dress isn’t done yet and she needs some shoes).
Nat: Can you share with us a few of your last 2-3 projects?
I just finished up a nice polished version of this owl for my pattern book. I had no idea how difficult this pattern was going to be to translate from my shorthand to something useable by other people.
I wrote the pattern for this robot for Craft Magazine. It was a fun challenge to make a doll to fit the specs of the magazine. Not like the owl. Stupid owl.
Nat: How do you feel about your amigurumi dolls being in the first issue of CRAFT?
Beth: Totally excited. And a bit nervous. I mean, it is going to have headshot of me in it and everything. People are going to know what I look like. Weird.
Thanks Beth for the fun interview!
That’s it for the Week of Toys. If you liked this series and have other craft topics you’d like to know more about, please drop me an email at email@example.com.