The Week of Toys has started on the CRAFT blog! Why toys? Because everything about them is fun. Fun to make and fun to look at. Plus it’s a great small project to start or learn a new craft with. To bring you some crafting inspiration, each day for a week we’ll talk to a special crafter and find out what they make and why they make them! You’ll also get some insight into any special crafting techniques they have to help refine your own craft whether it’s knitting, crochet, sewing, and more. Let’s get started then with today’s first crafter Jess Hutch!
Jess Hutch is known for her knitted robots and toys. Our premier issue of CRAFT features her cozy robots on the cover. Her work is cute and cuddly, and her toys come to life with her amazing eye for photography. Here, Jess and I catch up over her craft and what she’s working on this summer.
Nat: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Jess: I was born on Guam in 1975, and now live in San Francisco with my husband Jeff and my little cat Chuy. I love amusement parks, miniatures, the Madonna Inn, old signage, vintage toys, state fairs, and arcades.
Nat: What kind of toys do you like to make? Why do you think your knit robots have garnered so much attention?
Jess: I like to make all sorts of toys – I try to use various methods (sculpey, knitting, sewing, painting, embroidery) to get the effect I’m after. People seem to love the knit robots because they’re unexpected – robots aren’t typically soft and fuzzy. Plus, I think the robots seem a little lost and vulnerable, and I think people respond to that.
Nat: Why toys? What makes them so special to make?
Jess: Well, I think there are a few reasons. The first is practical – I like making representative things in 3D, and I like making things that are small and soft. As it turns out, that’s a pretty good way to describe a stuffed toy! So in some ways it’s almost accidental. But beyond that, I do feel that we have pretty intense relationships with our toys as kids, we figure out how to live in the world through them, and I think we maintain strong feelings about them even into adulthood.
Nat: How do you make them? (Sew, Knit, etc) And why did you chose this medium?
Jess: Right now I’m trying everything. I’ve sewn toys and knitted and crocheted them, and I’ve used sculpey and other modeling media. Recently I’ve begun screen printing designs onto fabric and sewing them into toys, and I’m also interested in doing some painted designs onto fabric. I would love to try ceramics or wood carving or any other way to make toys. I choose the medium based on what I’m trying to accomplish with the toy – I like silkscreening or embroidering designs because it allows me to choose a pose for the toy.
Nat: Is there a special process or tip you have with your knitting that you can share?
Jess: I think that knitted toys done in the round (typically with double pointed needles) are really lovely – they don’t have seams, so you maximize the flexibility of the fabric, and the toys are very soft and squishy. I think that anyone can design their own knitted toys; just experiment with knitting in the round for a while. Knit a tube (maintain the same number of stitches each round), then try increasing every other stitch. Keep knitting around for a while then try decreasing every other stitch. You’ll notice that you’re making geometric shapes – just keep experimenting and pretty soon you’ll be able to knit all sorts of rounded shapes.
Nat: What are you working on right now?
Jess: I’m focusing on screen printing toys at the moment.
Nat: Can you share with us a few of your latest projects?
This was a piece I did for the Cast show at the Junc Gallery in LA. I was inspired by the colors in a landscape print from the 1940s I found in a thrift store.
Here are some screen printed toys I made for the upcoming Plush You 2 show at Schmancy in Seattle.
Nat: How do you feel that your knit robots are on the cover of our premier issue of CRAFT? :)
Jess: It’s amazing! I really can’t believe it.
Thanks Jess for the great interview!
Up tomorrow, Heidi Kenney of My Paper Crane. Stay tuned to the Week of Toys!