>> Monday, February 22, 2010
Where do you find your inspiration?
My primary sources of inspiration are vintage toys, nature, fine artists (love Miro, Caulder, and Girard), and my biggest influence is, perhaps, the creative interests of my son.
For a couple of years now he has been coloring everything using every crayon in the box, nothing reflects reality—everything is rainbow-hued in his world (I like to describe it as coloring like a rainbow threw-up on it)—and this has definitely inspired my recent design aesthetic—the color wheel-like effect you see in my Rainbow Sunshine Plushie, as well as My Counting Bean Bags and fabrics I chose for those.
How do you balance your making with your family?
I forgo a whole lot of sleep. But aside from that, I have the great fortune of being married to someone who wholly supports what I do and does more than his share around our home so I can have time to design and support my little business. I did recently move to a part-time schedule at work too—cut back from full time to a 3-day work schedule—so I now have more time I can devote to the Beeper Bebe space, as well as to my son. And I have to admit, that has been the most glorious change in my world—I could break into a triumphant song and dance just talking about that change. I mean, Virginia Woolf talks about the need to have a room of one’s own, but you also need to have the dedicated time of one’s own—especially as a mother. While I did plenty of work on Beeper Bebe prior to going part-time, I always felt guilty for it and like I was short-changing everyone in my family (including me). But now that I have this dedicated time every week that is just for me to create—time that was freed up with the explicit intent of allowing me more time to devote to Beeper Bebe, well, I am liberated from my guilt for those hours. And that alone has been inspiring—not to mention crazy-happy–making for me personally.
Can we peek into your work space? Show us where the magic happens!My work space is a work in progress.
I love that you list vintage Fisher Price Little People as one of your loves. I love them too! Have they ever directly influenced your work?
I have given my son several vintage Little People sets as gifts (you know, the sort of gift that is for him, but is really for you). I just find the 70’s era design from Fisher Price to be so damn cool. It was really plugged into the American Dream of the time—the A-Frame House, the jeep with the pop-up camper, the airport. They were mini-versions of the 70’s era family-dream. I don’t feel like any big toy maker is well tapped into today’s American dream. I mean, there are some toy makers who have some lovely, modern designs, but no big mainstream makers are doing anything really modern that is also affordable, like the stuff Fisher Price made. I wish Fisher Price would hire me to redesign their Little People for today. And I suppose there is part of me that wants to design my own Beeper Bebe version of that…watch this space?
What about other vintage toys? What were your favorite toys as a child? Do you still have them? Does your son have a favorite toy?
Aside from my own Little People, my other favorite toys as a child were the dolls and plushies my mum made for me, and anything that was an art supply. I loved to create and draw my own monsters when I was little. I actually grew up in poverty, so I did not have a lot of toys when I was little, really. But I cannot say I was ever bored because I lived so much in my imagination. Dime store trinkets were very loved by me—something I got for a nickel out of a gumball machining was as a good as something more substantial from a store—and I do still love little trinket-y toys to this day. And yes, I do still have some of my toys—certainly, all the dolls and plushies my mum made for me, and a few other things in an old toy chest. I also have a few toys that belonged to my grandma as a child, and a doll that was my dad’s. As for Beeper, my son, well his favorite toys, hands down, are his super hero figures, and his HUNDREDS of little plastic animals that he likes to sort by reptile, mammal, amphibian, sea creature, or whatever new category he creates. We pick up the little plastic animals at the thrift store—they seem to self-proliferate there. Personally, I love to buy him beautifully designed European toys, stuff that will endure—like the Shapemaker set from Miller Goodman or AutomoBlox - but he still plays with the plastic-y toys the most.
I'm completely in love with the Beeper Bebe in a Box. The details are just wonderful. Can you tell me how that evolved?
What's your favorite thing you've ever made?
I love my Kindie Garden Plush dolls that are designed after a drawing I made in kindergarten.
Is there something you made that you would love to sell but it would cost a fortune? Like a $600 teddy bear?
I have always had this idea about making a nature-inspired doll, with nature inspired wardrobe—things like a kilt that looks like it is made from leaves, a simple dress made from vintage linen that would have teeny wildflowers and herbs embroidered on it, and bear-like fur wrap she could wear around her. I think I will make it at some point—but with the amount of labor that will go into it, who knows what it would need to be priced at…
What inspired you to add drawings to your product photography - like the stem on the new Rainbow Sunshine Plushie? And the backgrounds for the Kindie-Garden dolls?
Really, it was just an inspired moment that occurred in the middle of photographing the first set of Kindie Garden plush dolls I ever made. I mean, they are made from childhood drawings, so it seemed natural to incorporate child-like drawings as background to their photos.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Recycled, reclaimed, thrifted. Still. There is no better inspiration than just finding something spontaneously at the thrift store that you know could be redesigned into something else entirely. I love old wool tweed suit coats in particular, but I also thrift and use wool sweaters (that I later felt), cashmere sweaters, towels, sheets, fleece and vintage sewing notions.
Can you tell us about your day job?
I do have a day job—the one I am now working part-time at. My day job is completely disparate from what I do with Beeper Bebe. I work for one of those ginormous companies with businesses in almost every country in the world—I am an organizational development consultant for them. What this means is that I advise leaders on how to more effectively run their businesses so they are better aligned, their employees will be more engaged, and they will ultimately deliver better business results. I recognize how weirdly different it is. And honestly, I sometimes cannot believe that any of these big shots in suits listen to me—often inside I feel like, Really? You want to pay attention to what I have to say? Because I am just a girl who likes to make toys and drink whiskey—what do I really know about how you should execute your strategy? But I do get to travel the world for my job, and tell men in suits what to do, so there is no denying that it is intellectually interesting work
What are your goals for Beeper Bebe? Are you trying to grow your business? What steps are you taking to make your goals a reality?
I am also inspired by the Habit blog - the photography is lovely and real and I find the text so authentic and poignant.
What are your favorite children's books? Either your favorites as a child or your current favorites to read with your child - or both.
We all love books at our house—there are stacks and shelves of them all over. I think they are the source for so much imagination—the jumping off point for creative play and your own artistic creations. My favorite books as a child were One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr Seuss—because all the creatures in that book were so cool. I wanted them all as pets.
We do have loads of children’s books—and I definitely have my favorite authors, like Mo Willems, Leo Lionni, Eric Carle, of course. And I love the Toot and Puddle characters, as well as Charlie and Lola. Skippyjon Jones is a big favorite with Beeper—and so are the Harry Potter books. We have been reading our way through them—we are just finishing up The Order of the Phoenix. Honestly, I believe the Harry Potter books are some of the best books being written today. The characters are so well developed and have a lot of emotional complexity. Plus, I totally have a secret fantasy about being a student at Hogwarts. Seriously.
You sell patterns as well as finished items. I do that too - and I've gotten a lot of questions about why I do it. So why do YOU do it?
Well, I get a lot of inquiries on many of my designs from people who would like to make their own. At first I was of the same mind as those you mention—well, why would I do that? Over time though I have realized, making a given plushie design runs its course for me, and it becomes less inspiring and fun to make after a while…and also, making plushies is pretty labor intensive without a very high financial return for all the hours it takes to make one well.
Any advice to other makers out there?
As Henry David Thoreau said, Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. That is what it is all about—finding your own path, your own passion, and going on that journey with it. Do that above all other things. It is the source of true happiness, which in turn will flow to other people and areas of your life. Do what you love, people.
Thanks so much Holly! It was great getting to know you better.
Now that you've met her I know you'll want to stalk her too! You can find Holly online here. . .
blog: Chez Beeper Bebe
shop: Beeper Bebe
Flickr: Beeper Bebe