Interview || Cotton Monster

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

For my next interview I emailed one of my favorite plushie makers around, Jennifer Strunge of Cottonmonster. She was more than happy to answer some of my questions, was great to see where she gets her inspiration for her monstrous creations.


Tell me about you line of work and how it came about for you?  
I make a line called Cotton Monster, stuffed creations made mostly of recycled clothing and bedding. Each is 100% unique and one-of-a-kind. I have been sewing since childhood and focused on quilt making and soft sculpture in my senior year of college…those soft sculptures eventually morphed into monsters and shortly after I graduated in 2004 I started making smaller monsters to display and sell….Cotton Monster was born!

How did you come across sites like ETSY and how has selling on them helped your line of   work?   
At my first craft show, someone affiliated with Etsy gave me a postcard promoting the website. At the time I hadn’t heard of Etsy, and was content running my own online shop. When demand grew and I found more kinks with the software I was using, I decided to give Etsy a shot. It was so user friendly and opened my work up to an even wider audience, I decided to look past the fees and stick with it!

Do you feel the Internet is an important part of promoting your work and why? 
Most definitely. The Internet has allowed my work to been seen (and bought) by people from all over the world.  If I just had my work in brick and mortar shops and galleries there is no way I would have the fan base that I do with my online presence.  Having a website, blog and online shop allows me to stay connected to hundreds of people at the click of a button.  People interested in plush work may just happen upon my work when searching the web, and people can also seek me out.  Online, people can share things they like so easily with others…so images and links spread fast. I do a fair amount of online promotion for myself, but I’d guess about half of it comes from others blogging, writing and re posting about Cotton Monsters!

Have you seen any negative outcomes from this kind of market? 
Since ideas spread so quickly on the web, there is a tendency for people to copy work they
admire…Also, there are more and more folks selling online everyday, so setting yourself apart
from the pack can be a challenge.

How do you feel the way you work relates to your chosen lifestyle? 
I think the way I work suits my lifestyle...and in effect, they are kind of one in the same. I rarely go a few hours without sewing something, checking emails, doodling, or doing something related to my business. But I aim to enjoy each and every one of these things, making me feel extremely lucky on a daily basis! I love working at home, setting my own schedule, taking off when I need/want too and putting in extra late night hours in my PJ's. But I also work hard…when your work becomes so integrated in your lifestyle, you can’t just turn it off. Something always needs to be stuffed or whip-stitched! I haven’t sat and watched a movie in quite sometime without having my hands busy.

Do you think the recent popularity of the handmade aesthetic and handmade philosophy has power to last or just another passing trend? 
I like to think it will last. The more things are mass-produced (which will not slow anytime soon) the more people desire to counteract that by buying handmade or thrifting or making it themselves. Of course this comes at a cost. It is a luxury to buy handmade, and a lot of times even making things your self can cost more then buying a cheap product at a box store. But I hold out hope that even fallen on hard times folks will continue to believe in supporting artists as opposed to corporations and buying unique handmade items to set them apart from the pack.

Is there a sense of community between you and other makers creating in the same way? 
I do feel a sense of community with other makers.  Some online who I’ve never met, but feel I have, from blogs and letter writing, some I see once or twice a year at craft shows, and many in my hometown where we meet to plan craft shows and talk about our work and share our experiences.

 Are you trying to make a statement through your work? Obvious or otherwise? 
I set an intention to give new life to used clothes and household linens (something we have an over-abundance of in the US). I aim to portray my perspective and artistic vision in every creature I sew and bring joy to people experiencing my work in the process. I feel a real connection to fabric and its tactile quality. Creating with fiber for me, the act of feeling, cutting, sewing, stuffing, is something I don’t think I could live without!

Where do you feel your work will go in the future? 
I wish I knew! Maybe something more functional, maybe larger scale more time-intense pieces! I just follow my gut.

 You can find Jennifer and her little monsters at Cottonmonster.com

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