Welcome to the fifthteenth artist interview on miscellany!
(1) Tell us about yourself: My name is Drew, I’m 27 and I live in Los Angeles California. I’m from Michigan originally, which is where my parents, older brother and my beloved golden retriever Benny Hill still live. I grew up with a love of animals and a flare for the dramatic. I went to college at the University of Michigan where I received a BFA in Theatre Design & Production: Costume Design. I’ve also lived in Chicago, Illinois and spent a semester of college in Germany.
As a costumer, there is no such thing as a typical day for me. Some days I’m out endlessly shopping for wardrobe, and other days it feels like I’m chained to my sewing machine. Then there are the days when I’m on set, sometimes till 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. Most days my life is a tornado of fabric, thread, yarn and glitter. When I’m not working on a production, I spend my time crocheting away in my living room, with Netflix blaring in the background, taking frequent snack breaks, of course. The best part about LA is the amount of incredible vegan food. I usually stay up too late and get up too early.
(2) Tell us about what you create: I make handmade crochet stuffed animals, often called Amigurumi. I like to describe my style as adorably squishy. I’ve been crocheting for about 9 years now. When I was ten years old, my Grandma taught me how to knit, which I did on and off for the next few years. The summer before my senior year of high school, I picked it back up and decided to branch out and try crochet as well. Crochet is such a wonderful creative outlet because it really gives you control over the shapes you make and the types of projects you can create.
When I was living in Chicago, shortly after graduating from college, I lived down the street from a Borders (remember Borders?) and I found a book on making crochet creatures called Amigurumi. My first project was a set of Harry Potter characters that are still sitting on my bookshelf, next to my hardcover HP books. From then on, practically every gift I gave was crocheted. I’ve been writing my own crochet patterns from the start, and with amigurumi, it’s all about turning basic geometric shapes into adorable creatures. I think one of the things that sets me apart is my eye for design: being able to turn a quick sketch into a 3D critter. I also use 100% acrylic yarn and polyester fiberfil, which are hypo-allergenic and cruelty-free.
For the time being, my shop is a lot like a part-time job. It’s not my only focus, but it’s safe to say that it’s more than a hobby. Who knows, maybe someday it will blow up and become my full-time job!
(3) Tell us about your handmade art business: My shop had many names when I was first starting out. I kept trying to think of good crochet puns (a lot of “hooker” jokes were made), and I have many creative friends who made awesome suggestions like “Drew’s Zootique”. I landed on Drewbie’s Zoo because it was fun to say, and it was a play on a nickname of mine: Drewbie-doo.
The idea for the Zoo came about a year after I moved back to Michigan from Chicago, one of my close friends from high school and his wife were expecting their first child. At the time I was working in a small art house movie theater, and with the latest indie movies as my backdrop, I labored over a baby blanket, stuffed turtle and stuffed lion.
Rhys was born in November of 2013, and by July 2014 I was living in Los Angeles. David and Alana, Rhys’ parents were on me to start selling my stuffed animals online. It took me a while to figure everything out and get enough animals made to open up shop, and now here I am!
The nice thing about crochet is that it is a very mobile art form. My “studio” is anywhere I feel like working. Most of the time it is this squishy recliner in my living room, under a pile of yarn. I do have a small shipping station set up in my bedroom, as well as shelving unit where I keep all of my yarn and finished animals. It always feels good to walk into my room and be greeted by a bunch of little faces smiling at me.
(4) Tell us about your customers: Most of my customers are new parents or have friends with new additions to their families. While my animals are perfect for small children, I like to think that they are appealing to people of all ages. I think that there is a major market out there for handmade children’s goods. I really believe that when you make something by hand, you put a piece of yourself in the finished project. Each animal that I make has some of my love and positive energy inside of it. On a spiritual level I think that people really feel comforted knowing exactly where their products come from.
I also offer custom orders so that people can get exactly what they want. If your son’s favorite animal is a gorilla and his favorite color is chartreuse, it seems unlikely that you’ll be able to find a chartreuse gorilla at a big chain store, but I’d be more than happy to make one for him!
(5) Tell us where we can find your art: Right now everything is on Etsy! Everything can be found at drewbieszoo.etsy.com. I’m hoping to branch out soon and get a booth at some local craft shows. But in the meantime I just stick to my social media outlets:
Instagram and Twitter: @DrewbiesZoo
(6) Tell us about your support: As far as the day to day operations of my shop, I’m a lone wolf. I make the animals, I list them, I ship them. But of course I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my family and friends. They are the perfect sounding board for new ideas. They are also incredibly patient when I send them thousands of pictures in the middle of the night. “Does this look better like this? Or like this?”. I have an incredible group of friends who all bring different skill sets to the table, from both the creative and the business side of things. I’d be lost without them!
(7) Tell us about your favorites: One of my all-time favorite Etsy shops is Plusheez. It’s run by Marci Hunter and it can be found at Plusheez.etsy.com. She makes incredible plush toys of everything imaginable, but what I like most is that she makes comfort pillows in the shape of human organs. It’s such a beautiful idea to give a snuggly adorable pillow to someone who has recently undergone surgery, and it’s even more adorable if it’s in the shape of whatever body part was the focus of the surgery.
I also love Cocomilla.etsy.com for its beautiful watercolor prints. They are so colorful and beautiful.
As far as favorites from my own shop, it’s hands-down the manatee. Manatees have been my favorite animal since I was 4 years old. When you don’t live in Florida, it’s pretty rare to come across stuffed manatee toys, and I’m so happy that my own manatee is the most popular item in my shop!
(8) Tell us anything else: Selling handmade goods online is an intense business. There are so many moving parts to consider, like creating a brand, marketing and promoting and figuring out the tangled web that is the United States Postal Service. My advice to anyone who is thinking of opening up and online shop is that the devil is in the details. Invest in a notebook and really map out everything involved, from your prices to your shipping methods right down to what image you’re going to use for your profile picture. It can be a lot like juggling, but as long as you love what it is that you do, it will never be harder than you can handle. Thanks so much for reading and best of luck to everyone out there thinking of opening a craft shop!