Ever since I got my hands on a copy of Meg Mateo Ilasco's latest book, Crafting a Meaningful Home, I've been flipping through trying to decide what to start working on first. Calling upon creative folks from across the country to share projects with a personal tie, Meg's hardback not only offers a wide-ranging array of 27 things to make, but a lovely portrait and background of all the contributors, too, who range from Lisa Congdon to Billie Lopez and Tootie Maldonado from ReForm School to Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith of Curiosity Shoppe fame. I was drawn to Brooklyn–based Sian Keegan's braided rag vessels when I had a chance to check them out in person at a show at Congdon's Rare Device and, as luck would have it, found all the necessary materials already kicking around my apartment (yesss!).
It's not everyday you have the chance to chat with someone who's described as "owning an eponymous company that creates stuffed animals," so I got in touch with Sian to hear a little more about her unique occupation.
Not many can list their occupation as stuffed animal maker (!). How did you establish yourself in such a niche field? And how would you describe what you do?
I started making the stuffed animals in 2006, but they didn't really take off until a couple of years later when I began offering custom pieces. I make custom three-dimensional portraits of pets based on photos sent in by their owners. I mainly do stuffed dogs and cats, but I've also done rabbits and couple of pet rats.
You use almost exclusively recycled fabrics. Why are you drawn to them?
Mostly out of concern for the environment, but also I enjoy working with a limited range of materials. It can actually make things easier to have fewer choices, and you end up with a more interesting product when you use vintage or found fabrics. Sometimes I'll have a piece of fabric for years before I find the right use for it.
Most rewarding part of the job?
I love making my 3D Pet Portraits. Its a lot of fun to receive photos from pet owners and hear about their dogs' and cats' little quirks. They all love their pets so much, and many of them are ordering portraits of pets they have lost. It feels great to be able to give them a little something tangible they can hold on to to remember their pet.
Most challenging part of the job?
Everything I make tends to take a really long time! Budgeting enough time for each project and being honest with myself about how long something will take is definitely a big challenge.
Who are your favorite designers?
I've always loved Alexander Girard's work. I'm also inspired by the many young artists/designers I've met while living in Brooklyn the past several years. There are so many talented people here!
Favorite project that you've completed or are working on?
I recently had some of my patterns digitally printed onto fabric to sell in my shop, sian.etsy.com. After doing freelance textile design work for clients over the past few years, it's great to finally see my personal work on fabric! I can't wait to start making things with it.
Favorite music to work to?
I like to listen to something fun and upbeat while I'm working. My favorite recent album is "Age of Adz" by Sufjan Stevens. Lately I've also been listening to Kanye West's and Nicki Minaj's new albums--they are great!
Where do you turn for inspiration?
I love pretty much all fashion magazines, especially Lula and Teen Vogue. I read a lot of blogs, but my most visited are Design*Sponge , Oh Joyt, Lena Corwin's blog, and Jeana Sohn's blog. I also spend a lot of time watching movies on Netflix streaming while I'm working. The most inspiring I've seen lately is "I Am Love" with Tilda Swinton.
How did growing up in such a creatively rich home influence your current work?
It was great having an artistic mother and grandmother to help and encourage me with craft projects. We spent a lot of weekends going to antique and thrift stores and flea markets, so I guess that's where I got my start working with used materials. I definitely got my appreciation for all things cute from my grandmother. She used to keep a scrapbook full of pictures of cute dogs she clipped out of magazines!
Words of encouragement for newbie makers and crafters?
I would say it's important to have patience. It took me a long time to figure out the best way to sell my work (i.e., which shops, craft fairs, websites) and to find the most efficient way to create it.