You’d be hard pressed to find someone—in this or any other galaxy, no matter how far, far away—who is not a fan of Star Wars, and the insta-classic from 1977 is now a franchise that clearly needs no introduction. Bonnie Burton is an aficionado of the highest order and, as a lucky Lucasfilm employee, keeper of the StarWars.com kids section. Since 2004, she’s been posting regular craft projects bringing beloved characters—and Jar Jar Binks—to googly-eyed life, and recently released The Star Wars Craft Book, the very first published collection of Star-Wars-themed how-tos.
I actually fell into Star Wars by default. My older brother is, and always has been, a massive, huge, gigantic Star Wars devotee (who also now works at Lucasfilm). We spent many a youthful family vacation trolling antique stores for original action figures, he spent many an evening watching the movies, and, though I initially absorbed the series more than actively sought it out, I now see the obvious appeal.
After paging through Bonnie’s book (and much, much consideration), I settled upon sharing this plush Jabba the Hutt with you all. She envisioned it as a body pillow, so the step-by-step that follows is a bit modified, but you should absolutely check out the book for the original, as well as soon-to-be-classics such as the Admiral Sackbar paper bag puppet, holiday Mistle-TIE Fighter, and Han Solo in Soaponite.
I recently caught up with Bonnie—a woman whose love of all-things-geeky seems rivaled only by her love of making all-things-geeky—to talk finding common ground with Luke Skywalker, Ewok love, and the fruitful destiny of socks who’ve lost their mates.
You’re a font of geeky knowledge, but your adoration had to start somewhere. Can you remember your earliest brush with Star Wars?
I was a farm kid growing up in Kansas when I first saw Star Wars, at a drive-in double feature with Smokey and the Bandit (for the longest time I got the characters confused, thinking Burt Reynolds was Han Solo). I totally identified with Luke Skywalker, because he was also stuck on a farm. At home, I used to pretend that the combines in the distance were AT-ATs.
And when did you start to synthesize that with crafting?
I really like the aspect of creativity that was around during the 70s and 80s, whereas now that DIY sensibility is often overshadowed by gaming and more high-tech options. I try to tweak as many retro-type crafts as I can with a geeky twist, like painted rocks, or bean art, where literally you’re just gluing beans on a piece of board or wood to make a picture. I learned how to do that in 4H, and made a portrait of a poodle out of limas from a pattern. At that time, I think I would have rather made a portrait of Duran Duran.
Now that sounds like a good idea.
[Laughs] I may still do that. I should do a Simon Le Bon portrait. Simon Le Bean!
I think you just gave us a nice glimpse into how these projects come to be.
One day I was sitting in front of a pile of laundry—procrastinating—and thought, that sock looks just like Momaw Nadon (a “Hammerhead” from the Mos Eisley Cantina scene in A New Hope). His species is Ithorian, and they’ve got these weird shaped heads that already like the foot of a sock staring at you. Three or four hours later there were no clean clothes, but I had made a doll. We all lose socks, and, to me, if you lose one of a pair it means your other is destined to be a doll or a puppet. I mean, come on. Your sock sacrificed itself for years to keep your foot warm, and you can pay it back by giving it life.
Do folks need any particular skill sets to get going on the projects in your book?
I wanted the majority of the crafts be easy; if a kid can do them then anyone can do them. But there are some that are more challenging—like the R2D2 crochet beanie or Mounted Acklay Head—for experienced crafters.
Any controversial projects make the cut?
I’m really glad that the Jar Jar Binks mind trick doll got into the book. Jar Jar is like the Jerry Lewis of Star Wars—He’s got this slapstick goofiness that French people and small children like. People love him or hate him.
Which side are you on?
I don’t like the prequels Jar Jar but I love Clone Wars Jar Jar; our animated T.V. series won me over.
Good to know there’s hope for the haters.
Well, no matter what the franchise is, there’s always something that fans are going to dislike. When I was growing up, there were very few people who liked Ewoks. I was very pro-Ewok, and I still am. I think they’re great. And they’re deadlier than people give them credit for—Like really vicious teddy bears with spears. Lets face it, they weren’t keeping Han Solo over the fire to keep him warm. He was the equivalent of an Ewok Hot Pocket. They were going to eat him, if it wasn’t for C3PO.
What craft are you working on now?
A dog bed that looks like the Sarlacc Pit. It has all these weird soft spikes, with a little Boba Fett helmet in there too. I hope Simon Le Bean is next. It is. It definitely is. I’m such a sucker for a good pun.