I am excited to add this "new" and what I hope will be a monthly interview feature to the A.O. blog.
I know we all have seen some of the wonderful work that is being done in amigurumi design. I am interested also in the stories behind the designs and I can bet many of you are too.
For Janurary I want you to meet Stacey Trock from Fresh Stitches. While she does mention one of her "amigurumi-idols" below, I have to admit that Stacey is one of mine. So I am doubly-honored to have her not only agree be interviewed but to be the first interview for A.O..
I can bet that many of you already know about Stacey's wonderfully "koot" work. Not only does she have her absolutely adorable site at Fresh Stitches, but she is also the author of not just 1 but 2 books featuring some of her koot and cuddly designs, "Cuddly Crochet" and "Crocheted Softies". And as you will see below that only scratches the surface of all the things she does.
A.O.: I know I fell into amigurumi design by accident, How or why did you get into Amigurumi/animal design?
S.T.: I started as soon as I finished school: I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew that I loved crocheting and really loved stuffed animals… so I put the two together!
A.O.: When did you first get started in Amigurumi/animal design?
S.T.: In the middle of 2008 is when I started my first couple of designs, and I had my website (www.freshstitches.com) up and running by the end of the year.
A.O.: What influences your design style?
S.T.: Cute. I always want my designs to be cute and make you squeal a little when you see them. Cute can come out in lots of different ways… sometimes it means big eyes, but sometimes it means funny little feet or a hilariously large beard.
I’m always looking for cuteness in the world- I get influences from drawings and cartoons, toys and even adorable household products!
A.O.: I really look for inspiration anywhere I can get it. How do you come up with your design ideas?
S.T.: It sounds cliché, but the ideas really do ‘just come to me’. Sometimes, I have a particular goal (for example, I just designed a groundhog for Groundhog Day), but often not. I’ll just suddenly think, ‘hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if I made…’. And then I do it!
A.O.: I've recently gotten into using cotton yarn after primarily using acrylic. What are some your favorite yarns or materials to use?
S.T.: My favorite materials are natural ones. Most of my designs use either 100% wool or 100% cotton. In my opinion, they feel nicer to work with, and they hold up well over time.
I don’t crochet with a yarn that I wouldn’t personally wear. Since I’m making stuffed animals that are often suggled by kids- I want to make sure they’re soft and lovely!
A.O.: I myself only designing and blogging a little over a year now primarily use Twitter, Facebook, the blog and word of mouth to get the word out about A.O.. Where and what are some of the ways you like to promote yourself?
S.T.: I’m really into using social media to reach out to people… I’m on twitter (@freshstitches) and facebook (/freshstitches), and also on Ravlery and Craftsy.
I don’t do much paid advertising… mostly because it can be expensive, and it’s a real art to figure out how to get the best results. I’m slowly learning, but I still mostly stick to the strategy of being an active blogger and social media user.
It takes a long time to build a following, and it’s really easy to look at someone else and say, ‘oh, they have so many more followers than me.’ At first, I felt overwhelmed … but then I realized: (for me at least) developing a customer base is about building relationships with other crocheters- and that takes time!
A.O.: I firmly believe if we didn't like doing this we'd be doing something else so, What is your favorite part of what you do?
S.T.: I totally agree! My favorite part of what I do is… Oh, everything! I love that there are so many facets to my job. I come up with designs (which is very creative), I crochet (which is fun and relaxing) and I also do all of the marketing, website design and business stuff (which totally keeps me on my toes and learning new things!)
I also love that I get to work from home, which allows me to have a flexible schedule and move around/travel with my husband. It’s a lovely life!
A.O.: What is one thing that you don't think people know about you or your work?
S.T.: Ooh… that’s tricky. Most people know that I like to crochet through the back loop. But I don’t think people know that I do it for a reason (maybe they just think I’m a weirdo?). I crochet through the back loop, because attaching pieces is easier and you can get away with using a bigger hook without stuffing showing through.
About me personally- most people don’t know that I have something called ‘Irlen Syndrome’ which, among other things, means that I have an extreme sensitivity to fluorescent lights. I wear tinted lenses to prevent me from getting migraines in conferences and other places with fluorescent lighting… but I think most people think I’m just trying to be uber-trendy!
A.O.: I believe everyone has something they can teach one another. If you had one piece of advise for new designers what would that be?
S.T.: Oh, there’s so much! I have two. First, if you love what you’re doing- keep it up! Success rarely comes overnight, and it takes a while to get to where you want to go. Second, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. When you’re starting out, you feel like you should take every opportunity that’s offered to you so you can get experience. But, not all opportunities are what is best for you (personally) or your business. So, don’t be afraid to turn things down if you don’t get a good vibe about it!
A.O.: Is there anything new you're working on now or would you like to tell us about anything new you are doing this year?
S.T.: My goal for this year is to just keep up what I’m doing… so I don’t have any crazy plans!
I’m very excited that two video courses that I filmed with Craftsy will be out in early 2012: an intro to amigurumi and a class about how to design amigurumi. I’m so thrilled about the design course- it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
Other than the courses, I’ll be crocheting stuffed animals, releasing patterns and also stepping up the information available on my blog. Starting late in 2011, I began writing a ‘tip Tuesday’ post- posting about a crochet tip. My readers have found it really helpful, so I’m looking for ways to add even more info to my blog!
A.O.: Finally I have 2 or 3 people that I've learned so much from both in ami- design and in other areas too such as blogging. Who are some of your favorite influencers? Would you like to give a shout out to them?
S.T.: Oh, you ask such tough questions! I’m absolutely in love with MochiMochiLand- Anna comes up with such creative designs, has lovely photography and great ideas about how to present her pieces. She’s definitely my amigurumi-idol!
On the business front, there’s no one person I follow, but I read lots of information on small businesses, SEO (search engine optimization) and marketing. I’m always learning about how to make my business better- and there’s a whole bunch of folks out there with brilliant ideas!
I would once again like to thank Stacey for taking time to answer some questions and providing all the pictures shown here too. I know all your tips and help with any questions I've had since I started this new ami-journey have been invaluable to me. You've always been generous in taking the time out of what I am sure is a full schedule to reply to whatever questions or requests I've had (no matter how small or strange).
Have a wonderful day to all... and Happy Ami,Shannon