This week I've been speaking to Jo Tulley, an Illustrator, Character Designer and Jewellery Maker from South Croydon. Jo lives with her partner and their son. She has two online shops; one is on Ebay that sells jewellery and the other is on Etsy selling handmade soft toys, cushions, and one-off creations. Both are under the name of Kidish. In the past year she has held stalls at several local craft markets and a selection of her creations have started to be sold at a store in Manchester called ‘Not For Ponies’.
Hi Jo. You sew plush toys and sell them in your Etsy shop and on eBay. How and when did you get into sewing, and what made you decide to begin your creations?
I have always loved to do crafts and draw. I started an eBay jewellery store just over 5 years ago, which I enjoyed (and still do) but I felt I wanted to make more hands-on stuff. After having a baby and finishing college I was a bit out of sync with illustrating, and I couldn’t get a full time job so I thought I’d have a go at working from home. I started experimenting with sewing, using my doodles and illustrations to make plush toys. I’m still learning but there’s definitely a big difference in how I sew now and how I did a year ago, it just takes practice.
In your Etsy store, you give each of your toys a cute little character name and back story. Do you have a favourite character?
The back-stories have started to be a good and bad thing, because I get way too attached to them! I have lots of favourites but if I had to choose one it would have to be the Mad Hatter plush, just ‘cos he was such a pain to design and sew. He has pride of place in my front room now.
You’re also an illustrator. What do you use to create your illustrations and what most inspires you to draw?
I usually just draw in black ink or biro, then if I have time I use Adobe Illustrator. Everything I draw just comes from my head, usually in the middle of the night, or early in the morning when I’m still half asleep!
How did you develop your unique cartoon style?
My dad used to be a technical illustrator and when I was small he’d give me drawing lessons so I think a lot of why I went into studying illustration spurns from that. I’ve always been jealous of people who can sit and draw something accurately; I’ve never been able to do it well. I’ve learnt to focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t, so I doodle everywhere especially when I’m bored at work. Once I get an idea in my head it’s hard to stop.
Tell us about the process of creating one of your products, from the initial idea to the finished item?
It’s a pretty long process because I tend to do all my designing and cutting at the same time then one by one sew them together and stuff them. It can start with a drawing or sometimes I’ll just think of something to make and then cut the felt freehand. I stick and sew all the features on, then turn the felt inside out and sew it together, then I cut a hole in the back, pull the inside back out and stuff till it’s nice and cushy. Finally I sew up the hole, cover it with a heart shape or patch and it’s all done!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m trying to think ahead. Halloween is the next major seasonal event so I’m playing about with clowns, ghouls, monsters and zombies at the moment.
What are your greatest creative ambitions?
Just getting my stuff out there is already an ambition achieved. To own a gallery/shop has been my dream for quite a while though.
I’m interested in learning to sew. What do I need to get me started and what is a simple project you can recommend to get me into the swing of things?
All you need is needle and thread and to experiment with different types of stitches. A great book to pick up is ‘Let’s make cute stuff’ by Aranzi Aronzo. These books teach you all you need to know and they’re easy to follow. I’d say to start easy by making a brooch or a keyring.
‘UNdane’ is the concept that beauty, happiness and creativity can be found within the mundane, the little things in life – you embody this in your everyday life with your creations and illustrations. Using this definition, what does UNdane mean to you? What is your idea of the UNdane? Give me some examples of UNdane things that make you smile.
UNdane is in a lot of what I do. I take something that is plain, it has no character, no spirit, and I give it an identity. I always like to change things, when I see a blank canvas I want to fill it. Smiles make me smile, so I draw them everywhere.
What’s your favourite song at the moment?
My boyfriend is a dubstep producer/DJ/Record label owner and he’s got me into a lot of his stuff, so I’m liking Magnetic Man ‘I Need Air’ at the moment. The Glee soundtrack is still a constant on my playlist. I love my cheesy pop.
Thank you Jo :)
Shop for lovely things from Jo at:-
Not For Ponies
Find Jo on Flickr
All photographs courtesy of Jo Tulley.