Personal Project: Creating my own Muse in plush form

This post is all about Mei Li. She is my Muse in plush form.

I’ve been wanting to create my own personal muse for a while now, and this week I was finally able to bring my design to life!

The first time I started thinking about what my own muse would look like is when I bought The Faerie’s Oracle tarot deck a couple of years ago (by one of my favourite artists Brian Froud). The deck comes with 66 cards that are beautifully illustrated, however, the zero card is completely blank. This card is called “The Guide”, and it is left blank with the intention of the owner completing it with their own personal muse. I never knew what to do with this card — what did my muse look like? What if I got it wrong? Looking back I’m not surprised that I didn’t know at that time. I would not be on my own personal art journey until a few years later, when my ex and I moved to the States. Then, just a couple of weeks ago when I was working on Plush Team’s favourite childhood plush project, an idea for a plush design popped out at me. I immediately had to draw her out. I knew that she was a white rabbit spirit girl, with white hair and grey skin.

[She’s the one with the heart on her chest.]

Mei Li represents my muse, a white rabbit zombie girl. Mei Li used to work in a turn-of-the-century travelling carnival. You know, the type with fire eaters, a freak show, exotic animals and trapeze acts. Her act involved acrobatics and white rabbits. Mei Li’s act was quite good, but the ringmaster kept pressuring her to make her performance more and more dangerous — for the enjoyment of the crowd (and to fill his pockets). Mei Li didn’t like the ringmaster too much, but unfortunately life as a carnie is limited, and it leaves a strange little girl with really no other options in life. Mei Li agreed to increase the risks in her act, but something went terribly wrong and suddenly Mei Li’s life was over. But for some reason, she remained in this world as a wandering ghostly zombie girl. Mei Li took interest me when I was just a little girl. Maybe my clumsiness reminded her of herself, or my love of rabbits. Whatever the case, this strange little zombie girl has been my inspirational muse ever since.

I decided to name her “Mei Li”, after some of the Mandarin characters (梅李) that are used to make my name, Emily. I made sure that I used the Alice In Wonderland fabric, and put the white rabbit on her front, to really keep with the theme. (Alice is on her back.) And of course she needed her own White Rabbit buddy! I chose to give her hair buns to represent rabbit ears. ^_^

[Here are a couple in-progress shots. Lucky insists on sitting right next to me as I work. ♥]

I used a new technique on her that I’ve been dying to use on a plushie! (Well, it’s not really new, but I haven’t used it on dolly plushies yet.) I gave her smokey eyes and blushed cheeks using pastels, and applyed them with q-tips. I’ve used this technique on my doll customs (you can really tell on my Holly). It gives it a really neat look that you can’t get with fabric or thread.

Mei Li is now on display with my other favourite toys. ♥

[Oh, now that we’re all finished, it’s time for a nap! ^_^]

Etsy Plush Team: Favourite Childhood Plush

This was my second project with Plush Team. We had to create a plushie based on our favourite childhood plush. This was a very fun challenge because it gave me a chance to pull out my old toys that have been stored away for far too long.

My most favourite childhood plush was a rabbit puppet. As you can see (in the pic below), she has been well loved. I loved her because she was a rabbit (my favourite animal as a child), and she was a puppet so I could easily bring her to life (foreshadowing a future career in animation, perhaps!). I named her Jessica Rabbit (*not* after the curvy lady in Who Framed Roger Rabbit — I named her at least 5 years before that movie was released!), but rather she was named/inspired after my brother Jesse. I was almost 3 when my baby brother was born, and I guess either by jealousy or love (or both!) shortly afterwards I took on the persona of a rabbit — “Jessica Rabbit” that is, for the duration of a year when I was a little girl. I would *only* answer to the name “Jessica”… at home, school, etc. I was quite adamant that I was Jessica Rabbit (I was really a bunny living as a human), and I would even sign my paintings as “Jessica Rabbit” (while some kids in my preschool couldn’t even write their own names — I bet the teachers loved me! lol). So, my childhood plush Jessica Rabbit is quite a meaningful toy to me, and now, years later I’m still finding that rabbits are influencing my life to this day! ^_^

Anyways, why don’t I show you what I made! ^_^ This is Baby Rabbit. I tried to used the same colours on her body that were in the original plush, and I wanted to make her look handmade, so I added obvious stitching with dark brown thread where I could. I wanted the design of her face to be similar to the original, so I gave her a prominent nose, with a stitched nose and frowning mouth. I didnt’t have eyes like the original plush has, but I thought these red button eyes were really cute for her. I thought about making her ears fall backwards behind her head, instead of forwards, but I like her ears perked up, and her ears are flexible enough that they can be folded backwards, stand up at attention, or folded down in a relaxed pose.

Jessica and Baby Rabbit meet in a momentous occassion. They instantly become friends, and Jessica assumes the role of mother. ^_^

She is now available for sale in my Etsy shop. Wooden mushrooms can be purchased at Craftsty’s shop.

Plush Art Show: Crammed Organisms — book cover revealed!

The book cover has been announced for the Crammed Organisms 2008 plush show! I think it’s so pretty with the wood grain background, and the super cute art by Kill Taupe. It will be a limited edition soft cover book of 5000, measuring 8×8 inches, with 130 colour pages. It will be available for pre-order at the end of May 2008 on the Crammed Organisms website. The first 500 pre-orders come with a limited edition print set, featuring 10 unique pieces from some of Crammed Organisms artists. Hooray, I can’t wait to see it!

Etsy Plush Team: Fairytale Project – The Little Mermaid

This was my first challenge with Etsy’s Plush Team, and it was a lot of fun! I was partnered up with the very sweet Area Thrifty One, and she chose The Little Mermaid as her favourite fairytale. She’s a big fan of the Hans Christian Anderson version, and has never seen the Disney version of this story, although she loves a very tragic anime version of the story that premiered in 1979. So, I wanted to try and make my plush capture the emotions of the original fairytale, stay away from the one that is heavily merchandised, but possibly keep her animated looking. After several sketches, this is what I came up with:

Area Thrifty One said that she really likes the darkness that fairytales have (I have to agree with her!). She loves The Little Mermaid sculpture in Copenhagen, because she looks so sad as she stares out at sea, since she is not really part of the land, and she is no longer a part of the sea.

At first I thought of giving The Little Mermaid legs and feet, try to show her sadness of being removed from the sea, but then I thought she wouldn’t really look like The Little Mermaid upon first glance (and there’s no way I could come close to replicating the famous statue in Copenhagen!). So I decided to keep her in mermaid form, but to make her sad, and to definitely stay away from the identifiable Disney colours. ^_~

This was my first sketch for The Little Mermaid plush. It captured her sadness, but this design was way too complicated and time-consuming. But, I still like how this sketch turned out. ^_^

This photo shows the progress of The Little Mermaid plush.
#1 – First I sketch out my plush designs on small scraps of paper. I decided on the one on the bottom right-hand corner. I liked the simplified shape, and how her hair looked like water.
#2 – Next I sketched out the plush design in the actual size I wanted it to be. I tried to keep the shapes simplified.
#3 – Then I cut my pattern out of plastic tablecloth (a little trick I learned from my Mom — it makes the pattern last a long time). This is my “master pattern”. From this, I made more patterns of just the skin, then the tail, the hair, etc.
#4 – Then I cut out the felt, and place everything together. At this point I had already sewn blue thread into the hair.

I added netting on the blue background to symbolize her feeling of being trapped. There are a couple of starfish trapped in the net, too. ^_^

The Little Mermaid has been made with felt, mesh, and she’s been both machine and hand sewn. She will be available in my Etsy shop. Thanks Plush Team & Moons Creations for a very fun challenge. Area Thrifty One, I hope I did your fairytale justice! ^_^;