Craft Crush: Cotton Monster

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Today, friends, we bring you one of our favorite Craft Crush subjects, Jennifer Strunge of Cotton Monsters. The pandemonium caused here at Renegade HQ when we open one of her big boxes of monsters is second to none, and we are all guilty of giving them a good squeeze (or ten) fairly often. Read on to hear about what makes this awesome crafter tick.

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When did you first start crafting?
As early as I can remember! I always loved drawing, painting, cutting and gluing, and when I was a wee bit older, my mom taught me to sew and knit. I could make pom-poms and friendship-bracelets for weeks on end! I loved the repetitive nature of string crafts and the endless possibilities of trash sculptures and paper collages….and I still do!

What is the story behind your business name?
Coming up with a name for my creations was a tough. When I started the business (almost six years ago!) one of my main sources of material was cotton bed sheets, so after toying with a few made up words that didn’t have a great ring to them, I decided to keep it simple and call it Cotton Monster. The monsters always have some cotton sheets in them (like the teeth and whites of the eyes) and other cotton t-shirts and pjs are often used, but over the years I’ve expanded to using a much wider variety of recycled clothing and bedding, stretchy non-cotton and cotton/poly blends included. But the name just stuck…it’s too late to change it now and besides, Poly-blend Monster doesn’t have the same ring to it!

What is your creative process?
I work pretty intuitively. Sometimes I will doodle new ideas for characters, and then attempt to create something with similar aspects in cloth. It doesn’t always work the first time, so I’ll try a different technique or cut and try it again. Often times I come up with new ideas for creatures just by sewing and stuffing, then un-stuffing and re-sewing! I am very inspired by cloth and sometimes let the shape or stretch of a material help dictate the final outcome. And when all else fails…add more eyeballs!

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Do you have a best seller?
The Little Monster breed is the most consistent best seller. They have all the charm of the Big Monsters with bulging eyes and gap teeth, but in a smaller, cute package! Still totally huggable!

Are you working on anything new that you’re particularly excited about?
I am pretty in love with my new Von Katz Family, somewhat proper looking kitty cats with collared shirt and fabric buttons, inspired by my own two fat cats, Fleur and Dinah! Also I’ve been aiming to make some smaller, simpler monsters that I think are pretty rad, including the new Little Buggers and Sea Squirmies!

Who are your favorite artists and designers?
Its hard to pick favorites, but…I am madly in love with the work of graffiti artists Os Gemos, twin brothers from Brazil who paint awe inspiring murals and make crazy large scale installations. I love their style, vision and their amazing use of pattern! I also love following the work of my old classmate Jen Stark who works magic with cut up construction paper. And right now I’m smitten with Paulette Edition, the simple yet stunning prints and design of Iris Schwarz.

What’s a typical working day for you?
I start my day with a giant jar of tea while I check emails and catch up on some blog reading. Then I head upstairs to my attic studio where I work on cutting, ironing and sewing clothes and bed linens into monsters! I work on these creatures mostly one at a time, spending time picking out colors for each one, and sometimes only making 2-4 a day (they are pretty intricate beasts!) Occasionally I’ll do some assembly line work, sewing up rows of teeth or eyeballs. I pack up monsters to ship, take them to the post and maybe swing by a thrift store. Some days I’ll break early to work an hour or two at the rec center with kiddos doing arts and crafts, then home again for dinner! Often my day will end watching a movie or hanging out with friends while doing some hand-work, sewing up monster butts or stuffing eyeballs!

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Can you tell us something silly about yourself?
After a few hours of NPR news I’ll put on a mix of my favorite Pandora stations while I’m working in my studio. Sometimes when a really good song comes on I’ll assist a Cotton Monster in doing an interpretive dance in the mirror. Hey, you’ve got to entertain yourself when working alone all day!

Thanks, Jennifer, you’re awesome! See more Cotton Monster magic here and here.

Craft Crush: All Things Grow

It’s not hard to see why we’ve got a Craft Crush on Marcy Davy of All Things Grow. Her nature-inspired prints are simple, beautiful, and easy to love. Enjoy this little glimpse into Marcy’s crafting world, including stops along the way for Sufjan Stevens (may we recommend listening to this while you read her interview?), considerate staple gun use, and puttin’ a little boogy into the crafting process.

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When did you first start crafting?

I have been crafting for as long as I can remember—my childhood was filled with salt-dough ornaments, egg shell mosaics, and other thrifty spontaneous household projects– all thanks to my wonderful mother.  I didn’t learn printmaking until I was working on my Bachelor’s Degree, and the materials and processes immediately spoke to me.   I have worked primarily in print ever since.

What is the story behind your business name?

All Things Grow comes from the chorus of Sufjan Stevens’ song Chicago. On a literal level, I liked the name because I intended to make simple modern designs based on nature from the get-go.  In the context of the entire song, Chicago speaks to a kind of impermanence and transformation that I find enchanting.  I wanted to explore the natural world in all states of existence—whether it be the bud of a new leaf, a fallen feather, or a log moments before it becomes firewood—so the song fit the bill in a variety of ways.

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What is your creative process?

I kind of do a few different things that allow me to set my ideas up for success when I’m ready to print.  I have made a habit out of keeping a digital folder on my computer of beautiful images—vintage work, textile design, chairs, illustrations, signs, you name it—anything that inspires me in color, shape or form.  Then I write down images I would like to make as they come to me; in the shower, falling asleep at night, any time.  When I’m ready to print I work out the image—sometimes it spills out, sometimes I refer to the inspiration folder for a push into a color or design concept I may not have considered.

Do you have a best seller?

Most of my bestsellers have something to do with birds—eggs in nests, birds in trees, feathers.

Are you working on anything new that you’re particularly excited about?

I have started to pull prints in a variety of small sizes.  I am hoping to work up to carrying large screen prints and fabric by the yard in the near future!

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Who are your favorite artists and designers?

I love screen printed posters by groups like The Silent Giants, Bee Things, The Little Friends of Printmaking, and Brainstorm Print & Design.

What’s a typical working day for you?

I divide my time between printmaking and working as a commercial artist, so my days are kind of strange.  I tend to print in all-day marathons as a show approaches.  I have perfected the act of flipping my kitchen and dining room into a studio space and pulling prints well into the night.  My only rule is to stop using the staple gun by 10 p.m. in case my neighbors are trying to sleep!

Can you tell us something silly about yourself?

I dance when I screen print.

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Thanks so much, Marcy! See more from All Things Grow here & here.

Mat Daly + RCF On Grey’s Anatomy!

Okay, file this one under “totally awesome.” An eagle-eyed fan of Renegade spotted not one but TWO of Mat Daly’s awesome Renegade Craft Fair posters on last night’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Whoa whoa whoa! Peep more of Mat’s work (seriously you guys, it’s really cool stuff) here and here.

Hey-O, McSteamy!