CAVEY/A LITTLE STRANGER
Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself?
Holly: It all started when I did work experience at school, I think I must’ve been about 14, and got the top arty placement in my year- a week at a model making studio specializing in toy prototyping. It seemed like the best job in the world and when I was offered a job at the end of it it was hard to turn it down. I stayed in touch with my workshop manager, and after studying model making at university (he advised me that I didn’t need a degree but I should go to University “‘cos it’s a laugh” best advice I’ve ever been given, I had the best time at Uni!) I worked for them part time thought the last two years of my degree and had a job waiting for me when I graduated. I worked there as a model maker, prototyping toys and games, making model boats and cars, 1:1 scale trains – all sorts! I’d always enjoyed sewing and making soft toys as a hobby, and brought this to my day job so we could offer clients soft toys as well as action figures and hard toys: I figured ‘how hard could it be?’ which led to a lot of all-nighters and head scratching as I only had myself to fall back on.
After working as a model maker for a few years I went freelance creating and arranging manufacture of soft toys for other people, with the occasional bit of model making thrown in. I also run my own designer toy line, Cavey, which sees me designing, manufacturing and releasing a new design each month.
UVD: Would you mind telling us about some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
Holly: my first venture into selling toys online were called Puffsies, which were basic two-piece felt plushes with button eyes and contrast stitching, I only ever made one of each, and each had a name and little backstory. I then began making plushes, dragons, yetis and such, and started a little etsy shop where I would sell them and take custom orders, sometimes even taking kids drawings and making them into monster toys for them, which I loved! I then started making jointed traditional style teddy bears but with little evils faces, so they looked like the girls in bear suits from my paintings. I scanned one of my paintings of a girls face and transferred it onto fabric, which I then stitched onto the plush. I wanted to take this one step further and make it feel more like these character was wearing a bear costume; so while working as a model maker I made the most of having easy access to casting equipment, and started casting my own custom sculpted faces. By combining resin and plush elements i could really go to town with the texture and colour on the plushes and make them feel more real. I now like to work entirely from scratch, creating a bespoke face sculpt for each plush, often including glass eyes which I love for their realism.
UVD: What are some things that influence you and your work? Is there any artist’s work that inspired you and your style early on in your career?
Holly: I’m heavily influenced by 80’s fantasy films; the labyrinth, dark crystal, actually anything Jim Henson related. I’d pack it all in now to go work in the creature workshop!
UVD: I realize Toysrevil and Miseducated have already asked about how Cavey and A Little Stranger started, but would you mind us a little about both starting out and also what Cavey/A Little Stranger give you that you can’t get from your professional job?
Holly: Cavey came about from spending time prototyping toys for other people, I wanted to do something for myself. I love being in control of the designs and thinking up new designs, picking fabrics etc… Cavey is still very much my baby, on top of designing and arranging the manufacture of the plushes i do all the finishing touches to the plushes, photography, blogging, photo editing, email, invoices, packing and sending: all from my living room. It’s a full time job in itself and thanks to my iPhone I can fit it in around my day job without going too crazy. I also lure my poor friends over on release nights to help me pack up all the boxes and get them to the depot, I’ve become a very familiar face there ha ha!
My A Little Stranger customs and bespoke toys are my creative outlet, something I love to work on in my spare time. I first got into customs and vinyl toys when I met Triclops, following some work I did with them we then collaborated on their piece for the Action Man 4040 show in 2006. The name ‘A Little Stranger’ came about when I decided I needed an image change, I’d been selling Handmade dolls clothes and toys online under the name ‘Hollypop’ for a couple of years, but it was a bit pink and cutesy and didn’t represent where my work was headed. A Little Stranger refers to the characters I create, meaning both they are little strangers, little creatures that come into your life. it also reflects that they are slightly strange, curious characters.
UVD: Speaking of your professional life, I saw on your website that you have worked with Disney, Hasbro, and Nickelodeon. Would you mind telling us a little about how those partnerships started out and some things from these companies you have had your hands on that we should look for?
Holly: I work with them on a prototyping level, starting when I was working as a model maker. I post images of my professional work online from time to time but unfortunately for the most part I can’t discuss any details of the projects.
UVD: After looking through your portfolio for A Little Stranger, most of the figures are people/creatures in coats/costumes. I hope they stay nice and warm in there. Is there any reason behind the figures being in coats/costumes, or it that just how the figures have manifested themselves when you are creating them?
Holly: I like the idea of the character being dressed up as something else, so as a viewer you wonder who the character is underneath, and why they’re dressed up that way. My human characters I imagine as being spectators in the animal world, dressing as their favourite animals to live among them. My animal characters tend to be an almagimaion of two or more animals, creating new species.
UVD: With the growing number of shows that you are being invited to (or at least I have noticed that you have been invited to), is it tough to keep everything straight? Like with participating with the Lunartik Tea Tour, the Heavy Metal Qee show, a custom Vinylmation show, and even doing customs on Dunnys and Treesons.
Holly: Yes! My work schedule is very very busy so finding spare time is hard. I always have a list of extra projects so I have to be disciplined with myself to work on one at a time, in the right order. I’m constantly juggling my professional work, Cavey stuff and customs/commissions on top. I love what I do, and I’m one of those people who can’t sit and do nothing, So i’ve always got a little pile of work to do even when I’m watching TV or at a friends house. Any little extra bit of time I can find are great :)
UVD: After almost a year and a half of Cavey being the star of the Cavey show, Cavey must have gotten lonely since as of DCON 2011 Cavey gained a friend, Coney. How did Coney and Cavey grow to be friends, and are there more friends waiting to be introduced to the public?
Holly: Coney had been in the pipeline for a few months, I wanted to create an occasional accompanying design for Cavey releases who was different to Cavey but still identifiable as being part of the Cavey universe. I got though a lot of prototypes to get his shape just right, many more than I did for Cavey. The great thing about Cavey is time line between design through to manufacture and getting the new design online is pretty short, I can come up with a design and have them available to buy within a month at push. It was a bit scary releasing a new design to an existing fan base, but luckily he has been really popular so far.
I have a few more friends for Cavey planned for the future, too: Coney is actually the second friend for Cavey, I have a another friend for him that i came up with pretty early on who’s design hasn’t quite been perfected yet.
UVD: With Cavey’s 2nd birthday right around the corner next summer, what do you envision doing to celebrate and top the successful show that you had for the 1st birthday?
Holly: Big plans are under way, but I don’t want to jinx it by saying anything just yet. Stay tuned!
UVD: How does Cavey get around since he has no arms or legs (and assuming no help from the loving owner)?
Holly: I deliberately kept Cavey’s shape ambiguous so his new owner can impart their own imagination onto his character, his personality, likes and dislikes and how he moves/ communicates. The same goes with their names, I like to keep them very factual so their owner is free to name him as they please. I imagine mine plodding/ hopping around, and lots of squeaking, since they are based on my squeaky guinea pigs
UVD: After a little Google image searching, I found that there were images of Nintendo (Kirby, Yoshi, and Mario Plant) necklaces that you had made. When did these happen to come about, and should we expect to see more of this stuff in the future?
Holly: They were something I did a while ago just for fun, I started making myself a sonic one because I wanted it to wear myself and then got quite into making the teeny cross stitches of my favorite game sprites. I may make some again in the future, I’m constantly inspired by video games and consequentially we have lots of game inspired stuff round our house.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
Holly: I have lots of stuff in the pipeline but nothing I can talk about just yet ;)
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
Holly: Keep going, get your stuff out there as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Setting up a blog, or a flickr is an easy way to show off what you’re doing, and get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. For me, i feel a piece is finished when i don’t want to sell it – i figure that if i like it then someone else will, too! If you’re looking for a job in the creative industries then work experience is a great way to get your foot in the door, and you will learn a lot of new skills very quickly.