Designer Interview

Betty Buttons interviews piggyhatespanda

When I was a lot younger my sister started making a rag doll from a simplicity pattern. I had hoped she was making it for me as the cute younger sister but I’m afraid she had other plans. The final doll was meticulously stitched with a sky blue, lace trimmed dress, very similar to the dress I would later wear as a bridesmaid at her wedding. Personally I think it suited the rag doll a little better. The doll was handed down to my sister’s daughter in later years which is the way it should be. Most of us have a rag doll in the family, and you’ve hopefully seen Ann-Marie’s family legacy of giant rag dolls. Ann-Marie’s Dolls recently lead us to run our own Rag Doll Workshops with a group of girls and they all finished up with a doll they will cherish for many years to come.

Some of the trendiest rag dolls I’ve seen have been created by Californian designers Piggyhatespanda. Each doll is carefully planned and designed to give them a unique sense of character and style. The dolls are machine stitched and beautifully hand finished with the utmost attention to detail. We are very excited to have our first designer interview with the duo from Santa Cruz who make the most of being part of a growing global craft community. We hope it will inspire our little stitchers to know people can be very successful designing hand crafted gifts, and for all budding crafters to gain an insight into a professional crafter’s work practices and passions… It all starts from doing something we love to do – Sew!

So…piggyhatespanda is an intriguing name, what’s the story behind it?

Piggy and panda are actually personas we assigned to each other, based on an old private joke; piggy only playfully hates panda. We liked the idea of giving our venture a name that has meaning to us, and it’s something that would make us smile.

What is your background and When and why did you start sewing and making rag dolls?

Panda studied and taught art to both children and adults alike. she’s been sewing and working with her hands her whole life. She started making rag dolls from her original designs for her children, and just kept making them. Piggy has a background in fine art and is a self-taught sewer with razor sharp eye for detail.

Do you still have a rag doll from when you were young – what does she look like?

Panda still has a doll that was purchased at a street market in Mexico when she was five. She is life-sized ( for a five year old), and was patterned after Holly Hobbie (very 80’s), complete with long pigtails made of yarn, and a prairie dress. She was so loved in fact, that now, almost thirty years later, she remains amazingly intact despite a few missing features which include an eye, a felt boot and a few clumps of hair.

You have a successful business making rag dolls to order, is this becoming a full time occupation or do you juggle this business with other work?

Yes, piggyhatespanda is absolutely a full time job. We sew around 12 hours a day, almost every day. We want to keep our operation to just the two of us  (because we are perfectionists), so that means it’s a whole lot of work. We sell mostly on Etsy, we also supply to brick and mortar around the US and abroad. It’s definitely exciting to be able to share our work with people around the world!

Your dolls are very modern and unique, Where does the inspiration for each new doll come from and do they get their characters and fashion sense from people you know?

A lot of inspiration for our dolls comes from the illustrations in classic children’s literature. We especially enjoy the artwork and designs of Japanese children’s books from the twenties and thirties. We really try to give the dolls a vintage feel, whilst employing the use of more modern fabrics and materials; we think its important that they stay close to our own aesthetics.

The fabrics you choose add to the character of each doll. What is your process for designing the doll and choosing the outfit and fabrics?

Most doll designs start with a fabric, or fabric line that we like, and want to use. We sketch and revise in brainstorming sessions until we are totally happy with the concept. Of course, a good deal of final touches tend to be organically adopted as we put a prototype together.

The handmade movement in the States is huge and it is gaining more of a foothold in the UK too. Do you immerse yourself in the craft scene in your area? 

We are so proud to be apart of the ever growing handmade movement. It really is wonderful to be a part of such a supportive and connected local, national and global community of artists. We try to get out and experience what the Bay Area has to offer, as there is so much talent here, and so much respect and importance placed upon the kind of work that we do.

I’m sure people will be interested to have a glimps at your workspace. What is important for you to have in your workspace environment to make it conducive to creativity. Do you share your space with anyone?

Our studio is in  our house. We always have some music playing, ALWAYS. We try to keep lots of bits and pieces of inspiration on the walls: family pictures, art, kid’s drawings, stickers…whatever catches our fancy. But, the best thing about our studio, are the big windows that give us a lovely view of the giant Redwood trees which surround us, here in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Do you have any children and do spend time doing crafty projects with them?

Panda has a five year old daughter and an eleven year old son. Both of them can operate a sewing machine and wield a threaded needle quite well.

Our favorite craft projects tend to evolve from the gathering of scraps left over from a day’s work.  Felt scraps turn into additions to a felt board (e.g. dresses, flowers, furniture, puppies…), a good sized fabric scrap, may get placed into an embroidery hoop, to be covered in brightly colored, and abstract embroideries destined to find a home in a thrifted frame. The bottom line is, someone is always making something.

We run sewing workshops for children. What words of wisdom would you give to inspire our young crafters?

We think its important for young crafters to learn to appreciate the importance of beautiful materials. Working with quality materials, can really transform the whole process of making something by hand. It can increase one’s enjoyment dramatically, and can really turn the end product into something particularly special.

Find out more 

Piggyhatespanda blog
Piggyhatespanda Etsy store

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