Friday Interview: Felt Like It! April 08, 2011 13:27

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'd like to introduce you to Amber Alves, the creative force behind Felt Like It. Amber has an uncanny ability to make just about anything super cute. Lima bean, eggplant, no problem! Our wee state, easy! Read on to learn a little more about Massachusetts artist, Amber, and what she loves about handmade.

Please describe yourself and your handmade business.
I'm a freelance graphic designer/production artist by day, pillow/plushie designer by night (and on weekends!) I think of myself as a super creative person - I've been making art all my life, and I couldn't imagine myself in a profession that isn't related to visual design. But still, work is work - and it's so refreshing to be able to do something for myself. That's why I started Felt Like It - I needed an outlet that I have complete creative control of.
Felt Like It started when a friend of mine said that he loves cheeseburgers so much, he'd like to give one a hug! After a short stint as a jewelry artist, I became interested in fabric and sewing. I got a sewing machine for Christmas (2006) and my first projects were the giant cheeseburger, and a giant sugar cookie. The sugar cookie didn't really survive, but the cheeseburger remains one of the most popular pillows today!

Describe your studio.
Before I moved to western Massachusetts, my entire apartment was my studio. Luckily, I had a very understanding roommate. Now, I have a whole room. It's not very large, but it has my table, some shelving for my fabric, and a bed, which is a good thing to have around in case I'm up too late sewing! It's a good space, but it can get kind of messy, what with fabric scraps flying around and all.

Not everyone could make a lima bean cute and cuddly, can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your collection of plushy foods?
Muppets! I used to LOVE the skits featuring singing/talking food puppets. Adorable. Also, a lot of my inspiration comes from Japan… I like super-cute things like Sanrio toys and smiling sushi-shaped erasers that you find in funky gift shops.
Many of my designs actually started out as custom requests. The peanut plush was originally designed as a gift for a new mom who calls her son her "peanut." Naturally, I made the lima bean for all the baby "beans" in the world.

What's your process like for designing new plushies?
I usually start designing on the computer (it's the graphic artist in me). In the case of Buddy Rhodes, I found an outline of the state of Rhode Island, traced it in Adobe Illustrator, then simplified the outline so it's recognizable, but not too detailed. For the cheeseburger, I just experimented until I got it right! I have several versions that look like they belong on the Island of Misfit Toys.

What does handmade mean to you?
"Handmade" is not manufactured, not outsourced, crafted with lots of time and love and care. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I had a robot to make all of my pillows, but I like having control over what I choose to represent myself and my business. My grandmother was a seamstress and a dress designer, so as I'm at the sewing machine or hand-stitching a face, I feel connected to my roots. In that sense, I think handmade is keeping tradition alive.

What advice would you offer someone hoping to take their craft from hobby to business?
Get organized! Oh my, I can't stress that enough. Words to live by. I know that I need to improve in the organizational department! Also, be prepared to talk about your work, think about where you want your business to be in the future, and don't get overwhelmed by all of the online resources.

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I think I first heard about Craftland from a friend in '06, before I really started getting into crafting. Then, by summer '07, I realized I was serious enough to try to get my work out into the world, so I applied to the Craftland show and got in! Craftland will always be the original place to find Felt Like It.

Guilty Pleasure?
Well, I just discovered that every season of The Cosby Show is available for streaming on Netflix, so I've been watching marathons when I get home from work. But it's not a true guilty pleasure because I will shout my love of The Cosby Show from the mountaintops! I also enjoy the occasional Lifetime movie or cheesy romantic comedy.