I seem to have two speeds when it comes to sewing - painfully slow, or painfully fast.
Luckily for me, I happen to work very well under pressure - painful or not. In the few weeks I had between Strawberry Fair and Horrorcon, I was pushing myself into 14 hour days of toy production - colour matching, cutting, piercing, finishing - and hours and hours of hand stitching. If I'm honest, I'm usually in my element when I'm just sewing.
I like to do all my design work early, planning the templates and pieces, choosing my fabrics, adapting my patterns so that when I get down to it, the only brain work I need is minimal. I can just cut and sew. That isn't to say that I don't love designing my toys, I adore it but I can get so swallowed up in chasing the rabbit of inspiration, looking at ideas and techniques, trying to piece together all my thoughts in a visual format, that hours go by and I don't have a tangible result to show.
Ideally I would have a balance of designing and manufacturing, but a system still works even if it's imperfect. And after a few weeks of pushing myself (and my fingers) to my limits, I had a lot of stuff to show for it! I had three main products to show - my lucky rabbits' feet (renamed Lucky Monster Paws because, well honestly, what rabbit do you know that's bright purple and has curved inch long talons?), my movie monster pigs and my death head moths.
The pigs were the main focus, with the paws and moths designed to be smaller and more accessible little products to show and sell. My paws were very quick to make individually, but I ended up making nearly 60 of these creepy little things. It started with the 3rd prototype, using techniques I'd ironed out in the first two. I used soft grey 'plush cuddle' fur and handmade claws to end up with something unusual, eerily organic and visually striking.
The lighter grey paw with the gold safety pin ended up being mine, as I thought owning the very first one I made would be a good test of it's luck. The stitch pattern I did on the inside of the paw served two purposes - firstly to ruch the inner fabric together to make the paw curve inwards, and secondly to give it a botched taxidermy feel, like something you would buy in Knockturn Alley in a different version of events. I made the claws myself, and attached them using wire and a few other little tricks. I thought they worked especially well as they would wiggle in their sockets, and move the fabric on the back of the paw in a manner similar to tendons.
My 'testing' phrase saw me essentially throwing it at people to see how they'd react. I was pleased to see the two responses I typically got - firstly a noise of shock or disgust, and people asking if it was actually real, being afraid to actually touch it and being unnerved by the soft fur versus the ugly claws. After the initial discomfort, the secondary reaction was one of interest, and disturbed fascination as they stroked the fur (it's so soft, it's hard not to just idly play with it), wiggled it's claws and turned it over and over.
Once I was happy that it was well received, and had already sold two before I even started mass production, I started stock piling claws, picking out fabrics for the paws and choosing the shades of fur for my monsters.
I started with the neutral spectrum of black, grey, brown and cream.
I'm particularly fond of the cream one with the koi carp on it's pad, I thought it was playful. Whilst starting my mass production, I streamlined my process. The ruching and the 'frankenstein' stitch is gone from the pads, so show off the fabric better, and to make the process of finishing a little faster. This was something most of my testers mentioned, and it might have saved my fingers a lot of hassle bending them into shape too!
I also included some white ones, thinking they could be my little abominable snowman paws. I was tempted to make the stumps bloody to add to the effect, but leaving them like this made the whole product a little cleaner and closer to what the actual lucky rabbit feet look like.
So that takes care of the 'natural' colours you might expect a monster to be. Doesn't matter if it was a werewolf, or a goat eater, or a mutant bunny rabbit - there was only a certain number of colours that a taxidermy creature feature could come in... right?
Well, yeah. Except these are monsters. And monsters come in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes. Since the shape and size were already set, then maybe it would be fun to play with the colours. After a little time looking at bengal cats and red pandas online, it made sense to me that I was missing the 'flame' coloured furs - scarlet, auburn, gold. And so...
Hmm... well, the red and gold I ordered were both beautiful, subtle enough to be somewhat organic but that orange is down right radioactive. I wasn't originally going to use it after ordering it, but a friend of mine specially asked me to make an orange one just for him, and I ended up making a couple. In for a penny, in for a pound and all. That, and you never know what people will like once you're there.
So... was that enough? Well, yes. Probably. But I had this little voice in the back of my head that wouldn't shut up. What did it say?
'Monsters are green, stupid,'
love this shade of green, it had tinge cool tinge of blue in it that reminded me of lagoons of still water, or shade copper goes on the domes of Italian churches. Whilst I was picking it out, I reasoned I should make the postage count for something and ordered a few shades of blue as well. I'm so glad I did that.
Ok, so this had to be enough right? I mean, I'd made about 50 at this point. There's prepared, and then there's the cup runneth over. But as I was finishing them off with the hand-stitched knuckles, I was tossing them in a big bag all jumbled up together and every time I looked at all the colours mixed up together... well, my OCD kicked in.
In my defence, pink and purple are beautiful and popular colours, and it would be stupid to have all the others without these included. I mean, purple is one of the heavy hitters of Goth fashion. And I love pink. I really love pink. I love it so much, I had to order two shades - bubblegum and watermelon.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm sold on anything described as 'watermelon'.
Ok, so there you have it. The whole spectrum of cryptozoology - running the gauntlet from black through to bright, bright pink. Whether it's to co ordinate with your outfit, add a pop of morbid colour to your collection of faux taxidermy or turn a streak of luck in your favour, everyone could use a lucky monster's paw. I even did the hard work for you and hunted them down myself, and I have the scars to prove it.
No monsters were harmed in the making of this blog post.