Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cute Makers Interview #1: Soreureubear

I am very excited today to share the first of what I hope to be a continuing series here on cuteseum, the "Cute Makers" interviews! Ever since I started cuteseum, I had a vision of it being a happy place where I could share my passion and love for "art, craft and things cute," and hopefully inspire others as well. The idea for these interviews started from a very simple premise one night while browsing my usual online haunts (Instagram, Flickr, Etsy), and that idea was that there are so many exciting and wonderful artists and makers all over the world today, and I really wanted to get to know more about them. We live in an age where our creative pursuits can be shared and viewed more openly than ever before, thanks in large part to the power of the Internet to connect like-minded creative people through online communities. It is thrilling for me to think that I can pop online, and discover something new to me that will inspire me. Perhaps it is my training as an art historian, but I am really fascinated by the process of how something is made, and the creation and creativity behind an object whether that be art, craft, or design. 

The idea with the Cute Makers interviews also stems from my love of toys, as I hope to interview many toy artists and makers who literally create or make 'cute'. Having collected Blythe dolls for most of my adult life, and being part of what I could consider a 'designer/handmade' toy community has given me a deeper appreciation for the joys that toys can bring not only children, but also adults in all walks of life. I am unashamed about my love for toys and cute things, particularly those that are hand-crafted with love, passion and skill. I hope I can share that with you through these series of interviews.

So to kick off the first interview, I reached out to the very talented Korean-based teddy-bear artist Soreureubear. Her works really encapsulate the 'cute' aesthetic for me, which is a mix of sweet and adorable but also something that is a little quirky and off-beat. Although you could consider her a 'teddy-bear' artist, and she uses the skills and techniques associated with that craft, bears are only one animal in Soreureubear's extensive range which includes puppies, alpacas, pandas, axolotls and bugs! I asked Suyeon to share some insights into her craft, why she makes toys, and the unusual inspiration behind some of her creations. All photos are used with permission from the artist.

Hello! Thank you for taking part in the first interview of the Cute Makers series. Please start by telling us a little bit about yourself. 
Hello. My name is Suyeon and I am currently living in Seoul, South Korea.
In my day job I work as a public designer and making teddy bears is my second job, one of my favourite hobbies. 
I make teddy bears and run a website named Soreureubear. Soreureu means slowly and gently. 

How did you become interested in making toys and when did you start making them?

I watched Mr. Bean about 6 years ago and the bear in the movie was adorable. I wanted to have it in real life. I couldn’t find any place selling it so I decided to make it on my own. But my first creature was a weird monster. I threw it away at that time but I regret that I did. I miss it very deeply these days. With that moment being the spark, I became interested in making teddy bears and fell in love with them as I learned to know about Cheeky Bear by Merry Thought Co. and Peter Bear by Gebruder Sussenguth.

A behind-the-scenes look

Are you self-taught or did you learn from classes, workshops or other people?

I taught myself from books. I studied patterns on my own. I like learning things on my own. Even though this process may take longer I can do it in my own way and whenever I want so I prefer this way of learning. I practiced basic skills from books, and then I acquired various types of skills and techniques through blogs of foreign artists and Teddy-Talk. Particularly, the website of Joanne Livingston, a Teddy-bear artist, taught me many fabulous techniques and ideas. One day, Joanne left me a comment on a picture of my doll, which made my day. I was so happy and thrilled. I never met her in person but she always will be a teacher in my life. I respect her and thank her all the time.

How do you come up with new ideas, and what inspires you?

Music and Drinks!  :D
On the way to the studio, while in the subway, I always think about the question. What should be today’s background music? Orry Osbourne is the doll made listening to Ozzy Osbourne’s music and Cheche is when listening to FujiFabric’s songs. So the dolls I make are basically characters that enjoy music and dance.
I enjoy spending time with friends, having conversation over some drinks. Sometimes, drunken friends give me weird ideas and tell me about unique animals that they watched on TV shows. I try to express those feelings that I receive such as comfort and joy during those times through my dolls. 

Orry Osbourne


Do you see your work as collectible items or as toys?
Both. I make them usually in pocket sizes so that I can carry them easily when I go to cafes or travel around.
Since it is quite expensive, it is a bit burdensome to “play” with my teddy bears comfortably but I feel it is important. There is a famous TV show called “Real piece, precious piece”. It is a TV show where professionals judge the real value of unidentified, old art works or hand-made pieces of people’s homes. As a joke, I frequently tell my clients that I try my best to create an art work, a doll that my grandchildren can then take up to that show for value judgment.  :P

What is your favourite thing you have ever made? 
When I made the Grasshoppers, all my friends and customers laughed at it. Even myself, I expected it to take more than 5 years to sell all five dolls but instead I was surprised that they got sold quickly. I loved it so much that I kept one of them at my home. I’d like to open a grasshopper club with people who own those dolls. I’m sure that we all share some kind of common philosophy.

Suyeon's favourite plush: the grasshopper

What is one material and/or tool you cannot live without?
I just run to buy mohair fabric whenever I see them since it is quite rare item to purchase in Korea. I think I own quite a big amount, enough to work with for five years. I always tell myself that I have enough amounts so that I should stop buying. But when I realize it, I already am standing in front of the cashier and paying for it. My friends call me ‘mohair collector’, not a teddy-bear maker.

Do you have a big toy collection yourself, and do you have other hobbies? 
I don’t have a one particular item to collect but I love any cute item. Dolls, plates, candle holders and etc. If I win a lottery, I’d like to collect dolls made by Shuco and antique accordions. 

A fellow cute collector

How would you describe the creative community in South Korea? Are most of your toys sold in South Korea, or also other countries too?

Hand-made fairs, design fairs, free markets and such activities are lively being held and opened. National financial supports for new designers and creative enterprises are gradually increasing. I also am using a studio funded by Seoul Metropolitan government. However, all the activities and supports are mainly centered on the capital city, Seoul. I think more local groups and organisations in small sizes should be cared for and given attention. In the case of Teddy bears, shops and classes had begun to open around 2002 but most of them are currently closed. Most of artists changed their jobs or are taking rest as well. I hope lots of amazing artists restart working actively.
Most of my dolls are being sold in Korea. I have experiences selling them to tourists who visited Korea or when I participated in Japan Festivals. I once went travelling with a customer who purchased my doll to Seoul and Jeju Island, which was a fun experience where I got to know a new person through my own work.

How does someone get one of your toys?
Currently via my internet shop in Korea. (http://www.soreureubear.com/)
Basically, I’m producing five dolls with same design and at 10pm, every Tuesday I list them (in Korean Standard Time). And I’m currently preparing to update and sell my items on Etsy. 

Thank you so much for taking your time to respond to my interview responses Suyeon! Your teddy bears are so wonderful and unique, and I am looking forward to the opening of your Etsy shop! 

You can see more of Soreureubear's work at the following sites:

1 comment:

erica fustero said...

I love her toys! Thanks for sharing this interview, Sophia :)