Thursday, October 14, 2010

featured artisan: hillary lang

Last week I reviewed the beautiful new book Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew and Love. This week, Hillary Lang chats about her creative process, her cool job, and why it's super important for artisans to step away from the computer.

Your dolls are just lovely! Where do you find inspiration for your charming toys?
My children, their toys, the toys I had as a kid, vintage books and fabric. Anything and everything cute!

Please tell us how you became an artist.
I have always been crafty. I wish in retrospect I'd been arty too and pursued a degree in design or fine arts, but crafting has always kept me warm and happy.

Plushie makers all seem to go about creating their patterns in different ways. How do you create and test your patterns? How many prototypes do you typically go through before you have that "ah hah, she's perfect!" moment?
I start by drawing pattern pieces on paper, then transfer to muslin and sew them up. At this point I think if there was a Project Runway: the Soft Toys edition I could definitely hold my own. Most of the time I get it after one tweak, but sometimes there's a trouble-maker and I can be redrafting almost a dozen times before I get it right.

How did the Wee Wonderfuls book come about?
Well, after seeing so many of my friends write craft books I was starting to feel left out so I joined the club. It seemed to be the right time. I'd been avoiding the idea for awhile because, with two little kids, I was really overwhelmed by the idea of all that work. Also the idea had never been quite right. I'd spent a lot of time on book concepts that were not about toys. When I finally decided it could just be a book of toys I became so excited about the project.

The handmade movement has experienced quite a surge in the past few years. How important is it to your family to buy handmade? 
Pennies are tight around here and whenever I can I like to send my money to an Etsy shop or a handmade business. I hate when I can't afford handmade and have to spend my money making Target richer. I think a lot of people feel the same way, like they really want to support each other.

How do you balance your work life and your home life, being that you work from home?
I spend as much time being a mom as I need to obviously and then squeeze in business when/if I can. My husband and I both work a lot from home so it is difficult to separate home/hang out time from home/work time, but we really try to not be awful, perpetually distracted parents. Right now I'm very focused on the book and the shop, but hopefully soon I'll have some time to squeeze in new designs.

What is the most wonderful part about being able to craft for a living?
It is amazing to be essentially a working artist. I guess the best part is that I have to buy fabric and yarn for supplies and go to used book sales for inspiration. It's a luxury to have what you love be a priority.

Other than sewing and embroidery, what other crafts do you enjoy?
I love knitting. I can get behind some crazy event baking. And I really want to take a pottery class.

What is your most favorite thing you have ever made?
If the house was on fire the two projects I'd grab would be the quilts I made from the kids' baby clothes.

What's up next for Wee Wonderfuls?
Not sure. Fingers are always crossed that we can keep on keeping on. I have my eye on my next pattern project, I'm thinking about a quilt design with embroideries.

What is the best creative or business advice you've ever received, and what would be your advice for other artisans?
Take a break from the internet. Can I say that here, on the internet? I'm easily overloaded. I am always at my best creatively when I'm looking at the least amount of stuff.

Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew and Love is available everywhere books are sold. To learn more about Hillary, visit her on the Wee Wonderfuls blog. You can also check out my review from last week, which includes links to some great WW projects to try out!

Photographs courtesy of STC Craft.


  1. That's great advice, so I'm going to take it right now. Great interview!

  2. What a great looking book, so many wonderful projects

  3. I just bought this book, and I love it!!

  4. It is such a great book--hope you can check it out if you haven't already!

  5. This book is really awesome Portrait the real and best definition of embroidery....!!


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