Happy New Year needlecrafters of the world! I hope this finds you well rested and all fired up for another year of Etsy adventures. I figured for this, our first ‘Exploring Etsy’ outing of the year, I’d try and tackle some of the grey weather that’s been hanging around here in the UK, at least for the last few days. Nothing combats the grey wash from overcast skies than a spectacular display of glorious colour! Thankfully there’s no shortage of this with Gwen Rucker’s makes and her shop ‘Happy Gwensday’.
Gwen has always been a maker and absolutely loves it, throughout her life she’s done everything from being an airbrush artist to making retainers and soldering appliances for an orthodontist. For the past three years or so she had been working as a graphic designer, but found it was becoming increasingly difficult to find work that wasn’t for a production artist position, which just didn’t satisfy her creativity. After a few failed interviews, and a false start with a new company, Gwen found herself unemployed at the end of 2016 and decided to get back to the basics and try out a new medium: enter embroidery. So at the beginning of January 2017 she started to learn embroidery and was immediately smitten. After picking up a few basic stitches she drew a sketch for her first Strong Man doll and Happy Gwensday was born. Soon she started making them for friends as new baby gifts and after a few months opened her Etsy shop. Each plush starts out as a hand drawing which is then uploaded to Illustrator and turned into a template. She’s also recently started venturing into machine embroidery after upgrading her sewing machine to a combo sewing embroidery machine, learning to take her vector drawings and convert them into stitch files via Embird. Her Nasty Woman Kitty is one of the first designs she demoed with it and she hopes to do much more machine work in the coming months..
What is your earliest stitching memory?
I was a crafting kind of kid, we had a ton of art supplies in our house including this pearl pink sewing basket belonging to my mom that I apprehended. I think I was around eight years old and I remember my dad sitting down with me and showing me how to measure out a length of thread to my forearm and knot the ends, he taught me a running stitch and a backstitch which I used to sew up drawstring pouches. I did little projects like that off and on, then in middle school I learned the basics of using a sewing machine in home ec. Come to think of it, I actually cheated when I was supposed to make a pair of pajama pants out of flannel and I made a giant pillow instead– I guess that was technically my first plush!
What fires your imagination?
I’m very influenced by color (it’s probably an unhealthy obsession) and I’ve always been partial to the saturated vibrant colors of the 1960s and Art Deco era, which probably shows in my work. I try to find inspiration all around me, any interesting use of color I mentally record and file for later, Pinterest and Instagram are great for this! Every now and then to clear out the cobwebs I rearrange the furniture somewhere in my home. I know, it sounds crazy but I started doing it when I was around six and it works, my mom would walk in my room to find me pushing my bed across the room inch by inch. Something about changing my surroundings sparks me, it makes me want to get up and move around, I think it helps reset my brain when ideas are circling but not landing. I’ve also started collecting paintings, I search Chairish or Ebay from time to time. They all have personality and they make my imagination feel more engaged, like I’m in the presence of other artists.
I love the wonderful personalities Gwen manages to pack into each of her creations and I can’t wait to see where her new adventures in machine embroidery take her! Although her shop is temporarily on vacation, do make sure to head on over to save it to your favourites then you won’t miss all the great things to come. Turrah for now lovelies!
Jessica Taylor aka Loadofolbobbins is a Textile Artist and Illustrator based by the sea in Portsmouth. At her happiest with a needle and thread, with a passion for genealogy she often explores old photographs in her textile art. With her fingers in many creative pies she loves to experiment with new techniques, creating illustrated and stitched goodies for her Etsy shop.