Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, Matt Gunter.
Matt Gunter a.k.a. Channel Changers.
Atlanta, GA USA.
Anti-pill Fleece, Felt, Polyfill
Pretty much all of my projects are fan art plushies of some kind, but my true favorite projects are the ones where I create a plush based off of a client’s original character…such as Poe Poe the Clown or Tyranthesauraus Rex.
How did you come to be an embroiderer?
To be honest, I really didn’t plan to become the plush toy designer that I am today…I more or less fell into it. Originally, I got into sewing in order to improve my own knowledge and skills for my professional job as an infant toy designer. When I first started working, I realized that I didn’t have all of the proper knowledge to accurately design cute plush toys for our vendors in China to replicate. As a result, I decided to buy myself a sewing machine and just start practicing with different techniques and patterns until I gained a pretty good knowledge on what you can and can’t do in terms of designing plushies. However, I soon found that I really enjoyed making them, so I kept creating them over and over until I found that I started to create a pretty good following of fellow plush maker.
What does it mean to you?
Designing and creating plush toys has ended up becoming more than just a hobby to me, it has actually turned into somewhat of an identity. If you have ever worked professionally as a designer, you probably know that the final outcome of a product rarely, if ever, looks like your original concept. My design team at work likes to call these projects “Camels” because they are horses designed by committee…haha. These projects can become insanely frustrating just because you realize you don’t have any real control or authority over the outcome of your ideas. However, I love creating my own plush toys because I have the ultimate final direction in what gets produced so I can control the quality and standards of each plush to make sure they are the very best they could possibly be.
Where do you like to work?
Actually, I work on the dining room table…haha.
How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer?
To be honest, I’m not sure most people realize that I am a guy unless they have worked directly with me. However, I feel that since I have created a lot of superhero pieces, I think that male clients are more willing to contact me directly about requesting a cute plush doll. As of right now, about 80% of all of my clients are in fact male.
Who inspires you?
I would say that everyone inspires me. Since I am still new to this medium, I get inspiration all of the time from extremely talented artists and crafters at local art shows or even online. I am still amazed at the creativity and amazing craftsmanship that some plush designers are able to fabricate. These people are what drives me to push my skills and designs to the limits.
How or where did you learn you learn how to stitch or sew?
I taught myself to sew and stitch only about 2 years ago. I knew I wanted to improve my skill set for my own professional development, so I took the plunge and just bought a sewing machine (much to the amusement of my girlfriend…haha) and I just watched a lot of online how-to videos. I will be honest though, it take a lot of determination and dedication to become pretty skilled at sewing. I still look back at some of my original designs and I laugh at how bad some of them turned out. Nevertheless, as long as you learn from your mistakes you will always improve.
Are your current images new ones or have you used them before?
So far, I have only duplicated a design once or twice. For the most part, every new picture is from a brand new design.
How has your life shaped or influenced your work?
When I first went to school for design, I knew that I always wanted to end up creating and designing toys. As a result, that passion directly influenced me to eventually start bouncing around the idea of creating my own line of plush toys. At the time, I was really interested in what was going on in the “urban vinyl” toy market and I felt that my designs were definitely heavily influenced by simple designs and streamlined look of those products. Nevertheless, those influences combined with my immense love of pop culture are what ended up starting my line of Channel Changers.
What are or were some of the strongest currents from your influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work?
I guess I would say the main thing I had learn from my influences was how to create an identity for your designs. If you look at some of the main plushie toy lines from the past few years, the one thing they all have in common is that they all look like a cohesive line. For instance, if you were to see an Ugly Doll, you would instantly recognize it as part of the Ugly Doll line even though each character looks completely different. As a result, I spent several weeks coming up with a specific plushie shape that would serve as my line’s identity to make them instantly recognizable as a Channel Changer.
Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you?
Being a formally educated designer, I did take several classes in perspective and art history. And don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have firm understanding in the basics of color theory, form and function, proportion, etc. but I strongly feel that these basics will only get you so far. As a result, I don’t think they are near as important as just having a good idea and being extremely passionate about your goals.
What do your choice of images mean to you?
I tried to choose some of my designs that showed the many different types of sewing skills as well as they all look like a cohesive collection even though they are different characters. Also, I snuck in some of personal favs in there too…haha.
Do you look at your work with an eye toward it like what can and can’t be visually quoted? In other words what you will or won’t cut out?
Absolutely. I tend to be a perfectionist with anything that I create, so I probably give my finished pieces the most critical eye. However, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing because I learn new techniques and processes with every new plushie that I make. As a result, by taking the time to look back and reflect on your final design it definitely helps you get faster, by learning different sewing shortcuts, and it also helps your craftsmanship by helping you understand ways to improve.
you have any secrets in your work you will tell us?
Haha…I don’t think I have any real profound secrets. Everything I learned was just from trial and error and tutorial videos I found on the net. I guess the biggest secret is make sure to be passiote about what you do and, most of all, have fun!
How do you hope history treats your work?
As the years go on and I start working more on my own personal plushie lines instead of mostly just fan art pieces, I hope that people will remember my plushies as adorable works of art. Also, I hope that my story of how I started out actually encourages others to go ahead and just take a chance on learning something new…because you never know what you could be cable of until you give it a shot!
The Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery. Committed to changing the way the world thinks about needlecraft.