Janice Ogata Interviews Allison Hoffman
"Imagine if you will, you want to make a doll for one of your friends that looks exactly like them. With Allison Hoffman's new book AmiguruME, now you can! Allison shows you how to crochet basic body parts and how to adapt each face to look like someone you know. She teaches you how to make your dolls recognizable. If you flip through the book you will have fun trying to guess the famous faces she has crafted out of yarn.
Recently I had a chance to ask her some questions. Please enjoy the Q & A.JO: How old were you when you started to crochet? Did anyone teach you? Did you teach yourself from books and the internet?
AH: As a self-taught crocheter, I was in my late 20s when I learned how to crochet, about 7 years ago. I tried learning from videos online but finally ""got it"" by just looking at drawings in Elisabeth Doherty's ""Amigurumi: Super Happy Crochet Cute""! JO:
You said you wanted to make toys for your little boys, what was the toy you couldn't find in the stores that you ended up making?
AH: The show ""Yo Gabba Gabba"" had just started on Nickelodeon and my kids and I were crazy about it. There was literally NOTHING out for the show yet, so I got to work some stuffed versions of the characters.
How did you learn to create recognizable people out of yarn? Please explain the process.
AH: The first ""human"" doll I made was Conan O'Brien. I loved him and felt like he'd embrace some fan art, so I sketched out a cartoony looking version of him and went from there. I hadn't made anything that large before and just kind of taught myself how I wanted to do it as I went. I looked at a lot of images online of him and found a few characteristics that really stood out, and incorporated them into my design.
What inspired you to create a Conan O'Brien doll? Was he the doll that gained you national attention?
AH: When I made the Conan I posted him on the ""I'm With Coco"" Facebook page and this was back when Facebook was very organic. You saw everything that was posted and everyone saw everything that a page posted. When the ""I'm With Coco"" administrators (artist Mike Mitchell and his wife Lauren) shared my doll with the fan group, it was a viral hit! I got lots of orders and requests for more designs. That was kind of the birth of craftyiscool. Later I sent Conan a doll and a big crocheted ""Conan"" blimp, (similar to one that was traveling the country advertising his new show on TBS) and he tweeted about it. I cried. It was an emotional experience.
I understand you like to work with RED HEART yarns, what attracts you to RED HEART? What type of RED HEART do you like to use, and why?
AH: I love working with Red Heart. My main focus when I'm working on a project is color. I can ALWAYS find the right color in either Soft or Super Saver. Both of these yarns have the right texture for amigurumi too, and I never have trouble with splitting or knots with either. Besides worsted yarns, I also use a lot of novelty yarns for hair, and baby and sock yarns for clothing. Red Heart never fails to have several options available. Of course it helps that Red Heart is so widely available and affordable too!
You create a lot of celebrity dolls, have any celebrities approached you, asking you to create them?
AH: I've actually had several celebrities ask for dolls! One famous drummer, in particular, asked me to make 100 dolls for Christmas gifts last year! I've also had several ask for dolls of their famous friends to give to them.
You recently wrote a book that includes a lot of celebrity dolls. Did you have to get permission from the celebrity or their estate?
AH: My book did have a lot of familiar faces, but because my book is about creating custom dolls to look like anyone at all, I didn't name any of them. It's fun to look through the book and see who you recognize!
On your website you sell patterns for many of your creations, do you take custom orders?
AH: I've only been able to sporadically take custom orders. I have fun doing them but they are time consuming. I get more of my creative juices flowing by making dolls and writing the patterns, then moving on to the next doll. As I've gotten busier, I have had less time to do them.
How do you decide who you are going to crochet?
AH: If I'm not working on something someone has asked me to do, I get to just let my imagination run wild. I always find myself sketching out ideas based on my own favorite movies, tv shows and childhood memories. I could go on for years just making dolls of all of my favorite 80's movies!
Are there any other characters from movies or television that you are thinking of making? Can we look forward to any Twilight, Hunger Games, Downton Abbey, or Game of Thrones dolls?
AH: Right now I'm finishing a set of Doctor Who companions and villains, then I'm going to work on more movie stuff, like from Wes Anderson movies. I have fantasized about doing Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey, but the huge casts of each is a little intimidating!
Do you have a particular degree? Were you a design major? Costume Designer? Graphic Designer, or Animator perhaps?
AH: I have a Communications degree! I always loved art but never pursued it, figuring I would just always use my creativity in hobbies. Boy was I wrong! I am glad I have a degree and will always be proud to be a Texas Longhorn!
Who has been the most difficult doll to create?
AH: The most difficult doll to create is any doll where the subject doesn't have many distinguishing characteristics. There have been several custom dolls I've done where I had to really stretch to make the doll recognizable. In that case the mouth and hair really matter a lot! It's so much easier when the subject has a crazy hairstyle, an outfit they are known for, or some kind of facial feature that stands out.
Do you work from a photograph of the person you are making out of yarn? Or do you just make it up from your memory?
AH: I look at tons of photos! I try to find as many as I can so that the features are just right.
What else would you like the RED HEART readers to know about you and your AmiguruME's?
AH: It's all in the details. Crocheting a doll, stuffing it, stitching on some hair, and sewing on a smile makes a really cute doll, but when you can take it further and add some fun embroidery, sew on tiny buttons, get the eyebrows just so, or make his expression really accurate, you'll have something special.
Allison can be found via these social media websites: CraftyisCool.com CraftyisCool on Facebook @craftyiscool on Twitter