Cat Rabbit is a Melbourne based textile artist who spends equal amounts of time sewing, drinking tea and playing with her cat, Porco. Along with stitching and sewing quirky characters all day long, Cat makes books for children and other fun things with her friend Isobel Knowles, under the banner of Soft Stories.
Cat’s unique creations are all made by hand in her studio in Melbourne, Australia. Etsy Australia took some time to visit Cat and see how she makes the magic happen.
Read on to learn about the birth of Cat Rabbit plush, her self expressive characters and the music that keeps her stitching and sketching all day long.
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I grew up in Port Sorell (on the North West coast of Tassie). I moved to Hobart to study at Uni and then in 2010 moved to Melbourne, where I live now with my boyfriend and our cat, Porco.
How long have you been creating and where did it all start?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating in one way or another. As kids, my sister and I made things all the time – we were hugely into beads and woven friendship bands, pet rocks, lavender bags, knitting and sewing (weird) clothes. We were also (and still are) really really fond of baking!
When did Cat Rabbit itself start?
It was a dark and stormy night….no. It was about 2004, I was studying at uni. I was always crafting something – knitting or sewing – and drawing a lot in my spare time. I started making little stuffed toys inspired by the characters I drew. They were just little gifts for friends – mostly 2 dimensional, like little rabbit shaped cushions with a cotton-ball tail. I also made little screen printed stickers and things, some early Cat Rabbit paraphernalia, to stick on the streets of Hobart. The handmade resurgence was in full flight at the time, and some great shops had opened up in Hobart carrying locally made things, mine among them. It was a case of right place at the right time! My hobby just kept growing and growing from there until it turned in to a full time business – I opened an Etsy store and started selling my work at handmade markets, the rest is history!
What’s your creative process like?
It changes, depending on the job at hand. If it’s a commission then I will sketch it out and work from that sketch. I really love to be able to experiment and in those cases I like to just take one step at a time, not really thinking ahead to how it will turn out, and in this way my process is more of an organic one. I can start out with a certain idea of what I want to make, and what I end up with is quite different, and this is what I find fun and exciting – often it’s better than I could have imagined! For characters, particularly, this process can turn out some really great expressions – sleepy eyes, unimpressed looks, sorrowful gazes – they can be quite a surprise sometimes.
Do you have a song that you play to start your day? Or a music playlist that gets you going and keeps you making?
Every Monday morning I listen to Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service. It is such a good way to calmly begin a new week, with JC’s resonant radio voice and some soothing music, old and new. If I’m needing to get work done I put on the ‘An American in Paris’ movie soundtrack (and often sing along to the musical numbers).
Your characters are all so quirky, where does that inspiration come from?
As someone that grew up being quite the outsider, I like that to be reflected in the characters that I create. In that way, these characters are self expressive I suppose. They also usually wear clothes that I would like to wear myself, but don’t have the know-how to make in human sizes.
What are your favourite things about Cat Rabbit Plush?
I like that each one is different – in some cases I can’t even work out how I made past work. I also love coming up with new characters – I’m in the middle of making my new made-to-order range at the moment and it is such a blast. I love looking at an animal and seeing which way I would like to characterise it – there are so many possibilities!
What do you wish someone had told you about running a small business before you started?
When I first started, it was such a gradual process that I didn’t really realise that I was running a small business. It transitioned from hobby to business in such a roundabout way – it wasn’t like I woke up one day and announced my intentions to start a plush business, but in some ways I wish I had! I guess I wish someone had prepared me to lose a lot of sleep? It can be so hard to switch off, I’m still learning that skill 🙂
What has your best seller been?
I think my rainbow feather brooch has been the most enduring product.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Last year I had the opportunity to make some site specific work for a children’s library. I made an installation titled ‘Literary Kittens’ featuring a range of important female writers and characters from literature – from Mary Wollstonecraft to Margaret Atwood. It was such a great feeling to combine two of my favourite things – literature and craft – and also to have this work permanently displayed in a place that would inspire young girls. Such an honour!