Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Stephanie Baum, but my nickname is Steff Bomb. It sounds like my real name and isn’t very clever. I hated it growing up (“Steff Bomb is gonna blow up!”), but once the phrase “you da bomb” became popular, it wasn’t so bad anymore. I was born and raised in Philadelphia, but I have been living in Chicago for the last couple of years. I bought my first sewing machine in 2004, and later that night made my first plush ever. It was supposed to be a robot, but in the end looked like a floppy gray shape with two eyes.
In 2008, my boyfriend and I pinky-swore to leave our day jobs behind and work 200% towards our individual dreams and goals and we’ve been doing that ever since. I share my studio space with fellow plush maker, Lana Crooks. She sits right behind me and we watch The IT Crowd together. I have a cat named Nanerpus: she was born on Christmas Eve, and loves playing fetch. No matter what my friends say, I definitely do not have a Weezer tattoo (it’s Wonder Woman). I feel like I am writing a personal ad for a dating website. My likes are Doctor Who, sunshine, and world peace. I also have a horrible fear of splinters.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I love riding my bike. It gets a little rough in the winter (I have a face mask, but my eyes tear up from the cold and then the tears freeze to my face — ugh!), but overall it’s something that puts a big smile on my face. I took up the ukulele a shmillion years ago and wrote a song for my boyfriend for our first Valentine’s Day, but as it turns out, I am a one-hit wonder. I go to a fair amount of shows, I eat a lot of pizza, and one day will catch up on years of unread comics.
What first made you want to become an artist?
It is the only thing I have ever wanted to be. From the moment I could hold a crayon, I knew it was love. I never thought I could do something with it, let alone make it into a career. Maybe that’s why I put everything I have into this — I never want it to end.
Please describe your creative process.
First, I come up with an idea. Sometimes random, sometimes directly influenced by my daily life. I was trying to eat a little healthier last summer, but I wanted to eat an ice cream sandwich so badly. So, I made a plush one instead, which backfired because it actually made me want to eat one even more (which I did, and it was awesome). Two days ago, I was at a show, and now I want to sew a Big Muff pedal. Grumble Buns is what I call my boyfriend when he is being a grumpy gus. At the same time, I could be brushing my teeth, and then, huzzah! — I want to make a crying-chainsaw-burger-guy-thing.
Once I get really excited about an idea, I then visualize how to sew it, step-by-step in my head. Then I make a pattern using bristol board or cardboard. From there, it’s all trial and error until I get all of the measurements and proportions right. I trace the finished pattern onto the fabric with a Sharpie, sew it together, and stuff it with Poly-fil.
I use mostly fleece and wool felt, and I absolutely can’t live without Fray Check. I feel like I go through a bottle a week. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and Fray Check helps keep everything from looking like a pile of poop. Unless I am sewing a pile of poop, then that actually helps.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I keep every drawing my sister has ever made for me. She is 16 now. My favorite is the cyclops with hobbit feet.
Name your top five books, movies, musicians, and websites besides Etsy.
Top 5 books:
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
The best thing anyone can do is have flattering photos, especially for your main thumbnail. No matter what I am looking for, I will always be drawn to a good eye-catching photo. I like to have a person in the photo too, so you can see the general scale of the product.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
Some of my favorite bits of Etsy are being able to rearrange the items in your shop and being able to connect to Facebook and “share” items.
A new feature I would LOVE to see is coupon codes. I will have sales from time to time, but I would love to be able to do promotions such as “Howdy, friends of my Facebook fan page! Use this code and get a free something awesome with your purchase.” I think that would be fun and useful.
How do you promote your work?
Once I have finished putting up a new item, I will post links on my Facebook page, Facebook fan page, Twitter, and in the news section of my website. Then I will write up and send out an email with photos attached to a handful of toy blogs, asking them kindly if they wouldn’t mind posting my new item on their site. Also, word of mouth is some pretty powerful stuff. I have a lot of amazing friends who are super supportive and sometimes they will repost new stuff, which I always appreciate.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
I would love a real job that involves making things: background sets for children shows or part of some kind of craft team for a company. I don’t even know if those jobs are real, but that’d be pretty neat if they were. I have no formal training so I consider my business to be my resume to the life I’ve always wanted.
To sum it up, in ten years, I still want to be doing what I love, just hopefully with the added bonus of paying my bills on time.