My name is Cynthia Treen, and I am a designer and textile artist based in Rhode Island. My shop is called Cynthia Treen Studio. I find profound inspiration, happiness, and satisfaction in creating, and I hope to bring that experience to other people through my kits and patterns.
I have been sewing for as long as I can remember. I designed and made my first stuffed animal (a reindeer) at about eight years old, and I knew early on that I would work in a creative field. From my training at RISD to working in architectural model making, fashion design, and my years working with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, making has been at the heart of it all. It is the teaching that is the key, though. When you learn to make something yourself, your relationship to it changes and the experience deepens. There is magic in making that I want to share, and it is so fulfilling to receive feedback from customers, who have laughed, learned, stitched and come back for more.
I recently saw a wonderful cartoon that perfectly describes my inspiration. In the cartoon, there are two figures, and one is holding a jar of happiness. The other figure, frowning, asks, “Where did you find that? I’ve been searching for it everywhere!” And the figure holding the jar of happiness says, “I created it myself.” I would have never imagined that my true calling would be making stuffed animals, but when I started in 2011, it felt like I’d come full circle — back to a deep-seated childhood joy, really.
Because I think most clearly in three dimensions, my design process begins with felt, scissors and thread. As I visualize the piece, I translate it into pattern pieces in my head and free-cut them out of felt. I also cut an extra of each pattern piece so I can develop the paper pattern from it later. During construction, I make pattern adjustments as necessary and photograph each step of my process so I can use the images later as reference for illustrations.
It takes hard work and dedication to develop an online shop and a customer base. You have to be all things, from designer to maker, bookkeeper to production manager, shipper to marketing expert. I feel like Etsy is on my side every day, taking some of that pressure off and allowing me to do the creative work that I love.
So, what’s next? Online classes! I love teaching in person, but it’s difficult to share the detail of what I’m doing with small groups, much less large ones. With online classes and video tutorials, I can provide all of my students will a great view, more techniques, and the freedom to work at their own pace. I’m currently in the process of setting up a small video studio where I can record step-by-step demos for the classes. Stay tuned!
All photographs by Karen Philippi.