My name is Nichol Brinkman, and my shop is called Pink Cheeks Studios. I design and construct soft toys, pillows and baby mobiles featuring ninjas, sumo wrestlers, angel pigs and rollerskating mod girls. I also make digital prints of fabric collages. My husband, son, and I recently relocated to southern Louisiana. Now we live on the bayou with the alligators and bullfrogs.
I do what I do because I am in my element when I am making things. After art school, I was very fortunate to receive a traveling fellowship. I used it to take a traditional marionette workshop in Prague, taught by a Czech puppet master. A small group of international students and I would spend the day carving away at our single blocks of wood, realizing our designs under the guidance of the puppet master and his partners. Then at night we would visit all the different puppet theaters in the city (there are so many!) to watch the shows and meet the artists. The weekends were spent at puppetry museums and animation studios.
All of those things alone would have been amazing, but combined with the beautiful streets of Prague, it was magic. I made a three-headed business man/demon riding a unicycle as my marionette. I love that freaky little guy! Making him sparked an interest in character design. Since I did not have a woodshop, I turned to sewing to bring my characters to life. I owe a lot of Pink Cheeks Studios to that experience.
I like to make characters that feel like they come from a very specific place and reflect how I think childhood should be: full of wonder, joy and delight. Everything I make starts by drawing. I draw with micron pens in Moleskine notebooks. When I think a drawing will transfer nicely to stuffed form, I draw the shape onto cardstock for my basic pattern. I spend a great deal of time choosing my fabrics, and select them based on color, pattern and texture. I like to have a variety of textures all in one piece: bumpy corduroy, fuzzy fur, soft fleece, smooth cotton, and rough ribbon. I sew both by hand and on a sewing machine, and always stuff firmly so that my softies feel sturdy and important.
My prints are new to me and very exciting. I make them by cutting out fabric and putting the pieces together like a collage. Sometimes I sew bits together to keep them in place, and sometimes I keep them separate like a puzzle. Then I scan them into my computer and play around with scale and placement. The process is really enjoyable and has helped me mend my rocky relationship with Photoshop.
My creative business has helped me come into my own. Although I am very much fascinated by the fiber work of artists who use muted colors and earthy fabrics, my aesthetic is much brighter and louder. Whenever I shop for fabrics, I’m like a moth to the flame – drawn to neons, bold patterns and vibrant polka dots. I used to feel disappointed in myself for not having a softer palette, like my favorite artists who make beautiful, quiet, mysterious objects. But when you have a creative business there is no room to be something you are not. It’s much more effortless to work towards your strengths and let your natural aesthetic overflow into your branding. Now, I let myself be Nichol and embrace my affinity for the bright, neon, bold and nonsensical.
Etsy means the world to me. To have the whole foundation of a business – including customers worldwide – all set up and ready to go is a gift for artists and craftspeople. Without Etsy, I know I would be doing something less meaningful to make an income.
There is something so beautiful about an object thoughtfully made by hand with care and good intention. Making things with my hands is a joyful experience, and I want the objects I make to communicate that joy. Craftsmanship, to me, is a form of sincerity.
All photographs by Pink Cheeks Studios.