Artist Bonnie Robinson Stewart Makes Huggable Koi
When you work as a commercial artist in a high-stakes game like feature animation, you know the importance of tracking your hours and managing your business rigorously.
Today’s guest Bonnie Robinson Stewart has also realized the value of bringing those skills to her personal craft, because knowing exactly how many hours she has spent on one of her incredible handmade pieces not only helps her determine what to charge for them, but also save time on making them and even motivate her to make more.
“Very early on, when I first started doing this before I was tracking [my hours], I was mostly just selling art to my friends and to my coworkers. Obviously, I work with a lot of artists and a lot of artists who sell art on the side, along with having their day job. I had two different artists sit me down very early on and [say], ‘You are undercharging and that’s a problem. When you undercharge, it devalues everyone else’s around yours and you’re devaluing yourself. It’s not helping anybody. It’s hurting everyone.’ I got sat down and given a talk and, after that, I started tracking my time.” — Bonnie Robinson Stewart [0:09:20]
By day, Bonnie Robinson Stewart is a Production Manager at Titmouse Animation Studios in Hollywood. By night, she is an artist that makes meticulously hand-sewn plush toys of everything from koi fish to Godzilla under the moniker, Huggable Koi.
“[If] you find a dozen things you can save time on, you’re saving a half hour. When I can only work on [my art] on the weekends and some nights, that half an hour makes a difference.” — Bonnie Robinson Stewart [0:47:25]
In today’s episode, Bonnie shares her process-oriented approach with us and gives us a glimpse into her creative process from ideation to finished product. You’ll also find out more about her work, the traditional carp-shaped windsocks from Japan that inspired her to make her plush koi fish, and some of the amazing (and surprising) opportunities that her plushies have afforded her, plus so much more!
Tune in today to gain some practical insights from Huggable Koi creator, Bonnie Robinson Stewart!
“In my day job, I’m a production manager in animation, so I’m very attuned to the numbers and how things are going. When I sit down to sew, I actually have a timer [that] I start, and I start and stop it if I’m switching between projects. I log everything. I know how much time I spend doing social media stuff and how much time [it takes] for each individual project for what I consider ‘support tasks’ like organizing all my fabric, of which I have a lot! I have over 100 pounds of fabric. I track everything. It also makes it so that I know what to charge for pieces.” — Bonnie Robinson Stewart [0:06:55]
Key Points From This Bonnie Robinson Stewart Episode:
- How Bonnie’s plush koi have travelled around the world with their new owners.
- Bonnie speaks to the value of knowing your hours as an artist.
- Find out how tracking her hours helps Bonnie stay motivated to create work.
- Understanding how undervaluing your own work devalues the work of artists around you.
- Why Bonnie and Sourdough believe it’s important for artists to hold each other accountable.
- Learn more about the work Bonnie does in a commercial capacity at Titmouse.
- How working with her hands helps Bonnie wind down from her very digital day job.
- She shares her personal journey with sewing, which started with quilting.
- The ‘koinobori' or Japanese fish flags she collects that inspired her to make koi plushies.
- Hear how Bonnie’s plushies have afforded her some amazing opportunities.
- Discover how she upcycles material to create her plush koi fish.
- Bonnie takes us through her creative process, from ideation to finished product.
- Part of the reason that she stopped taking commissions; creating what makes her happy.
- Find out what Bonnie means when she says she is making ‘reductive appliqué’ work.
- Bonnie shares some of her visions for 2022, including some complete redesigns.
- How she plans to celebrate creating her 100th koi plushie this year.
- How tracking her time over the years has ultimately helped Bonnie save time.
“I log everything. I know how much time I spend doing social media stuff and how much time [it takes] for each individual project, for what I consider ‘support tasks’ like organizing all my fabric, of which I have a lot!” — Bonnie Robinson Stewart [0:07:10]
“The more I sell, the more I tend to make. I really enjoy making them. To me, that’s the important part. That might also be why I was attracted to animation as well. It’s a very process-oriented thing.” — Bonnie Robinson Stewart [0:24:36]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
- Bonnie Robinson Stewart on LinkedIn— https://www.linkedin.com/in/bonnie-stewart-a450075/
- Bonnie Robinson Stewart on Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/huggablekoi/
- Huggable Koi on Etsy — https://www.etsy.com/shop/HuggableKoi
- Not Real Art — https://www.notrealart.com/
- Scott “Sourdough” Power — https://www.notarealartist.com/
“My stuff sells either way. I might as well make what makes me happy to make instead of [feeling] like I‘ve got to make this thing before I can make something that I actually want to make.” — Bonnie Robinson Stewart [0:35:35