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Q&A with Mimi Kirchner

Artist, maker of handmade fabric art toys for West Elm

Hello! My name is Mimi Kirchner and I am an artist. These days I am making handmade fabric Art Toys. I also accidentally stumbled into doing designing and licensing of Holiday ornaments for West Elm and toys for Land of Nod.

How did you get started in craft and art? 

Making things and drawing have always been a big part of my life- I don't remember any time that it wasn't how I made sense of my world, how I expressed myself, how I tried to prove myself to my peers, how I soothed my anxiety, how I made money.

I was a maker when I was a kid, I went to art school and got a BFA in Craft and business on the side, and spent the next 20+ years making and selling handmade illustrated tableware. Also, had kids, got tired of the pottery, got online, inherited an attic full of fabric and the rest is where I am right now.

What are you working on now?

I just finished a week of making Tiny World pin cushions. I am slowly updating some patterns that I sell online. And feeling guilty about my long to-do list that never seems to get any shorter. This coming week I am looking at a pile of partially finished lumberjacks. Although I consider my pieces to be one-of-a-kind, I like to work in groups or series. As I work on one lumberjack, it inspires ideas for the next one. I am interested in exploring the infinite ways that one simple base pattern can be used to make a new design.

I work pretty much everyday, all day. I try to do my making in the morning and in the evening. The afternoons are for all the other parts of my business - photography, blogging, answering emails, computer work, packing up and shipping any sales. And a walk on most days.

What tools and materials do you use for your work? 

My tools and materials tend to be vintage and low tech. I've got a Bernina sewing machine that was born in the early 80's, favorite scissors that I inherited from my mom, and an enormous selection of pins and needles. I have drawers full of rick rack and ribbon, buttons, and embroidery threads. Many of the fabrics I use are thrifted and reclaimed, or vintage. I love working with materials that might otherwise have been thrown away, giving them a new life.

My favorite piece of furniture in my studio is a 10 drawer flat file where I store my threads, sheets of felt, and buttons. I love pulling out the drawer and seeing everything on display.

What is your ideal work environment?

I like to work in an environment with a lot of visual clutter. I want to be able to see my materials and all my collected inspirational stuff. I want a door to close, time to myself, an engaging audio book or interesting podcast. I want a sunny window and a comfortable chair. I want excellent tools and beautiful materials. I am happy to say that I have all that in my current studio, a former bedroom in my house.

Where are your favourite places for art? 

I recently visited the Brooklyn Art Museum for the first time- it was amazing! I spent all day and could have spent more. I enjoy going to and participating in Craft Markets like the Renegade Markets and Crafty Bastards in Washington DC. I follow a lot of illustrators on the various social media and like - there is always something interesting and new.

© Mimi Kirchner

Which artist has inspired you the most?

Ammi Phillips - Other than that era of American Folk Art painting, I'd have to say that my inspiration is constantly changing as I see amazing new work online - Hurray for the internet!

Check out my blog