What inspired you to start knitting? How did you learn?
I first learned to knit when I was a high school exchange student in Japan. My host sister taught me because she had recently learned, and my first project was a purple fun-fur scarf. Then I picked it up as a more involved hobby when I was in college, and my boyfriend's mom (now my mother-in-law) encouraged me. She bought me lots of yarn, so I couldn't refuse!
Do you have a favorite place to craft (studio, living room, on the subway, etc.)?
I usually start my day out knitting on the couch in the morning and listening to podcasts, and I often end my day the same way. When I'm in the middle of designing something, I'll usually be knitting and designing at my desk, which is in my bedroom. Usually the only times I knit in public are when I'm desperately trying to finish a big project.
Photo credit: Brandi Simons
Mochi is a Japanese dessert. How did you decide to name your knitted toys mochimochi?
I looove mochi, and I thought the word had associations that went well with toys - soft and cute. Mochimochi
is an adjective that kind of means "mochi-like." And I just think it's fun to say!
Can you tell us about the first mochimochi you ever completed?
The first toy that I knitted was a creature that almost looked like a cow udder - a blob with five feet hanging down. I modeled it after the logo of the gallery where I worked at the time, called gallery hanahou. I made a few of these anthropomorphic logos and gave them to my coworkers. The process of using knitting to make a (more or less) three-dimensional shape and making it come to life with just a couple of eyeballs was completely addictive to me. I knew right away that I would be making many more mochis.
Photo credit: Brandi Simons
We loved Knitting Mochimochi and Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi. What inspired you to write a book?
I had been self-publishing my toy knitting patterns as PDFs for a couple of years, and the idea of making a new collection of them as a book seemed like a really fun challenge. For my first book, I tried out a few things that I hadn't before, like making a chapter of toys that could also be wearable projects. And I knew that a physical book would reach many people that my website wouldn't, including people who hadn't knitted before. It was exciting to think that I could possibly inspire someone to take up the craft with my designs.
What is your favorite project of all time?
This is a really hard question. I can't pick one, but my gallery installations are probably my favorites because of how scary it is to take on a huge project, how much hard work is involved, and then the satisfaction of finally finishing it and seeing people's reactions in person. I got to travel to Berlin last spring for my show "Mochimochi Worlds" at Smallspace gallery - it was a knitted solar system of imaginary anthropomorphic planets, each of which had thematic aliens living on it. In the fall I made a big epic battle between gnomes and snowmen for my "Gnomes vs Snowmen" show at gallery hanahou in NYC. I love that I've been able to take over these spaces and just go crazy with with my knitted characters.
Photo credit: Gallery Hanahou
Your knitted toys have been featured on television, in print, and even in museum exhibits. What’s it like being a craft rock star?
That is very sweet, but the title definitely doesn't apply to me! Sometimes people are surprised to meet me and find out that I'm not a wacky personality that matches my toys. I'd rather let the crazy knit characters get all the attention.
What does your craft bring to your life?
The community it has brought to me is amazing. Crafters are just the most creative and generous people, and they give me the energy and inspiration to keep making things. And the process of working with my hands to make something that had previously only existed in my head is never going to get old. The possibilities are endless!
Is Mochimochi Land a full-time endeavor?
As of spring 2011, it's full time for me. Right now I'm enjoying the balance I have between designing/pattern writing and installations/ art projects, but I also don't know what the next year will bring. I'm open to anything!
Was there anything else you wanted to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be tons of things as a child, including science museum director and the lady who rides the elephants in the circus. In high school, I wanted to write children's books. Lately I've been thinking maybe that's something I could maybe still do.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn to knit?
It's easier than it looks! All of knitting is based on a few very basic techniques, so once you master those basics (casting on, knitting and purling, and binding off), you can do pretty much anything. On a practical note, you should start out with lightweight needles that aren't too long (I recommend wood or bamboo), and yarn that isn't too stiff or too slippery (I like to work with wool or a wool blend). I hope some of your readers will give it a try!
Photo credit: Jenna Leigh Teti
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