I always assume, when I see handmade plush toys, they are produced by those loud, hip girls with Etsy accounts that have sewing-themed tattoos adorned on their arms. The face behind HeySoupFace (aka Doug Gauthier), however, is a bearded gent with a quiet demeanor, not at all what I expected the creator of such strange and interesting creations would look like.
His creatures have been front and center at Q Pop for various gallery shows, and he's definitely a rising star in the Los Angeles handmade craft scene. I sat down with Doug to chat about how he's not a girl, yet not a Geppetto.
What's your name and what do you do?
My name is Doug Gauthier. I sew little plush things under the handle "heysoupface."
Handmade stuffed creatures sounds kind of girly.
That's why I call what I do plush art sewn by a man's hand.
Have you considered that you're a black sheep? A man-handmade loner in the world of creating stuffed creatures?
I have considered this. But the way I figure it, you never know who is making the thing you see before you. Except in the case of my stuff. It was all obviously sewn by a man's hand.
Where do you get your man-handmade inspiration from?
My beard is my primary source of inspiration. It surrounds me, penetrates me and binds me together. Like the Force. I have a special fondness for all manner of facial hair, especially those of the aforementioned beardly varieties.
Bears, rabbits and squidly little things pop up in my work quite frequently. I think hands are neat. That's not weird to say, right?
What is your favorite creation?
I made a square octopus with a beard and top hat who I called the Boxtopus a few years ago. He was absolute poop when I first made him, but I updated him several months later and produced one of my best characters.
He's a real pain to sew though. My favorite to sew would have to be Sassquids. I like their shape. It's simple and cute.
When did you start?
This all started by accident in the summer of 2008 when I made a felt birthday card for my sister. Included with the card were a little blue bunny and a mustachioed octopus who could be placed in felt slots throughout to tell a little story.
I just looked at a picture of those creatures and am embarrassed at how poorly sewn they were. Everything I made at the beginning gives me pause though. I couldn't sew worth a good gosh darn. My Etsy shop was opened at the very start of 2009 and in 2010 my friend opened a store and began selling my plush there as well.
What is your workstation like?
My workstation centers around the coffee table in my living room. I got this coffee table at the Salvation Army for $10. It was worth every one of those dollars.
I watch lots of movies while I sew so it is handy to be positioned right in front of my TV. The movies I watch act as a tether, keeping me bound to this celestial plane.
I'm normally a very tidy person, but when I plush, felt covers everything. I literally shed felt as I walk around my apartment. My couch is currently covered in a multicolored felt explosion.
Have you ever pricked yourself while sewing?
I pricked myself something fierce yesterday. Stuck the needle straight through the skin. Pulled it out quickly before losing any tears though.
Men are born with a very finite number of tears to shed. It is for this reason that we shed them so sparingly.
Would you ever consider mass producing them or is man-handmade more integral to your work?
Right now I sew everything by hand, because I don't know how one goes about mass producing stuff. I think about doing that often though.
On the one hand, it would be immensely gratifying to see droves of my plush in toy stores across the country. On the other hand, it would be kind of disheartening knowing they were all sewn by the hands of another in some sad dark warehouse overseas.
I hear you have a shindig where ladies and gents can check out your creatures?
I have to congratulate your ears. They hear well. I'll be at Crewest gallery downtown Thursday night between 6 and 10:30 p.m. selling my goods. The monthly Downtown L.A. Art Walk happens to be this evening as well, not at all coincidentally.
I've never been downtown during an art walk. I've never sold my stuff in person either. It will be an evening of firsts.