Project 1: The Artist Toy
I began by looking at bears. They are such cute bumbling critters, as I so wanted to make something fuzzy. Then I stumbled across this fleshy-looking critter: a foreskin with a face and claws. The tardigrade. The Water Bear. The strange and beautiful creature. I wanted to make a tardigrade bear. A Water Bear-Bear. A Tardi-Bear.
My main goal for this project was to learn how to use a sewing machine. Unbeknownst to me, this meant making multiple prototypes and edits to the initial pattern.
The initial idea was to create something more bearlike in appearance: bear face, rotund body, and surface fuzz. This is where my imagination had to make a compromise with my skillsets though. With limited sewing ability, I had to create a pattern that would allow for multiple iterations of a plush toy without inducing a frustration-related nervous breakdown.
Creating the Tardibears was an exercise in making something cute while still maintaining the strange and grotesque aesthetic that defines my artistic style. The initial prototype was a Frankesteined disaster-bear made up of too many different types of fabric. It was rather lumpy, and not very squeezable. I was very unhappy with the results of this bear. The pattern was fine, but I realized I needed to minimize the different types of fabric used. T-Shirt fabric was too stretchy, and the colored fabric was too busy in appearance.
The next iterations were bowling-pin-shaped Tardi-Bears with bobble-heads. Much cuter, and much more squeezable. Their faces had a donut-shaped mouth hole and a button in the center. Their heads were wobbly. Despite being much more abstract that I had intended, I enjoy their sort of Modernist aesthetic. They are minimalist and bare (bear!), and act as a fairly blank canvas for future iterations.
.Project 2: the installation:
As a continuation of the previous project, I wanted to make an immersive diorama. My constraints: The diorama must be contained (ie. fit inside of a small box,) It must be squishy, and it must incorporate my 2D Illustration style into the space.
The tardigrade pit is a bottomless put of plushies an squishy things. In this room , Want to encourage people to take off their shoes and jump in. I wanted to make something cute and grotesque and squishy, and making many iterations of the plush would enable me to create something large-scale and ridiculous.
I liked the idea of a comforting and squishy installation because stress and sleep deprivation leaves me wanting nothing else. Perhaps others feel the same way, experiencing the world like a dream. Why not create a comfortable space for them to contemplate their existential quandaries, or a creature for them to wax poetically to? It is the kind thing to do. The world can be so cruel.
The Tardi-Bear room is for napping, dreaming, climbing, throwing, and jumping. Interactive art encourages visitors to step beyond the role as viewer, and to become part of the art. As visitors become immersed in the tardigrade pit, the solidity of the room come into question. People move within the plushies, the ground moves, the wall quiver. The plushies are brought to life. The installation transformed. The Tardi-Bears are magnified to be human-sized, or the humans are shrunk to exist at Tard-Bear scale. This room serves as a reminder the overlooked. The unseen come visible. The microscopic becomes macro. In the pit of Tatrdi-Brears, one can relax in the quiet and contemplate these opposites and hopefully leave feeling a little more at ease than before they entered.