Before Eve was born, Sam and I put together a rather untraditional registry. Sure, there were some of the necessities like crib sheets, but we didn’t include things like diapers or packs of white onesies. Instead, we focused on unique and handmade items, knowing that we wanted her to grow up an appreciation for them. That summer, I often found myself drawn to the kid-related items, sharing my excitement with the vendors over soon becoming a mom for the first time and how I want to get her things from local makers. I remember at a show right here in Somerville grabbing a card from a booth with the most adorable handcrafted stuffed animals. Being the lover I am of all things purple, I added this super cute purple octopus to Eve’s registry.
This past December I had the pleasure of getting to know the designer behind those plush toys, Jen Gubicza of Zooguu, when we were next to each other at a show. Jen, who is a pro when it comes to selling her awesome products and has been doing this for years, shared with me a little bit about her background and her business. Seriously, she is a powerhouse, spending most weekends from the spring through the end of the year doing shows. But you take one look at her products and you can see why. Her work is seriously fun and whimsical. It doesn’t matter what age you are, anyone can find pleasure in her work. I’m really excited to be able to share with you Jen’s work
Tell us a little bit about your work and how you got started with it.
I design and create plush toys, ornaments and faux taxidermy wall art. Before I started sewing, I was a graphic designer. I worked for a studio that specialized in design for the audience of kids & families. I worked on logos, web sites, magazines, branding and package design. My experience in package design (transforming flat pieces into a 3D object) helps me design sewing patterns.
What is the story behind your shop’s name?
My last name is Gubicza. Zooguu is a combination of “zoo” for animals & “guu” for Gubicza. Plus, it’s fun to say, and the name/url was available. 😉
What do you like most about having your own creative business? What do you find most challenging?
I love being able to make a living from the items that I’ve made. I also enjoy traveling around the country doing craft shows and meeting new people. The most challenging parts for me are taking care of the business side of things and working too many hours.
What inspires you to create?
I’m inspired by animals, stories, pop culture and anything cute. I also get a lot of custom order requests, people asking for specific animals, and making new things always gets me excited. I am also inspired by other creative business people. I’ve made a lot of good friends who also make things and we tend to support each other & help one another to stay motivated.
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
The handmade customer loves supporting the community of artists & makers, owning a unique item that not everyone has, and buying something high quality that will last a long time.
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
That is a difficult question. My husband and I are both artists, many of our friends are makers, and a lot of our family members are as well. I can’t pick just one. Some of my current favorites are: Our soft sculpture pieces by Mimi Kirchner, our paintings by Jonathan Reineke, my upcycled car necklace by Mei-Ling Uliasz (Twitch & Whiskers), my monster hoodie by Diane Koss (Cutesy but not cutesy), our ceramics by Jeff Campana, Elizabeth Benotti, Abby Berkson, Liz Rodriguez and Shawna Pincus. Scarves and hats and mittens made by family & friends. Handmade items are simply a part of our everyday lives.
When you are not making making art what do you like to do with your time?
I enjoy hanging out with our family & friends, seeing live music, playing games, walking and reading.
What is something people might not know about you?
I was a field hockey goalie in high school.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business?
Define what success means to you. Knowing what you want is important. Shoot for manageable goals and write out steps to achieve them. Make meaningful connections with other people in your business.
Thank you for joining me on my blog today, Jen, and be sure to check out her work!
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