Custom Plush

My name is Ewen Cluney. (“Ewen” is pronounced like “Aaron” for reasons my parents have never adequately explained to me.) I’m a translator, gamer, and all-around anime fan and geek. When I decided I wanted to write reviews of the strange manga I’ve been reading, Guy and I agreed that Geekorner was a better fit than any of my own blogs, plus I already have too many of those. I’ll be posting up my first manga review pretty soon, but I wanted to start of with a self-introduction and a post about something hardly anyone else really knows about.

Hello gang, Guy here. Ewen will post on this blog now and then (basically when he feels like it, up to an entry a week – the first manga review is already written and waiting for publication!). Ewen and I go back several years, and what he doesn’t tell you is that he translates from Japanese to English, including having translated the Maid RPG, and official anime episodes. Ewen’s posts will also be posted under the “Ewen’s Corner” category. Treat him well!

My vices are frequently anime-related in general, though I don’t own too many figures on account of the ones I already have take up too much space. (Though I do have the sukimizu/nekomimi Nono Nekomiya figure.) Instead I’ve made commissioning art of my mascot character (or OC if you prefer), Kurumi, into a comparable financial sinkhole. I periodically commission artwork online (mainly through DeviantArt), and I usually take reference pictures of her with me to any convention I attend where there are lots of artists. (This year I got four at WonderCon and five at FanimeCon.) It’s probably kind of creepy to some people, but apart from its effect on my bank account I’m quite unrepentant about it.

This time around I want to write a bit about the custom plushies I’ve gotten.

Left to right, Octavia, Kurumi, and Maya, all by Squisherific.

Left to right, Octavia, Kurumi, and Maya, all by Squisherific.

While there are tons of very talented artists who’ll do 2-D artwork (for example, B0RN-T0-DIE and vmat), three-dimensional art is a lot harder to come by. I do in fact have a custom figure of Kurumi, but that was because Suichiro, a longtime friend, made it for me as a birthday present. The result is something I treasure, but the process of making it was so aggravating that he’s vowed never to do anything like that ever again, not even for his own OC.

Figure of Kurumi by Suichiro, with the sketch he based it on

Figure of Kurumi by Suichiro, with the sketch he based it on

There are, however, some very talented artists who take commissions for plushies. The three pictured above are various characters of mine rendered in fabric by Squisherific. I originally stumbled across her DA page while searching for Stephen Colbert of all things (yes, really), and she’s been a delight to interact with through four separate commissions (the fourth being a Massacre Melanie plush for Suichiro). Needless to say, all the usual stuff for commissions applies to custom plushies, which is to say you need to carefully check the artist’s guidelines and availability, give them good references to work from, and provide prompt payment when the ask for it. (Plush artists in particular have to gather materials, so they normally charge up front.)

Massacre Melanie by Squisherific

Massacre Melanie by Squisherific

More recently, I’ve commissioned two plushies from Pheleon, another talented plush artist with a very different style. (Neither of these are ready to show off just yet.) Her plushies are more detailed, and she makes hair by gluing together many layers of fabric (where Squisherific creates hair out of simpler shapes and assembles them more with sewing than glue). Her creations also have a distinctly lanky build (where Squish’s designs are more directly based on Japanese UFO catcher plushies). Another notable difference between the two is that Squisherific uses iron-on transfers for the face (and other features where appropriate) not unlike what people use for T-shirts, while Pheleon paints them on. As with 2-D custom art, I think it’s best to look for an artist whose style fits what you want for the character. (Though I have occasionally gotten radically different and outright strange renditions of Kurumi for variety.)

Anyway, both Squisherific and Pheleon also use quality materials, which is important to me. If I’m spending $60 or more on a plushie, I want it to last a long time. That’s why I’m not a big fan of felt. The texture isn’t as nice, even simply to look at, and it just doesn’t stand up to wear. Japanese UFO catcher plushies have skin made from robe velor, which is also what Squish uses. It’s not the easiest fabric to obtain–fabric stores don’t typically carry it, so you have to special order–and it’s not the only good fabric for plushies, but it’s well worth the extra effort to get it, especially compared to felt. Here are the two Kurumi plushies I have, side-by-side. The felt one is admittedly much older (something like 8 years vs. 2 years), and while even now it has some sentimental appeal, the difference in quality is night and day.

Old Felt Kurumi and New Quality Kurumi

Anyway, that’s about all the insights I have to offer on that. Expect my first manga review pretty soon.

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14 comments on “Custom Plush

  1. Itai Raccah says:

    That’s pretty sweet. I don’t have any particular interest in plushies, but the idea is neat :)

    • Ewen says:

      Well, I also used to collect UFO catcher plushies, but I’ve mostly stopped because they just don’t seem to make them as much anymore, or at least not as much for the series I like. I still have a heck of a lot of them around the house though, including some off the wall stuff like a Tachikoma.

      There are a lot of really talented people out there doing all kinds of amazing stuff. I just wish I could find someone to do some kind of figures, or even to mod Pinky St. dolls, but I haven’t seen anything like that. Of course, we’ll probably see a *lot* more 3-D stuff once 3-D printers become more readily available.

      • Guy says:

        How do you feel about western non-UFO Catcher plushies, like the Cthulhu plushy, or Skull (from the PvP comic)?

      • Ewen says:

        I like the UFO catcher ones best, but I definitely don’t dislike Western-made plushies. Well, Cthulhu plushies have been a little over-done IMO, but then that’s true of Cthulhu in general. I don’t own too many, though that’s partly because I’ve ended up being strapped for cash while at, say, Comic-Con. I have one small Uglydoll, and I keep meaning to get a Mr. Toast plush, amongst others. Also, I still have the teddy bear I received the day I was born. :3

  2. […] Guy Shalev has a blog called Geekorner-Geekulture which deals mainly with anime/otaku stuff, including regular features on anime/game/etc. figures (and his obsession with Saber from Fate/Stay Night). Not wanting to start up yet another blog myself, I’ve started contributing posts there, which will all be under the “Ewen’s Corner” tag. Most of these will be reviews of strange manga I’ve read, but my first post is about my experiences commissioning custom plushies. […]

  3. Guy says:

    How did your friend Suichiro make that doll? It looks almost like what 3D printers make, but I suspect he may have curved it?

    • Suichiro says:

      I used super scupley and made it from scratch. It’s a wire base armature, built up with aluminum foil for body bulk, then coated with scupley which I then worked into details. I had to fire the thing twice, in order to attach the head separately so it darkened a little too much where it touched the pan.

      Now, understand that I’m not a sculptor by any means. I’ve basically never done a sculpture in my life before I did this. I’ll likely never do one again, just because a wrong move, or too much pressure can ruin hours of work.

  4. Seinime says:

    Awesome. Always wanted to TL Jap -> Eng. Always nice to have a team!

  5. Ninjovee says:

    Nice first entry Ewen! Kurumi is so cute! >w< It's amazing how dedicated you are to your own OC that you're willing to spend a lot on her. Will look forward to more entries from you! ^_^v

    • Ewen says:

      Thank you very much! I originally created Kurumi something like 10 or 11 years ago, and she’s continued to be very important to me. :3

  6. lovelyduckie says:

    YAY Manga reviews! I almost always go after a positively reviewed manga series.

  7. Larry says:

    Hey, I was needing some custom plush work done, specifically a Toothless plushie from How to Train your DRagon. I even had a decent pattern, I just can’t sew. You still doing commissions? Email me!

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