I saw a link on a website which transferred me to another website and then another website. I lost track of what I was actual looking for, and somehow I ended up on http://www.sockdogs.com. This is one of the cutest hand crafted ideas I have seen this year. “Original Sock Dogs”… the name says it all. Artisan Stacey’s idea arose after a visit in Taiwan where she met a stray dog. In honor of this special dog. and to support her local Humane Society Organization, she started making original sock dogs from scratch.
Read our interview with Stacey, the founder of Original Sock Dogs, and see how an individual can make a difference in animals’ and people’s lives, by doing what she loves to do.
Original Sock Dogs by Stacey
Specializes In: Handmade Collectible Plush Art
Interviewee: Stacey Hsu – Kansas City, Missouri.
How and when did the idea for your business with handmade sock dogs come about?
Every year, my local shelter, the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, holds a silent and live pet-themed art auction called Art Unleashed. In the past, I donated small paintings and illustrations, but I wanted to make something different in 2005. I found a great book called, of all things, Stupid Sock Creatures (John Murphy). Instead of making “sock monsters” I decided to make sock dogs to fit with the pet-themed auctions.
What is your background as an artist?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and drawing. When I was 8, I sat in my room and practiced drawing Garfield and Snoopy day and night—mostly to impress my friends and family. I enjoyed drawing so much that I kept up with it, and eventually branched out to other art forms like sculpting, character design and animation. I have a degree in Advertising, but chose to follow a different path, and worked as an editor, producer and director at Hallmark Cards for 10 years. Now I’m taking care of my kiddos and running my own business from home. (Thank you, Etsy!)
Can you describe to us the material you use for the sock dogs, and the work that goes into making them?
They really are made of socks! (All brand new socks, I might add. I’ve been asked!) Most Original Sock Dogs’ noses are made from big black buttons—there’s just something about those big dog noses! Lately, most of the dogs I’ve been making are customs based on people’s pets. Each one is a new adventure! I learn a little about the dog before I start (personality, etc) and take a good long look at their photos. In a way, I suppose I meditate on all of that before I begin sewing. I want each custom Original Sock Dog to represent the real dog not just in appearance but also in spirit.
What do you love most about handcrafting sock dogs?
It’s so exciting to see a bunch of raw materials transform into a real character. Although the basic elements are the same on many of the sock dogs, they each take on their own shape and attitude. I can’t wait to add the finishing touches and see them spring to life.
Do you also create other animals?
I do! I’ve made seagulls, bunnies, bears and cats out of socks. I also make collectible artist bears from mohair and plush when time allows.
I checked your picture gallery on www.sockdogs.com and your etsy shop on http://www.etsy.com/shop/originalsockdogs. You are an amazing artist – every single sock dog is unique and absolutely adorable (smiling puppy faces)! I have already found my personal favorite. Do you have a favorite sock dog?
I don’t have one single favorite, but there is something really meaningful to me about the Sock Pit Bulls I make. I’ve worked with quite a few Pitties while volunteering at the shelter and they are really amazing, devoted, loving dogs. I’d like to think that I’m helping to soften their image a little, for people who fear or misunderstand the breed.
You offer many different sock dogs as well as custom dogs. If I want you to create a sock dog of my dog, what do I have to do?
To order a custom, all you need to do is visit my etsy shop, purchase a custom listing and email me photos of your dog. All customs are $85 plus shipping.
On your Facebook page people can follow your sock dogs/cats. I read you are fully booked for Christmas 2012 – and congrats! – but you can still do some of the itty pitties, right? And what are itty pitties?
Yes, I can still work in a few itty pitties! They are small (3” high) needle felted Pit Bull puppies that are posable and of course, each is one of a kind. Needle felting is a process of using a very sharp needle to poke and shape wool and other natural fibers. The end results are so cute, I don’t even mind occasionally stabbing my fingers while making them!
For a unique holiday idea, you offer gift certificates. How long does it take to finish a single custom sock dog and how much does it cost?
From start to finish, a custom can take anywhere from 4-12 hours. It depends on the complexity of the markings, the type of coat the animals has (long or short) and other distinguishing features or special requests. The time it takes to have it ready for a customer also depends on how many orders are already on the schedule—it’s first come, first served!
What is the secret of your success? Do you have any ideas, tips or advice for the next talented artist who might want to start a business like yours?
You have to love what you do. If you don’t have a huge passion for your craft, you just won’t stick with it. I have a 5 year old, a 2 year old, a husband and 4 pets that need me, and even when I’m dead tired at the end of the day, I still look forward to heading into my studio and designing and sewing the dogs. If you have a love of what you do and make, it will show in the finished product. You might also consider donating a portion of your sales to a non-profit or mission that is close to your heart. It keeps you going, knowing that you are helping someone other than yourself!
You are an animal rescue supporter, you volunteer at your local no-kill shelter, and you donate 10% of your sock dog sales to the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City. Why are volunteers important for animal shelters and what have you learned through your work at the Humane Society?
Volunteers are absolutely essential to shelters. They are the glue that holds all of the shelter efforts together. They help coordinate events, help garner donations, take dogs out for adoption days, and spend one on one time with cats and dogs that need socialization, love and affection. I started volunteering to get my “dog fix”—I didn’t have any at the time. Now I have two dogs and two cats—all from shelters. So if you decide to volunteer, get ready to fall hopelessly in love with the animals you meet.
I saw the cute Johnny Justice Sock Dogs on your Facebook Fan Page. Can you tell us a little about “Johnny Justice”?
Jonny is one of the Pit Bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting kennels. He was adopted by a loving family and has been certified as a service dog. He has worked in libraries, helping kids learn to read, and is a goodwill ambassador for his breed.
Can you describe an experience that has particularly moved or inspired you?
During a trip to Taiwan in 2004, my husband and I came across a stray black dog with an injured front leg. She was being bullied by the other strays—chased away from food scraps, snapped at, it was awful. She basically attached herself to me and followed me around all morning. My heart seriously broke that day.
I wanted so much to just fold her in my arms and take her with me. But we were traveling by train, and not knowing the country or the language very well, I felt helpless about the situation. We bought her a warm meal at a street vendor and sat with her while she ate, to protect her from the other dogs. I cried the whole way back on the train, and for days after. I vowed to do something to help other dogs like her when we returned to the states, and that’s why I started volunteering. I’ve always loved animals, but I think that sweet girl gave my compassion levels a huge boost—ever since I’ve been dedicated to finding ways to help the animals, through sharing my time and my art.
In general, why should people adopt from a rescue?
If you are looking for a companion, someone to love who will love you back unconditionally—please adopt from a shelter. There are so many animals waiting in shelters for loving homes. And every time a dog or cat is adopted from a shelter, space opens up for another homeless animal who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to find a forever home. I also believe that shelter animals know they have been “rescued” and possess a special kind of gratitude toward their people.
If you could give pet owners one piece of advice what would it be?
Love them while they are here. Their lives are so short—never take them for granted.
Do you have pets of your own?
My two dogs, Lolly and Ava are both from the shelter where I volunteer. They are black dogs, which are very often overlooked in shelters. They are also two of the most loving, devoted, goofy, wonderful girls ever. Our two cats, also from shelters, think that they own us!
Which websites or pet-related books would you recommend to PackPeople?
I would definitely recommend that everyone check out their local shelter or rescue’s web site. Get to know what they are about, what they need, and how you can help out. There are so many ways, big and little, to pitch in and make life better for these wonderful dogs and cats. I’d also recommend taking a look at bestfriends.org and gentlebarn.org.
In terms of print publications, I am a big fan of The Bark Magazine. Great articles and a pro-rescue point of view.
Original Sock Dogs is also a proud member of HeArtsSpeak.