“All of my creatures bodies are machine stitched and then altered, uh tailored by hand. Iâ€™m never satisfied with a machine stitched form. I never make patterns for the details like ears and faces. All of the faces, ears and details are cut freehand and for the most, hand stitched. On the woodlanders, I embroider hairs with silk threads pulled from the material I use to sew their cloaks and capes. Other things I make are designed completely as I go, patternless. I’m largely inefficient but I rather enjoy the process.”
There is an exception though: she does not name the Woodland Creatures. “… because I donâ€™t think they speak the same language as me! Ha! Even Iâ€™m not sure exactly what they are.” To Nicole, they have a melancholy, playful and even magical quality and pushed to make a decision, she choose the Woodland Creatures as her favourite to make.
Nicole is a single mom who teaches (not for profit but to under arts exposed and under performing inner city schools). She lives in a one-bedroom apartment in New York which doubles up as her “studio”.
“My â€œstudioâ€ consists of a hollow door desk in my bedroom. But most often I gravitate to stitching sitting on my bed. Iâ€™m not sure why. Itâ€™s become a bit of a running joke to those who know me, my â€˜work bedâ€™. Right before craft fairs it gets pretty ridiculous… and treacherous, pins and needles and all.”
She started Astulebee in September 2007. (The name comes from the latin word Astula meaning, roughly, atelier, an arist’s workshop). What got her started was a book: “Therese Laskey’s Softies” and “found it super fun and inspiring” but without the patience to follow others’ patterns. From here she began experimenting with her own patterns and Plush/Astulabee was born. Inspiration also comes from seeing other artists work. Artists such as Caroline Gaedenchens, Allyson Mellberg and Heather Goodchild who tie art and craft together are her favorites.