“Hello, Cutie!” The Interview

A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of reviewing a new release which explores the collectible culture of “cute”. …And maybe exploits the rise of cute in contemporary culture. But in a good way — I swear. Entitled Hello, Cutie!: Adventures in Cute Culture, the book was not only charming but so engaging that I just had to interview its author, Pamela Klaffke.

Hi, Pamela, what thrills me most about your book is the blend of “just because it’s cute” with the meatier discussion of “why it’s cute”. Maybe that’s because I’ve had to defend my kitsch and cute collecting so much… Was that always your vision for the book? And perhaps more importantly, as a collector of cute, do you find yourself examining or even defending “why” along the way?

The book is pretty close to what I originally imagined. At one point, there was discussion (with my publisher) of pushing it in more of a serious/academic direction, but we all agreed that the format we went with best suited the subject matter. We wanted it to be a fun read, a celebration of cute that also questions the whys and delves a bit into history and psychology. Plus, the voices of all the great people I talked to for the book really added a lot of life to it.

Regarding “defending cute,” I’ve been really lucky in the sense that I have rarely had to. I loved it as a kid and my Dad was always bringing me back cute stuff from his business trips to Asia, so it was always around and I never got any flack from my family. Many of my friends are fellow lovers of kitsch or cute and even the ones that aren’t can certainly appreciate the strangeness of it all (but only in the nicest possible way). My partner is an academic and even he thinks it’s super-fun. I also work from home and have for over almost 15 years, so there aren’t any co-workers around to give me suspicious looks.

In your book you discuss how you surround yourself with cute — in the sense that your cute objects are not all confined to one display of your “cute collectibles.” Do you consider them as one collection? Multiple collections?

I think of them as collections within a broader collection. I have various things neatly grouped on most of the available spaces in my home, but they’re not always grouped according to what they are. Right now, I have three vintage Japanese pose dolls sharing the shelf beside my desk with two Barbapapa figurines, a 1970s plastic gingerbread couple and two very weird-looking ceramic-and-fur dogs. I don’t like to keep anything behind glass or in cabinets — I want people who come over to feel comfortable picking items up and examining them if they wish.

Do you ever consider the financial value of your items, or is this all for the thrill of cute and the intrinsic value(s)?

I always look up what an item is selling for on eBay and Etsy after a thrift store score for fun and to satisfy my curiosity, but I rarely sell anything from my collection except the occasional duplicate. The vintage items I do sell on Etsy (textiles, sewing ephemera, and children’s books) are all bought specifically to sell. The aesthetic is pretty much the same as my own, but I like a clear division in my head.

What’s more fun: finding the items or owning them?

Do I have to choose just one option? The answer truly is both. I love the thrill of the hunt, but at the same time, when I’m stuck inside writing to a deadline, it’s always nice to look around and see all those cute faces staring back at me.

Of course you don’t need to chose one — I certainly can’t!

I realize one book, or even a series, cannot cover all there is about cute. But I did find a few aspects of cute missing… One was the idea of miniatures themselves as cute. (Aren’t cupcakes just miniature cakes?) I think women have been hardwired to find anything made in miniature adorable. Do you consider anything miniature to be cute, or is that a separate category?

I had very limited space and time to produce the book (I started researching and writing in January of this year so to say that the deadline was tight is a huge understatement). But as with any book with a word and page count goal, some topics don’t get as much coverage as others.

As for miniatures, I talk about miniaturization in the “I Want Candy” chapter so it is in there. Smaller is indeed cuter in some cases, but not all, and I don’t think it’s gender-specific (take the Japanese Iwako erasers for instance — those are collected by both men and women). It is a typical trait of cute, but from my research I didn’t find it needed a lot of explanation. It may be, too, that miniatures aren’t a specific interest of mine beyond Re-ment (which is in the book).

The other thing I would like to have seen in the book was a discussion of gender in collecting cute. Is there a gender disparity in collecting cute? Is there a growing male interest in cute?

Gender was a huge one I would have liked to have tackled. It’s a complex issue and would have needed an entire section to do it justice. I would have loved to talk more about gender, but it wasn’t realistic to add another section. Plus, we were very conscious about keeping the tone conversational and light and a treatise on gender politics and cute may have weighed the book down a bit, as it’s meant to be a celebration of cute rather than hardcore cultural analysis.

I would have to do more specific research into gender and cute to comment accurately about any disparities or potentially growing male interest in cute. I suspect there is an increase in men being into cute (Bronies — the guys who are proudly into My Little Pony immediately springs to mind), but can’t say for sure without research.

Do you have any plans for additional books, either in this area of cute or other areas of collecting?

I do. I am working on another book in a similar vein, but I’m not really in a position to speak about it yet. But gender will definitely be covered extensively!


Honestly, even without knowing more about her next project, I could have talked with Pamela all day. …Maybe for a week. (I didn’t even get to share photos of all my stuff with her! lol) I will be discussing more with Pamela soon though. We will be discussing collecting with her daughter (who is also into cute) over at Inherited Values; so stay tuned for a link to that interview to appear here. Meanwhile, if you or someone you love collects or coos over cute (or kitsch — or whatever you want to call it), Hello, Cutie!: Adventures in Cute Culture would make a downright adorable gift.

All the vintage looking photos above are from Pamela’s book. If you find them dreamy, you should check out her affordable prints at Pamela Klaffke Photography.

When You Fall In Love With The Embroidered Face Of Vincent Price (An Interview With The Artisan Behind I Sew Cute)

So I’m virtually strolling through Etsy the other day, and I spot this:

A line art embroidery pattern of Vincent Price?! OMG. What’s not to love?

Turns out, this is an example of the custom handmade embroidery patterns you can have made at isewcute.

“What’s that?” you say with a combination of incredulity and needlework lust. Well, kiddos, let me hip you to the idea…

You want to embroider someone special’s face onto something, so you contact isewcute and June turns a photo into a pattern (in three different sizes) so that you can embroider to your heart’s content.

But as cool as that explanation is, I still wanted to know more about the person behind I Sew Cute… So I suggested an interview, and got it in spades.

June, about the custom work, does the customer sign-off on the finished design/piece before payment, or is it a surprise when it arrives?

The customer is involved throughout the whole process. We discuss what they want. I let them know what I can do… colors/materials… as well as how long it will take to create it. Prices are similar to the items already listed. I don’t charge more for a custom order over a non custom order. Payment up front depends on if it’s something I can sell if the customer chooses to opt out… but, thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet.

I do guarantee that they will be happy with my work & do all I can to make the vision they have in their head become real. I take photos throughout the process & keep the customer updated. They’re a lot more work than just creating whatever I dream up, but they’re more rewarding as well because I know a custom order is going to mean so much to the person receiving it. It’s a very personal experience.

What’s the strangest or most surprising custom pattern request that you’ve ever had?

Jim Ross. He was so fun to draw because he has a very interesting face. I work very hard to capture someone with real expression in their eyes & make them look lively. It’s a great challenge every time.

I don’t want you to think I’m crazy or being negative, but the Jim Ross answer had me snort Diet Coke out of my nose — it’s that awesome! Did they make a dish towel? A pillow? Oh, that’s just too cool!

Not negative at all! I’ll take the diet coke snort as a compliment! I do wish that customer would’ve sent me a customer appreciation photo, because I’d love to see it stitched. I check on Flickr to see if he’ll posted it — and, yep, you read right, it was for a he. I adore my manbroiderer friends!

Do you/have you ever done any pinups or more risque sorts of designs/works?

Sure! I love pinups! So long as they’re coy & playful; I don’t care for truly vulgar designs. I have sketchbooks full of girls in various stages of completeness from thumbnail sketches to finished ink drawings.
These are examples of a couple of things I’ve embroidered:

Do you sell patterns for your pin-up designs? I didn’t see any at your store last time…

I should get some listed, because I haven’t any up now, but do have that custom listing where I would create a pattern for anyone of anything they’d like. I’ll have to work on getting those pinup patterns listed!

What are the most popular patterns you have?

Definitely the personal custom embroidery pattern. It can be anything you want it to be! A favorite pet, family member, or celebrity.

Do you sell finished embroidered works, or just the patterns?

Right now just the patterns, but I do have plans to sell my embroidered art this Spring.

In other words, people, “Stay Tuned.”

You can keep up with I Sew Cute works at the Etsy shoppe as well at the official I Sew Cute blog.

(And I’ve got a number of other interviews with June coming up at other blogs; I’ll update this post with those links as they are published.)