My Name is Miss Millie
I sell as Miss Millie Monkey Maker
What was your first piece and/or idea that made you keep creating? I was originally taught to sew sock monkeys as a young university student by an American neighbour – Sophie – who learned the craft of sock monkey making from her grandmother in Iowa. Even though I’ve been sewing sock monkeys for over 10 years now there’s still a little something different about each one and it’s not until they are stuffed and sewn up that you really see what each monkey’s personality will be. I think that’s also one of the joys for people who buy my sock monkey kits and a lot of people tell me that once they’ve made one they just want to jump in and make another one.
What lead you to where you are today? I’d been sewing sock monkeys as gifts for friends and relatives for several years and one day a friend of a friend approached me to sell then in her Christchurch gift store. I then taught a few classes on how to sew sock monkeys and that lead to the inspiration for the sock monkey kits which are now my primary product line.
Who are your favourite artists? and what inspires your work? I’m extremely lucky that I get to do a lot of international travel with my ‘real’ job and because socks are such a ubiquitous product I almost always come home with new colors and designs. It gives a finished sock monkeys a little something extra when the buyer knows the sock itself came from California, or London or Paris. Surprisingly, socks are one thing that many countries including New Zealand still manufacture locally even if there are a lot of imported designs as well (Columbine are based in Gisborne).
What other areas would you like to explore or expand into? This year I added a range of Sock Monkey gift cards to my offering and I intend add kits for other sock animals early next year.
What do you love most about working with your medium/material? I work primarily with socks and whenever I sell my Sock Monkeys or Sock Monkey Kits directly to the public I get to experience the ongoing fascination that this toy is, in fact, made from just one pair of socks.
How hard is it as an artist to balance creativity with business? These days I think of myself primarily as a creative business person rather than an artists running a business. I spent plenty of time in my early years trying to avoid the reality of being in business – thinking of it as a hobby and putting off administrative tasks. Now I try to do at least one little non-creative task every day whether it’s reconciling invoices or bank statements, applying for a gift show or just tidying up a drawer so I can find what I need quickly and easily!