In Arts & Entertainment

This is one of the furry creations from The Plush Team in Candyland, a handmade plush toy show opening at Hot*Pop Jan. 21.

In Arts & Entertainment

Handmade plush ice cream cones from Bebe's Babies, one of the dozens of plush makers showing at The Plush Team in Candyland show.

In Arts & Entertainment

A candy bar with candies from around the world will add to the sweetness of the Jan. 21 opening at Hot*Pop.

Soft and sweet art show brings together plush artists from around the world

Milwaukee won't have to wait until State Fair to get its hands on something as soft and sweet as a cream puff.

Some of the world's most renowned makers of handmade plush toys are descending on Milwaukee for the Plush Team in Candyland show at Hot*Pop boutique, 213 N. Broadway.

Dozens of artists from all over the planet will be participating in the sweetly themed show, said Christina Ward, 41, a Bay View resident who helped organize the show and who sells her plush creations under the Christina Ward Creatures moniker.

"This will be the first time Milwaukee has seen anything like this," Ward said.

From fuzzy cupcakes and flaming felt red hots to adorable little napping ice cream cones each participating artists explores the Candyland theme suggested by Hot*Pop.

"Because of the diverse group of people working in such different mediums having a theme to organize around just kind of helps to bring it all together," Ward said.

The profile of the plush toy making community has risen substantially in recent years. With the annual Plush You show in Seattle drawing makers from around the world, hundreds of online shops and "Stuffed" (an entire magazine devoted to soft sculptures), the practice of making stuffed toys has moved far beyond the confines of your grandmother's living room.

In a story from the summer 2009 edition of "Stuffed" the vice president of marketing for Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items and vintage clothing, estimated about $100,000 in monthly revenue from the site went to plush toy makers.

The Plush Team are a guild of plush makers on Etsy who curate group sales events at major craft shows,organize fundraisers and sponsor marketing events and artistic challenges throughout the year. A book released last year "Get Stuffed" collects pictures of their eclectic creations and maker manifestos from its members.

Ward, one of the team's founding members, got involved in crafting during time spent on her grandparents' farm near Osseo.

"When we were up on the farm we weren't there to be entertained we were there to help work, so if you wanted to be useful and get grandmas approval you did stuff," Ward said.

With outlets like Etsy and the growing number of craft fairs, Ward said plush makers have found more outlets to display and sell their work.

"I've always made stuff and now with the resurgence of the craft movement as more of a public thing, versus just making something as someone for a gift, there are a lot more outlets to get your stuff out there and sell it," Ward said.

The event's opening reception on Jan. 21 will feature a "candy bar" featuring the artists' favorite candies in lieu of traditional gallery snacks. The opening runs from 6 until 10 p.m., and the show will remain up through March 20.

"One member is in Bosnia and Herzegovina and she sent a bunch of crazy Bosnian candy. So it will just be a fun way to tie it all together," said Ward, a sucker for Almond Joys.



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