If it’s difficult to get to know the who’s who of vinyl artists, it’s nearly impossible for plush. Collecting plush toys isn’t nearly as popular as collecting vinyl, and there are fewer resources available. Thankfully, we’ve assembled a list of some 29 of the most influential plush artists active today. Whether it’s the toy empire that is Uglydoll, or a humble independent entrepreneur like Mariska Vos-Bolman, we’ve worked to find some of the most passionate, most intriguing artists working in soft toys today. So before you head out and pick up your first Wee Ninja, come take a look at our list of 29 Plush Artists You Should Know.
Alex Pardee’s unique sense of imagination and ability to mesh the grotesque with the cute is something that plants him on toy shelves worldwide and makes him one of the most intriguing artists on this list. The dichotomy of the cute with the ugly has been seen before, but Pardee’s work draws from a wide variety of influences making them truly one-of-a-kind.
American artist Anna Chambers has channeled a sense of childlike wonder into her artwork, animation, and toys. With an eclectic style that’s reminiscent of Amanda Visell and mid-Century American animation work. Featured in Japanese trade magazines and Italian fashion magazines alike, and even the target of knockoff plush work, Chambers may not yet be a household name, but her plush has a worldwide appeal.
Better known as Bytedust, Dutch artist Dennis Douven is the graphic designer’s graphic designer. Drawing inspiration from simple, effective health and hazard warning signs, Douven’s toys are popular precisely because of the ubiquity of these signs. Fetishization of simple, minimal designs such as these ensure that Douven’s designs remain popular despite small run numbers and limited availability.
Somewhere between the realms of the designer toy community and the quirky online-foodie world, Dan Goodsell resides. A capable artist in his own right, Goodsell’s Mr. Toast and friends show off more than his chops as a designer – they’re a world in their own right with associated stories, comics and backgrounds. It’s this rich background that engages Goodsell’s fans and ensures his continued success.
The stereotype that plush toys are a girly field and not really the province of male designers is something that’s unspoken but still held by some. Work like Daniel Svanberg’s Spok-Spok line breaks down these stereotypes and is an essential part of the plush canon. Happy teeth and ultra-cute, abstract designs populate the Spok-Spok world, making it a favorite of plush enthusiasts worldwide.
Erin Currie is new to the toy game, but don’t let her inexperience fool you, she’s been illustrating and sewing for years. Her Yeti toy series used the best of plush and the best of hard toys. With a plush body, and an illustrated face, Currie was able to offer four unique faces for the Yeti. This kind of innovation means you need to watch out for this artist from the American Midwest.
Though Kozik’s strongest work has been in the vinyl and sculpture fields, his Labbits and Mongers have translated well to plush. One of the most revered and most prolific artists in the vinyl toy community today, Kozik is an artist at the top of his game, and when he produces, the plush and vinyl communities alike can’t help but stop and take notice.
Though Fink might be known to the community as a designer of cute-yet-kooky plush toys, his first fame is as a mixed-media artist, who puts his frightening ideas down in two dimensions. Though he tones down his ghoulish ideas for the world of plush, you can see Fink’s sense of the macabre in every stitch, making his pieces great for the goth kid in all of us.
An experienced animator and illustrator, Denato has refocused on plush work and character design. This Brooklynite’s Meatcubes collaboration with Andrew Bell was a huge hit in 2007, and her handmade series of Voodoo plushes is consistently sold out. Each is made-to-order, meaning no two are truly alike, making a truly unique plush for each consumer.
A former illustrator in the video gaming industry, Mariska Vos-Bolman struck out on her own in 2007, and founded Fluffels, her own plush toy company. In addition to plushes, Mariska also sells the patterns for her plushes, turning the consumer into an artist in their own right. This kind of engagement with her audience makes Mariska one of the artists to watch on this list.
Geil’s eccentric sense of humor and talented artistry make for some of the most unique, most interesting toys going on right now. With toys like plush maggots and sperm, and Highdi the ‘special kind of leaf’, Geil’s toys appeal to our more mature sense of humor, while his plush craftsmanship is beyond reproach. The duality of the cuteness of his work, and the subject matter makes him plushes great additions to any collection, that are sure to spark engaging conversation.
When it comes to British artists, there’s little to talk about if you leave out this pair of friends from London. Success has come to Mike and Katie of TADO from all fronts, be it their best-selling Cannibal Funfair vinyl series with Kidrobot, or their Choop plushes, or their critically acclaimed Private Panda Club plush-themed exhibition. There’s little doubt that TADO are firmly established as among the best designers be it plush or plastic, that the UK has to offer.
They’re the couple that are responsible for Uglydoll, a plush toy that’s turned into a phenomenon. Horvath and Kim were once long-distance lovers, and Horvath’s doodles at the bottom of each of his letters soon turned into dolls that were being sold worldwide, from Urban Outfitters to the independent toy shop just down the street. A million dollar idea, and arguably the impetus for the plush toy explosion since 2005, Uglydoll is one name you need to know.