Kittie Humphries aka Kittipilla is an Australian artist working out of the coastal city of Wollongong creating designer toys, dolls, accessories and couture out of fabric and other materials.
Inspired by cartoons such as Pokemon, classic horror movies, heavy metal, and the works of iconic children’s author and illustrator Dr. Seuss, Kittie’s works are macabre, cute, full of personality, and intricately crafted.
Born with an innate artistic sensibility, Kittie has been sewing and creating pretty much her entire life and has developed an impressive set of skills as a result.
With Kittie elaborating,
“I first started to learn so sew around five, my Mum taught me. I made clothes for my dolls and plush then started making dolls themselves. Mostly plush Pokemon as you do in the 90’s.”
With Kittie riding the wave of a very succesful 2019, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with her thoughts on art, life and a whole lot more, by reading our Art Talk Interview with Kittie, below…
Name + D.O.B?
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Wollongong, NSW Australia.
City, State and Country you’re from?
Same as above.
Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: concerts, art, toys, romance, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
I first started to learn so sew around five, my Mum taught me. I made clothes for my dolls and plush then started making dolls themselves. Mostly plush Pokemon as you do in the 90’s.
* Age 10 – continuations:
I don’t remember much from this age bracket other than watching horror movies, reading my Dad’s Stephen King books (I was probably 8 when I first read The Shinning and I still LOVE it) and getting into heavy metal.
* Age 15 – getting serious:
Loved sewing and fashion and having dropped out of school (and kicked out of sewing class, being told “You better not ever pick sewing as a career!” by my red faced home-ec teacher) I went to TAFE to study fashion at 16 years old.
I started making my dolls around then and was amazed at the amount of people that where actually interested in my work. I did a LOT of underage drinking and was basically a wild child on my days off. But this is where I became a workaholic!
* Age 20 – young adult:
By this point I have been making custom clothes and dolls for 4-5 years.
I was poor as shit and lived in a run down house that had plants growing through the cracks in the walls, but still pursued opening my own shop at 22. I had the shop for 2 years but closed due to a serious of unfortunate events.
I wish I could go back and tell my self what path to go down, to stop wasting money on pointless ventures and drop my boyfriend at the time. I’d probably have a booming business right now! haha.
Started getting tattooed a bit before this too… one day hopefully I’ll have a body suit.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
This is when I decided to ditch making clothes and I started to make the style of dolls I make now. I struggled with my health for a couple years so I spent many days laying in bed sewing away. The passion grew and grew though! And I started selling more than ever before. I have folders full of designs and will probably never get to half of them.
I started dating my now amazing partner and bought my first classic car!
* Age 30 – fully formed:
Not quite 30 yet but I’m hoping that my doll making can be more sustainable by the time I get there! I have a family now but they help wherever they can.
There’s not much to my life, looking after/ spending time with my fam, making dolls and doing custom jobs. Sewing has always been the biggest part of my life, so not too much interesting stuff goes on apart from that.
“Independence, persistence and courage!”
I also have “Patience” tattooed on my palms to reminded me that everything takes patience.
Whilst we know you through your designer toy work – care to share with us the details of your other creative endeavours… if any?
At the moment I am teaming up with the amazing Mindful Generations to create an Australian sensory book for elderly suffering with dementia. Last year we partnered with Mindful Generations and ITSOWELL to create an Italian version.
But we hope to go bigger and better this year.
Art, Design, and Toy Questions
When and why did you first start making art of any type!?
Since I could hold a pencil I have drawing and designing.
Like I said before I started sewing at about 5.
… and any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
I suppose watching things like Elvira presents, Addams Family, The Munsters and horror movies in general, mixed with Disney and a love of Dr.Seuss kinda comes out in a weird way.
Please describe the process of producing your handmade fabric toys – from original idea, to preliminary design, sculpt, production, packaging and eventual release!?
Sometimes a lot of thought goes into it. I do a design, do some research, gather more inspiration and re-do the design a bunch of times before I make it.
But sometimes I just grab felt and wing it.
My bigger dolls that I’m doing now are well thought out, they have to be as they are so time consuming.
Worst aspect(s) of the art hustle?
I hate social media, I always have. I’m not too good at sharing myself either. But I’m getting better with it as it’s a necessary evil, and I have a Patreon page that I share a lot more on.
Best aspect(s) of the art hustle?
Finishing projects and seeing my pile of dolls grow!
Favorite other artist(s)?
Thoughts on the current state of the Australian designer toy scene?
I didn’t know there was one..? Doll making is so small here. It seems to be massive in Russia and there are a lot of talented doll makers there.
I think it’s seen more as an old person’s game here, not as art form. But it’s catching on, lots of amazing artists are picking up.
How has fellow artist Tinman Johnson of ‘PEP 29’ and ‘The Yellow Stripes’ impacted your art and personal life? We ask as we know you guys have been collaborating for years.
Tinman and I have worked together for a long time now. He’s the only one I make my old style dolls for now and I have made hundreds of Harveys and Marnys over the years! And I hope to make many more.
I love his concepts, the characters are so strong.
Any projects you want to hype?
I do film my doll making now with time lapse videos and have just started a Patreon page. It’s still in building stage as I get used to filming but it’s chock full of exclusive content already.
If people wanted to work with you, have a chat or buy something – how should they get in touch?
There’s a contact us page on my website www.kittipilla.com.au and you can get in touch with me there.
Odds and Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood(s)?
I was all about toys when I was a kid. I kept all my Polly Pockets in such perfect condition that my step daughter played with them when she was younger.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Waste of time. Pain and responsibility aren’t going to go away with a band-aid.
What do you think the Australian psyche / zeitgeist is today?
I live in a pretty delusional world to be honest. I think everyone needs to calm down and mind their own business. All the protesting is driving me insane.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Wouldn’t even know to be honest.
Does sex change everything?
Depends on the person.
What are the top 3 items you own?
#1. Most prized possession. Entwined Taipan and King Brown snakes my Pop gave me before he passed away.
I have lots of other snakes, taxidermy and oddities but if my house was on fire and my family and pets were safe I’d grab these guys first.
#2. My 1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1500.
Sadly It’s currently in the shed waiting for rust repairs :’( I have always loved classic cars, with my Dad being a mechanic I grew up around them but he was surprised when I wanted to buy a beetle and not a Holden.
#3. I feel like a total sell out saying this but my MacBook Pro. I couldn’t have my business without it.
In a battle between your two creations: Sack Boy Vs. Creepy Bun – who would win in a fight and why?
Sack Boy 100%! Creepy Bun was a random doll that I just threw together and it didn’t quite turn out how I envisioned. But Sack Boy has a soul.
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
Dreams have always been something my friends and family know me for. My latest dream was:
I just had my beetle finished after over a year of waiting to get back on the road. My bestfriends’ car died so I lent her the Bug while her car was being repaired. Within a week she had trashed it. It was filled with rubbish and beer bottles, food all over the back seat from her daughter making a mess and it stank like pot. She came to pick me up in Wollongong and I couldn’t even say anything other than “When is your car going to be done..?”.
[When I first got my Bug I pretty much lived in it, my life was chaos and it overflowed into the car. I could never have it like that again. I can’t wait to have it done and be able to drive it every day again.]
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
I feel like I haven’t really done much to be honest.
Lots of people remember me for being a perfectionist when it comes to my sewing and I guess that’s ok.