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Gavin's Underground

Craft Lake City: Grimmleigh's Fiends

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2009-08-07 -

Tomorrow over at Gallivan Plaza, nestled in the midst of towering structures and parking garages galore, we see a sight usually hidden from the public. What's usually behind the blinds, kept indoors as a hobby, what many conceal in dark unused rooms or next to the wash room in the basement, will be on public display for all to see. What you may ask? ...People getting their craft on!

The first annual Craft Lake City kicks off at 2PM on Saturday, showcasing everything from knitting to silk screen prints to jewelry and much more I couldn't even begin to describe. Plus dozens of vendors, street performers, and live music from the likes of Aye Aye, Tiny Lights, Coyote Hoods and the long awaited end to the hiatus of Subrosa. And its completely free. Gearing up for the event I wanted to interview some crafters setting up shop at the event, and for this one I got to chat with Leigh & Rachel Kade, creators of the Grimmleigh's Fiends!

Rachel Kade & Leigh George Kade

http://www.grimmleighsfiends.blogspot.com/

Gavin: Hey guys, tell us a little about yourselves first off.

Leigh: I was raised by a wild pack of hippies and now I’m a painter/sculptor/illustrator/sci fi enthusiast/Geek Show Podcast panelist with a "super secret dayjob" and a pretty cool family.

Rachel: I like long walks on the beach and the color puce. My turn-offs are brussel sprouts and tangled yarn. I was raised by crazy Germans and I’m a yarn addict.

Gavin: How did the two of you meet and eventually get married?

Rachel: We’ve been married for going on 15 years (I always have to do the math to remember.) And we met here in Salt Lake when Leigh was an angry punk rock coffee shop employee and I was one of many little red headed girls who hung out at said coffee shop.

Leigh: She thought it was funny that I was so angry all the time, which made her really, really appealing. She came in with her friends to drink coffee and "study", and she had these cute glasses, sassy hair, and hated Nirvana. I was pretty much lost from minute one. And she had no problems with my erratic tendencies.

Gavin: Leigh, you've been doing figures for a while, how did you get into that?

Leigh: I started painting Dungeons & Dragons miniatures in 1982, and that probably saved my life. A lot of kids in the area of town I grew up in got into some pretty dangerous stuff, and some didn’t make it through high school. I always loved building models and dioramas of castles, so fantasy miniatures and that whole world was really appealing to me, and it turns out I come from a long line of model builders and tinkerers. Genetics are a funny thing! I learned a lot of really great painting techniques in White Dwarf Magazine in the late 80's and early 90's, and have been able to paint miniatures professionally for the last ten years. Last I checked, I was one of the 200 best on the planet, which gets you pretty far on a waiting list at a restaurant.

Gavin: Why choose to go into such detail as opposed to just painting normally?

Leigh: My mom is a painter, and her work always intimidated me. It was really scary trying to do any "real" painting when you have a real painter in the house, but she couldn’t paint small, so that allowed me to get my paint Jones in without feeling inferior to her. Silly in hind sight, because I could have learned a lot about traditional painting from her while I was growing up.

Gavin: You also do custom action figures. How did that start off and what have you created?

Leigh: I was always getting grounded for cutting up and melting toys when I was a kid. They didn’t make the Star Wars figures I wanted, so I was going to make them myself. I realized that plastic got soft when it was warm, so I tried melting a Han Solo figure’s face with a lighter, thinking I could re-sculpt the plastic as it cooled. Oops. I have ripped apart and re-sculpted hundreds of figures in my life, and really rarely part with them. I just want to see how they work, how to make molds, how to inject resin, you name it. Making dolls has been a much safer, and less toxic, creative outlet.

Gavin: Rachel, how did you take on crocheting and what kind of things do you make?

Rachel: My mom taught me how to crochet when I was about nine or so, and I did the typical pot-holder for Christmas thing for a long time. I’ve always crocheted for gifts because I find handmade gifts so much more personal. It also helps me relax and focus and I love that I can crochet while we’re all watching the boob-tube etc. It also helps me feel productive creatively which is really important, if you, like me, suffer from "career dissatisfaction". A few years ago, when Leigh’s dad got cancer and went through chemo, I made him a hat to keep him warm. He got a lot of compliments on it so I started making more of them and donating some to cancer support groups in the area of Oregon we lived in at the time. I started selling them and using them as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society too. I’m pretty much ALWAYS crocheting something. Even in the car (NOT when I’m driving!) I got interested in Amigurumi (that’s basically crocheting little dolls) about six months ago when I started teaching MY nine year old daughter how to crochet.

Gavin: Where did the idea for the Grimmleigh's Fiends come from?

Leigh: I found a stuffed Loch Ness Monster at a thrift store a little bit before Rachel and I met, and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. When Rachel started making amigurumi doll bodies, a little bulb went off. She’s spooky good with the yarn, and I always wanted to mess it up.

Rachel: He begged me to make a body that he could paint a face for... and the rest, as they say, is history. Our kids give us tons of feedback and suggestions. We’ve been selling artsy craftsy stuff online (Etsy) for a while now and we hadn’t seen anything like what we’re doing so we figured what the heck... it’s great because we’re using both of our talents/hobbies together.

Gavin: What's the process life for making one from idea to final product?

Rachel: We never really know how they’ll turn out until they’re done. I get inspired by the color of the yarn (like I said, yarn addict) and try to "inspire" him with new & fun body types. I don’t use a pattern so they’re all slightly different... I basically whip up the body, stuff it, sew a piece of cloth on it and then Leigh takes over from there. Their personalities really come out when Leigh paints their faces. His creepy-cute aesthetic is really appealing and I’m always surprised by what he comes up with. And he has back stories for all of them too... almost all of them have names and somewhat tragic lives that he actually writes out for them.

Leigh: I get a bag full of bodies, which is as fun as it sounds, trust me. I really have no idea what is going to end up on the face until it’s almost done, but the mystery is a good part of the fun. We’ve had a few requests for customs of customer’s pets, which have been really challenging for me, since they have to capture the pet’s likeness. I have to rely on actual skill for those, instead of pure stream of consciousness. Rachel really keeps me on my toes, too. Right when I thought that I knew where we were headed, she handed me a crocheted carrot.

Gavin: Why did you choose to do different ones every time instead of mass produce the same one?

Leigh: We love collecting things, and we love the idea of being collected. Each Grimmleigh is original because it’s more fun for us that way, and we feel like a lot more of our personalities come through in the final product than it would if we tried to mass produce. That, and I have this really successful auntie who is always trying to get us to ship stuff to third world countries to cut down on cost and labor, and that pisses me off. There is no creative process for me if someone else is doing the creating!

Rachel: Like I said, I don’t use a pattern, and I keep forgetting to write any of them down, so I don’t think I could exactly duplicate one if I wanted to!

Gavin: What's been the reaction like to them as they've come out?

Rachel: We love telling people that this is our hobby and what we do in our free time. We get some funny looks. Our friends have been super supportive... but my 85 year old Grandmother thinks there’s something seriously wrong with both of us.

Leigh: I always think we are being humored, but the last few projects have floored people. First, it was Rachel with her hand-painted bottle cap earrings. Then, I quit my radio job in Oregon to paint war-gaming miniatures full time. When the first Grimmleigh’s were done, I figured most of our support group would chalk it up as another of our crazy ideas, but so far people have been really enthusiastic. Sales have been steadily getting better, so I have to call it a success in progress. Baby steps, right?

Gavin: Do you have plans for different designs coming, or sticking to the ones you've got right now?

Rachel: We both have a bit of un-diagnosed ADD or something so we do get easily bored with doing the same things over and over again. We brainstorm together a lot. Leigh will ask me "Hey do you think you can do this?" and I’ll try to make it... that’s how we started doing the Luchadores (Mexican Wrestlers) We’ve just started a new line, "The Produce Of Peril" - kind of a twisted Veggie Tales thing... and we’ve been working on some designs for some elemental creatures as well as the Cryptid Monsters.

Leigh: Neither one of us had any idea that two of those were in the works a week ago. They just gestated out of our heads, which is cool. By the time Craft Lake City hits, we might already be figuring out how to introduce cross-dressing marmots.

Gavin: How did you get into Craft Lake City, and what are your thoughts on being a part of the event?

Rachel: We are really excited to be a part of the Craft Lake City Festival, especially on the ground floor! We’ve never really "fit in" to the traditional crafty scene with any of our work so it’s like Kismet that an "alternative" or "rebel" fair will be held in this fair city just in time for us to be a part of it. I’m not sure how we actually got in, but I did know Angie Brown (the editor of SLUG) when she was just a ‘tween so maybe there was a nostalgia factor? (Totally kidding - I’m sure we got in purely on the unbiased merits of our craft!)

Leigh: It’s pretty sweet being in the first show. We’re pretty stoked to see what the reaction to our work is outside of our sphere of influence and Etsy!

Gavin: A bit local, what's your take on our art scene, both good and bad?

Rachel: Having grown up here in Salt Lake and then leaving for 15 years to live in the middle-of- nowhere-Oregon... I’d have to say that SLC has come a long way. I haven’t experienced too much of the "scene" really but I’m excited that Craft Lake City is LOCAL ONLY! I believe all of the artists are from the Wasatch Front. Not to disparage artists from other areas like Colorado and California, but I think it’s a shame when local artists can’t get into local shows because of super-high booth overhead or competition from out of town artists.

Leigh: This city has always had a thing for scenes, hasn’t it? We had to go away for a while to notice it. I’m not knocking anyone here, but there is an overwhelming aura of uniformity here, and I think that when someone begins to express themselves outside of the norm, there tends to be a lot of hushing up. So, little Mr. Or Ms. Expression suppresses that, but you know how well that goes. After a while, they meet up with a few other like minded express-ees, and viola! A movement is born! SLC is amazing that way, and we kind of have to thank the prominent establishment for nurturing that.

Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Rachel: Everyone should make an effort to get out to the Gallery Strolls and support local galleries and fairs like the one coming up. We all talk about shopping local in this crappy economy and buying your holiday gifts & stuff like that from local artists at fairs and Farmer’s Market, etc. is a perfect way to stimulate the local economy. The more word of mouth there is about local artists and the more successful events like this are... the more there will be! And the more artists are out there actually making even a little bit of money from their work, the more they will be able to produce... it’s a big circle of art!

Leigh:
You don’t need to be a creator to support the local scene, but you do need to be a part of it. Even if you don’t buy something from an artist, you’d be amazed at how far a compliment goes. We get twenty compliments for every sale on Etsy, but I love to hear it. It fires me up!

Gavin: What can we expect from both of you the rest of the year?

Rachel: We’ve got some great, morbid ideas coming up for Halloween (pumpkins and skeletons and zombies, oh my) and we’re hoping to get into some shops for the winter holidays.

Leigh: I’m sure I will accidentally light myself on fire at some point. Other than that, as Rachel goes, so goes my nation. Yeah, I just quoted a werewolf from "Buffy."

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Rachel: Etsy, and the handcraft movement in general... buying local and buying handmade.

Leigh: I agree... Etsy may not be local overall, but you would be amazed at how many Utah crafters are selling there. You don’t even have to leave your house to support some awesomely talented people! Oh, and Kerry would kill me if I didn’t plug Geek Show Podcast. It’s new every week, and I get to babble about whatever I want, so if you like the stuff Rachel and I do, you can hear all about it on the podcast. And keep reading this blog, right here, because Gavin has really been pouring his heart and soul into making sure all of you know about a ton of cool things that no one else is covering!

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