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Crafts prompt Trouble and Cuddles

Aug 28th, 2008 | By | Category: Latest News

CATHERINE Caudwell is a fine arts student majoring in sculpture, but you won’t find her working with marble or rock.

Specialising in “soft sculpture”, she makes plush toys that count towards her arts degree at Massey University, Wellington.

“I’m interested in how people anthropomorphise things – how quickly we can talk about something as if it’s alive,” says Catherine, 22.

She is exploring this by incorporating electronics to her toys. A gargoyle whose chest rises and falls in a breathing motion is an example.

Her main focus is to make each toy different and to create an interesting point with each, visually or personality-wise. Her inspiration changes with every toy.

“I’m really more interested in people’s reaction to the work than expressing myself through them,” Catherine says.

“It’s interesting what people inadvertently reveal about themselves when faced with a soft toy. Some people are cuddlers, some aren’t.”

Response to Catherine’s work varies. She says the usual reaction is surprise and delight but a lot of people find her toys creepy.

These reactions sometimes go hand in hand as Craft2.0, Catherine’s first fair experience, proved:  “This one guy kept going on about how I should never go and talk to a psychologist, but then he still bought one for his unborn child.”

Craft2.0 is an indie craft fair run by Wellington crafter Sue Tyler. It is held three times a year at TheNewDowse in Lower Hutt and twice a year at Our City O-Tautahi in Christchurch.

“It’s for modern, more edgy stuff that doesn’t fit into a traditional craft fair,” says Sue.

Craft2.0 embraces the international modern craft movement that’s seeing a new generation using the traditional skills for making objects such as furniture, clothing and accessories – but with an updated twist.

Sue’s events are part of a busy national scene that includes the original indie craft fair Craftwerk (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) and newcomer Kraftbomb (Auckland).

Craft2.0 features more than 50 artists selling their own one-off or limited edition creations. The last fair in July attracted 1000 visitors in the first hour.

While a lot of modern crafters extol the virtues of sustainability, with handmade a logical part of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” philosophy, Catherine has no agenda when it comes to her work.

“I don’t think my work necessarily fits into sustainable living as I don’t always use found or recycled materials, although I can fully appreciate the issue,” she says.

“I see the comeback of craft as part of the way people deal with our increasingly technological world. People are always wary of new things and tend to go back to what is familiar and trusted. I like the idea that there is room for both.”

Ngaio resident Catherine started at Massey studying fashion design but was encouraged to take the fine arts degree by a tutor who noticed she was more inclined to conceptual ideas than everyday clothing.
Although it’s unlikely to be a fulltime career, Catherine is enjoying the public’s renewed interest in creative crafts. “I think some of us just have an unexplainable desire to make things.”

Catherine plans to be at the next Craft2.0 with her collection, Trouble and Cuddles, on October 11 at TheNewDowse.







TOP: Catherine working on one of her breathing gargoyles.

BOTTOM: A couch full of Trouble and Cuddles.

LEFT: Artist Catherine Caudwell.



To purchase/order Catherine’s toys, email:



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is a Whitireia Journalism student who wants to use her writing skills for good, not evil. Miyuki likes: food, Seinfeld and talkback radio. She dislikes: not having time to read, killing insects and the news.
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