Meet The Maker: Jennifer Ramirez of The Sun and the Turtle
by Kollabora Follow

posted 7 years ago

It's amigurumi week and we want you to meet Jennifer from The Sun and the Turtle. Learn how amigurumi gave her a way to create and express herself when she was suffering form a cultural shock of moving to dark and cold Finland. 

My name is Jennifer Ramirez, but you maybe know me as The Sun and the Turtle, and my DIY weapons of choice are hooks and knitting needles.

I got started making when I moved to Finland in 2009, it was very dark and gloomy for me and hard to adapt to the Finnish winter considering I come from “The city of Eternal spring” in South America. I desperately needed something to do and got a crochet needle knowing I was hopeless at crocheting. With some Youtube videos and a bit of practice I learned how to crochet a sphere and started thinking about which kind of shapes that ball could have. Empirically I made my first Amigurumi, but at that time I ignored there was a huge community online for these kind of plushes and even a name! I got so inspired and empowered by this craft form that we (My partner John and Me) decided to create The Sun and the Turtle and spread color and good positive feelings with my creations. John is the ninja behind our website and I am the Hook Ninja.

When I am looking for inspiration I travel and get in contact with different cultures, images, books, movies and overall experiences. I am obsessed with natural patterns, fractals, textures and indigenous motifs, specially the ones created in my country Colombia by indigenous communities. I respect and admire how textiles and design can be in tune with nature and coexist creating the most amazing color combinations and patterns. I love minimalism but I feel that colors go hand to hand with deep feelings such as passion, energy, creativity, sympathy, etc.

Lately I have been quite fascinated by bands trying to replicate sounds of the future in the 70’s and 80’s and some old good tunes such as Zeppelin, Camel and Bang. I have also been listening Day of no Light and Kyuss like a maniac.

The first thing I do when I wake up is drink a glass of water with Lemon , wash my face with some cold water and make a cup of green tea.

The coolest thing about living in Helsinki is how it's transitioning from being a not so active city to a more open and cultural place. I love the fact you can walk anywhere, sit and crochet anywhere and no one will bother you. Additionally I love the fact that even though Amigurumi is not well known in the Academy, my Master Degree in Finland supports me fully in my research and theorization about Amigurumi origins and design and respect my career path.

Any makers visiting my city should check out the Design Museum, it usually has interesting exhibitions. You need to go to “Kalasatama” and get all blown away with the graffiti wall before it disappears, take a coffee in the bunker cafe of Ihana Kahvila and free Sauna beside there there as well. Also you should go for a forest walk in Nuuksio and see a sunset in Töölonlähti.

The person/place/thing inspiring me most right now is South America. I am here to research a bit about indigenous textiles and crafts. Despite the government persecution, hostility and violence against them their culture prevails and their crafts as well. Their creativity remains intact and their identity is being mixed with the modern society, I see it interesting.

When I think about starting a new project I sketch and make a prototype. Sometimes I freehand as well. I think about the texture and kind of wool I want to use as well as which accessories and look. I usually design a personality for my dolls and even think in a Zodiac sign for them.

I have always been interested in the origin of stuff and why we give people presents, as well as which kind of presents could be the most meaningful for others. Amigurumi are handmade dolls used in many places as presents to transmit specific feelings to other people. They are meant to be given. I want people to get empowered to create a “spirit” full of good intentions and emotions for another person and that is why almost all our patterns are for free. Our main goal with The Sun and the Turtle is one day to make a living by inspiring people to create, research and get passionate about Amigurumi as well as give importance to the exploration and artistic process that each person has individually. We want everybody to be a Hook Ninja, someone that grows and learns hand by hand with the material of choice and creates things that transcend the commercial interest.

I started my business because I was facing a very challenging situation in Finland. I had the biggest cultural shock of my life being a newcomer immigrant, It was winter, it was dark!,  I had no job, no language skills,  no money and needed desperately to express myself, channel all this anxiety and uncertainty and help my partner economically. I wanted to make Finns smile and understand how fortunate they are to live in such great country and how important is to keep smiling despite of whatever first or third world problems we are facing. I heard somewhere that real vital needs sparks creativity and I fully believe that now. I am very happy I had to face challenges in order to find what really makes me happy.

When I think about people making/using my supplies, I always hope that their Amigurumis are made with love. I want them to take time to experiment with materials and focus in creating their own master piece. I always hope they respect my effort of putting the patterns online and give me authorship and hope they find them easy to follow and understand.

My advice to anyone looking to start their own business is to be consistent, don’t care if people laugh at your things in the beginning, we all started somewhere. Focus in your own creativity and explore your style. It is cool to find inspiration in others but it is vital to know exactly who you are as designer / artist in order to  captivate other people’s attention. Don’t stop learning.

The most important thing I’ve learned from starting my own business is to know myself internally. Through yarn I channel my emotions and helps me to find balance and reflect upon situations. You learn to deal with your life and business in your head while counting stitches. Somehow it resembles a meditative state. This calmness gives you clear understanding of what you want to achieve. I learned how important photography and storytelling is as well as interaction with people that follow you. Without them you are nothing.

When I started my business, I totally underestimated how much time I’d spend on unraveling and raveling yarn. For reals LOL! I think I spend hundreds of hours doing that.

The music that can cheer me out of any bad mood is Daft Punk, Judas Priest, Manilla Road, and Saxon Albums.

One of my favorite artists is Coralie. But I enjoy random street art surprises. Also I love Vincent Van Gogh, Munch, Alex Grey and Shipibo, Kogi, and Kuna textile designs of South America.

My favorite thing about making is daydreaming your projects. Giving your Amigurumis a soul makes the whole experience very enjoyabl I love making creatures! I wish they could talk :D

I would describe my stash/craft space as nomadic.

To me, DIY means empowering yourself to get out of the ashes of this dying consumerist society. Doing your own thing is subversive and revolutionary. Being creative is what will take to reclaim your own self in this world tending more and more to Monoculture.

The first thing I made was a tomatoe with a mexican mustache. I still have it as a lucky charm, also I think it´s hilarious :D.

My favorite thing to do on the weekend is go into a small cottage in nature and forget about everything. Swim in the sea, take sauna and sit in the fireplace. When is too cold to be out I sit close to the fire and crochet and talk with John.

Three words that describe my work are Color, Spirit, Love.

If I could master any craft it would be... I would love to be able to do anything with my hands like our ancestors. My grandma could sew, crochet, knit, sculp, woodwork, plant, harvest, forage, cure, weave, etc. True human potential right in there.

The best creative advice I ever received is to do watever you want to do. No one knows you entirely. You have nothing to loose.

I never leave the house without my amigurumi keychain and earphones, also with a book either in my pad or a real one. Also I always bring some yarn with me because you never know whan its Amigurumi time! :)

If I could live in any other city/state/country/world it would be Japan.

One fact about me that’s embarrassingly awesome is I am reaaaaaaally small and I talk like a chipmunk. I think is super cool.

My DIY secret weapon is pamper buttons and pillows.

My next project is finishing 10 amigurumis for the World Amigurumi Exhibition to be held in New York. Excited!

Say hi to Jennifer on Instagram and Twitter

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