DESPITE her best intentions and well-laid plans after graduation, life didn’t quite turn out the way Kathleen Dalseno expected it to. It turned out even better.
Never would the former international student from Melbourne University have dreamt she would be running a crafty business selling uber cute amigurumi stuffed toys from Munich, home of the Oktoberfest and Neuschwanstein, the castle that inspired Cinderella’s castle in Tokyo Disneyland.
Amigurumi, which in Japanese means “crocheted or knitted” (ami) and “stuffed doll” (nuigurumi), is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting stuffed toys.
An architect by profession, it was a skill Kathleen picked up when work brought Kathleen and her husband to Japan after nine years in Melbourne. But it was only two years later that the idea of starting a little online shop came to mind.
“It came about as my husband and I made a sea-change from Japan to Germany,” Kathleen says.
“Since I was in transition and needed a pet project to occupy my hours, starting an online shop on Etsy became a preoccupation.”
And so MissusD was introduced to the online world in 2009.
But what began as a hobby soon took on a life of its own, as more and more people took notice of her work.
One thing led to another, and she soon found herself setting up shop in craft markets around Munich – and most joyously, being inducted into a community of creative people who meet regularly to exchange ideas.
“Doing this has opened the door for me to work alongside and interact with many people, especially creative German women who enjoy having a creative outlet,” she says.
She has been surprised by the audience her work attracts, especially offline.
“Amigurumi usually has a kawaii (cute) factor, and it is that kawaii factor that has spread all over the world,” Kathleen says.
“Some people use the techniques of amigurumi to make geeky or anime figures, such as Hello Kitty toys, R2D2 (of Star Wars), and Hobbes (of Calvin and Hobbes). In fact, there are even people who crochet NASA spaceships!”
She describes her style as “quirky, humorous, geeky, simple, kawaii”. She also draws inspiration from animations she watches with her husband.
Kathleen’s robot eggwarmers have been among the “wildly popular” items purchased by young people.
“In particular those who love the animation Futurama,” she says.
The baby chickadees have been a hit with children and adults alike, and then comes her “little critters” of animals.
“I intended them to be for babies. Every part is sewn in and the limbs are the right size for babies to grab, but it is the adult men and women who swoon over them. For some reason, I must have pushed the German humour button because even I get amused by how tickled they are by my creations!” she says.
But the crafty missus would also be quick to tell you that while the taste of success may be sweet, life as a “one woman band” does come with some cons.
“The upside is you learn so much in the process! Everything depends on your initiative. I have a hand in everything, from designing, to creating, packaging and marketing, everything is decided and done by me. There is also huge flexibility, you can start or stop, go fast or slow, work like crazy or take a holiday anytime you wish,” she says.
“The downside is that… I am the slavedriver and the slave. I have to take care of every aspect.”
As her business continues to develop and grow, Kathleen not only hopes for people to love her work, but to “see people be inspired and encouraged to connect with one another through doing something uplifting.”
“There is something primordial and joyful about making something from start to finish,” she says. “Life is so fast-paced and ‘instant’ nowadays it’s easy to take for granted the true value of the hard work put into the things we have.”
Originally from Singapore, Kathleen Dalseno has lived in Melbourne and Japan, and currently resides in Munich, Germany. You can purchase her creations or request custom-made items from her Etsy shop Missus D. You can also connect with her through her blog missusd.com.
Missus D is offering you the chance to win a panda amigurumi and a mother and child chickadee set. For your chance to win, post a picture of your favourite cartoon or animation character on Meld Magazine’s Facebook page and tell us why you like it. Entries will go into a random draw on Friday May 20.