You might expect a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago who concentrated in Fibers and Materials to spend his time curating exhibits with artists who make ornate gowns and rugs. Mikey Anderson, however, has a greater calling: hand-size cartoonish characters made out of felt named Yarnies. His characters suggest a variety of personalities, from a shy raccoon to a menacing, B-movie monster.

Inspired by Ugly Dolls and KidRobot, Anderson’s career includes brushes with upscale designer Cynthia Rowley and The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening.

How would you describe your creative style?
I would describe my style as cartoony, cute and silly. My characters are meant for my customers to smile!

What inspired you to start your own business?
I was inspired when I first started selling my Yarnies with Cynthia Rowley in 2011. This opportunity happened because her brother found a Yarnie in the comic book store Quimbys in Chicago. I realized I could make a living off my artwork and be able to share all the silly characters living in my imagination with the world. I also had the opportunity to intern with a designer toy company where I was able to see how a handmade business works to fulfill orders, market them and all the confusing tax stuff.

Has your work changed over the years you’ve been working on the toys? If so, how?
My work has changed so much! I’ve always loved developing characters, but the materials I use have definitely evolved. The first Yarnies were created out of plastic bags, found materials and yarn to create adorable little monsters. Once I learned how to sew I started creating two headed people, animals, aliens and just any type of character I felt like making. Most recently I have a focused group of designs because it’s easier to fulfill shop orders and it makes a cohesive craft table.

Which materials, tools or products do you like to work with?
I love working with felt, fleece and fuzzy fabrics. I also love spending time creating comics in my sketch about my character Pizza Face.

See Mikey Read Pizza Face

Mikey Anderson reads Pizza Face from Lyra Hill on Vimeo.

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the designer toy world, KidRobot, Adventuretime, The Simpsons, Ugly Dolls, My Paper Crane and anything cute!


Matt Groening holds ‘Simpsons’-inspired Yarnies.

What’s interesting, fun and challenging about crafting with kids?
The best thing about working with kids is their love for creating art. They’re not afraid to mess around with materials and have a never ending supply of awesome ideas. The challenging part sometimes is getting the kids to quiet down and begin an art activity, but once they start they don’t want to stop. For some kids, creating art give them a sense of confidence in accomplishing something they actually made! It can also be a channel into some kids’ emotional stresses they may be faced with. I just love creating art with kids and people in general. I think art is a powerful tool into another person’s heart.

What makes a great craft?
Anything and everything makes a great craft! If I was able to sell characters made from plastic bags and found materials like old toys, I believe anything can be turned into an art piece or crafting project. This could also be because my BFA concentrated in Fibers and Materials studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Check out Mikey’s entry on The Craftys!

The Felt Crafts Category of The Craftys is sponsored by The Felt Store.