Cookies + Craft interview with artist Cat rabbit

What’s your name? 

My name is Cat. My business is called Cat Rabbit.

What do you do? 

I’m a textile artist. I make soft sculptures, mostly reflecting my love of animals and food. Extracurricular activities include baking, reading and patting my cat.

Tell us the process of making these ridiculously cute characters. 

I usually sketch them first, to get an idea of how I might go about constructing them and to get ideas for their outfits and accessories. I start the making process by cutting the shapes for the head and body, and I build on it from there. The head and arms are needle felted, and everything else is hand-stitched from wool felt and some vintage fabrics.

Do the characters have names?

Usually just descriptive names. These ones I started out referring to as the wombats and then, later in the project, more endearingly, as my li’l wombies.

What was your inspiration for the sets and characters?

The sets are inspired by my childhood kitchen, growing up in regional Tasmania in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Tupperware was a must, as were hanging plants and souvenir tea towels. The egg clock is something I wish I owned! The characters also hark back to my youth—the funny, bumbly wombats we would occasionally spot around our house or on walks around Cradle Mountain.

How long does it take to make each character? 

It takes about a day to make the characters. Once their faces appear, I get quite excited to see how the rest of them will look—and because of this anticipation, the process speeds up!

How do you decide on the clothing? 

The characters’ clothes are based on actual outfits I dream of owning (including the spotted brown onesie). This is the way it usually goes with the clothing. I’m no dressmaker—I’m not great at following patterns—so I act out my sartorial desires on my characters.

What are the challenges? 

I have to be really careful about the colours I use. I want the characters to stand out from their surroundings, but I also want to make the situation look slightly believable. It’s a fine balance. I’m usually so inclined to choose the boldest colour combinations possible, but when I’m making a set, I have to be more considered.

Where do you take their photos? And what do you use?

I shoot them in my shared studio in Melbourne, Australia—usually at night and on weekends, so as not to bother my nice studio friends. I use a basic camera and lights set-up to go along with my very basic photography knowledge, most of which I learnt from working with Isobel Knowles on our books for children. 

What materials do you use to make the characters and sets? 

I made these sets using boxes our coffee beans came in, covered in felt! The walls are obliging cardboard from Ikea, and the rest is made from wool felt from my stash. 

What do you like about making these characters? 

I like that my job sometimes makes me feel like I’m a professional child. I create characters of my fancy out of felt, and then I make them a place to live out of cardboard boxes. It would be cool to go back and tell my six-year-old self that I would grow up to become a toymaker. 

What happens to the characters you make? 

Most are sold through my shop — catrabbit.bigcartel.com — or at local markets here in Melbourne. I make some for galleries, exhibitions and some nice local stores, too. A select few I keep as a kind of ‘cast’ for when I need to shoot something, but mostly it makes me happy to see them heading out into the world and making other people happy too!

Do you bond with some characters more than others? 

Definitely. I bonded with this wombat family quite a bit over the week or so I was working with them. It especially happens when you have to pose them in a certain way and put them in a scene to act out a relatable activity (like baking!). Also, there was something about giving the wombat child a bowl cut; I think we bonded over that.

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CHOCOLATE SPECKLE COOKIES

Makes 12 cookies

• 2 tbsp coconut oil

• 1 1/2 cups almond meal

• 3 tbsp coconut flour 

• 1 tsp baking powder

• 1 tsp ground cinnamon

• pinch of salt

• 1/3 cup maple syrup

• 1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste

• 1 egg

• 125g / 4.4oz dark chocolate, chopped

Yummy, soft, pillowy chocolate-flecked cookies
that are gluten- and dairy-free.

1. Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6.

2. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

3. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil over low heat until just melted. Set aside to cool.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal, coconut flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt until there are no lumps.

5. Into the coconut oil, add the maple syrup and vanilla paste, and whisk until well combined.

6. Whisk the egg into the coconut oil mixture.

7. Pour the coconut oil mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

8. Stir through the chopped chocolate.

9. Wet your hands (to stop the mixture from sticking to them).

10. Using a tablespoon, take a heaped spoonful of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Flatten it slightly in your hands to make it cookie-shaped. The cookies will puff as they bake, but won’t really spread.

11. Place the uncooked cookies onto the baking tray.

12. Repeat with the remaining mixture, spreading the cookies out evenly on the two trays.

13. Bake in the oven for 11–12 minutes, or until the cookies are golden.

14. Allow to cool slightly on the tray for a few minutes before eating.

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