Tell us a little about who you are?
Well, Hi! My name is Debra-Anne Barnes, I was born on February 6th, which I figure is a rather great day for a birthday. I currently reside in the 'Main-Gerr' neighbourhood in the east end of Toronto, Ontario. It is close to the lake and out of the central noise of downtown. I've been making monkeys since 2007 and prior to that my primary focus was drawing, painting and screen-printing. I make toys as an outlet for my overly active imagination and horrendous case of 'drawers block'. I'm completely obsessed with surfing, which despite being landlocked, I have always thought was my ultimate destiny. Admittedly I can barely swim and have never actually surfed yet, but one day I will! My blood is salty and my heart is full of sand. No big d.
I noticed from your profile that you are self-taught. How did you get into sewing objects?
I'm very lucky to have grown up with access to my mothers sewing machine and notions, but the turning point really was my seventh grade year. I had come down with mono and was pulled out of school. I had hours and hours and no cable TV to watch, my Mother in a stroke of genius sent me to a sewing club to keep me busy. Soon it was very apparent that I had some strange natural ability and she bought me a serger to encourage me further. I cut and re-pieced everything in my closet that fall! Nothing was safe from my creative fervour!
Each of your monkeys have such unique character! Where do you find your inspirations?
I'm one of those visually observant types. I may not remember your name, but I will never forget your face. Honestly the inspiration comes from the time I spend with the socks. I make these 'blanks' and go from there. It's a very organic process unless it is a custom order, where I will spend the time drawing out sketches prior to sewing. The faces just emerge. I grab a little embroidery floss, pick out some buttons and the next thing you know they have a spirit of their own. I will admit that sometimes after making some of my monkeys, I take a good look at them and can really see the facial expressions of the people I love dearly. Not that I would ever usually tell them, as being compared to a monkey is typically a little unwanted!
Do you have a favourite monkey? Is there a story behind it?
I usually end up with a favourite monkey every batch I do. Right now I am totally in love with my "All Ears Monkey". He just turned out so right! I wouldn't change a thing about him and really had a hard time listing this guy! Another one of my favourites was a custom order I received prior to opening my Etsy shop. They asked for a Joker monkey from the new Batman movie. I loved translating that character into a sock monkey and the costuming was a blast to sew.
What is a typical day like for you?
I really am blessed in regard to my current lifestyle. I quit most jobs in order to allow myself the maximum amount of time for my artistic pursuits. It is often tough to make even the simplest ends meet but I have the freedom at any point to work feverishly into the night and sleep in the next day if need be. It also allows me the quality time with the people I love and the all important time alone.
My average day starts by awaking when I am rested, a simple breakfast then sewing, tiding, puttering and plenty of thinking, maybe in the evening I will catch a movie at The Fox theatre down the street or meet up with my fella for a good snuggle. I live a very quiet simple life and I wouldn't have it any other way except maybe by the sea with some surfing in the mix.
Any other hobbies other than creating for your shop?
I have many other creative projects on the go at any given time. My life really is just one big hobby! I do love cooking and adapting recipes, picnicking, strolls and going to the movies. If I had the land or space, I would be gardening as a hobby, one of my past studies was Horticulture. Right now I tend to two small window boxes, one full of Swiss chard, the other with ready to harvest beets.
Favourite books you recommend?
My book choices usually come from friends with the old "Oh my gosh, I know the perfect book for you" Which has led me to have a collection of books as eccentric as my collection of friends!
Land Of Little Rain By Mary Austin
Magical Thinking By Augusten Burroughs
Surfing the Great Lakes By P.L Strazz
R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz and Country
Atlantis and The Kingdom of the Neanderthals By Colin Wilson
Other then that any How-To books or natural history book will whet my need to read.
If I looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
Wow! Well, you would find the left overs from the anniversary meal I made for my fella. No matter how hard I try to only cook for two I always end up cooking enough for ten. You will find roasted cauliflower soup, black-eyed peas, collard greens, jalapeno corn bread and the remnants of a pecan pie. Feel free to message me for the recipes. I love to 'veggi-fy' classic soul food recipes. Other then that you'll always find more condiments then any person should have, almond milk and a sprouted bean crunch mix I grow weekly (peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, kamut). I am lucky to live by two great fruit and veg markets, and since I have allowed the time in my life, usually buy as I need the day of.
Thanks so much for wanting a little sneak peak into my life. See you at my shop! Bananas Over and Out!