From Drawing to Soft Sculpture: Tigerbob Plush

Tigerbob by Gossamer Rozen
9 min readApr 29, 2024

Artist & designer Gossamer Rozen recounts their journey iterating plush toys alongside the development of their unique visual language.

Tigerbob plush final sample among a selection of plush toys from Gossamer’s personal collection (2024)

As an infant, one of the earliest art objects I could examine were plush toys. Soft, sculpted animals surrounded me from nearly the day I was born. They were imaginary characters that lived in my mind, and later, on paper. Storybooks and movies, like Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, became tangible characters in my life because of their soft, squishy forms.

One elementary school assignment required us to read and write short stories in class. The project included a cast of plush animals who helped tell the story during class. Students were also asked to take them home and return them the next day with writing samples. My mom loved the storytelling class, and she lovingly sewed felt clothing for each of the animals I took home.

This character personalization and anthropomorphism inspired the last 20 years of my work. From an early age, I understood that there was a way to tangibly share my story visually and physically, not just in writing. And I could see and feel how this method changed myself and people around me. The hardest part was gaining the skills required to express my mind’s unique, visual world.

At the time I imagined a sacred, personal space where every object inside was made by me, for me, in a unified visual language; from the furniture and chairs to the tableware, the textiles and clothing, the books, the art on the walls. I had no idea how to create this world from scratch, so I started by role playing as my own unique characters, describing aspects of my personality and their dialogues with one another.

It wasn’t long before I wanted those characters to be more tangible than what I could express on paper. I was inspired by Beanie Babies and the incredible amount of characters available — each lovingly given a name and little poem. I had begged my mom to teach me how to sew, too. And eventually I was experimenting with cross-stitch embroidery and sewing my own toys.

I learned by trial and error, sewing flat pieces of fabric together to learn how stuffing changes the shape of the toy. My biggest accomplishment was patterning a ball shape from poly fill and fleece. (You can find an iteration of this pattern here.) I remember how successful I felt when I understood how the flat pattern translated into three dimensions.

Little raccoon tanuki plush (2004) Cloth toy, hand stitched and embroidered. 7.5" x 6.5" x 10". Private collection

So after some additional attempts I was able to make one of the first successful toys — a raccoon plush (2004). The plush was sewn entirely by hand and included a lot of intimate details, like small “X” shaped embroideries, three-dimensional whiskers, and applique eyes. One of the most important elements was the careful variety of fabrics, textures, and colors in the finished work — some of the fabric was salvaged from an old, striped tshirt. This plush was loved dearly and sold for forty-five dollars on my Etsy in 2009.

Little raccoon tanuki plush (2004) original Etsy listing description. The worn patina and use of vintage fabrics would emerge in future work.
candy-cane striped kitty cat plush (2010-2012) Cloth cat doll, hand stitched and embroidered. Approx. 19“ tall. Private collection

My next iteration were cat-shaped doll characters starting in 2006. These mischievous characters were called “Neokats” and included a hand-drawn logo design, various character sketches, background stories, and even comics. The simplest design was a round head with large pointed ears and large applique eyes on a small, trapezoid body with long, cylindrical legs.

Excerpts from “minion” comic, 2007

My dad was following along on my artistic process and after seeing the “Neokat” plush was convinced I had something that should be in a toy store. So there I was, at age sixteen, consulting with a copyright lawyer to learn about intellectual property for the very first time. This experience had a profound impact on myself and my work, and for the first time I was able to understand that my initial concept was not strong enough.

Excerpt from “candysprings” comic, 2006

I knew that in order to find true excellence, I had to push the boundaries of my work. I had subconsciously understood that my visual style grew stronger each time I iterated work in different mediums. I could see that sketching a concept on paper, and then sketching that same concept with cloth, clay, or metal would transform my understanding of the initial drawing. So I repeated this process for about fifteen years, starting with the pursuit of my sculpture major at Mass College of Art (2008–2012).

black kitty cat plush (2012) Cloth cat doll, hand stitched and embroidered. Approx. 19“ tall. Private collection

I tried as many different mediums as possible during my time as an undergrad student. I came to love wood carving and ceramics. One particular class, a survey of puppetry, was particularly inspiring and reminded me of my hand-drawn narratives and sequential art. I realized that all forms of dolls, plush, wood toys, and more were all pieces of fine art in their own right. I started to experiment with wooden dolls with movable parts, cloth fish with articulated bodies, and porcelain slip ball joints.

Gossamer’s work desk (2017)

It was not until 2014 that I expanded on anything I had iterated on during college. I no longer had access to a large suite of wood carving tools or ceramics, so I went back to cloth. The articulated cloth fish concept took center stage in between my day job. I needed to slow down and think about the work more, in contrast to how fast-paced art school was for me.

Hand-sewn details on a fish head (2018)

Trout №1 took three years to complete. As I stitched each of its segments, I became lost in each session of meditation, and started to realize the role and importance of process in my work. Each stitch had its placement, purpose, and meaning. At first, I had to ruminate about each step of the process, so I took a lot of breaks before completing the project. I became less anxious about my stitches and my material choices the more my sewing became routine.

Trout №1 (2014–2017) Cloth fish, hand stitched and embroidered. 14” x 4” x 6” Private collection.
Trout №2 (2018) Cloth fish, hand stitched and embroidered. 15” x 3” x 5.5” Private collection
Yellowtail Snapper (2019) Cloth fish, hand stitched and embroidered. Private collection

Tattooing was next on my list, having understood its inherent quality to directly transform a physical body — intentionally my own — with art. After finding some success in this new media in 2019, I took a break from crafting art toys and focused on honing my illustrative style so that my designs could withstand aging on skin over years and decades. Although making good tattoos was the primary intention, this switch back to 2D work helped make my illustrations less busy, more focused, and forms simpler and more recognizable as regular drawings.

Left: The first tiger tattoo design in 2019, based on Korean Minhwa. Right: A larger sketch in progress.

I almost broke my neck swinging back into 3D work during the pandemic (2020), when the world shut down and I was unable to tattoo. This rare opportunity allowed me to focus once again on cloth, in the form of clothes. I was also brave and sold some of the articulated fish as art objects in their own right. I knew there was a market for the bespoke type of work I was creating. But I wasn’t so sure about continuing to sell my hand sewn art toys… I really liked to spend a lot of time on each piece. I knew the only feasible way to sell this kind of work was through manufacturing, but the concept did not connect with the type of slow work I was creating at the time.

Various iterations that would become Tigerbob (2019–2021)

The idea of plush returned when the Tigerbob brand was established (2022). Tigerbob originated from my hand-drawn tattoo designs and already had a few years of iteration to refine its shape. Finally, I felt confident that Tigerbob could be both a pattern or design element and a central design simultaneously. And most importantly, the launch of the Tigerbob Genesis digital collectible gave me the initial funds needed to manufacture objects for the first time.

Tigerbob plush final proto (2024) Photos courtesy of the manufacturer.

Still, I needed time to iterate on Tigerbob and working with a third party to sample objects was new to me. I learned a lot of pattern making and sampling techniques by designing clothes with Tailored Industry. The low editions of the garments allowed me to scale manufacturing at a pace that made sense to me, and helped set the precedent of the brand. The commitment to 1,000 identical Tigerbob plush only made sense after months of design work.

Gossamer’s hands-on sampling process (2024)

The plush version of Tigerbob has a simple but unique silhouette and consistent graphic design, from the line quality on its embroidered eyes and mouth to the thickness of the Tigerbob monogram and stripes. As usual, the Tigerbob character is expressed by the head of the tiger only, so I focused on refining the shape of Tigerbob’s snout and ears and complementing this with the scale of its eyes.

3D iterations of Tigerbob based on the plush design, produced by REMX (2023–2024)

Cut & sewn custom-dyed orange, cream, and black fabric was the foundation of the three dimensional shape, while the embroidery/applique details work like my line drawings. I worked closely with the manufacturing team in China and made direct alterations to the sample, cutting and sewing the shape into a new design. I even cut each of the new, altered patterns and scanned them, redrawing cutting and embroidery lines. And the ticket to ethically manufacturing objects at such a large scale was the extra step of sourcing, ordering, and sampling Global Recycled Standard (GRS) recycled polyester, a special certification that boosts the transparency and assurance of recycled materials.

Tigerbob plush is squished!!!

So the first iteration of Tigerbob as a plush is here at the exact, right time. I’ve established the Tigerbob character and brand with fine art in mind, with sustainability in mind, with care and thought for collecting and appreciating the slow work I create. As a character, Tigerbob has over two years worth of variations, and nearly 20 years worth of iteration — and everything is finally united.

Gossamer head to toe in Tigerbob apparel, and Tigerbob Plush, wearing matching hats (2024)

As I provide this new product offering I’m proud to look back at where I started and can’t wait to focus on making Tigerbob into an excellent line of plush toys & collectibles. It provides me the greatest satisfaction to tell my stories with this collection of soft, squishy art objects.

You can preorder Tigerbob plush for $35.00 early via our REMX collaboration on May 1, 2024. The preorder will be open to the public on on May 8, 2024.



Tigerbob by Gossamer Rozen

Tigerbob is a luxury fine art, fashion, and character brand by artist & designer Gossamer Rozen.