Jerald Pellowski is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts Management program. He is an independent visual artist living in Chicago, IL. He recently launched an Etsy store, “OffalPlush”, where he sells hand-crafted plush toys. We caught up with Jerald to see what he’s been up to since graduation.
How did you come up with an idea of producing your own plush toys? Is there a story behind this?
This all started a few months ago when I was curating the show Not on Paper that featured current and former students of the Illustration department at Columbia. Many of those students were working in plush or felt fabric and it added this approachable whimsy to the whole experience. Two of those students, Ckinu Smith and Olivia Olsen, agreed to do a ‘build-your-own’ demonstration in conjunction with the Hokin Gallery and I was merely there to supervise. I ended up taking part and learning the basics of stitching, patterns and the piecing together of the toys. The whole experience was so fun and relaxing within the week I had a stack of felt at home and was starting to piece together oddities and practice with free patterns I found on the internet.
How do you promote your brand?
So far it has mostly been word of mouth. I was passing them around as gifts and selling the odd one or two until friends suggested I expand the business online. The largest initial response has come from posting to my personal and artists page on Facebook and Instagram. Although, that has begun to stagnate so I plan to run some paid promotions in the next week or two. I’ve had numerous personal requests and commissions, which are taking up a lot of my time right now so I’m riding the fence on boosting interest until I can get back into production.
What’s your favorite toy? And what’s your best seller?
Each toy is unique and I aim to never make the same one twice. I may reuse an animal or body type, but ultimately I want them all to be their own personality. The oddballs have had the most reaction, for instance, the giant wood tick, the maudlin raviolo and the drunken liver. Odd balls like the seared lobe of Foie Gras, the untrustworthy grain of rice and the drunken liver stand out for me. I have an extensive history in food service and they mark a unique blend between my creativity and livelihood.
What was your most valuable Columbia experience?
My degree program offered a lot of hands on experience between curating and managing production of an entire show as well as managing the Hokin gallery with the help of the students in the Gallery Management Practicum. I received a lot of hands on experience, not just leveraging my management skills, but also helping to mentor and direct undergraduate students who are also looking to build their careers.
Were there any specific professors who made a significant impact on you? If so, how?
Robert Blandford, associate professor and Visual Arts Management program coordinator, became the biggest influence during my Master’s program. We started in the Gallery Management Practicum where he urged me to take on managerial responsibilities for the Hokin Gallery mounting seven separate exhibits in my two years on campus. He gave me everything I needed to succeed and remained level and objective when I failed.
What advice would you give to current college students?
Challenge yourself. Move to a new city. Take an odd job. There is a world full of opportunities and amazing people and you can’t trust tat they will come to you.