Welcome to Bonjour Poupette, the brilliantly strange world of collectible animal people that Sofie Skein has handcrafted out of polymer clay. Found on Etsy, these figurines—or poupettes, as the artist dubs them—are as surreal in looks as they are attainable in price, at $24 a pop.
Typically ranging from 3-4 inches in height, the poupettes come in an assortment of colors and species, from soft pink elephant to glistening gray Cornish Rex. Skein, a full-time artist who occasionally moonlights as a graphic designer or illustrator, caught glimpses of the future creatures in her early artwork.
“The first time that a long, tall, animal-headed person showed up in my work, I was working on an analog animation project and had created a deer person out of bits of paper,” she said. “Soon after I began collecting images of animals standing on their hind legs and made a number of drawings of bipedal animals.”
More of the figures emerged in her work years later.
“It wasn't until I began making quite a few of these particular figurines, or 'poupettes,' that I realized it was part of a larger theme in my work,” Skein said. “I have a great love for surrealist humor and fairy tales.”
Skein said the poupettes weren’t created deliberately.
“I basically had some clay and began playing around with it,” she said. “I initially was trying to create abstract shapes that expressed emotion. These abstract lumps evolved into strange ghostly women, who evolved into little animal-headed people—initially they were all white rabbits!”
Skein’s impetus to list the creatures on Etsy began as a dare, but evolved into a small business.
“I thought it would be a good way to learn about running an online business,” she said. “I never would have guessed that I would have sold over a hundred of these little guys within a year. They have really grown on me and I absolutely adore making them and trying out new species, as well as custom pieces.”
Skein crafts specific breeds of cats—Himalayan, Japanese Bobtail and Korat being a few examples—as well as imaginative rainbow-colored ones. She’s also made custom dog figurines based on owners’ pets.
“I've been making quite a few custom dog figurines based on actual pets and I'd love to make custom cat figurines as well,” she said. “However, so many cats are tiger striped and I am still developing my methods for making satisfactory stripes. Currently all of my figurines are made with clay alone, no paint; minute color variations can be very tricky.”
Skein’s affinity for animals developed in early childhood, as she grew up next door to her family’s veterinary clinic on the edge of Oregon’s high desert.
“Animals, both domestic and wild, have always been intrinsic to my world,” she said.
Skein now lives in Portland with her husband and beloved Bombay rescue cat, Mr. Burnside. Her poupettes are featured in private collections in North America, Europe and. Ten percent of proceeds from poupettes inspired by threatened species are donated to the World Wildlife Fund.
A new figurine is listed daily in the shop, as well as posted on Skein’s blog at http://bonjourpoupette.blogspot.com. To buy yours, visit www.etsy.com/shop/bonjourpoupette. Skein is generously giving Cornish Rexpert readers a discount of 20 percent off the total purchase price using the code REX2011 at checkout!
In addition to the poupettes, Skein is illustrating a book cover and working on a number of commissioned encaustic and oil paintings. To view Skein’s artwork, visit http://sofieskein.com/.