If you ever doubted the allure of the Abominable Snowman, then allow us to introduce you to Yetis and Friends! We were so delighted with these Yetis, when we discovered their adorable booth at DesignerCon, that they now decorate the walls of our office — happily grinning down at us throughout the day.
We have featured these Yetis on our site before, but when we really thought about how each of these cute mythical creatures is hand-crafted by a husband and wife team, we felt compelled to revisit their craft in an attempt to get to know the imaginative Cody and Nana Williams in greater detail.
The work ethic and wonder these two posses is inspiring and contagious! Their passion and their hard work is almost tangible in the way they speak about their creations. We’ve never seen anything like their original work, so we needed to know where they draw inspiration from and how each individual Yeti is made before it takes on a life of its own.
At the very top of this interview Cody refers to their craftwork as “medieval feeling and fantasy inspired” and he had our attention from there. Prepare yourselves for an interview that’s equal parts made-up folklore and stupid levels of romantic.
[We asked Cody and Nana to fill in the blanks.]
My name is Cody Williams, I am 25% dreamer and 75% doer. I would describe myself as an overgrown polecat in skinny jeans, and I am most inspired by Monster Manuals and folklore. I dream of living in a snow covered log cabin somewhere in the middle of nowhere and I will do that by sewing until my hands fall off.
My name is Nana, I am one half of this crazy fantasy world. I am 40% dreamer and 60% doer. I would describe myself as an unabashed crazy cat lady, and I am most inspired by mythology, fantasy and zoology. I dream of discovering new things everyday and I will do that by keeping on creating and staying inspired.
Dreamers & Doers: The imagination and creativity behind Yetis & Friends is unbelievably unique and eye catching! What’s your story? How did it all begin?
Yetis & Friends: Thank you thank you! Yetis and Friends is an artist collaboration between myself (Cody) and my amazing partner, Nana. We make crafty things that are mostly medieval feeling and fantasy inspired, as well as have a small collection of made-up folklore to go with our creations.
I started building Yetis almost five years ago. After I got through school I was looking to do something that was a little more hands on than digital painting. I always had an interest in puppetry, and I think that coupled with my love for all things dungeon-crawly led me to the mounted head idea. The first few I made weren’t even Yetis, I think they were goblins that had some cardboard weapons as companion pieces. They were weird, and kind of creepy. I think after that I wanted to do something that was maybe a little bit more kid friendly and inspired by monsters I knew as a kid, and that’s when the Yeti entered.
About a year after the goblins, I met Nana at Anime Expo where were had booths next to each other. She was was super talented and was dressed like a pirate, so naturally there was chemistry. A year and some change later we were married and she moved over from Vienna, Austria. Now we live in Pasadena where we work together to build all the weird stuff we make!
Your Yetis are created through a ton of sewing and hot-glueing. Were the two of you always so crafty?
I was never really very crafty as a kid, but I always loved making a mess with art supplies. It wasn’t until college I started to become interested in sewing, and even then I was pretty terrible at it. I think at that same time I was really into toy production, and I spent many many nights on YouTube watching videos on how cast resin worked. So a lot of it was just interest, practice and patience.
Nana was pretty crafty already, but beyond that she’s just kind of good at everything she picks up. Once we joined forces and started crafting together, she would see what I was doing and then be like “move” and find a better way to do it.
Of all the creatures in the spectrum of reality and folklore, what drew you to the Yeti?
He’s just one big mystery. As a kid I was in boy scouts and spent a lot of time camping on the west coast. I spent a lot of time walking through the forests and telling ghost stories around the campfire. Both of those things included a fair amount of folklore telling. This was when I was in middle school, and was huge into Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. The Yeti kind of became this creature that was real who was lurking around in the forest every time we went out camping. Without ever meeting, we got to know each other pretty well, and I think that’s where the Yeti in our works comes from.
According to your Etsy shop, you draw inspiration from zoology, dungeon geekery, and 80s fantasy films. Can you elaborate on specific sources of go-to Yeti inspo?
Nana and I can both probably recite the entirety of “The Labrynth”, so that’s a really big inspiration for us. The artist John Bauer. Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” is a book I had as a kid that played a role shaping how I view adventure and monsters. Nana didn’t grow up so much with Dungeons & Dragons like I did, but she is a huge Tolkien fan, so we both had an appreciation for creatures at a young age. We also like to look at medieval scripts and paintings for our inspiration. If you google “Medieval Rabbit”, you’ll see some of what I’m talking about. Nana has really brought a lot of historical references into our work that I never foresaw but really really enjoy.
What is it like to be working with your significant other?
There’s not enough room on the internet for me to answer this. It’s amazing and rewarding and challenging and exhausting all at the same time. When you’re as passionate about your work as we are, you tend to get really focused on the work, so you butt heads and bicker. It can be tough sometimes, particularly when the pressure is high and the work is piled up, but there’s nobody I would rather work with. We couldn’t do what we do without each other, and to be able to give each other that kind of support strengthens our relationship in a way that nothing else really can.
We were SO excited to discover you guys at DesignerCon! What was your experience like there (or at other cons), and do you plan on returning this year?
DesignerCon is amazing! It’s the show we look forward to every year, not only to be vendors, but just to hang out at. For us it’s amazing, because our friends from all over the world are in the same place for one weekend after we’ve all been too busy working all year to see each other. I think most vendors there feel the same way, so the atmosphere is really pretty great. We love talking to people we’ve met, making new friends, and connecting with other like-minded people. That’s the bigger part of conventions for us, beyond the selling merchandise. Meeting the people we only know through messages and Instagram.
We will absolutely be there this year, and we have a lot planned. I hope you guys are able to come by! You too, internet people reading this!
Were you at all surprised when you found an audience for your craft? What has it been like from your perspective growing an online community around your Yetis?
Yes. Every single day we wake up we’re surprised that we have an audience, and we’re incredibly grateful for it. This was something that really went from a couple of hours a week in the garage, to occupying pretty much all of our time and most of our living space. It’s something we’re insanely thankful for and I hope that customers get that sense from us when they meet us. Some creators aren’t so friendly with their fans that support them, and I think that’s inexcusable. You guys are the best.
Growing a community online has been challenging for us. We’re both kind of shy people (like Bigfoot) and it’s sometimes hard when you’re not comfortable elbowing out in front to get that exposure or getting personal with your brand and putting your face online. We kind of like to stay out of the way and let the Yetis speak for themselves. It’s one of the reasons we’re so happy to bump into Tiffy and the Dreamers & Doers team. You guys have done a lot for putting up like-minded creatives, and that’s really great to see.
What has been the most rewarding aspect for you as creative people and business owners?
I think seeing people genuinely appreciate your craft is the most rewarding experience. There’s one customer in particular who brought us a stuffed Yeti I made maybe five years ago. I couldn’t believe she still had it, or that she thought to bring it with her to show us. She was just super stoked on him, and that was a really great experience. Even when people come by and talk to us and say things like “Hey man, I’m not shopping right now, but I came around the corner and saw your work and it made my day.” How often can you say that happens to you? Not enough. Life should be more like that, so I love hearing people share that kind of thing with us.
You custom make Yetis for special events and holidays, like Valentine’s Day! Is there a certain holiday or event that you find yourself having the most fun with?
Yes. December in Austria, where Nana is from, is pretty amazing. Towering old cathedrals covered in snow and roasted chestnuts and warm drinks served while wearing your heaviest winter coat. It’s stupid levels of romantic. We love bringing that into our convention displays at holiday time. Sometimes it’s bells and holly, and sometimes it’s color themes or textiles that remind us of an alpine cottage somewhere. We even have done a few window displays for Flower Pepper Gallery here in Pasadena that were along those lines. Oh man, it’s all triggering me. Is it November yet?
What are some of your favorite stores on Etsy? Are there any other creators of handmade goodies we should have on our radar?
Do you ever experiment with making anything other than your signature Yetis? If so, what?
Experiments. Hrrmm. There was one summer we made a bunch of “Yeti paw” key chains, and in the very beginning we made some antler headbands. I often get caught up in what we “should” be building (like crafting is some kind of super serious business) and not so much what might be fun to make. Nana definitely gets more dreamer points in that aspect.
We really don’t branch out of our own world when it comes to what we create. We’ve done a Tauntaun in the past, and even a few Pokemon, but we’re firm believers in original content. There is SO much creativity out there. You see it when you go to any artist alley at any convention, and we love supporting that creativity and watching it bloom.
Have you ever found yourselves partially attached to a certain Yeti more so than others? If so, how and why do you think that happens?
Haha! That’s an excellent question. Sometimes when we build a large batch of Yetis there will be one or two that stick out from the crowd. They’re usually slightly off, maybe a wandering eye or a particularly dumb smile. Sometimes we just show each other what we’re building at the moment and share a nervous giggle, like someone told a really stupid joke. I think those are the Yetis that we really bond with, and the ones that we’re happiest to see people pick up.
Are there any new furry friends we could look forward to sometime soon?!
Yes! We’re collecting our monsters into a zine so that you can read about the different types of beasts in our world. We’re also super excited about making full figure art dolls, which we’ll have at DesignerCon, as well as some new spooky monster mounts. We went really heavy on the pastel glitter in 2016, and I think we’re going to spend some time exploring what lurks in the shadows before the year is up.
Do you believe the Abominable Snowman is real?
I want to believe. 😉
(All images courtesy of Yetis & Friends.)