From stickers and mugs, to posters and books, Emely Varosky has taken Skoshie the Cat, Wisp the Dragon, and Zeek the Octopus just about everywhere.
Now, these beloved characters are on a whole new journey—in plush form.
Varosky, of North Attleborough, has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise the nearly $14,000 needed to produce 500 of each critter. She said the idea came about when she was thinking of the next step for the business.
“We wanted to kind of bring the characters to life in a new way that wasn’t just in stickers or you know, two-dimensional products,” she said.
The idea of a stuffed animal version of each character came to her and working with a local manufacturer, created hand-sewn plushies for Skoshie and Zeek. They were such a hit, she decided to take things to the next level with new versions through a larger manufacturer.
“They feel more real when they’re three-dimensional and huggable,” she said.
The cost, however, was a challenge. Producing 1,500 of the plushies is roughly $11,000, with another $3,000 for taxes and shipping. The campaign, which ends on June 27, is already halfway funded, but if the total isn’t raised, it all goes back to the supporters. Even if things don’t work out, Varosky said there’ll just have to be a Plan B.
Regardless, she said being able to hold these characters in her hands has been a surreal experience.
“And it’s just going to take longer, I think, because then I’d have to figure out another way to get the funding on my own,” she said.
Skoshie, Wisp and Zeek debuted in 2016 as a series of sketches Varosky did, though making this into a business wasn’t quite on her mind back then. The cartoon-themed artwork may look like they’re for kids, but underlying it all is a series of messages that Varosky said were a big help to her—explore new things, take some quiet time or look for the good. Two years later, when a friend needed their art gallery filled, Varosky got the chance to share her creations with the world, and soon led to EmVaro Designs being born.
“They did all start as doodles—it all started out as sketches that I was doing for my own motivation,” she said. “The things that I wanted to remind myself to, you know, think positively and stuff like that.”
Varosky is a regular at farmers markets and craft shows, both locally and across Massachusetts and into Rhode Island. Each year she sets goals and then checks in with herself regularly to see where things are at. She likes trying different ideas and seeing what works.
In addition to posters, stickers, mugs, T-shirts and much more, Varosky has published two books, with a third on the way—“Strange Wild Beings,” which follows Skoshie’s adventures in the outside world and “Because You Can,” starring Zeek. Wisp’s book is in the works, with a plan for a release later this year. One of the lessons given through the bright, colorful drawings is that the world can be a scary place, but hiding from it means you won’t get to see all the wondrous things it holds.
“For this to be something that came just because I was sketching a couple of years ago, and to see that this is the stage that we’re at—it’s a little mind-blowing,” she said. “Nerve-wracking, also mind-blowing.”