Caitlin Harpin gets plenty of emails from friends with hyperlinks to artsy projects mixing pop culture and knitting. As an assistant editor at Potter Craft, a New York-based publisher of craft and do-it-yourself books, she’s checked out a fair number recently based on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. A quick search for the series name on the US-based e-commerce site Etsy reveals roughly 6,700 handmade items for sale, including everything from hand-painted shoes to crocheted mini-dolls. Fans of the toon, it seems, have embraced its whimsical aesthetic and brought it to the world of DIY design.
“I was at Comic-Con a few years ago and noticed so many people were wearing homemade costumes and sporting Finn hats or swords that they made themselves,” Harpin says. So her colleagues at Potter Craft figured, why not pitch an Adventure Time craft book to licensor Cartoon Network Enterprises?
CNE was already well aware of the show’s popularity on Etsy. “In a lot of instances, we’re looking at what’s being developed in helping to create our own CP program off of it,” says Pete Yoder, VP of consumer products for North America. In fact, the book proposed by Potter Craft was a perfect fit. “It’s just extending what we know the fans are already doing,” he adds.
Cartoon Network’s first venture into the land of DIY books, Adventure Time Crafts: Flippin’ Adorable Stuff To Make From The Land Of Ooo hits shelves in October across North America. Among the projects fans can make are earrings, embroidered wall art featuring Jake making bacon pancakes, and coasters made from tiny beads.
But what makes one brand catch the eye of crafters over others? The reason DIY fans embraced Adventure Time may be more than just its cuteness factor. The characters are relatively uncomplicated in terms of design. “When you take that very simple look and feel, it lends itself very well to arts & crafts because there’s not a lot of detail and intricate work that you would need to do,” Yoder says. And while he doesn’t see other IPs in the company’s current portfolio working with this type of project, Yoder says it could be the jumping-off point for more Adventure Time craft books down the road.
Figuring out which IPs might work for such endeavors may have already been decided, judging by what’s out there on sites like Etsy and Pinterest right now. For example, there are close to 4,000 items inspired by Despicable Me on Etsy, whose popularity Harpin attributes to the minions’ simple shape. Other companies, meanwhile, might find reason to further investigate the DIY world.
Among traditional toy categories, arts & crafts may not be as big a money-maker as plush, construction or action figures. Outside of youth electronics, however, it was the fastest-growing category in the US last year, according to NPD. Arts & crafts have grown consistently in US retail sales, from US$997 million in 2011 to US$1.16 billion in 2013, though one might attribute much of its boost to bracelet-making phenomenon Rainbow Loom. Nonetheless, away from the toy realm, Americans spend more than US$29 billion annually on crafting, according to the Craft & Hobby Association.
Back in the Land of Ooo, Adventure Time’s craft book has been designed to appeal to the property’s wide range of fans that includes six-year-olds and full-grown adults. There are projects like easy-sew finger puppets to full-on knitted sweaters that require following a complicated pattern to complete. However, nothing in the book is designed to be as complex as the creations posted on Etsy by some of the property’s more ardent crafters. “When you’re creating a craft book, you have to think about simplifying things, especially a book like this where there’s a mix of different skill levels,” Harpin says. Crafting newbies can try their hand by starting with Jake, the series’ shape-shifting magical dog. Since he can morph into any form, it’s impossible to make him too big, get his body shape incorrect or mistakenly add a few extra arms.
This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Kidscreen.