monsteramis keep it real

It’s been an ongoing struggle throughout my life to be REAL, to live my authentic life (let’s face it, my friends were getting sick of coming to my 29th birthday party 5 years in a row), to be honest with myself about stuff, to work on my issues, and to be able to be open with people. I’m not good at connecting with people because I have so many things I’m hiding from them and I’m not good at being fake and interested in what they have to say unless it’s funny. I have this weird theory (which I’ve never tested) that if I did cocaine I would be more interesting and connect with people better…because people using blow always seem really interested in what other people have to say.  

In case you don’t know, monsteramis are me, they are my story, they are the crazy that I am hiding. Their stories are my ugly truths condensed down to 2 or 3 sentences for your reading enjoyment. Sometimes crocheting the monsters is the easy (albeit time consuming) part…the hard part is when I have to go into my dark side to confront the emotions I have worked so hard for so many years to suppress. (This process usually involves a lot of red wine and crying.)

I write about my dad a lot because we didn’t have a great relationship and I have a lot of unhappy memories about him. I mean, how many dads ask their daughters if they are a drug mule? Only one who I know of… He used to call my sister and me “monsters” and tell me they found me in a garbage can. He would always threaten to “stick his boot up [my] ass” if he thought I was misbehaving. Sometimes he would try to trade me away to another family for their well behaved child. Clearly, building up my self-esteem was not high on his list of priorities.

I don’t write about my mom as much although I have plenty I could write. I’m still dealing with my issues about her. My memories of her are more shameful than sad, and I’m not ready to open up about that stuff yet. I’ve kept so many secrets about her for so long…and she can’t keep a secret if her life depended on it. I’ve been compared to her my whole life (I look like her, I act like her, etc.) so I fear that people will think I am what she was and I will do the things she did. (wow… I think I just came up with my therapy topic for next week)

So don’t be offended if you suggest stories to me that I could use for a monsterami…like how one time you had B.O. and smelled like onions…and I don’t use them (although I might tell you I will because I have a problem saying “no”). monsteramis are MY crazy. I’ll be more than happy to make a custom monsterami for you with YOUR crazy.

Every time I post a new monsterami online, I am showing another little piece of me to the world. I’m finally being real.

 (this is me, haven’t showered in 2 days, no makeup, and wearing a hat to hide my greasy hair)

Halloween window display at Parts & Labour

A couple of months ago, I was asked to do a window display at Parts & Labour (South Congress, Austin, TX). I created a Halloween display of monsteramis wearing costumes and other general awesomeness. The window will be up October 4 – 25, 2010.

These are the individual monsteramis in the display and all are available for purchase at Parts & Labour

Murdock $150 – “My name is Murdock. My favorite Halloween costume ever was when I dressed up as Dirty Sanchez.”

Rodrigo $45 – “My name is Rodrigo. Haunted houses scare me. I don’t like being chased by zombies and monsters.”

Frank $40 – “My name is Frank. One time I was trick or treating with my friend and we put our candy bags down to go inside to use the bathroom. When we came back out, my candy bag was gone. I cried.”

Lance $55 – “My name is Lance. Halloween is my favorite holiday. I like to dress up in sexy costumes that make people laugh.”

Vlad $35 – “My name is Vlad. I vant to suck your BLOOD. ”

PINK monster for the cure

I was recently asked to donate a custom monsterami to be auctioned off at a charity event called Pirate Booty for the Boobies (Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 8 p.m. at The Belmont in Austin, Texas). Of course I said yes right away. Breast cancer research is such an important cause, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way. Immediately my mind was full of ideas: pink, eyepatch, pirate hat, etc. Cute, cute, cute!! I began to search for the perfect shade of pink yarn… not too light, not too fuschia, not too neon. Anyway, long story short, I made the cutest f-ing monsterami ever! The pirate hat was a bitch though. It easily could have come off looking clownishly large.


All in all, I was very proud of this monsterami!


I had such fun making this pink ribbon monster that I was inspired to make a G-monster with the pink ribbon design.  When it came time to name it, I began to recall a former co-worker at the bank I used to work for named Donna. Donna was diagnosed with cancer after working at the bank for about a year. It turned out that this wasn’t the first time she had received such a diagnosis. Donna had been in remission several times in the past. This last time, she thought she was cancer-free after having been in remission for 5 years. The word around the office was that the doctors told her she most likely wouldn’t make it to remission this time…

Donna’s supervisor promised her that she would have a job at the bank for as long as she could make it to work. After she began her cancer treatments, Donna’s hair began to fall out and become sparse. She cut it shorter and shorter, and then one day she showed up to work with a new wig. A cute bob with straight bangs. It actually looked better than her real hair. Haha  Donna’s wig seemed to have a mind of its own. Never having been one for looking in the mirror, Donna rarely noticed if her wig was on straight or not. One day I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I saw Donna and her wig was spun around sideways on her head. No one had the heart to tell her…I guess we all realized Donna had more important things to think about than her hair.

As the weeks and months went by, Donna began to tote around an oxygen tank. Her breathing was labored and she was worn out by the time she made it to her desk in the morning. She started missing days of work, then weeks. Her hospital visits turned into stays. Then one day, news came that Donna had lost the fight she had bravely fought for so long. That was a very sad day for all of us…

This flood of memories that washed over me was very powerful indeed. I decided to make a new product line called PINK monster by monsterami so that others could remember their friends and loved ones as I had remembered Donna. I came up with 4 designs that can be personalized with a name and a message and monsterami will donate 25% of the purchase price to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.



what is “G-monster by monsterami”?

I went out of town recently and when I returned I received an email from one of my vendors requesting 2 things: finger puppets (because kids always put the wine toppers on their fingers but they are too big for kids’ fingers) and a separate line of monsters with stories that aren’t so… I’ll just use the word “real” (as in, real offensive haha). Apparently some people buy them as gifts for people who have fewer issues than I do. Haha

I admit, my first reaction was that of righteous indignation… after all, I was already working on 2 other projects this vendor has requested.

I decided to sleep on it. I do some of my best thinking when I’m asleep. (Seriously! I wake up EARLY with ideas for names and new monster designs and then I can’t fall back asleep. It sucks because I like to sleep in as often as possible. I have started wearing a sleep mask to help me fall back asleep after such random moments of genius.) I woke up the next morning feeling less annoyed by the idea of having to do more work on top of the work I am already doing.

[The following describes my thought process and should not be held against me… I know I should be grateful that people are even buying my stuff – and I am!!]

About the finger puppets: I’m still not thrilled with the idea so I put that on the back burner for now. I had coffee with my friend S and he helped me come up with a new tag to connect 2 finger puppets together (they will be sold in pairs). I went home and made a prototype of the tag. It’s just sitting there…waiting to be attached to monsterami finger puppets.

About the new line: I was even less thrilled with this idea since, to me, the whole point of monsterami is that the monster bios are all things that have happened to me. I know that they will probably sell well if the stories are more generic (about birthdays and graduations and other things like that), but I would feel like a sell-out putting the monsterami name on something not about me. The more I thought about it, I realized I could just take “by raquel” off the tag (and only use that for ones with personal stories). I would need to come up with a name for the new line and I could also change the tag as a way to differentiate between the two.

I started to make a list of “lame stories” to use for the new monster line. It was less taxing on my brain than I thought it would be. (Coming up with the “raquel stories” can be very emotionally draining.) Hmmm… this could possibly work. [I’d like to note that monsterami evolved organically as I paid attention to how I felt when I was crocheting bunnies and bears and elephants. I didn’t feel happy, so I stopped making them. When I made the weird ones, I felt happy and people responded positively. I knew that in order for this new endeavor to be successful, I would have to be on board fully, and that meant feeling happy when I make them.]

I asked my friend S to help me think of names. He sucks at that (he hasn’t been able to think of a name for the pizzeria he is opening…even though I suggested the best name ever: MONSTER MIA PIZZERIA!!) so he was no help. Thanks anyway, S.

Later that afternoon, I started brainstorming ideas on my own. I wanted a two word name to replace “by raquel” – one word must be “monsterami” or “monster” – and the second word cannot suggest anything about kids, babies, mini, etc. (monsteramis are designer toys meant to be collectibles for more grown up people with a slightly dark and twisted sense of humor.) So the second word needed to suggest that these stories are less offensive than the ones “by raquel.”  Hmmm… the “raquel” stories are definitely rated PG, sometimes rated R… these stories are going to be rated G.  Why not use “G” in the name? Great idea! “monster G”? No, don’t like that. “G monster” (like G money!)? I like it!! But I needed to sleep on it.

I woke up bright and early the next morning with “G monster” on my brain. Hey! “G” stands for generic, too. BAM! I had my name. I went back to sleep.

Later that day (yes, this process took place over a few days, not months like it has taken my friend S to settle on a name for his pizzeria), I was hanging a picture, and it suddenly occurred to me that a hyphen would look really cool. “G-monster” YEAH!! I immediately emailed my friend T, who acts as my number one consultant in all things monsterami, to tell her about the name I came up with. I told her the new tag would read “monsterami” and below that “G-monster.” The wise person that she is, T suggested “G-monster by monsterami” might be better. My initial reaction was that mine was better (of course), but I replied that hers was good and I would think about it. As I finished typing my reply email to T, I envisioned what the new tag would look like both ways and I realized that T’s was the way to go. I thanked her for her help. (T also suggested using stories about being healthy and liking vegetables and stuff so I’ll take that into consideration as well.)

So far, I have only produced a few G-monsters, in only one shape. It’s the monster I currently enjoy making the most. I’m sure more designs will follow, but for now, this is the face of G-monster by monsterami.

what are the tags made of?

Every monsterami has its own name and unique personality that is preserved for posterity on a Shrinky Dink tag. [Shrinky Dink was a toy kids played with in the 1980s. It's a sheet of plastic that you can draw pictures or color on, then you bake it in the oven and it shrinks down to a tiny size. Mostly only old people know what Shrinky Dink is nowadays...]

I hand write everything on Shrinky Dink paper in contrasting colors before trimming the tag with scissors. I punch a star shaped hole and color the edges green with a marker.

I lay the tags out on a cookie sheet on a sheet of parchment paper.

I make sure the oven is preheated to 325 degrees.

Then I put them in the hot oven to bake. (This is the fun part!)  As the tags bake, they curl up and shrink down to a third of the original size. They flatten out on their own.  This takes about 3 to 5 minutes.

I carefully remove the cookie sheet from the oven and use a spatula to loosen the tags if they are stuck to the paper.  They are very hot and take a few minutes to cool down enough to handle. 

I assemble the tags using jute twine and scissors.

I cut a piece of jute twine and tie it thru the star shaped hole on the tag.

Then I tie the tag to the monsterami’s arm with a pretty bow.

With his name and personality in place, Steve is a happy monsterami!

“My name is Steve. I have nice skin because I use my mom’s skin care products. It makes me sad when people call me pizza face.”



the evolution of monsterami

I was cleaning my apartment tonight and I came across the FIRST MONSTERAMI EVER MADE!  I can’t help but laugh…I read the Crochet for Beginners book wrong and instead of doing single crochet in the round, I did slip stitches for the entire thing. That’s why his head is so misshapen.  haha  Well, that and I didn’t know how to decrease stitches properly…

I cleverly thought to pose him with a bunch of martini glasses to make him seem more interesting….

The next day I decided to get off my lazy ass and google amigurumi.  I actually found some videos online and learned how to do it “the right way.” My second amigurumi creation was a frog – and I followed a pattern and everything!

[I realized later I was still doing it the wrong way...I was crocheting in the back loop only instead of thru both loops.]

My third creation combined regular crochet with crochet in the round. I bought some more yarn colors (you can only make so many green and white things) and found another easy pattern online.  I posted this pic of him on my facebook page…

His pic got the following comments:
“looks like he had a few already”
“man, you look goofy when you drink wine”
“what you made it? what is it? a sponge?”
And Voila! The first monsterami with a name was born… Little Drunky!

So there you have it… for all you history buffs out there.  haha (And before anyone asks, no, I cannot recreate that first one. He was one of a kind…)

p.s. All three were stuffed with cotton balls. haha I was too lazy to go to the store to buy polyfil and I wasn’t sure I would stick with this new hobby.