Chris Bishop and Matilda Patterpaw long loved cats. This year, they ventured into creep.
The artists behind Neko-jin Designs just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign, funded in 30 hours, to launch a new line of cryptid housewares called Home Creep Home.
Think prints, signs, blankets, pillows and mugs celebrating the Jackalope, Jersey Devil, Wendigo, Kraken and other fabulous monsters. Their work can be found at shows, their website and the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland.
We talked creative process and cryptid rock stars.
Names: Chris Bishop and Matilda Patterpaw
Ages: 37 and 41, respectively
Hometown: We’re both from all over, but currently call Searsport home.
How did you two meet and how did Neko-jin Designs start?
M: We met in 2001 on the internet in a shared interest group — you know, during the time when meeting people on the internet was considered a terrible idea that could land you in a heap of trouble?
C: It’s the best trouble we ever landed in. We started NJD in 2007 as an outlet for our joint creative endeavors. And here we are, 13 years later.
What’s Neko-jin mean?
M: “Neko” (pronounced neck-oh, like the wafer) means “cat” in Japanese. “Jin” is a suffix that means “people” or “person.” We’re cat people.
C: We’re not just owned by cats, though. Our primary line of handcrafted goods features adorable sleeping cats cuddling cute things.
What were some of the first items you offered?
C: We offered limited edition shirts, hoodies, bags and small accessories featuring our own characters and designs.
M: We also offered a selection of home goods and traditional Japanese clothing, like kimonos, imported from Japan, until we made the decision to make everything ourselves, going 100% handmade in Maine. Traveling to events like PortConMaine when we first started really encouraged us to expand and grow.
Could you get into your creative process a bit?
C: Sure. Some of our best selling items are pillows. Everything starts with a pencil and a piece of paper. Matilda sketches, inks and digitizes the design, then we send it to our printer, who prints the design on fabric for us.
M: Once we receive the printed fabric, Chris cuts everything by hand. It takes three pieces of fabric to make one pillow. I then sew and tag them, Chris stuffs them with love, and I sew them closed and fluff them up. A single pillow takes about 30 minutes to make, after the initial designing and fabric printing is done. I think 100 pillows takes about a week.
C: And depending on how busy we are, and where we’re traveling to, we can make upwards of 350 pillows in a month.
What inspired Home Creep Home?
C: A lifelong fascination with the bizarre, hidden and seemingly impossible. Living in a few of the more secluded areas of the state, it’s been easy to imagine that we’re sharing space with undiscovered creatures.
M: We love putting the “fun” in function! There’s a serious lack of creepy, cool, creature and cryptid home goods out there. Living in Maine, you can’t have too many blankets or pillows. And you can always use another mug for your favorite hot beverage.
If you’re at a show, is there a cryptid rock star in the bunch?
M: Mothman. Totally Mothman. It’s gained a firm standing in pop culture in the last three years.
C: When it was first sighted in the ‘60s in West Virginia, there were dozens of eyewitness accounts. I think that’s what fascinates people even today; though we may never know the nature of the phenomenon, lots of people were clearly experiencing something they couldn’t readily explain.
You’re walking in the woods and hear a big commotion up ahead. Rounding the corner, would you most like to discover: 1) Sasquatch 2) Mothman 3) A lake monster who had waddled onto land?
M: With Sasquatch being the global hide-and-seek champion, I’d say lake monster or sea serpent. With the way things in Maine are preserved and cared for, I DEFINITELY think something undiscovered is living in the water.
C: I’d also have to go with lake monster. I can totally see something crawling up out of the bay.