“Welcome, to airship Steamed.” I shake the president and creative director of Tentacle Kitty, John Merritt’s hand. “Welcome aboard Airship Steamed.” I reach over to Tentacle Kitty, who he’s holding in the crook of his other arm, and shake one of her pink tentacles. “Watch your step,” I call as I stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. John Merritt, with Tentacle Kitty in hand, follows me into the parlor.
I gesture towards the crimson settee, which features curvy lion head legs and claw feet, hoping John’s kitty is not offended that they’re not tentacles instead. He sits on the cushioned seat and places Tentacle Kitty beside him.
“Tentacle Kitty is so cute.” I plop down onto the chenille cushioned armchair across from them. “I just love her.” I reach forward to pet her fluffy head. “How long did it take you to come up with the design?”
“About an hour. I was in a Sharies, similar to Denny’s, waiting for my wife, then fiancé, to get out of work across the street. I wanted to make her something cute that combined my love of cats, and her love of tentacles: octopus, cuddlefish, HP Lovecraft.” He glances at the blue willow teacups, shaking and rattling on the tea table between us.
“Any piece of art that springs from a love of cats, cuddlefish and HP Lovecraft is alright by me.” I have to raise my voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off. “How many prototypes did it take to purrfect Tentacle Kitty?”
“Twelve or thirteen total.” Mr. Merritt grabs the settee with one hand as the airship lifts off. “The whole process took about a year.”
“How did you first get involved in the art and design of stuffed toys?” Since the china cups cease rattling, I pick up the tea pot and pour my guest a cup of Earl Grey.
“Well TK started with the character. After our friends wanted us to post her online, her fans grew and they begged us for plushies. So we obliged.” He picks up the teacup with tendrils of steam rising from it.
I lift the creamer and pour a bit onto a saucer. I place it on the settee beside Tentacle Kitty, in case she wants a drink as well. “Speaking of it starting with the character, how did the character itself begin?”
“She was originally created with Vector Graphics rather than using pen and paper or photoshop.” Picking up a sugar cube, Mr. Merritt plunks it into his tea.
“What about an artist notebook, do you keep one to jot down ideas like Tentacle Kitty that may come to you, day or night?” I lift the teapot and as I fill my own cup, I breathe in the subtle, aromatic scent of the tea.
“Not usually, but when things do come to mind, I have a tablet phone with a drawing pen, I can sketch up my ideas quickly.” John Merrett picks up a polished silver spoon and stirs his tea, creating a tiny maelstrom in the cup.
“What are some of the challenges of creating stuffed toys?” I take a sip of my earl grey.
“Everything. Learning the ins and outs of creating plush toys is very difficult. Everything from the design, finding a manufacturer that is high quality and honest, to learning to ship from overseas and complying with all of the legalities and certificates needed to sell in the US.”
Picking up a slice of lemon, I breathe in the sunny, citrus scent as I squeeze a drop of its juice into my cup. “Does Tentacle Kitty have her own character back-story of the world she lives on?” I slip the yellow slice into the light brown tea. “Does she live in the sea and breathe underwater?”
“She in fact comes from another dimension! She lives in a forested area and doesn’t care for the water much at all. We have a comic coming out soon that will show a lot about her world.”
“That makes a lot more sense, cats don’t like water. The tentacles confused me.” I lift the teacup to my lips and draw in a long sip. “A Tentacle Kitty Comic sounds wonderful. She’s obviously a very special tentacle feline, does she have any super powers?“
“There are a couple different abilities she has that people do not know about yet, but keep an eye on the comic and you will see!”
“How and why did you settle on the color pink for Tentacle Kitty’s fur?”
“While all other colors are perfectly acceptable, Pink was the least likely to invoke fear and instead promote her cuteness. And it helps, sometimes, to indicate she is in fact a girl.” Mr. Merrett takes a few more sips of steamy tea.
“She is the cutest. If I had to guess I’d day you are a cat lover, is that right? What are the names of your own kitties and cats?”
“I am.” He sets his teacup on its saucer on the table with a soft clink. “Though I have had many cats in the past, I have none at the moment. My last cat’s name was “Tali Vas Banana” After Mass Effect… and Harry Belafonte.”
“What a unique name.” I down the last of my earl grey. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask, do you like Steampunk literature?” I set my empty china cup on the tea table.
“I love the steampunk culture, and though I have yet to read alot of books related to the subject, one of my favorites, that to my understanding is steampunk-y, is The Time Machine. And naturally Cthulhu mythos.” He places the untouched saucer of cream on the table.
Upon hearing rattling and clinking, I glance at the tea table and see the cups and saucers shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for three quick questions. “What advice would you give to any artists interested in creating their own stuffed toys?”
“Unless you have a fan base, and investors, family and friends if need be, it can be a very dark and costly road.” Mr. Merrett clutches one arm of the settee as the airship clangs and rattles.
“Is there anything you or Tentacle Kitty would like to say to your fans?” I hold on to the armrest of my chair as we dock.
“No matter what people say, keep being you.
Never judge a monster by her tentacles.”
“What wonderful advise and so true. You can be warm and fuzzy and still have tentacles, especially if you are from another dimension.” The airship has landed but before I bid John Merrett and Tentecle Kitty farewell, I squeeze in that last question. “What workshops, convention appearances or shows do you have coming up? What are the dates, places, times, and websites? And for all those wanting to give a Tentacle Kitty a good home, where is she available?”
“There are several conventions that we are planning to go to this next year, but right now none are official. Keep track of us on Facebook for all of our conventions and events.
~ ~ ~
Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published romances. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.