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Robin Ozburn

By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Artist
Nov 11th, 2020

article by STARLA GATSON
photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK

Robin Ozburn sells her crocheted pieces under the umbrella of her business, Roz Handmade. In addition to the amigurumi dolls, Roz Handmade is also a vendor of polymer clay jewelry, and while yarn and clay may seem like vastly differing mediums, Robin believes the two exist peacefully in her world because they both satisfy her urge to create with her hands.

Though crocheted amigurumi dolls have become Robin Ozburn’s claim to local fame, the ten-year Louisiana resident admits when she first picked up a crochet hook and ball of yarn, it was not exactly love at first stitch. “I bought a little crochet kit, and I probably spent, like, maybe 15 minutes trying to figure it out,” she recalls. “I got frustrated, so I left that kit in a drawer for probably a year and a half, maybe more.”

Fast forward to 2016, when Robin tried her hand at learning the skill once more. This time, it stuck, and the then-University of Louisiana Monroe student began making blankets to give to members of her family. At the time, the idea of selling her creations was not even on her mind — until her mother-in-law approached her with a question that would change everything. “My husband’s mom was actually the first person to ask me if she could buy one from me, so I was like, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting. I could make a little bit of money off this.’”

Robin’s first attempt at selling her crocheted creations came in 2018, when she headed to the Downtown RiverMarket’s Christmas on the River, with an armful of blankets and a heart filled with hope that her booth would be well-received. But unfortunately, the response was not exactly what the budding fiber artist anticipated. “I had about 10 crochet blankets, and the only one that I sold was to my mother-in-law.” The lack of other sales was disappointing, she reveals, but rather than giving up on crocheting all together, Robin chose to view her day at the RiverMarket as a moment from which to learn and went back to the drawing board. “I realized at that moment that I needed to really decide what people wanted,” she says. “If I wanted to sell my craft, I needed to sell something that was interesting. Anybody can learn how to make a crochet blanket, but there needs to be more.”

The search for more led Robin to amigurumi — a Japanese term meaning “crochet or knitted stuffed toy” — dolls. Amigurumi dolls were surely different than anything she previously attempted to create, but after watching a step-by-step tutorial on YouTube, Robin had made her first doll, a bear that she would give to her newborn nephew. “When I finally finished that first little bear that I did, I knew that this was something I definitely would want to do.” It was confirmed: she was hooked. 

Now, Robin sells her crocheted pieces under the umbrella of her business, Roz Handmade. Her stuffed dolls have been sold on her website, at maker’s fair booths, and through special orders and commissions. In retrospect, Robin says, it makes perfect sense that handmade dolls would be her niche. “It’s not just that I learned how to crochet, and this was the next step,” she explains. “I’ve always loved toys. Always. I never quite grew the ‘I’m too old to be playing with dolls’ mentality. I could use my talent to create something that I could play with, that whoever I give it to could play with, and it brings a lot of joy.” 

Presently, Robin uses patterns that others have made to crochet her dolls, but a personal goal of hers is to create her own patterns and character designs, hoping to one day experience the excitement of seeing the sketches she scribbled on paper come to life as three-dimensional items. “There’s something about starting with a ball of yarn and when you’re done with it, you have a toy,” she says. “You have something that brings you joy when you look at it. I do think it takes a childlike desire to find joy in something like this.” The childlike joy to which she refers is a major driver in creating and selling the dolls; the money from the sales are but an added bonus. Her creations take time, some up to 40 or more hours, to complete, so her prices cannot be totally based on the length of her labor. It’s a sacrifice, Robin explains, but one she is willing to make to get her toys in the hands of someone else, adding, “What I want is to create something that makes somebody else happy… selling something for cheaper than what it’s technically worth is more valuable to me than it sitting on a shelf for three years before the right person can afford to buy it.” 

In addition to the amigurumi dolls, Roz Handmade is also a vendor of polymer clay jewelry, and while yarn and clay may seem like vastly differing mediums, Robin believes the two exist peacefully in her world because they both satisfy her urge to create with her hands. “I don’t create with a pencil or a paintbrush, so I was looking for something that was a little bit less time-consuming,” she says of her decision to venture into jewelry-making. “I was starting to try to think of other ways that I could create for the purpose of potentially selling that are quality materials and don’t take hours and hours or days to make.”

Unlike her crocheted crafts, Robin’s jewelry can be started and finished in the same day and being able to celebrate a quickly completed task is an easy encourager for an exhausted or overwhelmed creator. “It’s hard to see a finished product when it takes so long to complete. So, the jewelry is a good thing where I’m like, ‘I have four hours today. I don’t want to start another project; I’m not feeling super excited about what I’m working on. Let me just put on a podcast and roll out some clay and stamp some little stars in it.’ It’s going to be something that is very cute, but I can also feel accomplished in sort of a smaller way.” 

When she’s not crocheting dolls or shaping brightly colored clay into a pair of earrings, the central Texas native works as a graphic designer, having earned a bachelor’s degree in Digital Media Production in 2017. Though graphic design is a more commercial kind of art, the field still allows Robin to feed her creative energy. “I get to use the creative part of my brain at work, and then, in some of the ways that maybe I don’t feel creatively accomplished at work, I can channel that part of me that needs to create toys and fun things like that; I am able to do that in how I choose to spend my creative free time.” In both her full-time job and in Roz Handmade, Robin indeed fits the definition of an artist given by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary — “one who professes and practices an imaginative art.” Despite having achieved certain levels of success, however, Robin openly admits she often has a hard time classifying herself as such. 

“Because I don’t do a traditional form of art, you know, watercolor or portraits or whatever, it’s hard for me to acknowledge the fact that I can be in the artist community, and I can call myself an artist and a creative without feeling like an impostor. Especially with something like this, with getting chosen as a Bayou Artist, it’s just insane to me.”

The feelings of doubt and inadequacy Robin says she experiences — impostor syndrome — is a struggle faced not only by artists of all mediums, but by those in all sorts of careers, with studies suggesting that more than 70 percent of people have reported feeling these types of anxiety or self-doubt in their lives. Robin says deep down, she knows she works hard and deserves recognition for her creations and is determined to develop the self-assurance needed to proudly declare herself a member of the art community. “I would love to find the confidence to own it. To be like, ‘This is what I have to offer. I am an artist. I am a creative person by nature.’” 

    As she builds that confidence in herself, Robin remembers what she deems the most important part of being an artist: filling the void in one’s own heart. “Am I doing something that makes me feel like I’m doing something?” she asks. “Am I doing this to make money? Am I trying to have a side hustle? Or am I doing this because I wake up every single morning and ask myself how can I be creative today? How can I fill that insatiable desire to be an artist? And if what I’m doing at the end of the day, if I’m spending all day doing it but I’m still not satisfied, then maybe you do need to look inward and really decide if you’re doing it for yourself or not.”

An important lesson she has learned in the process comes from a two-minute video called “The Gap,” addressing the creative’s relentless desire to be better, a roadblock Robin admits she has worked to overcome. “You have to give yourself time to live up to your own expectations,” she advises. “It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to let yourself be okay with the fact that maybe for now and the next couple of years, you’re going to create things that you don’t think are that great, that you know other people don’t think are that great, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not great.”