Saturday, 15 August 2009

Interview - Meet Ama - from etsy shop Miss Minoes

and felines Charlie and Droppie!

I was amazed when I first saw this incredible cat scarf in etsy shop Miss Minoes (formerly makemesmile) by Ama. It definitely made me smile!!

Ama is a member of the Etsy for Animals team that I am in and she does amazing work helping her local animals in Leiden. I had long been an admirer of Ama's work before I met her.

A very beautiful Leiden in winter.

I can see how creative Ama is and I asked her if she would have the time to answer some questions. She kindly obliged.

Damocles the Official Shelter Cat at Leiden

I'd like to know more about your work for animals and your support for the animal shelter in Leiden. Can you tell me a bit about them and how you got involved?

I donate 100% of my kitty hats proceeds and 50% of all other proceeds to the animal shelter "Stevenshage" in Leiden.

The animal shelter has just celebrated their 50th anniversary. They provide shelter, housing and care for cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets etc.

Unfortunately again this summer the amount of stray cats is bigger than last year.

This is Harm waiting at the centre. He is 13 years old - time for his forever home now!

The animals brought in at the shelter are either officially abandoned (when someone is no longer in the position to take care of the animal), wounded animals picked up by the animal ambulance, strays, or the saddest cases: dumped in front of the shelter in a cardboard box, in rain, snow....

Naturally the people working at the animal shelter (paid and volunteers) are big animal lovers.

I do admire that they also keep the faith in human beings, because they do see the worst of what people are capable of.

This is Messi. Also at the centre. He is 4 years old - just waiting to go home now.
The animals surely are taken excellent care of at the shelter. In the past years some cats and dogs even have run away from their new families back to the shelter.

and this is Clarence, he is one year old. Just waiting for a cuddle.
A special volunteer is the official shelter cat Damocles. He was brought in at the shelter after being run over by a car. With a bristled hip, a broken jaw and one eye lost he proved himself a fighter and slowly learned to walk again.
Damocles is a very social cat to people, other cats and dogs (although the dogs might not always be friendly back).
He is a mascot for the shelter and self acclaimed supervisor of many activities. He is an inspiration to everyone working at the shelter of how a cat can cat back on his paws again.

This is Floor a puppy. His eyes go straight to your heart!

I got to know about the shelter 20 years ago, before I even had cats myself. My friend had one of her cats going adventurous, so we went to see if he was found. This was before the technology of the "chip", which nowadays makes it easier to find the owner of a lost cat.

To see all those homeless kitties melted my heart and of course I would have loved to take them all home, but rule number one for bringing home a pet is committing you to it.

Housing circumstances (pet unfriendly landlords) were not right to bring home a cat yet.

and this is Yoki

and sibling Dyani.

Two kittens born in June. It won't be long before these two balls are the size of a cat!

Thanks to "Etsy for Animals" I also keep updated about other animal charities worldwide and the support they get from artists. So occasionally I either donate money or a kitty hat for support. I love that global connection.
Ama with Droppie

Please tell me about your 2 cats Droppie and Charlie. Their ages, where did they come from, what are their favorite toys, food and games? and sleeping places?

Oddly enough I have never gotten a cat from the animal shelter. My cats usually came from people for whom I was the last resort: If I couldn't give the cat a new home, the animal shelter would have been the next and final option.

This is Charlie being irresistible!

The cats I have now are 2 female cats. They are the first cats that are getting old with us. The 3 tomcats we had before went through their 9 lives way to fast.

Droppie having a nap.

Our oldest cat is Droppie; she is a lady of 18 years old. She came as a 6 years old independent girl.

Two years ago her health went bad quickly, kidneys started failing and the doctor feared a tumor. The latter was a false alarm luckily, and her kidney situation stabilized.

As my boyfriend and I thought we were losing her we shamelessly spoiled her. Since then Droppie has been acting more and more as a royal highness. She demands. She gives me angry looks and complains if I can't make the rain stop.

Her favourite spot is sleeping on the lap of my boyfriend William. I am only a second choice to her and she doesn't even try to hide that. If she sits on my lap and he comes home she doesn’t know how quickly she can get to him. He doesn’t even have time to take his shoes of.

A Pair of Blue Eyes Catnip Toys! (with blood vessels showing!)

My other cat Charlie is a funny girl. She is a calico used to be scared of everything, but her curiosity is always a tiny bit bigger than her fear.
She also has some medical conditions, which means both cats need different food. Charlie thinks that by rule Droppies food always must be tastier than hers, so she's always trying to sneak past us to the other bowl.
Her favourite hobby is chasing flies and midgets in the twilight, and she is my official cat toy tester.
Ama with the Arabella Blue Star White Star Bag she won
How do your 2 cats get on with the Arabella bag you won this year?
Arabella is on display safely behind glass. Droppie has a talent of finding strange sleeping places (she once slept in the umbrella stand), I wouldn't want Arabella subjected to that.
I did take the bag already to a number of occasions (an Alice in Wonderland tea party and the 50th anniversary reception of the animal shelter).
the very popular kitty hat - this one with light and dark blue flowers
When did you start to knit and make your unique hats and very unique scarves and dog sweaters?
I've learned knitting and crocheting from a very creative mother when I was a child.
In my teen years I knitted some sweaters (it was the eighties, so you can image what kind!). After that I started focusing more on drawing and painting. One day the inspiration to draw just stopped.
I didn't do anything creative for a couple of years, apart from sowing some hats, until I got a bag of wool from a friend. She got it from her mum, but didn't know how to knit. It was all kinds of small balls yarn, and I didn't want to do big projects like sweaters anymore anyway.
How did your etsy shop come about?
I had seen some kitty hats on the internet and made the link to knit cat hats and, as I was already supporting them, the animal shelter seemed a worthy cause.
I started out on EBay and Marktplaats, but needed to find a place where I could reach a big audience, get a fair price for charity and wouldn't have to pay too much costs. A creative friend pointed out the Craftster website where I started to wonder what "check out my etsy shop" meant.
I started on Etsy as "makemesmile". But it is not easy to be found on the internet by that name. My name "Miss Minoes" comes from a children’s book / movie "Minoes" about a young woman that used to be a cat.

The very delightful BlueTom Cheshire Cat Scarf
I started with that one bag of wool. Then I bought some more.
Stevenshage started noticing the contributions made by Miss Minoes and they asked me for an interview in their publication. In that article they also mentioned that any yarn donations would be welcome.
Three years after that publication the animal shelter still get people with bags full of yarn for Miss Minoes!
I only buy yarn if people have a very special custom order and I don't have the particular colour in my stash.

Where does your inspiration come from for your creations?

I like to give my creations an animal theme. The inspiration comes from the material.
When someone gave some purple and lilac mohair the connection to the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland was easily made. The yarn was not suitable for a hat, so it had to be a scarf. I had seen some 'Halloween monster wraths' on Craftster where someone used ping pong balls for eyes. And the Cheshire Cat Scarf was born.
I had only one unhappy costumer about them. Actually, the girl who bought the scarf absolutely loved it....but her boyfriend found the eyes too scary.

Do you have a creating 'ritual'? and if so - what is it?

The knitting of the hats always start on a circular needle, at that stage my knitting goes everywhere with me (on trains, at lunch etc), the second stage I do at home, in front of the telly.
I do have to take my pauses from knitting; I do get already too much tension in my wrists sometimes. This is something knitters have to be very careful with. You tend to go on to long and can actually damage your muscles/joints.
That's the main reason I have taking up sewing again: to get some variations in the activities, not as much because of the seasonal influences. Although the peek is in October-December, the requests for kitty hats go on all through summer.

What is your favourite item in your etsy shop and why?

I am very proud of my Cheshire Cat Scarves, like this mustard tabby above.
Where kitty hats come in kinds, materials and sizes, the cat scarves are true signature creations by me.
It is also fun to take the cat out in wintertime, when you wrap it around you.

What has and hasn't worked for you?

When I started 5 years ago the cat bell chokers were a big hit.
It is interesting to see how just a one woman crafty business like me is already experiencing different markets. Kitty hats: US, UK / Cat bell chokers: The Netherlands.
When Dutch people see kitty hats, their first reaction is: Oh cute baby hats, whereas my main target audience is young women 15+.
I would like to get Dutch people to wear more hats, also in the summer: more style & more sun protection!
The Calico Cowls are not as successful as I had hoped. I think it is not so much the colours (my calico cat Charlie was the inspiration) as the design.
A scarf is more versatile in use than a cowl.

Where else do you sell / exhibit / show your work?

At the moment I am selling on Etsy and on the yearly fair at the animal shelter.
Ama also has a blog Miss Minoes: Talking to Myself (Again) where you can see more of her work and her ideas and a website Miss Minoes.
What ideas / works do you have planned for the future?
I am going to expand on the internet to DaWanda and other sites.
I am also planning going to more fairs. There are a series of crafty fairs organized in the Netherlands I would like to attend.

How many of your dreams have you achieved?
And any dreams you would like to share?

In the future I hope to give Miss Minoes an official status. I would like to put more hours into it, but financially I can not afford to work less hours at my day job (yet).
It would be to be creating, marketing, designing all day.
But I know that is a big dream.

Anything you would like to add?

It would be great to at least double the amount I am collecting for animal charity.
I know the animal shelter have big plans, for instance on educating people. To prevent animals getting in the tough situations they are now sometimes.
First step is easy: People, neuter or spay your pets, please!

Charlie is having a well deserved rest after Product Testing all day!

Thanks Ama! it was a pleasure getting to know you, your incredible creations and the fantastic selfless work you do for the furries at Stevenshage Animal Shelter. I wish them all the very best. Arabella and Wesley have asked that the two baby bunnies be given a little kiss each from them.

If you live in the Netherlands please consider adopting one, or two, of their little charges. Donations are also welcome all year round - and ofcourse wool!
Thank you


  1. Wonderful interview and some lovely photos of real AND knitted kitties ! THANK YOU :)

  2. I agree with Brizel, beautiful animals, stories, and creations, we are lucky to have Miss Minoes in Etsy for Animals! So inspiring, thank you to Alma for your creative work for the shelter animals! Great write up and post, Annette :)

  3. A great read for my Lazy Sunday afternoon, of course, it's a great read anytime ! Enjoyed it ! Thanks.

  4. Oh, I think I have discovered another kindred spirit!! How lovely all her work is.. and also to be credited and acknowledged is her tireless devotion to the cause!!Kudos, Annette for bringing this wonderful artist and her story to us today!!

  5. What a great artist! How wonderful she helps animals too :)

  6. Ama's work is beautiful - and I love the name Miss Minoes! Many, many thanks to her for all she does to help the animals at Stevenshage.

  7. What a wonderful and creative person. Thanks Annette.

  8. thanks for your comments - and glad that you have all enjoyed the interview.
    I really love Ama's witty creations and her strong support of the Stevenshage Rescue!

  9. Thank you all for your comments. It was a real pleasure to be interviewed by Annette.

    You might want to know that the 2 cute baby rabbits are now big enough to leave their loving foster family and have moved to their new home.



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