Free Time Developed Into a Creative Side Gig
Jodie Chiemi Ching
By day, Garrin Taga is an accounting specialist with Bank of Hawaii in downtown Honolulu. But when the 27-year-old Punahou grad isn’t crunching numbers, his hands are usually busy at work filling orders for his popular amigurumi creatures. Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small, stuffed yarn creatures.
The word “amigurumi” is a combination of the Japanese words ami, meaning “to knit or crochet,” and nuigurumi, meaning “stuffed doll.” Taga also includes needle felting in his amigurumi creations.
Among Taga’s popular creations are Pokémon, Hello Kitty and Disney characters. He also makes Marvel and DC comic characters such as Spider-Man, Captain America, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — all made in the form of dolls, key-chains, charms or coasters.
Taga started crocheting while attending Whittier College in California, where he studied business administration and accounting. “I had a light schedule one semester, and with no car and not much to do, I figured I should pick up a hobby. A few of my friends from high school had dabbled in crochet and amigurumi back at Punahou and I thought that I could probably do that, too,” said Taga.
At the same time, plush dolls and collectibles such as Funko Pop figures — those pop culture collectible vinyl figurines and bobbleheads –– were growing in popularity. Taga enjoyed collecting those, as well. “I couldn’t really afford [them] as a student, so being able to make my own products was fun.”
Soon, Taga’s handmade amigurumi were catching the eyes of his friends and family and he began taking orders. These days, he sells his products at craft fairs and anime- and comic-themed conventions such as Kawaii Kon and the Amazing Comic Con Aloha.
How does Taga decide what to make next?
“Most of the time, I pick projects that I enjoy,” he said. “Most of my inspiration comes from things I like. I might binge on a show or video game and want to make every character from that series. But I’m always open to suggestions.”
Taga said much of his business comes from custom commissions from people interested in acquiring his amigurumi. “I’ve actually discovered some really cool things from those requests,” he added.
Blessed with a “good problem” of demand for his amigurumi, trying to keep up with their production has become Taga’s biggest challenge.
“I do my best to make my process as efficient as possible, but it does take a while for me to finish my products,” he said. Taga noted that he works on his amigurumi projects in a dedicated workspace at home or at a nearby coffee shop.
And then there are the occasional “unusual requests.”
“The most unusual requests I get are when people ask me to make a doll in their likeness. I understand that it’s kind of like a portrait, and I’ve done a couple of individuals, but because of the style of my dolls, it’s really hard not to make it look like a voodoo doll,” Taga said, laughing.
He said the most fun part of the process is when he finishes a doll and ‘it just looks good.’ “There’s a really nice feeling of accomplishment when, after all the work, you can just look at something and feel like it’s complete.”