There's hardly ever a time when one doesn't want to hang out with a gaggle of grumpy yet brightly colorful bears. Andrea Kang has created her own milieu that solves precisely this desire: Snarky cats, disgruntled bunnies, and ill-tempered bears are just the beginning of her delightful creations. The illustrator, designer, and toymaker is a certifiable maker of adorable animal magic—when she's not bringing the creatures of her dreams to life on paper, she designs custom pieces for the likes of Coach, Hasbro, Toy Tokyo, and Zara Kids. Welcome to Kang's incredibly cute world.
Tell us a bit about your work.
I create work that is nostalgic and evokes moments in time that may have been forgotten, and I tend to focus on the characters and keep environments minimal. By doing so, the creatures exist anywhere in space and time. I like to use a combination of watercolor and cut paper for my 2-D pieces; I also create, customize, and design toys using a wide range of materials like vinyl, wood, resin, and plush.
What would you consider your main sources of inspiration?
Awkward moments, memories, mundane rituals or objects, and cute animals.
I've always had an affinity with animals. I like the androgyny that animals and animal-inspired forms possess. They're universal and, in that sense, I feel like people can easily connect with them.
Do you name your animals?
Only sometimes. Otherwise, I keep them anonymous—that way, the viewers can formulate their own narratives around the character, and make it more personal.
The expressions on your drawings are adorable but also kind of sarcastic in a way.
I'm keen on cute, but I also like to push subtle personalities. Once you look past the cuteness of my characters, there are underlying expressions and emotions like shyness, melancholy, and anger.
What was it like to bring some of your illustrations to life as toys?
It's very satisfying seeing a 2-D drawing transform into a toy. I love that it is no longer just on a flat plane; it's become a solid presence that you can hold.
Did you always want to be an artist?
Yes! I think it's just how I was wired.
What has been your most career-defining moment?
There have been a few. One of them is when Toy Tokyo gave me the opportunity to produce my first blind box plush toy series with artist Nathan Jurevicius. Back then, I had already freelance-designed toys for other companies, but it was the first time I had full control over the toys from start to finish. It was really fulfilling… and they sold out!
Here, check out some of Kang's adorable designs, all available at andreakang.com.
"Add some pop to your laptop or phone."
"A charming way to write memos and messages to friends."
"Add some spook to your notebooks and tablets with Boo Bear!"