Some of my kids favorite gifts are felt. One year, for christmas, they got a vegetable garden made out of foam covered in brown material, where they could “plant” felt plush carrots, potatoes, and other veggies. They could then pull them out and pretend to eat them. Another year, my daughter got a felt Mr Potato Head, complete with all the eyes, ears, noses, mouths, hats and hand made out of felt that they could still on in any way they wanted. Felt is such a great tool when making toys. When I made my kids busy books to keep them occupied during quiet events, my go to fabric was felt. There is just something great about it. There’s something great about Tina’s whimsical kids toys too. She creates these amazing plush animals and characters that just have a life to them that will make anyone smile. Meet Tina of Hi Tree!
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Cristina Rodas, you can call me Tina. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and moved to Los Angeles almost 12 years ago, although some might say I live in Tina land. Tina land is a magical forest where everyone’s nice, things are sparkly, striped socks are strongly encouraged; a place where creatures and inanimate objects speak for themselves. Time is irrelevant and creativity is boundless in Tina land and I am happy to reside there. The coolest thing I ever made is the tiny person (now not so tiny), who steals my sewing supplies and eats all my food. Hazel is now almost nine years old and a contributing resident to Tina land.
What do you make or do?
I make whimsical woodland themed children’s toys and textiles.
Where can we find your creations?
Is there an interesting story behind the name of your business? How did the name come about?
I had been making trees for a few months and racking my brain trying to come up with a name for my business. One day in my back yard my daughter noticed a baby tree that had sprouted out of the ground and immediately said “hi tree!” That’s when I knew that’s what it HAD to be.
How long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
I started creating when I was 13. My stepmom gave me her old sewing machine and I would stay up late at night in my room making clothes for myself. After high school my sewing machine sat unused for many years until 2007 when my daughter was 2 years old. This is when I began making toys and purses just for fun. The first few pieces I made were purchased by friends right away. This is when I decided to open my etsy shop.
Fortunately I have been able to do what I love full-time! I also freelance as an art department prop maker for commercials, movies and TV shows which is such a fun job. I am always asked to make something weird and unusual that I’ve never made before and it’s fun to see my work on TV.
When you’re not making things, what do you do?
I love cooking, I cook for my family every night. I also love to play music. I studied Cello, Bass and Piano at a performing arts high school in my hometown. I love to obsessively crochet in “down time” and I LOVE to get lost in fun adventures with my friends. Also if there’s a thrift store within a 50-mile radius of my house, I’ve been there. Lots of times.
Where do you find inspiration?
Mostly the internet. Thank the stars for that thing. Seriously though, pinterest can be very inspiring! I also love to go camping in Sequoia National forest once a year and come back refreshed with my mind full of ideas.
If money wasn’t an issue how would your life change with regards to your art?
I would love to have access to unlimited supplies!
What would be your perfect day off?
Lounging by a pool or swimming at the beach with friends.
What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?