I’m the Bernie Sanders cheerleader here at Liberal America. I’m a collector of figures and dolls, primarily Barbie dolls, Pullip dolls, and I have an appreciation for handmade items. I believe you have reached a legendary status when you get your own doll created in your likeness. All of my friends know this, including our Liberal America writers. So, they did not fail me when two separate individuals (both writers here) let me know that THIS exists.
Do I really have to tell you what happened next Liberal America? Seriously. Since I was only tagged in a photo, I set out to find the creator of this adorable representation of the Democratic presidential candidate who has taken the campaign trail by storm surprising many and inspiring countless more. After sending my Paypal order (yep, I’ll own one), I contacted the amazing and talented Emily Engel to find out more about her and what inspired her to make what has been dubbed “Lil’ Bernie”. She kindly took the time out of her busy schedule to respond and answer the questions I had for her!
Q. How did you get your start in the sewing business?
“I officially opened my tailoring and alterations shop, Bx Custom Sewn, in November of 2013. I’ve only been sewing professionally for two years. The only person in my family who sewed professionally was my great-grandmother, who obviously passed away long before I was born, so I didn’t have anyone around to show me the ropes. Five years ago I bought myself a simple sewing machine and began messing around with my own clothing, making them custom fit. I had no intention of offering my services to others at that time. It wasn’t until I learned that a friend of mine was pregnant with her first child, whom she intended to name Calvin. Instantly, I thought to myself that Calvin needed a Hobbes, so I bought some materials and started building with nothing to go on other than a Googled image of Hobbes. No patterns, no plans. Suddenly, I had an orange tiger in front of me. It was then that I realized that I had the ability to look at a photo and recreate it with needles and thread.”
***Apparently, she’s really good too. The Bx Custom Sewn Facebook page has 16 reviews all praising her skills.
Q. Do you do any other crafting?
“I cross-stitch, make pillows/blankets/curtains, and various other small decorative projects. A couple years ago I realized I had the ability to make Muppets. Yes, literal Muppets. Since then, I’ve sold more than 25 of them, including Dr. Teeth, Statler and Waldorf, Swedish Chef and Beaker.”
***I’m going to have to buy a Swedish Chef now. This woman is going to own a percentage of my paycheck.
Q. On to our main man Bernie! What inspired the creation of Lil’ Bernie?
“Several weeks ago I created a set of custom dolls made in the image of the tattoo artists at Nite Owl Tattoo in Northampton, Massachusetts and dubbed them “Lil’ Inkers.” The feedback was fantastic. Last Tuesday, September 15th, I received an e-mail from my father in regard to my aunt and uncle commending my work. Specifically, they had written ‘LOVE Emily’s dolls. I cannot imagine where this will all lead her at some point.’ I had already toyed with the idea of making more dolls, and very suddenly, the idea of making a Bernie doll just sort of happened. Mind you, I read this e-mail quite early in the morning while I was still in bed, so I sleepily responded to my father’s e-mail with ‘Maybe I should make a Bernie doll.’ He wrote back shortly thereafter with ‘That’s an excellent idea!!!’ That night, Lil’ Bernie was born. I RARELY come up with ideas on my own for things to make; I’ve found that my friends are far more creative when it comes to custom order ideas!”
Q. What really attracted you to Sanders to cause you to give your support to his campaign?
“My father, Michael Engel, is a political science professor emeritus, self-proclaimed socialist, author, politician, and former Congressional candidate. He has been a Sanders supporter for as long as I can remember. Very rarely do I see my father excited about a candidate and actively involved in a campaign, so his enthusiasm was contagious. Personally, I go very much against the grain when it comes to how I live my life; I am the epitome of grassroots, which is the essence of Sanders campaign. My entire life revolves around the motto ‘Make do and mend.’ I fix the old and make it new again. I create from nothing, using my own hands. I believe that Sanders can do the same for this country.”
Q. With over a hundred likes to your business page (in one day) and 500 likes on the original posting of Lil’ Bernie, are you surprised? Did you have any idea that you’d receive this sort of response?
“Absolutely NOT. Never in my wildest of dreams! While making him, I was thinking, ‘This will be very cute, I’m sure my friends/family will enjoy it.’ When I posted it on my Facebook page, my friends suggested I start to market them and one friend in particular suggested I use part of the profits to donate to Sanders’ campaign. Everything pretty much snowballed after that. I am absolutely overwhelmed and humbled by the immense response and the wonderful comments/messages I’ve received. “
Q. So, how long does it take to make a Lil’ Bernie generally?
“With all the materials needed to create a doll in front of me, it takes about 2-3 hours.”
Q. What is the current wait time, and how many orders do you have right now?
“As of right now, that’s the big question. The only source of mass production I have right now are my own two hands. I’m hoping to be able to juggle my schedule enough to make two a day, so I’m hoping that delivery won’t take longer than ten days. Key word: Hoping. I have received dozens of messages inquiring about price and size. I currently have nine paid orders waiting to be made.”
***One of those paid orders is mine!
Q. So, a Lil’Bernie costs $80? Are you donating any of that to Sanders’ campaign? Many don’t really understand why handmade items are so expensive. Are you making any profit at all for the time you put into them?
“Yes. I’m charging $80 for the doll. $25 of that amount goes directly to the Bernie Sanders campaign fund and $5 for shipping. The remaining $50 is for materials, my time, and of course, my love. I understand that $80 seems like a hefty cost; however, I hope my followers understand that each doll is made by hand, one at a time. There is a major difference between mass-produced and handmade. And hey, I need groceries and have to pay my bills like everyone else!”
***If you figured up an hourly wage after materials and shipping, Engel would be making less than minimum wage most likely.
Q. Do you have any other Bernie Sanders ideas in store?
“Not currently — right now I’m focused on getting all the Lil’ Bernie’s out the door. However, I made mention that I wouldn’t be opposed to creating a Lil’ Donald Trump doll, except that would have to be marketed as a chew toy for large dogs with sharp teeth!”
***I’ll buy one and give it to one of my mom’s pitties.
Q. How can those interested in a Lil’ Bernie order one?
“I wrote a blurb on my Facebook business page about how to order them. You can either contact me through my business or personal Facebook pages, or e-mail me directly. I will then send my information sheet to you. It’s pretty self-explanatory!”
Please guys, someone get this to Bernie and let him know what this talented woman is doing! I want to see a picture of him with one, and I’m going to assume she wants to also. Also, don’t forget to mention Liz at Liberal America <3s him.
Thank you Emily for taking the time out of your day for answering my questions. More importantly, thank you for such a creative way to support Sanders’ campaign!