Kawaii Products Review: Tasty Peach Studios and the Art of Ryan Zanfei

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Beware the coming zombie alpacalypse.

Beware the coming zombie alpacalypse.

For those not familiar with the word “kawaii,” it’s a Japanese word that means cute. This is the kind of cute that makes people squeal when they see a basket of puppies, not the kind of cute pre-teens or your mom think the guys from One Direction are. When people refer to something as kawaii, it generally implies that there is an inherent adorable quality to whatever is being described and that it is somewhat influenced by Japanese pop culture. I can think of no better term for the art produced by Tasty Peach Studios. They are a small, boutique art studio that creates original characters, such as the adorable zombie alpaca!  Recently, I was fortunate enough to interview the incredibly talented Ryan Zanfei from Tasty Peach Studios!

While Tasty Peach, based out of  Mishawaka, Indiana, is not a cannabis-related company, they are unique, ethical, woman-owned and operated (Ryan co-owns the business with her fiance), and they feature Ryan’s incredible art turned into wearable (or huggable) products. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, now is the time to order something if it’s going to arrive in time. I can’t think of a better time to feature these unique, adorable products. If you have a significant other who loves anime/manga, kittens, foxes  or just cute stuff in general, then you’re in luck! You can also catch up with Tasty Peach Studios at one of the many conventions they attend every year.

LB: How long have you been an artist?

RZ: I’ve been drawing since as long as I can remember; there isn’t a time period in my life I can recall not drawing. So I’ve been drawing as long as I could hold a pencil! And just about every single day since then. I certainly had more doodles than notes scribbled down by the time I was done with school!

LB: What made you decide to go into business for yourself?

RZ: I had developed a large following on DeviantArt after years of practice and following my passion. After doing a few conventions and doing well, my fiance and I decided to attempt it full-time, and we’ve been lucky enough to have been met with success. It takes a lot more work to be a successful artist than most think.

10505521_895428237135096_8139275626220847781_nLB:  You and your fiance co-own the business. Do you find that adds stress to your relationship?

RZ: It can at times, but we’re both very blunt people haha! So when we have things bothering us, we’re able to air those things quickly and move on. Having a business partner in general can be a stressful situation, but we’re both lucky enough to be able to fully trust our business partners with anything and everything that is asked of each other. So while working with your significant other directly can be a bit more stressful, it also allows us to put full faith and trust in the the persons responsibilities.

LB:  What was your first professional design?

Chirii hairclips

Chirii hairclips

RZ: I can’t recall, honestly. From my standpoint a “professional” design is anything that can be sold for a profit and help you make a living. After all, that’s what being a professional is for the most part…doing something you love full time as your livelihood. I would not be able to pinpoint an exact piece of artwork since we’ve been doing this for so long now, but I know our first professional set of characters were Chirii (our pink angel bunny) and Aoikuma (our blue dream bear). Those were designed around the time we began making the transition to being professional.

Inukii necklace

Inukii necklace

LB:  What character or design is your current favorite?

RZ: I’d have to say Inukii, our Shiba Inu character. He was the first character that really took off on it’s own, and the first character we developed a plush toy of. We’ve recently retired him as a plush after a successful 2.5 year run and are looking forward to revising his plush design eventually.

LB:  You have such a cute and unique esthetic to your works. Where do you find inspiration?

Hanaki rainbow raccoon earrings

Hanaki rainbow raccoon earrings

RZ: I’m inspired primarily by Japanese minimalism. Companies such as San-Ex are an inspiration to me, but lately I’ve been moving into more dynamic, fluid, and energetic poses and postures. So while I am inspired by certain companies, I also like to add my own style and twist to my artwork. It’s always evolving and changing. What a lot of people don’t realize until they browse through some of my older work is that I really enjoy full scale work as well! I’m more known for my simplistic art style, but I enjoy a lot of other art styles, scales, and mediums (water color, pastels, etc).

Meowchi plush in Mint

Meowchi plush in Mint

LB:  How do you select manufacturers for your products?

RZ: Research, research, research and samples. We’ll go through quite a few companies and get samples before we ever choose. Eventually, the company with the highest quality materials and best pricing typically win out. However, a large part of our selection process is consistency after selection and ease to work with. As a business owner, cost on goods is important, but we’ve always opted for a bit pricier base materials in order to get quality and consistency for our customers.

LB: What words of advice do you have for artists starting out on their own?

The Tasty Peach Studios convention booth

The Tasty Peach Studios convention booth

RZ: Develop a fan base before diving in and expecting success; while some may jump in and gain success quickly, it isn’t the common occurrence, and people should not get discouraged by not immediately being a great success. Some tend to think we just woke up one day, started doing artist alleys at conventions, and were a success within a few years. What people don’t look into is the fact I had well over a million views on DeviantArt before even pursuing the full time career, so I had a large following and fanbase that sought us out at conventions from the very beginning. Thousands of artists flood artist alleys at conventions a year, and thousands more are now easily accessible on sites such as Tumblr, DeviantArt, etc. It’s a good idea to try to separate yourself from other artists before jumping into everything right away. Then when you’re able to travel and attend conventions, art shows, etc, people seek you out rather than happening on your booth. Conventions are a fantastic way to get your name out there as well initially, but the attendance is a lot more limiting than your online audience. Also…most importantly… be personable! Your artwork will not sell itself, and there are many artists out there who are more talented than myself with half the success. I attributive a large part of this to being present at my booth as often as I can be, speaking to people non-stop when they are at my booth, and trying to create as friendly of a purchasing environment as possible.

The next charity sale will feature Guardians of the Galaxy chibi characters.

The next charity sale will feature Guardians of the Galaxy chibi characters.

LB: I believe I saw before that you donate a portion of your proceeds to charity but couldn’t find information on that on your site. How is Tasty Peach giving back?

RZ: We actually host charity events a few times a year is what that is! We don’t really participate in a lot of fanart production, since we prefer to keep the majority of our designs original and unique to our store. In cases where certain fandoms are requested on a regular basis (My Little Pony, Avengers, Sailor Moon, etc), we’ll produce a small amount of charms/necklaces based around these series and make them available on a very limited basis. We’ll then sell those online and donate proceeds after production costs, shipping, fees, etc to a charity of our choosing. Any leftover charms are purchased at retail price by Tasty Peach and that amount is added into the donation pool. We’ll then take those remaining charms to conventions and sell them, since the donation on them has already been made.

To follow Tasty Peach Studios on Facebook, click here. For previous Ladybud features on woman-run businesses, click here!

Photo Credit: Tasty Peach Studios