Sabina Gibson, 34, is the creator behind Mount Royal Mint, a veritable zoo of an Etsy shop of fantastical animal sculptures. Based in Montreal, she works in video and television, but on the side creates narwhals, “unicornaments,” spirit bears, custom pet portraits, and folksy foxes from wool and felt.
What inspired your spirit bears?
The spirit bears are my favorite. They’re a free form of expression for me. When I first completed the bear shape, I found the form itself very eye pleasing and sculptural. At that point I knew what I wanted to do. There are endless amounts of folk stories and myths to draw inspiration from, but I mostly enjoy making them up myself. I like to invent their backgrounds and origins and write little folktales about each one.
How did you get started with soft sculpture?
When I was young, I loved stuffed animals. I never owned a Barbie. So it’s kind of interesting that I now design my own brand of animal characters. It all started one day when my boyfriend (and current husband) discovered a lump of socks that looked like a creature. For fun we began adding limbs and more facial features, and from there it just evolved.
You live in a beautiful place. Does Montreal inform your work?
Montreal is a magical city. There is a real quality of life here that is perfect for fostering creativity and innovation, which is why we ended up moving here. But I would say a great deal of my inspiration that shaped my style as an artist came from living in Taipei. The design style there is so fun and fantastic. The city buses are pink and the garbage trucks play Beethoven. Cuteness rules popular culture. Mascots are huge celebrities, and not just for kids.
What’s the key to getting a pet portrait just right?
I would say the greatest point of expression comes from the eyes. It is the most important detail. Even though they are often not much more than two dots on a face, if they are not done right, it can throw off your whole piece.
Having my own business is: extremely rewarding.
If I weren’t doing this, I would: make movies or work with animals.
Creating makes me feel: human.
I find inspiration in: films, music, fashion, art, and freaks of nature.
I do my best work: when I am not trying to do my best work.
The best advice I can give is: be true to your own vision and ideas.
My definition of success is: being happy doing what you love most every day.
Three things I’d like to learn are: drums, animatronics, and kung fu.