May the Plush Be with You

What if Darth Vader were a cuddly Beanie Baby — a tiny, stuffed Sith Lord accompanied by a lovable poem about his dark side and tucked under the arm of an unsuspecting 6-year-old? The cutesy, plush-toy company Ty Inc. might never go for it. But in a gallery not too far away, an army of more than a hundred hand-stitched Star Wars figures is gathering — and they'd surely kick the stuffing out of any Beanie Baby. They've traveled from as far as Pennsylvania, Canada, and London for "Stitch Wars," an exhibit opening Saturday at 7 p.m. at Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery in Lauderhill.

Last spring, Bear and Bird co-owner Amanda Magnetta put out a call across the crafting blogosphere, inviting fans of the revered fantasy series to re-create their favorite characters as plush art. Only rule: It had to be in the spirit of the gallery's monthly StitchBird Workshop, where everything is stitched, knitted, or otherwise handcrafted. The figures range from tiny finger puppets (Star Wars, meet thumb wars) to a kick-ass, five-foot-tall plush Chewbacca. "People love Star Wars — that's what it comes down to," Magnetta says.

Even before opening, the show has drawn attention from Wired magazine's blog, which recently called it a "must-see exhibit."

One of the artists is 28-year-old Dennise Rodriguez. Puerto Rican-born, she has also lived in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and now has a place in Boca. Rodriguez first saw Star Wars as a 10-year-old on the island with her dad, whom she describes as a "sci-fi freak." When Magnetta asked her to contribute to the plushy show, she came up with pieces representing a wampa, Chewbacca, and, of course, Han Solo. "That was Harrison Ford before he was Harrison Ford," she says. Her Star Wars pieces sell for $25 to $50.

Other submissions: Kit Lane's Jabba the Hutt — The Early Years, a felt creation of an innocent baby Jabba cradling a toy bunny; and the knit-bunny series, which includes the ghost of Obi "Bun" Kenobi.

Click here to view the slide show.

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Erica K. Landau
C. Stiles