It’s fair to say family plays a role in almost everything Cheri and Alvin Ong do. They preach a philosophy hinged on blazing one’s own trail. Individuality. Creativity. The solidarity of family. These are the defining traits behind the couple’s now-Plano-based Furry Feline Creatives design studio, whose quirky toy creations have been featured on the set of House of Cards and Garfunkel and Oates. The Furry Feline product line is chockfull of handmade plush toys, figures, ceramics, jewelry and apparel.
The company is defined by its two brands: Purridge & Friends and I Heart Poop Culture, which can be traced to the Chinese community in the Philippines where Cheri and Alvin grew up. Born and raised in Manila, they were raised in a tri-lingual, multi-cultural environment. Yet they were rooted in traditional families from Mainland China, tapped for stable careers, perhaps as doctors or maybe bankers. As is often common in certain East Asian cultures, the prospect of an uncertain career path in the creative industry was not popular with family members.
But success has not eluded them. The Ongs plan to attend 30+ trade shows, markets and comic cons this year, and they’re fresh off a collaboration with Water Aid America for which they designed custom plush poop toys to look like different celebrities who appeared with their doppelgangers on the red carpet for World Toilet Day. All this is on the heels of the company’s relocation from Southern California to Plano last year.
The Ongs’ dedication to family, reinforced when young sons Matthew and Kai came along, extends to both the vendors who carry their products and their customers, many of whom volunteer to help at conventions across the country. It’s also evident in the motley extended family comprising Purridge & Friends, which includes Ringo, the techy, go-getter tabby; Gwenn the penguin, a bubbly fashionista determined to be different; and the main gal, Purridge, an introverted but cheerful drummer and martial artist.
Cheri, 35, is the artist behind this cast of characters. She came up with them more than a decade ago, during college, but it wasn’t until 2011 after a successful run at San Diego Comic Con that she and Alvin, 37, established them as a serious concern under Furry Feline Creatives. A multi-media artist with a background in graphic design and illustration, she is Purridge, quiet but expressive. Alvin, a software engineer, who contributes to character development and stories, is outgoing Ringo.
“All of the characters we create are based on people,” explains Alvin. “It started out with Cheri’s friends and people she knows; these were who Cheri started to doodle. Then we started to put them alongside pop culture, with people’s interests and personalities put into them. We wanted to bring those out because we believe a character would be much more alive if it’s really based on reality, something people can relate to.”
Not to be forgotten: Furry Feline’s I Heart Poop Culture brand, which showcases the couple’s light-hearted side. Bags, t-shirts and books are festooned with artistry and messages celebrating the intersection of pop culture and toilet humor, something of a phenomenon in their part of Asia.
“Our kids are one year apart, so imagine changing diapers every day multiplied by two,” Alvin says, laughing. “Poop humor is funny stuff. It’s big in Korea; it’s big in Japan. And there’s definitely humor with doing poop stuff.”
Lest we forget, says Alvin, “everyone goes to the toilet every day.”
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