Local TikToker Karen Tran spreads joy, one secret art drop at a time
A tiny felted fox tucked into a corner of a store. What could this mean? Where did it come from?
A few clicks on TikTok and the hunt begins. As it turns out, this is how Karen Tran spreads happiness around Boston and to herself.
Going by tinyfeltedjoy on TikTok, Tran has made miniature felted animals for six months in hopes that they are a bright light for whoever finds her artwork.
“The reason why I call it tinyfeltedjoy is because I wanted to bring the joy that art gives to me and pass that on to someone else,” Tran said.
This particular artistic journey began in April 2022, when Tran was struggling with her mental health. Because art has grounded her before, Tran was able to find joy again in these small projects and made so many felted animals that she decided to give them away.
Tran chose to hide them in local businesses, all in an effort to shed some love on Boston.
“I want to make [Boston] beautiful and I want to make it a fun place because I think a lot of people in Boston have this idea that it’s not fun and sparkly like other places,” Tran said. “For me to highlight all of these small and amazing local businesses is another way of imparting that joy onto them and being like, no, we actually live somewhere that has a lot to offer.”
Tran’s followers on TikTok share a collective excitement at what they’re able to find. Hannah Albert, whose username is @hannah_albert1, rushed to social media as soon as she found one of Tran’s animals: a blobfish with a coffee on its head, hidden at Gus & Ruby Letterpress.
“Cutest little find in the cutest store,” Albert captioned her video.
Another user found one of Tran’s special creatures on her birthday—a little cow coming out of a birthday cake, hidden in Knight Moves Cafe in Coolidge Corner.
Most of the businesses Tran loves to hide her felt animals are located in Chinatown, Brookline, and Somerville, and she has even become friends with a few of the workers.
“I’ve made a lot of friendships and relationships with these companies and with these businesses,” Tran said. “So it’s really been an insane journey, to be honest.”
Moving forward, Tran hopes that her little felted animals will promote a greater message of mental health and help those that are struggling through depression.
“I’ve gotten a lot of comments that are like, This actually made me leave my house today, even though I haven’t left my house in months,” Trans said. “And that is what I’m doing this for, one-hundred percent.”
This article was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its current effort to tell stories about local artists and creative influencers
Michelle Tian is a current senior student studying journalism in Boston University. Her passion for writing and storytelling came at a young age, and she hopes to keep spreading important messages with her work after graduation.