right now...

I'm feeling ever so lucky to be alive- here and now.
 (as corny as that sounds- it's very true and sometimes it just feels good to state it)

the view from my kitchen window.


all week...

I've been listening and watching the baby wrens in our yard as they've gotten bigger and louder and louder and even bigger. The bird house is all of 5' from the table in our back yard to they're hard to miss. Both the mother and father were hard at work all day gathering food for the every hungry little brood... it's amazing how fast they grow. Now all is quite. Seems like every ones made it out into the big bright world. I have to say I'll miss them a bit-


small bears + small gestures

there are so many benefits I wish I could donate work to- so many causes and reasons to try to help. Here's one of a handful of bears I'm donating this year. Ernest the Panda is flying to Australia this week for a Auction in support of ovarian cancer research, education and awareness. The auction date is November 18th. I'll be sure to post more info as I have it- until then... say hello Ernest.


one two three... from Sew Nancy

it's been a very busy couple days around here- family in from out of town, a birthday party, and a whole lot of Good Summer Liven. I've been popping in and out of the studio to get emails written but that's about it.

Until I'm back to work I thought I'd share this beautiful project that Nancy from Sew Nancy has been working on. A little bit of quilt magic.


well hello there.

I finished the "first draft bear" for the new pattern I started working on the other day. I like making patterns but I'm not all that fond of writing instructions. It's so hard to explain how I do things I've done thousands of times- it's almost automatic for me and breaking it all down in tough. This might take me a while. hahha.

this morning...

if you're a parent of a young child- or just a human being with an overly busy and therefore very planned life- I'm sure you can appreciate the perfection of a day which flows without effort or thoughtful planning. This morning was just that. Emily, my dullDimaond partner and I more or less ran into each other while out and the next few hours fell into place perfectly: groceries, coffee, snacks outside, plant shopping. Then Claude fell asleep on the car ride home and snuggled in for his nap without so much as a peep.
Now that's a nice morning right there.

Wishing you all a very happy and easily joyful first day (and everyday) of summer.
(to see some fine photos of this very outing- check out the dD blog)



working on a new pattern. ( and happy post-fathers day to all the papas out there!)


3 worktables- 3 studios

from 2011- to 2008 - to 2005

I had a number of work spaces before these- I wish I had photographs of them all. The one in New Haven was photographed in Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, but the two before that are lost in history. My very first studio I built into my closet. I could shut the door at night so I didn't bother Jay while he slept in our studio apartment. There was just enough room for me, a chair, a little desk with my sewing machine, and the piles of fabric above my head. Youth makes everything workable.


my old handwritten list of names- from my old studio...

I love finding old images of forgotten things. This list didn't make it through my last studio move- I do so miss my old studio- that light and space was a wonder.

(photo by Alison Malone)


searching and finding old friends...

I was digging around in my archive of images today gathering for an update and re-vamp of my website... here are a few beauties I thought you might like:


Some Questions Answered...

Thanks for all the great questions everyone and keep them coming! I've answered a few of those sent yesterday, below and more answers are on the way. Maybe tomorrow?

Thanks again for all the questions~ Here's a flower for your efforts...

Do you draw your creations before making them? How do you get started with a new update, do you ever get daunted by an empty desk or a blank page? ~Rebecca

Usually when I begin planning for a website update or a large group of work, I pull out my patterns (there are over 60 these days), look at the fabric and mohair I have in the studio, and start brainstorming. Often I draw, but sometimes I just need to see these things in front of me and I start making piles: this pattern with this mohair, this wool felt, and this cotton print... I think about the scale of different pieces, mixing the fabrics I have and deciding what I might need to make the whole body of work feel fresh and exciting for me. As I go I make quick sketches of each piece so I can get an idea of how all the pieces will fit together as a whole. 

I find sketching to be the easiest way to break any creative block. When I want to make something new, I often begin by doodling and usually something will come out. When all else fails I head to the library to look at children's books, collections of antique items, or something... I just wander around the shelves and within an hour or so I come home with more ideas than I know what to do with. After I ruminate on what I've seen I start sketching again. It helps to see my drawings instead of looking directly at something from the books once I'm back in the studio. The whole process of seeking inspiration, letting it all soak in, then drawing helps to narrow my focus and come up with something that truly feels like mine.

Which part of the process do you enjoy more, the sewing and construction of the pieces or the "decorating" with fabric for clothes and accessories?  ~Dawn
I love to make patterns and work on brand new designs.  I like some patterns so much I make them over and over and some I only make a handful of times... but more than anything I like the decision making phases of the process the best. The conception of the design, creating faces and expressions, and the final finishing when everything comes together seem to be the most "active" and interesting part of working for me. No matter how many times I make something there is always something new to learn and each piece really is an individual- it's just my job to discover that individual as I work. 

I love the In-Progress shots....It would also be fun to see a design completely from start to finish: your inspiration, sketches, the mock-up test run, and finally the finished adorable mohair creation. ~ Michelle René
I love this idea. Here's one blog post which goes something like that, but I'll have to work on another! thanks for the request Michelle.

Are your tags for each piece handwritten or are your printing them? ~Dawn
 Do they get their names at the start or do you name them after and where do you get the names? ~Denise and Rebecca 
All my stationary, labels, and tags are off-set printed but I hand write each and every card by hand as soon as I finish the bear or animal. I look them over and figure out who they are,  name them, and write up each tag. Sometimes I reference the Social Security Website for help, they list the most popular names by decade which gives me a never ending supply of great old ones. I'm the most drawn to those name which have been around for a while since that's the quality I'm most interested in creating with my work- I want all my pieces to feel like old souls.  

What books in your crafting library were invaluable in creating your art? ~ Fantastic Toys
When I first started making stuffed animals with my mom I poured over the "Button in Ear : The Steiff Encyclopedia". I looked at that book over and over again- endlessly. It really formed my ideas about what a stuffed animal could be: infinite forms, colors, designs, personalities- all beautifully made with the best materials available. Now I look at a lot of sources- books, blogs, images all over- but I haven't found anything that held my imagination like that book did. It was magic and unlocked something in me. 

What pieces are your personal favorites-bears, mice, dogs, cats, bunnies? ~Dawn
hmmmm, that's a tough one. I think it really depends on what mood I'm in. I can honestly say I don't have a favorite, but I only have a handful of my own pieces, some just hang around without me really choosing them: either the design wasn't quite right or I wasn't ready to sell them... but I've chosen two pieces and they're both bears- so that tells you something i guess! I'll have to post about them in the future.

What parts of your creations are machine sewn vs. hand-sewn? How do you decide when its best to glue vs. sew? ~  Lisa
 I sew all of the arms, legs, bodies, heads, etc by machine. Occasionally when I'm making a really small bear (3" or less) I hand sew the head to make sure it's perfect but other than that everything is sewn on the machine. It's not exact and my seam allowances are far from perfect, but I think that makes each bear or animal unique. Once I turn the pieces right side out all the rest of the sewing is done by hand. 

Which update season is your favorite? ~ Dawn
I like making everything at the beginning of each season- I'm SO excited to get to work, but by the end I'm really ready to move on. It's perfect I guess. I can't wait for winter and then by the end I don't what to think about white, mica, tinsel, and snow and just like that, it's Valentines day and everything is romance and couples. I love that. 

I'd love to know if you have any plans to sell patterns for any of your stuffed creatures. ~ Malu and Lisa

I do! That's one of my plans for this summer. I've been saying it for quite a while, but I think I'm finally ready to start working on them now. I'll post more info as things unfold here!

I'd love to learn more about what inspires you and how long you have been collecting all the great vintage materials that go into your work. You have just the perfect balance between modern and vintage. ~Debi V 
What a great question... hmmm what inspires me? There are so many things. When I was growing up my parents took me to antique shows and auctions all the time. They were big collectors of antique toys and all things old and beautiful. The collector gene was passed on to me, but it's been tempered by my love of diverse objects. I'm equally excited by old toys, the always changing trends in art, fashion and design, folk art, Japanese "cute" and children's illustration. I'm kinda all over the place. My tastes change all the time but having spent so much time browsing through "history" with my parents at those flea markets I learned so much about how objects age and where all things used go... My collections and interested grow and change, but I'm still deeply engaged in what it means to make objects. I want to make the next generation of objects that last- things that don't just get tosses away, but rather get passed down from one generation to the next.
 Since the birth of my son two years ago, he has become my greatest inspiration. I now want to make things that make him laugh and smile; and while it drives me crazy when he "steals" one of my bears I know it's the greatest endorsement. I love that he wants to play with them- it makes everything I do seem worthwhile. 
As for my collections, I'm always gathering materials for my studio. I used to frequent estate sales, antique shows, and search ebay for one of a kind items but in the last few years I've been slowing down a little. I don't have nearly as much time since having my son Claude, and I really so have SO much stocked away. My mom and I joke that our studios are "The Shop": one can find anything they could ever need in there.

I would love to see the very first teddy you ever made. ~Tammy
I found these photos last year and it brought back so many memories for me. I wrote about the first group of bears and animals I made here. Ohhh look at the 11 year old me. 


What are your thoughts on “originality”…is anything truly original? ~Kari
I think it's important to understand what we're all sponges and we soak up everything we see.....  and there is truly so much out there, but I do believe there is always room for original work. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about what is yours and what is your version of someone else's work.  While I'm working I never have any "direct inspiration" images or pulled material around me. I like to think over the years I've created my own "Visual Atlas". I see the way someone has used crepe paper, I see color combinations, and I see material combinations: and they all get stored away in my memory and make up my "Atlas". It's my best friend while I work, and it's the source of my constant inspiration.  I think working that way allows you to constantly be original. You're never stuck on one composition or style. Everything you've seen gets mixed up together, allowing for truly original work to come forth. 


    Hello- and a call for questions!

    I'm reworking my website and I wanted to have a few question/answers on there. Are there any questions you'd like me to answer/elaborate-on concerning my process, inspiration, work day, studio, etc??? I'd love your help in making the new info on the website helpful and interesting! Leave a comment, email me, or post a question on my facebook page.


    hello Mister

    look who's still here! Maxwell is looking for a home...  


    The yard is in bloom and it's Sunday (aka family day around here)! Plans for a little park action, a little reading, laying about, hmmm what else? and maybe just maybe I'll get out into the garden. I have two peony bushes in bloom- are they the most beautiful flowers? (images from google image)

    As a side note- all the bears and animals have found homes. Thanks to everyone for supporting my work- I can't tell you how happy I am to be able to make my living doing what I love. So, Thank You.


    it's a lazy weekend here...

    and I'm staying out of the studio for the most part- but Frankie and Lillian are still looking for homes! Check them out here.

    Hope you all have a relaxing weekend!- JM


    it's so hot...

    we had to pull out the sprinkler... Claude was a little unsure about it but that was the perfect end to a very muggy day. Now for a little down time for me- night all! and happy weekend!

    packing up and shipping out!

    Ohhh and I've been having a few email problems again- if you contacted me yesterday or today and STILL haven't heard back from me- email me and let me know. I'm getting all my emails but they are not reaching certain recipients.