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. 


    1. I enjoyed reading the question and answers and I am soooo excited about the patterns you are planning.
      Your bears, bunnies, etc. are my absolute favorite.
      Thank you <3

    2. Beautifully well thought out answers, Jen.
      And so interesting.

      Thank you for asking for the questions and taking the time to answer!

    3. Very interesting post. It's fun to learn more about your process and how/why you make your choices, etc. and all the work that goes into each creation.

      I must say, your bright orange Kangaroo made my day. How could you ever be down with an adorable bright orange Kangaroo sitting with you? I think he's also an example of how you must have been meant to do this from the start. I wouldn't have guessed he was your first one. You are very talented!

      Have you thought about doing another Kanga as an update? Orange or otherwise :)

      Thanks for sharing!