handmade toys - part one - aka big plans or The Polka Dot Club

I'm sure I've mentioned before my love of children's toys and I suppose that's pretty obvious. After all, I do make teddy bears. Vintage stuff animals and illustrations have always been the inspiration for my work, but after I had Claude (and honestly for a few years before) I'd been growing more and more interested in transitioning my focus from vintage inspired- mohair collectible pieces (is there a better way to describe what I've been doing for the last 15+ years? I never know exactly what to call it.) to making toys for children- to be played with. Play! I think about how the toys of my youth inspired my creativity, those without batteries or directed play ignited my imagination and kept me company. Each was an old friend to cuddle and care for.

I've made a number of stuffed friends for Claude. They weren't all interesting to him until recently... but lately the pretend play has really been amping up. Pete (the doll), Snake (the 6 feet long knit wonder), a few odd sock monkeys, and of course a handful of mohair bears and one large "Studio Cat" (named after the location he was swiped from) have been tossed, nursed, fed, tucked in bed, and cared for in umpteen ways. I took these photos this morning. It's evidence of the scatter shot toy explosion that begins each morning and is dismantled each night when the house is reset. But it's also evidence of their prominence in his life. In all the years of making stuffed things, nothing has made be happier than seeing this odd group of handmade friends move around our home.

I've watched Claude, his cousin Hazel, now Vita and so many of the kids in my life play with these and other toys- all the while making mental notes. I've been dreaming up what kind of toys I loved and what seems to spark imaginative play in the children around me now. I suppose I've been working towards this all my life. I learned to make teddy bears while still a child myself at my mothers knee and now with my own children I'm returning my focus back to play and  to the origin of teddy bears...

Which brings me to the Polka Dot Club... my new undertaking and my big plan for 2013. So big, I don't dare fit it all in this one post. So this is the cliff hanger I suppose. More tomorrow!


  1. Hi Jennifer,

    Are you going to basically refocus your efforts on this new project? Will you still make bears? -Diane

    1. I can't be more excited!!!! Is it tomorrow yet?

  2. Ooh, so excited for this development! I love your toys, but prefer to make toys for my kids to play with. Can't wait to see what you're next steps will be !

  3. So great to hear more about your story! Beautiful bears and Isabel absolutely loved playing with them. Honestly loved the one with pink polka dress best. Can you blame her?

  4. Wait, your bears aren't for playing with? I play with mine all the time! Can't to read about this new project!

  5. I cannot wait to hear about this new project. I am very excited to hear more.

  6. Aw, I can't decide which one is cutest!