Have you met Owen? He is a charming fox who likes to dance. He looks rather dapper when he does as he wears a fabulous tailcoat. Or maybe you know Juliette? She is the sweetest little rabbit. She enjoys china painting and I hear she is quite accomplished. They are oh so lovely (as are all their friends) and if you invite them into your home they will share with you a wonderful world full of imagination where anyone can be as nimble a dancer as Owen or as talented an artist as Juliette.
These little guys make up a wonderful community of cute and cuddly woodland creatures who have come to life at the hands of Jane, a delightful woman from Brooklyn, New York, and also our second contributor in the ‘Meet the Maker’ series…
Can you tell us a little bit about Hazel Village for those readers who haven’t yet discovered you? Two years ago I started making organic cotton stuffed animals. They’re all handmade, and because the faces are hand stitched everyone gets a unique personality. They have interchangeable clothes.The story of the woodland creatures is that they live around a pond in the forest, where they have an industrious economy. So a lot of how-to’s, and a lot of gleeful sharing of the fruits of their labors.
When did you get started and what was your inspiration? I think Spring was just in the air and I wanted to make something new. At first I made just a couple of animals; I didn’t know if people would like them. I took them to a local craft market in Brooklyn, and they sold pretty well. So I just kept making more, and I was hooked.
Your creations all come with a story (a little personality) – this is something I adore about your creatures. Can you tell us a little bit about how these stories come about? When I finish a new character I sit with it for a little while, and if I imagine it as a four-year-old but with the motor skills and social skills a four-year-old wished they had, then its personality just becomes clear: of COURSE it would be….
What do you most enjoy about what you do? I like planning for production, sometimes it’s stressful so I forget how exhilarating it is to figure out how many boxes of stuffing I need to buy, whether I should go pick up the fabric from the dye house or get them to ship it, etc etc. I guess that’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I like it. I also really like hand sewing, it calms me down like Temple Grandin in the special cozy box she built.But I guess the most obvious delightful thing is watching small children get their animals. Sometimes at markets a kid will bond with his or her animal friend right away. Sometimes I get photos in my email along with testimonials that the kids hasn’t put the animal down for days and days. I probably only hear the success stories but it’s still pretty gratifying.
What do you feel makes your work unique? Well among specialty toys with this level of handwork, the animals are a nice size and squishiness for kids to play with. And they have lots of interchangeable clothes, which is fun.
Do you have a favourite woodland creature to create? Right now, probably owl. They’re still pretty shockingly enjoyable, though. I would have expected to be sick of it by now.
What is your favourite ‘indulgence’ that is just for you? Things I feel guilty about but do anyway: very long showers, a lot of dairy, bacon cheeseburgers, Downtown Abbey but alas that is over for awhile, if junk food counts I could go on.
Do you have a favourite city for shopping? New York because I know my way around. Sometimes I think about moving somewhere cheaper, but then I couldn’t do fabric shopping at the drop of a hat.
If you could be one of your woodland creatures, which one would you be and why? Actually I think my spirit animal is a koala. I’ve recently read the golden compass and given this extensive thought, so I’m not just pandering to my Australian friends! Also , I’ve been thinking about how I always admired the absent minded pack rat character in books and movies, who has a cozy cluttered little workshop tucked away somewhere and helps the hero along his way (you know,”come in, come in, now where did I put that infernal teapot?”) and I am coming to resemble that person more and more. So whichever animal that would be, maybe Max? But he’s a borderline hoarder, and that’s not what I mean.
A big thank you to Jane for being a part of our ‘Meet the Maker’ series. I can’t wait to give my Amelia her Juliette Rabbit for Easter. I think they are going to be wonderful friends.
One of our lovely Millie Abroad customers recently emailed to share her love of Penelope Rabbit and I think her description applies to all of the Hazel Village animals: “What a delightful surprise, Penelope is absolutely gorgeous. Penelope has… I can’t think of any other word but ‘integrity’.”
Which of Jane’s woodland creatures do you wish was a part of your family? Visit Millie Abroad to invite one to your home today.