Handmade Toymakers: Fluffmonger

 " Griswold the sheep enjoys drinking fair-trade coffee from the local café. You’ll usually see him sitting by himself, though, due to his social anxiety."

"Griswold the sheep enjoys drinking fair-trade coffee from the local café. You’ll usually see him sitting by himself, though, due to his social anxiety."

As someone who has been sewing almost my whole life, I am always in awe of someone who started recently and quickly goes onto to not only become brilliant at sewing, but to take on the challenge of designing their own toys rather than using existing patterns.

And Jenny Ray Maj is one of those people.

Fluffmonger

Jenny recently opened her Etsy shop, Fluffmonger, where she sells her amazing collection of unique ethically sourced stuffed animals. Their shapes and personalities, as well as their “habitats” are all quite striking.

Jenny only started sewing two years ago. 

“Sewing was actually something that I never saw myself doing. 

“Two years ago at Christmas, my sister came up with the idea to sew Christmas pajamas using a tutorial she found on Pinterest.  Neither of us had ever sewn before, so my mom got her sewing machine out of storage to give us a crash course.   The tutorial recommended that you trace your favorite pajamas instead of using an actual pattern, so needless to say, we all ended up with ill-fitting pajamas that none of us ever wore.

“I had always wanted to sew stuffed animals but thought it would be too difficult.  After sewing the pajamas, I felt brave enough to try FunkyFriendsFactory’s elephant pattern and instantly fell in love.

Since then, Jenny has designed a collection of characters—Griswold the sheep,  Baxter the horse, and Falafel the llama. 

The animals are all a cute portable size, between 10 and 14 inches, and made with all ethically sourced materials (a step beyond organic), such as organic cotton fleece, fair trade hemp. Jenny even has sourced organic thread, organic ribbon and embroidery floss. I know first hand how challenging it is to create a doll or stuffed animal that is completely organic, which is why there currently is not an entirely organic Phoebe doll.

Jenny: All of the materials I use for my designs are organic and ethically sourced.  Most of the organic fabrics I use are scraps from a local zero-waste company.  Some of the cotton used for the fabrics is even grown here in NC, and the embroidery floss that I use is hand-dyed and hand-plied in the Carolinas.  The organic thread, organic buckwheat hulls, and other organic fabrics are either fair trade or come from reputable companies.

“It has definitely been a challenge to source organic and ethically made materials, but I am thankful for the people who have made accessing those materials easier.  It’s becoming more common to find organic fabrics, but organic threads, flosses, and stuffing are still hard to come by.  The most difficult part for me has been matching the colors of the low-impact dyes I use to the limited color selection of organic thread.

 " Baxter the horse is a total foodie who loves to go shopping for groceries at his local co-op."

"Baxter the horse is a total foodie who loves to go shopping for groceries at his local co-op."

 " Despite being clumsy, Falafel the llama loves doing yoga. He can only do a few poses because most, like downward dog, are impossible due to his long neck."

"Despite being clumsy, Falafel the llama loves doing yoga. He can only do a few poses because most, like downward dog, are impossible due to his long neck."

Griswold, Baxter, and Falafel are more than just cute, they lead interesting lives. Griswold has social anxiety and drinks Fair Trade coffee, Baxter is a foodie, and Falafel attempts yoga in the park.

Jenny, who has a background in sculpture and art education, has created three-dimensional habitats to use as backdrops for her photography.  The backdrops, made out of foam core, are a multi-disciplinary effort, involving hand drawing, computer drawing, architecture, draftsmanship, carpentry, photography and storytelling.  It sometimes can take several days to make one scene.

 A holiday background in the works.

A holiday background in the works.

In the end they function like giant pop up books with many two-dimensional layers creating a three dimensional world. Each backdrop helps tell a story, which will inspire imaginative play with the animals.

Jenny hopes some day to bring the animals, the backdrops and her storytelling together into a children’s book.

You can find the Fluffmonger collection on Etsy and you can follow them on Facebook.