Over the last few years, as handmade has become more discovered and discoverable through the Internet, a whole new range of cool dolls is popping up. As a doll-maker I’ve been in awe of how other doll-makers have thought outside of the box. The result for parents is that in a digital age where parents are worried that their children’s imaginations could be languishing, there is now a range of toys and dolls that will spark imaginative play.
The dolls from Minnie and the Monster are a very different type of doll. Like the company’s name, they are creative and extra sweet. The Minnie folk are carved out of sustainable wood. The dolls are then sanded, woodburned and then handpainted with nontoxic watercolors that are colored with lovely things like beetroot, wild mustard and black elderberry. They are then coated with an organic mix of lavender, beeswax and jojoba oil.
Jennifer Browning is the creator of the Minnie Folk. Although the Minnies are small, the name of her company is not from the word “mini”. Minnie was a childhood friend of Jennifer’s grandmother, who Jennifer enjoyed hearing stories about.
“Minnie’s family came to America from Italy and opened a pasta shop. And while Minnie didn't have much in the way of material possessions, some of what she did have found its way into my grandmother's treasure drawer. And that's how I knew her. I never saw Minnie's picture, but I could imagine her wearing the beautiful blouse my grandmother kept folded and wrapped with a note that read, "Belonged to Minnie." So Minnie and the Monster is a humble tribute to Minnie, to her loyal and lovely spirit, and to my indomitable grandmother whom I loved. “
Jennifer lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and three children. The whole family has some role in her company. The idea for adding the “monster to the name came from her husband. “ My husband is an ultra runner, specializing in 100-mile mountain races. He's often referred to as a beast for his epic endeavors. He also happens to be the grand cutter of all my pieces, so I wanted to include him in my shop name. Minnie and the Beast didn't sound quite right.”
Her husband also assists with the cutting of the dolls and her children help inspire ideas for characters.
The dolls are small sturdy and are often sold in sets. The sets are often families or characters from popular stories or books, such as Little House on the Prairie or Goldilocks and the three bears or a Nativity scene. Or there are custom sets, like Ginger and the Wild Horses, was a custom request for a little red-headed lover of horses. Individual historical stars like Shakespeare, Amelia Earhart and Frida Kahlo also have become Minnies.
I imagine hours of playing and creating stories and scenes with Minnie characters since they can be perched on all sorts of landscapes throughout the house and yard. I can also imagine if my children were younger, collecting a few sets and expanding into a Minnie village.
Each character is drawn by hand, so no two are alike, so not only are Minnies adorable, they are works of art.
Minnie Folk can be found on Etsy.
And the Minnie and the Monster can be followed on Instagram.