Friday, April 29, 2011

Who is Art: Hazel Village

If you would love to find that magical spot where foxes in tailcoats co-exist with mice in cardigans and tutus, look no further than Hazel Village.

Catalina Mouse

Jane, the artist behind the inhabitants of Hazel Village, lets us sneak a peek at the makings of her self-described “woodland animal cottage industry”... 

Woodland creatures are not a scarcity in the handmade world, but your sweet little friends look like they have personalities just bursting out of them. How do you inject so much life into inanimate objects?

I imagine them with the personalities of really cool four-year-olds. It helps that their general proportions, and their flailing limbs, are more evocative of toddlers than any other type of person.

But technically speaking, the visual thing that gives them the most personality is probably the white ring around their eyes. It's really remarkable how much more alive the animal looks with that little touch, like it just put its glasses on and is awake now. I usually do that part last, because once it's done I feel like the animal is staring at me, and would object if I did any more surgery on it.

You mention that you stitch up your little creatures in the garret of a little house in Brooklyn, NY. Does the fact that you live in one of the busiest cities on the planet pull you towards the idea of creating animals that would be found in forests and woodlands?

Ha! A good question. As Jonathan Richman said, "I want the city, but I want the country too." In fact, I think the animals and I have a similar pace of life; we walk around and visit our friends, we do little errands and projects. In the scheme of things, we all have charmed lives and are well provided for. I mean, I have a job and live in the normal economy, and they live in a utopian gift economy of some kind, but it's all a matter of perspective.

Toadstool Rattle

Also, I think living far from nature helps me mythologize the paradise world of Hazel Village. The animals don't have mosquitoes, or foul smelling muck, or snow tires, or wintry mix; i.e. the exact sorts of things that make me happy to be a city girl.

Have your sweet little animals always been such brilliant dressers, or did their wardrobe evolve over time?

Brilliant dressers, always. And modest too. Actually I used to use more silk and delicate fabrics. Their wardrobes have evolved to be sturdier for babies, and quicker to produce on a sewing machine. I try to design the patterns so the clothes have hand-stitched details where they count, like a contrasting buttonhole or a little embroidered detail on the dress front.

Reginald Fox

I adore Annicke Mouse and I’m sure you must fall in love with all the little creatures you make as well! Is it ever hard for you to part with your little critters after pouring so much time into them? Have you ever set one aside for yourself? Initial prototypes, perhaps?

Annicke Mouse

Not really. If I set one apart, what would that say about all the others? I really love them all, and I love it when they go to new homes. Everyone is so nice about them; they seem to bring out the best in people.

Annicke Mouse

There have been one or two that were too odd looking to sell. Last fall when my sister Lucy came to visit, she adopted a yellowish-green understuffed bunny who was occupying a sort of forlorn place in my workshop. She insisted she liked that one.

Right now, I also have a toad with some hand-stitching under her eyes, which makes her look a little creepy and Tim Burton-ish. I haven't been taking her to markets, but she needs a home too. If anyone would like to adopt her, please let me know (, most compelling case wins) and I will mail her to you.

Squeaky Robin

What motivates you to continue to create and be a part of the handmade community?

I guess that people keep buying animals. Especially when I hear about their new lives with their kid (or grownup) owners. Sometimes people send me photos of their kids hugging the animals, which makes me really happy. Seriously, each picture is cuter than the last. You can see them on the animals' Facebook page (

But really, I love making things more than anything else. If I were on a desert island, I would do cool desert island crafts. If I were in prison, I would do prison crafts. On a related note, when I was in elementary school I did a lot of craft projects, using locally available materials, in the cubby under my desktop: cheese wax sculptures, braided chains of clover blossoms, tiny baskets and mats woven from twisted strands of Kleenex. So maybe a more apt question would be, what motivates me to socialize with my fellow man? And the answer would be, I have never been alone for long enough to be sure.

Anything else you would like to share about your life, work or inspirations?

Coming soon: separate outfits for the animals, custom monograms, limited edition animals with extra special details.
Coming in September: animals hand-made in an ethical factory in Doddaballapur, India, available at and in stores.

Mortimer Mouse

You can go deeper into the lives of Hazel Village at the links below. Jane has also offered my readers a 10% discount on all orders through May using the Coupon Code PETALHANDMADE! So sweet!

And next week, we chat it up with Sarah Louise of Branchbound (who is awesome). Check out her handmade lace jewelry and accessories now, then come back next Friday for her Who Is Art feature. P.S. - If you or your work has a story to tell, let me know!

Much (Petal) Love,

PetalPetal designs and VintageChild:Modern


Anonymous said...

soooo freakin' cute!

PetalPetal said...

Aren't they though!

Anonymous said...

I posted a link to this blog in my latest Crafty Wonderland Blog Post.
I can't wait to see you and Kelsey in your own booth!

PetalPetal said...

Thanks Brittany! Kels told me you'll have some prints there. See you on Saturday!


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