In a word, Jane Van Cleef's organically-certified friends are magical. Charming and exquisite, each woodland creature is made with the most impeccable detail from the cotton embroidery floss for their noses and eyes, to the lace trim on their adorable outfits. We sat down with Van Cleef to talk about her inspirations and creative process, and found that she is every bit as lovely and delightful as her forest friends.
Where are you from originally and how did the local culture shape you as a designer/maker?
I'm from New Jersey, but my mom is from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. When I imagine the animals' woodland world, the landscape and buildings are a lot like the old houses, woods, and fields of that part of the country.
Also, when I was growing up there was a historical reenactment farm called Waterloo Village, up in the hills of northwestern New Jersey. It's closed now, but I took a lot of field trips and summer day trips there as a child. I loved watching people do arts and crafts like weaving and blacksmithing.
What initially inspired to make your product?
I really just set out to make the exact thing I would want for myself, or that I would make for my little sister or another special baby—the animals are soft, cute, a fun size to play with, and all their clothes 'work,' i.e., nothing permanently stuck on, no fake bows that don't really tie.
What is your favorite step in the creation of your product?
When I've been concentrating really hard on getting a design right, and I suddenly realize, 'Awwww...that's a mouse, and its belly is really chubby and its hat is pointy!' Basically I crack myself up, and then I know I've gotten it right.
What hobbies inspire your designs/products?
I love doing elaborate embroidery. If I had a couple clones of myself, the first two or three clones would help me with business tasks. And then the other clone could do embroidered fine art projects.
What is your favorite color?
Vermilion red that often gets confused with orange. It's the color of Catalina Mouse's bonnet.
What is your favorite shape and why?
The hexagon because they tesselate together in such a satisfying way. Similarly, my favorite number is 36 because you can divide it up neatly so many ways, and if you have 36 things you can arrange them in either a square or a triangle. That's why there are 36 Rockettes.
What is your favorite texture this season?
What did you see of interest today?
Today is my birthday and I went to the Cloisters, which is a museum of medieval art where I saw some things of interest. There was one tapestry with guys in armor around the edges, and their portraits had different patterned backgrounds which is the same way I do the animal portraits on the website. And I saw the unicorn tapestries, which have a lot of cute animals like dogs and bunnies.
What is your motto?