Fast forward to college in the Northeast, where my professors often complained that my work was “too cartoony.” After graduating, I tacitly excused myself from the east coast and left for San Francisco. I spent hours at animation festivals, sometimes sitting through two showings. I studied animation at San Francisco State and created several short films on my own. But I was also getting spirited away by electronic music and playing in new wave bands. Yet, I continued to imagine animals dancing in a corner of whatever nightclub I happened to be playing in, dressed in contemporary fashion.
Fast forward again: I had a fairly okay run making and showing (cartoony!) animal clocks at higher-end craft fairs. Then I began making dolls with papier-mâché heads. I was living about 30 miles north of Novato, California, the site of the Black Point Renaissance Pleasure Faire. “Wouldn’t it be cool,” I thought, “if I could make dolls dressed in Tudor fashions and sell them there?” I borrowed books from the library on Elizabethan costumes, and sent away for an application to the Renaissance Faire. Remember, back then the internet was still in its infancy, so you had to do everything by mail! I created a menagerie of characters such as The Squirrel of Leicester, Kitty Wenchkin, Friar Duck, and St. George, the Dragon. My mom, who was well aware and supportive of my anthropomorphic tendencies, pitched in and bought me a new sewing machine. The deadline for applying to the Faire was fast approaching, so I photographed my characters, had them developed at a one-hour place and sent in my application, along with a few sample dolls.
A few weeks later I received an invitation to join the Renaissance Faire! Even though a claw had fallen off St. George the Dragon revealing a 20th century plastic straw, they were willing to give me a chance. I had a good time working the Faire every weekend, dressed as a French merchant, although I also had a job at a small software company and was captivated by computer graphics. By the end of the Faire I could barely look at burlap anymore, but I made enough money to buy lots of cool Elizabethan merch, and my very first laser printer.
I eventually moved to Mount Shasta, where tragedy prompted me to inherit a small graphic design studio. Still, I couldn’t help imagining our studio cat, Buster, an intrepid street rescue, operating a small lunch cart business in town, later becoming a successful baker due to his excellent kneading skills. Meanwhile, I drew the little cartoon bears on the menus of the then-fledgling Black Bear Diners.
I eventually moved up to Oregon and brought my graphic design studio with me, along with Buster and my other cat, Joey. After Joey went over the Rainbow Bridge, Buster suggested that we change his name to Beasey. He wanted a more “country gentleman” sounding name. Eventually, I got a part time job doing graphics for the Southern Oregon Humane Society aka SoHumane, where I remain to this very day. One Christmas I revived the animal dolls – just cats and dogs with raincoats – for SoHumane’s entry in the Providence Festival of Trees, “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs” Christmas tree. A while later I donated two cats and two dogs, dressed in fancy evening attire, for the silent auction at SoHumane’s “A Toast For Tails” fundraiser. This new incarnation, which I refer to as “Gen 3,” had wire skeletons to make them posable, and glass cabochon eyes. As an incognito guest at the affair, I maybe sipped a little too much champagne, quietly terrified that no one would be interested in them. But then, a tiny bidding war erupted! I was thrilled, and it gave me the vote of confidence I felt I needed to go into full production. “Gen-4” was a lengthy R&D period in which I explored more intricate facial features, the fine points of hand and foot construction, and skeletal issues.
Now, without further ado, may I present the “Gen-5” animal dolls in their latest manifestation, Dreamland Party Pals, available on Etsy.com!
You can also see me in a video describing my process, and the materials involved.