As soon as I chanced upon Cotton Monster, I felt like I'd been waiting all my life for toys, art, and eyeballs to intersect.
Based out of Baltimore, Maryland, Jennifer Strunge morphs used clothes and linens into beasties as charming as they are environmentally responsible. A one-woman business, Strunge crafts each monster uniquely, and the results are wonderfully diverse in color and pattern. Recurring types include Space Bugs, Watchful Eyes, and Bottomfeeders, each of which manages to strike the right chord between menacing and lovable.
In short, Cotton Monsters have their own imaginative, malleable world... and customers are all the better for being allowed a hand in it.
At her corresponding Etsy store, Strunge sells gorgeously creepy creatures for the little ones in your life. (Of course, they could just as easily make a lovely gift for yourself or a grown-up friend. Like Disneyland, each age group is likely to appreciate different qualities of the toys.) We've all seen children's appreciation for scary things that can't actually hurt them. Tell me faces like this one don't invite hours of adventuring:
Not only is each product soft, colorful, and ethically made: Some types have compartments inside. Toymasters can hide their prized possessions (or just the characters who couldn't escape being eaten) into their monster... through the mouth. How fun is that?
Sure beats the latest mass-produced plastic doll.
Still, some of Jennifer Strunge's most impressive pieces are seen only in "studio work," for which even the minimal design rules of the for-sale monsters do not apply. As someone who used to draw eyes while bored in class, I'm especially fond of this one:
Then again, Strunge has said Cotton Monster grew out of her love for creating "quilts with eyes," and knowing what her blankets led to makes work like this all the more beautiful:
I highly recommend a perusal of Cotton Monster. Whether or not you get a beast with a mouth pocket (or a cloth eye to watch over you, or a creepy-crawly sea-dweller), Strunge's fabulous work may swallow you alive.
All images from cottonmonster.com.