We will admit it. We are completely obsessed with Jess Brown dolls. Each one is more beautiful then the next and we always find it hard to pick a favorite. We met Jess and her daughter Stella at Playtime NY and immediately fell in love with them. Jess is a beautiful, uber-talented woman and proud mommy who was worried Stella (who is equally as beautiful as her mommy) was exhausted from the long show. We are excited to introduce you to Jess and know that when you take one look at these beauties you will be an instant collector.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE THESE BEAUTIFUL DOLLS?
A few things really. Definitely my children first. Then, it was the need to begin using my growing collection of textiles.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
I live in Petaluma, California. We are just north of San Francisco in Sonoma County.
IF WE WERE VISITING YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, WHAT WOULD BE ON YOUR LIST FOR US TO SEE, DO, EAT AND SHOP?
Petaluma is a really great town. Of course, I'd tell you to swing by my shop Maude. Then for food, go to Della Fattoria. I eat there often. They have great rustic California-Italian bistro style food and amazing breads. Petaluma also has great antique shops.
WHAT SHOULD WE KNOW ABOUT YOUR DOLLS?
The dolls are all made of either cotton muslin, which I hand dye in black tea, or of washed linen. The hair is made from reclaimed cashmere sweaters. The clothes are primarily created with linen or Liberty of London fabrics then embellished with antique textile scrap pieces or hand-knitted accessories. Each one is one-of-a kind. The nature of handmade is so completely unpredictable! I use the same pattern for each doll and yet they all seem to look incredibly different. The designer exclusives are such a treat for me. I am fortunate enough to collaborate with a handful of amazing designers. Each is so different from the next and the dolls look completely unique. I love that with Wovenplay, Katherine Edmonds creates the same outfit she has for kids into doll size. Then with the line Loup Charmant, Kee Edwards and I decided that it was best for me to work with her fabrics and create doll outfits inspired by her designs. Then Atsuyo Et Akiko dolls have a wonderful fun outfit incorporating their screen prints and jewelry.
WHERE DO YOU FIND ALL THE MATERIALS FOR THE DOLLS?
I have sources for the bulk linen and muslin. I buy the liberty fabric directly from Liberty of London. I search for all of the antiques and sweaters for hair at flea markets, antique fairs, second hand shops, and even yard sales.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CREATE EACH DOLL?
At this point, I make the blank dolls in big batches. Then I work on each order one at a time to customize them. In the beginning, when I was doing one complete doll at a time, it would take roughly three hours. You also have to account for the tea-dying process which can take up to three days.
WHAT IS THE BEST BUSINESS ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
Do what you love. Keep it artisan-based.
WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU STARTED THIS BUSINESS?
I was a teacher for around 11 years. Then I had Stella and Tiger. Then I had a small children's line called Bluebird. After Bluebird came to a close for me, I opened my shop Maude and the dolls came through the shop.
WHO/WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF INSPIRATION?
That is so tricky. I get inspired by everything from my kids to Coco Chanel! I get huge inspiration through flea marketing and sifting through antique textiles. I love selvedge magazine!
FIVE THINGS YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT?
My family, the ocean, a great flea market, my sewing machine and clogs!
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR BRAND IN FIVE YEARS?
I would love to see it continue to grow steadily and manageably. I am so incredibly fortunate to be able to create things and call it my job! In collaboration with others, I am hoping to see the release of a children's book starring a doll. It will be based on the Kiki and Coco video on my website. Also, I am currently working on a women's and home line which should be released at the end of the summer. It is all based on the original concept of the dolls. The line is inspired by antique pieces that I have collected over the years. A few are just beginning reproduced exactly and I am changing others slightly to make them more wearable. The whole collection will be done in linen and Japanese cottons. I'm pretty excited about it!
Chelsea, Rachel and Diana