Every month we'll be focusing on one of our Roses and the Stars brands, to give you insight into why we've made them part of the Roses and the Stars family.
Our first DESIGN DEN feature is on traditional handmade teddy makers Polka Dot Club, created by Jen Murphy. It's probably apt we launch the feature with this label as anyone who has been in on our dreams for opening the shop over the years will have no doubt heard us barking on about this beautiful US toymaker. When we first discovered this brand, we fell in love, and fell hard. Now we want you to too...
From their traditional materials and techniques to their unique colours and outfits, those looking to give the perfect teddy bear gift need look no further than the enchanting Polka Dot Club.
We caught up with Jen to find out more about her inspirations behind the brand and hopes for the future:
What was the inspiration behind the name Polka Dot Club?
I’ve always loved old toys - I grew up going to antique shows and my parents collected antique playthings. That’s how my mother ended up making teddy bears in the mid-1980’s and why I ended up following in her footsteps to become a second generation teddy bear maker. When I decided to make a line of toys, I wanted a name that pointed back in time but still felt fresh and playful. I loved the idea of membership cards and being part of a club, as well as the longing and joy of all that is unknown and open about childhood. That’s how I landed on the Polka Dot Club.
What was it that made you decide to set up your own label?
I’ve been making and selling teddy bears since I was 11 years old. I travelled around the country going to shows with my mom, and ended up putting myself through art school sewing. It’s something I’ve always done, but after having my own kids I wanted to change my focus from making teddy bears and animals for collectors to making playthings for children. That was where the move from J Murphy Bears to the Polka Dot Club came from.
What’s the best thing about your job?
A few days ago, someone sent me a video of their daughter opening her birthday present- A Polka Dot Club bear. The gasp, joy and purity of that moment says it all. There is no better job than making things for kids to play with, cuddle, and extend childhood with non-battery operated play. I’m really anchored and excited the simplicity in that.
Who are the other key members of your team and how do you split the jobs between you?
I have a few people who sew for me, but day in and day out, it’s just me in the studio. It’s a lot to juggle and I have a feeling it won’t be this way for too much longer. But for the time being, I’m the person who sews all the teddys faces, decides the direction for each new season, packs the boxes, answers all emails, and takes out the trash.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
The history of playthings is so rich. I’m deeply rooted in the tradition of teddy bear making and it informs the style, materials, and craft of what I make. Inserted into all that linage is contemporary colour, design, and mindfulness about how and where our objects are made.
The way in which consumer brands treat the environment has taken a step forward in people’s consciousness. How important are environmental issues to you at Polka Dot Club and what are you doing to improve the situation?
There are two ideas I hold onto;
1) We are only on this earth for a short time and then we hand it off to the next generation and 2) the luxury and privilege that I experience being a
2) the luxury and privilege that I experience being a middle-class woman in the United States is not just luck, it’s also a responsibility.
These two ideas guild me in conducting my life and my business. It's why I’ve kept production of the PDC close to home for so long, using materials and resources I feel I can stand behind. It’s why when I decided to work with sewers outside of the US I ended up in Peru with a small sewing group of hearing disabled women, set up to give them reliable work and a living wage. It's not been fast or easy, but these decisions feel right. They feel like small actions that connect, empower, and tread lightly while I’m here.
If you had to pick the perfect gift from your current collection, which piece would it be and why?
The PDC Classic Bear (below) is a gift that will last throughout a childhood and stand waiting to be passed onto the next generation. It’s an heirloom for now and forever.
Finally, if you could sum up your brand in 3 words what would they be?
Classic, Playful and Impeccably Made.