Artist Interview Jan Willett, Maker of Much Loved Sock Monkeys October 12, 2013 10:43

Hello all!  Another week has come to a close, and as fall gets into full swing, Craftland is gearing up for the annual holiday show.  We'll be getting plenty of new artists and lots of fresh work from some of our more seasoned Craftland artists!  One such artist is Jan Willett, creator of Monkeyshine Studios and maker of an array of adorable sock monkeys.  This week she graciously agreed to share a bit more about herself and her primate pals.

Introduce yourself. 

I'm Jan Willett. I got a BA in sculpture back in the dark ages, and now I make sock monkeys! Go figure! I work on my mom's 1947 singer in my dining room/workshop.

How did you come to create Monkeyshine studios?  Why sock monkeys?

My friend showed me a display in the Pearl Paint window, with creepy sock monkeys in it. We found the lady that made them, and she gave us instructions on how to do it. After I made my first one (entirely hand-stitched, see photo), I showed it to my crafty pals at the restaurant where I worked. They encouraged me to make a bunch of them to sell at their annual holiday craft show. The rest.... is herstory!

Each of your monkeys has their own specific character.  How do you develop these characters?  What would you say inspires each little sock friend?

It's an accident. Once I put the face on, I look at it and a name comes to me. The characters grow out of the names, and each troupe needs to have personalities that are unique so they make a fun story. (I confess I've been lazy with the Gaia troupe so far...) I have an old address book (remember those?) where I keep all the names I've used, so I don't repeat them by accident!

Can you describe your process?  Where do your socks come from?

Socks are from Standard Merchandising, based in New Jersey. I think they make 'em right there, or maybe North Carolina... Process? I cut 'em up and sew 'em back together again. It takes one pair of socks to make a monkey!

Can you say if you have a favorite sock monkey or will that make the others jealous?

LOL! I do have a special fondness for some of the early one-of-a-kinds; and then there's my 'mascot' Zooey.

How did you get involved in Craftland?

I did the Bazaar Bizarre one Christmas, and my neighbor was from Providence, and recommended you!

Do you have any hobbies?  Any extracurricular activities, volunteer work, a second job, pipe dreams you're nurturing, or fun things you do when you're not tending to the wild sock monkeys invading your home?

I like to bike, swim, pet the cats, read, and cook. I'm still a waitress. Someday I'd like the monkeys to support me!

Random question:  Let's say there is another you that exists in a parallel dimension.  What do you think parallel you is doing?  Is she making sock monkeys too, but instead of being super cute and quirky they are evil machines designed to help you take over the world?  Or maybe something totally different, I'm just speculating here.

The parallel me is loaded and on a permanent vacation, touring the world with her boy-toy.
Thanks so much Jan for sharing, and thanks to all eager readers!  Check back next week for another interview with one of our newer artists.