Making the Critters

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         Handmade Stuffed Animals


 Mary Wimberley of Mary’s Secret Garden creates detailed realistic and whimsical story book animals through a unique process of studying photos, drawing, and developing original patterns. 

    Mary constructs her soft sculture, plush animals differently according to their purpose. For her realistic bear cubs, koalas, and pandas, she makes a fur “skin” into which she inserts a locline armature with a twisting disc neck. These artist bears have taxidermy eyes,  sculpted taxidermy nose, an open leather mouths and sometimes even have realistic teeth, tongues, jaws, and claws. 
        
    On the other hand, more whimsical stuffed animals or storybook characters, are jointed and have wired posable limbs, tails and spines. The “movement cats,” and “movement chipmunks” have 6 joints including a double jointed neck. The double jointed neck allows the hand crafted animal to stand on all fours or to stand upright. Each handmade stuffed animal is a One of Kind piece with a needle sculpted face, needle sculpted feet (with individually painted toes), glass hand painted eyes in leather eyelids, embroidered noses and mouths, horsehair whiskers and airbrushing. 

    Each hand made animal has specific fur requirements. For her baby squirrels, she uses 6 different types of mohair or alpaca. For her newest mohair standing fox and her dressed fairy-tale bunnies, Mary uses at least 8 different mohair, alpaca, or plush furs as well as velours, wool felt, and woven wool.

        Sometimes an airbrushed animal requires a unique costume design to transform it into a storybook animal. Many fairy tale animal characters like skunks, hedgehogs, mice, woodchucks, cats, kittens and fairies find themselves dressed in Mary’s uniquely colorful and rich One of a Kind costumes.

     After stitching up the “animal skin,” Mary  completes the head. The hand crafted furry animal face is then trimmed,  stuffed, needle sculpted, and given eyes and a nose. Eyes are hand painted with several colors on glass eyes and set into leather eyelids with hand painted eyeliner. The noses are embroidered or made of leather. When the head is complete, it is attached to the stuffed, wired and needle sculpted body. 

    When the body and head are joined and stuffed, Mary details the final mohair fox, rabbit, cat, bear, mouse, hedgehog, or chipmunk with airbrushing, then adds horsehair whiskers. Finally a small brass key is attached to the soft sculpted animal’s chest and Mary signs the right foot. The hand made stuffed animal is now photographed. A variety of poses and pictures are sent out to collectors with a small back story.
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