Handmade with patience and care, the POLKA DOT CLUB is a collection of heritage toys created by second-generation teddy bear maker Jen Murphy. Each piece is made using natural materials and techniques employed by the finest toy makers over 100 years ago, all the while adding contemporary elements bringing heritage toy making into the 21st century. These are bears that pay homage to the past but are wholly modern playthings for today. They are heirlooms for now & forever.
My mother taught me how to design patterns and sew teddy bears when I was eleven years old. It was something she inspired in me after coveting antique, mohair teddy bears years earlier, unable to afford them herself. She taught herself, then taught me and throughout my childhood we traveled the country selling her beautifully crafted pieces. For as long as I can remember this is what we did. We made things.
In my twenties and early thirties I successfully carved out a business making one-of-a-kind teddy bears and animals for collectors worldwide, but once I had my own children I questioned why I was making “toys” intended for adults, often relegated to decorations. I wanted the objects I made to be animated by play and imbued with the love children give their favorite toys. In 2012, I launched the Polka Dot Club with this in mind and in the intervening years I’ve seen how that simple act of learning to sew all those years ago, has so deeply impacted the way I live, work, and parent. I wanted to reinforce the idea that everything in our home was crafted and didn't just appear on a shelf ready for us to digest. It came from someplace and someone, which is a very powerful idea- one that I’m committed to. It feeds the Less Is More ideas about consumerism and quality but it also empowers everyone to become a maker themselves.
My Studio here in Minneapolis is where I continue to work and design all the pieces for the PDC. In the last years we’ve expanded the studio to include a small group of sewers in Lima, Peru. This collaboration has been a powerful one. It’s not fast, inexpensive, nor easy to work in Peru, but it is meaningful. The history of craft is threaded throughout the Peruvian culture and I’m learning so much from working with Carmen, Liz, Veronica & Kristine… and we’re only just getting started.