An­i­mal magic

Sewist and thrifter Regina Groleau shares the se­crets be­hind the cute char­ac­ters that fill her shop, Oh, Al­ba­tross

Mollie Makes (US) - - CUDDLE UP - Words: katie allen

En­ter the win­ter won­der­land of Oh, Al­ba­tross and you’ll dis­cover arc­tic foxes, bears, and owls among the snowy trees. Regina Groleau is the maker be­hind the Etsy shop and blog. A Michi­gan res­i­dent, she re­cently re­lo­cated to re­mote South Lyon, where, she says, “Our clos­est neigh­bors are a small flock of wild tur­keys.” When not cre­at­ing, Regina is busy search­ing through flea mar­kets and thrift stores for vin­tage trea­sures to sell along­side her char­ac­ters.

Regina’s own crit­ter cre­ations be­gan with Henri the mouse. “I had no pat­tern or plan­ning process, just a strong de­sire to see what would hap­pen…. He was noth­ing short of a dis­as­ter!” she ex­plains. “I’ve of­ten learned some­thing new by push­ing through those ‘mis­takes’.”

Her work is still in­tu­itive, cre­at­ing and stuff­ing a ba­sic shape. “I [pre­fer] to al­low the fab­ric to do its own thing… it’s re­sulted in cu­ri­ous tilts of the an­i­mals’ heads and funny lit­tle wav­ing paws.” She con­cen­trates on the faces, mark­ing po­si­tions with pins be­fore stitch­ing fea­tures. “It’s a very slow form of peo­ple-watch­ing,” she says. “Each stitch will cre­ate a whole new ex­pres­sion.

“It's at this point that I usu­ally start to get a feel for the kind of soul they have…. Are they a lace-and-pearls kind of an­i­mal? Trust me,” she warns, “you can­not force a fur coat on a fox.”

Regina is in­spired by “sto­ries and fables” as well as chil­dren’s books, il­lus­tra­tions, and an­i­ma­tions, par­tic­u­larly those by Ja­panese di­rec­tor Hayao Miyazaki. “While my style of­ten errs to­ward muted neu­trals, my pieces almost al­ways have their own bright lit­tle story to tell.”

She uses vin­tage scraps, search­ing for fab­rics and trims on her thrift­ing trav­els, and hunt­ing down li­nen in fab­ric store rem­nant bins. “Cut­ting into a beau­ti­ful vin­tage skirt can some­times be heart­break­ing,” she says. “But when it’s just the right color for a lit­tle duck or a wee piglet, I do find that I can get over my heartache quite eas­ily after all.” www.etsy.com/shop/ohal­ba­tross

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