Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Behind the Scenes with oh, albatross

A handful of shops on Etsy have completely captured my imagination, keeping me coming back week after week just to check in and see what's new. Today I am so honored to share a behind the scenes look into one such Etsy favorite, oh, albatross.

For those of you who have yet to discover this gem of a shop, you are in for a treat today. In addition to stocking her shop with impeccably curated vintage treasures, owner Regina Groleau produces a line of the most perfect soft sculpture animals, each one unique and made by hand from vintage fabrics, needle, and thread. From birds and foxes, to owls and polar bears, Regina is somehow able to give each creation its own unique personality.

A little while back I got in touch with Regina to see if she would share the details of her process and a peek into her work space. Below is the interview along with a few shots from Regina's beautiful, light filled work space in her swoon-worthy brand new house that she and her husband just finished building and moved into earlier this month.

Little Dog: When did you start making soft sculpture animals and how did the first one come about?

oh, albatross: Some time back in 2008 or so, I had the strangest urge to sew an animal. I had no pattern or planning process, just a strong desire to see what would happen with a needle, thread and a few scraps of fabric. I made a tiny green mouse. I named him Henri. He was nothing short of a disaster. A few days later, I tried again.

Little Dog: Can you talk a little bit about the creative process for making a new animal? Where does your inspiration come from?

oh, albatross: Stories, fables, folklore and myths are a huge source of inspiration for me. Both solemn and sweet, they are threads woven into our everyday experience. Strong cultural totems like Zuni fetishes are a great source on how we view animals and imbue them with certain traits. And classic illustrations seem to stick with me for years, and I’m slowly coming to understand how often they provide an archetype for how I view different kinds of animals. I do keep a list of descriptions of animals to work to or feelings to express. (For instance, I had a strong need to make a fox who found a spiderweb. It was a piece I loved dearly and an idea I may have to revisit soon.)

Little Dog: Do you create patterns or prototypes for animals, or just start from scratch and keep going until the animal feels right?

oh, albatross: Both, really. I very often prototype, but I find that the shapes change quite a bit with each different fabric. The direction of the fabric and the amount of stretch in a fabric can create very different shapes, even from the same patterns. I’ve learned to embrace those changes and work with them. I love to see how the stances change or the heads twist…it’s a very nice way to meet a new animal.

Little Dog: Where do your materials come from?

oh, albatross: I love working with vintage fabrics (though I can never pass up a good linen remnant at the fabric store). In my vintage collecting forays I’m always keeping an eye out for fabric. Estate sales, private collections and vintage clothing have been wonderful sources. It sometimes kills me to cut up a perfectly good wool skirt, but when it’s the exact right color for a fox, I get over it in the end. (On the flip side, I’ve been known to rescue almost destroyed linen shirts, or moth-holed knits, because that worn texture is truly lovely and impossible to recreate.) 

Little Dog: There is a wonderful likeness-without-being-too-literal that your animals have. Is this an intuition that flows easily through your fingers, or do you spend a lot of time experimenting and tweaking to get the expressions and proportions just right?

oh, albatross: I’m always drawn to simplified art that indicates a movement or expression rather than hammers you over the head with an overly detailed rendition. Particularly when sewing facial expressions, I find less is much more. It doesn’t take more than one thread in the wrong place to make an animal look angry or startled. I always liken it to a slow form of people watching, every stitch creates a whole new expression.

Little Dog: On average, how long does it take you to make each animal?

oh, albatross: Oh, goodness... hours and hours, really. It’s a question I’ve never been able to pin down an answer to as I tend to have several animals in the works at once. The nice part about a rotating menagerie is that if I’m unsure how I want to detail a fox or a rabbit, I can let them sit there au natural until I’ve figured exactly who they want to be.

Little Dog: What's next for Oh, Albatross handmade? You had a One King's Lane sale this year. Any fun projects or collaborations scheduled for the future?

oh, albatross: 2013 was a year full of experimentation for me and I hope 2014 will bring some of the same interesting opportunities! I did a cover project for Mollie Makes magazine that came out in January, and I’ve been working with selling via different websites or providing collections for small brick and mortar stores. I’ve also been designing pieces for Christmas collections…but it’s so hard to think about next winter already! Right now I’m settling into new studio space, digging through piles of fabrics, and enjoying working on both old favorites and some new pieces too!

If you'd like to see more from Oh Albatross, head on over to her shop or check out her beautiful and thoughtful blog. Thanks for giving us a small look into your world, Regina, and best of luck in 2014!


  1. Loved your interview Claire! Those animals are so beautifully made!

  2. Thanks for sharing this interview--I was unaware of this Etsy store. You can really tell how much she loves these creations...I love reading about artists like this!

    Carol Joy

  3. J'adore ces petits animaux tout ronds.