PORTLAND, Ore. — Tania O’Hare’s young son was having a tough time drawing, so when he came to her with a picture of a monster one day, she decided to reward him.
“I spoke with a friend and said I think we should make a stuffed version of whatever he drew,” O’Hare explained. “So we did, and brought it to him, and he went crazy. He said ‘Oh my God I made this.’”
O’Hare started making stuffed animals out of drawings that her kids made, and kids of her friends. The Italian-born mom’s grandmother had taught her at an early age how to sew, so it seemed easy.
O’Hare lived in Japan for a period of time before moving to Portland — so when the tsunami hit in 2011, she decided she needed to send her stuffed creations to the kids in the hospitals.
They were such a hit that she won the “best gift of the year” award in 2011 in Japan. The more O’Hare made, the more she realized this could be a great business.
“I started to make them for friends, birthday parties,” she said. “I thought, maybe I have something here.”
She contacted some friends and, from there, My Pretty Monsters was created. She also expanded beyond stuffed creations into the purse market — by bringing on purse designer Jane Raymond.
“I add in lots of stitching because with kids and their drawings there’s lots of scribbly stuff,” Raymond said. “We capture kids’ action and energy in their drawings, too.”
It’s easy for parents to submit drawings to the company through the website. And the team of monster creators say that, so far, there has been nothing too abstract for them to handle.
“I feel like Edward Scissorhands, because I get the fabric out on table and I just start cutting and laying the fabric on top,” said designer Melinda Garfield.
My Pretty Monsters has teamed up with many local charities and pre-schools, and has offered parents discounts.
“What we did was offer parents 10 dollars off, and then 10 percent went back into a fund for them to use for tuition assistance,” said marketing director Jen Watson.
My Pretty Monsters has a contest right now on its Facebook page. Submit your child’s drawing, and the entry with the most “likes” wins a free stuffed monster or purse.