Who they are:
Handcrafters. Organic. Eco-Friendly. Dreamers. Entrepreneurs. Storytellers.
What they do:
Jane Van Cleef started Hazel Village in 2010. She knew she wanted to embark on a big creative project, but she didn’t know what. One weekend, she decided to make a toy that she would have liked as a child – a cute and soft doll with a big wardrobe.
She cut up some good fabric scraps in the front room of her apartment in Brooklyn, then sewed them into a tiny version of Annicke Mouse. She thought she was so cute, so she made some friends for her and started to imagine the animals’ forest world.
She listed the dolls on Etsy, each with its own little outfit and back story. And she took them to local craft markets around Brooklyn.
Jane didn’t know if anyone would buy the dolls, but people loved them! It was so gratifying to make something that people wanted to buy, and before she knew it she was racing like a lunatic to keep up with demand.
In the years since Hazel Village started, they expanded their ability to produce the animals responsibly, striving for heirloom quality at a reasonable price. They’ve sent animals to over 200 stores. They have their own storefront in Brooklyn, where six people work full-time making doll clothes, shipping orders, and helping customers. And every Christmas, they go into high gear, sending thousands of animals far and wide.
Jane considers herself lucky to get to do what she loves every day. Making quality toys that can stay with children as they grow up – first as soft, snuggly friends, then as companions for storytelling and dress-up play, as the inspiration for craft projects, and eventually as treasured keepsakes.
Hazel Village is named after the American Hazelnut tree: a source of delicious nuts, magical divining rods, useful twigs for basketry, and food for caterpillars.
Come on! It doesn’t get cuter than that.
Why we love them:
Animal dolls with little stories! With little clothes! The story behind the designer! All that make believe! Be still my beating heart.