Jess Brown dolls stand for everything we hold dear at Bitte: sustainable, all natural, handcrafted, US-made, exquisite design. When we find such gems we get excited. Very excited! So last week we were overjoyed to be heading to Petaluma to meet Jess Brown in person and visit her studio. I’m a long time fan of Jess’s work and couldn’t wait to meet. We quickly found this easy connection as entrepreneurs, designers, and mothers and were just delighted to find a kindred spirit. Jess, like her dolls, is lovely! She has this eclectic background in alternative education, design, parenting and as a former toy store owner which has all coalesced into her signature brand of dolls, toys and women’s wear. Jess’ American success story is the best kind, one where women do good work with honest materials creating uniquely charming and wholesome goodness for their children, all right here at home! Bitte is proud to offer Jess Brown and thankful for our new budding collaboration and friendship.
Your dolls are so beautiful, how did you first become a dollmaker?
I began making dolls for my children when they were babies. My daughter is now 17 and my son is 14.
Your aesthetic is so eclectic and individual, did it take you awhile to find your dollmaking style or did it just come naturally?
I think a combination of the two. The doll pattern took quite a while to sort out. There hadn't been anything quite like it so I designed it to the specs I felt were important. The style and look of the doll was simpler for me. I really just wanted to blend the finest materials and a sophisticated look. I wanted to use all sorts of precious things on this very utilitarian product.
Who or what inspires your work the most?
Antiques from France, Japan, India, Morocco, the United States. These things and still my kids!
Your dolls are always made out of the finest, all natural materials, how does that make a difference in the finished doll?
In my opinion it makes all of the difference in the world. It's what hopefully will make it an heirloom. It's a reminder that while its for a child, there is still an aesthetic to meet. I always felt that my children should be surrounded by really wonderful things that had purpose.
I see your dolls featured so many places, when you started dollmaking did you think it would be as successful as it has been?
Not at all! I am still blown away!
I know your kids are a little older now, but when they were younger, what were some of their favorite things to do and play with (other than your dolls of course)
My kids were really into Legos, wooden Waldorf animals, tree blocks, and lots of time in the ocean!
You live in beautiful Petaluma in Northern California. With some of the most gorgeous scenery outside your front door, how do you feel place has inspired your work, if at all?
Texture inspires me and Sonoma county is layer upon layer of texture. Before I design anything I drive through the county or out to the ocean... The colors always show up in my work.
What has it been like raising kids and starting a business?
Insanely challenging. I would admit I have not balanced it well. I was so committed to the idea that the kids wouldn't feel the growth of the company that I spent many many years working well into the night after they'd gone to sleep. It's an incredible ride and I am so fortunate to have this.... But I would have loved a road map!
What does your family do for fun?
There's a lot of surfing and skateboarding and motorcycle riding!
If you could Travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
India. I've never been and I would really really love to see it.
Thank you Jess for letting us visit your studio and giving insight into your beautiful life and work, we love carrying your handmade treasures at Bitte. Shop the Jess Brown collection here.