Sm{art}: Jennifer Strunge's Cotton Monsters are Frighteningly Cool

"smart" in all lowercase letters, with "sm" in orange and "art" in pink.

Jennifer Strunge, a white woman in a long-sleeved red shirt under a sleeveless green dress, stands with her right hand on her hip. She has one of her monster creatures over her entire head, and it looks like the head of a vicious dark green fish. The creature has four little light blue horns sticking from its top, two on each side, above blue-rimmed eyes with yellow irises. Jennifer's head is visible through its mouth, which is an opening, between two rows of jagged, sparse white teeth.As soon as I chanced upon Cotton Monster, I felt like I’d been waiting all my life for toys, art, and eyeballs to intersect.

Based out of Baltimore, Maryland, Jennifer Strunge morphs used clothes and linens into beasties as charming as they are environmentally responsible. A one-woman business, Strunge crafts each monster uniquely, and the results are wonderfully diverse in color and pattern. Recurring types include Space Bugs, Watchful Eyes, and Bottomfeeders, each of which manages to strike the right chord between menacing and lovable.

In short, Cotton Monsters have their own imaginative, malleable world… and customers are all the better for being allowed a hand in it.

At her corresponding Etsy store, Strunge sells gorgeously creepy creatures for the little ones in your life. (Of course, they could just as easily make a lovely gift for yourself or a grown-up friend. Like Disneyland, each age group is likely to appreciate different qualities of the toys.) We’ve all seen children’s appreciation for scary things that can’t actually hurt them. Tell me faces like this one don’t invite hours of adventuring:

A round, red monster with a blue underside. It has two extending eyes, also circular, with light green irises, and several little orange horns on its head. Its maroon mouth is big and has only five little white teeth, all in the top row. The crease in the back of the mouth that leads to the pocket is visible.

Not only is each product soft, colorful, and ethically made: Some types have compartments inside. Toymasters can hide their prized possessions (or just the characters who couldn’t escape being eaten) into their monster… through the mouth. How fun is that?

Sure beats the latest mass-produced plastic doll.

Still, some of Jennifer Strunge’s most impressive pieces are seen only in “studio work,” for which even the minimal design rules of the for-sale monsters do not apply. As someone who used to draw eyes while bored in class, I’m especially fond of this one:

A large, roundish pale pink creature with long tentacles, also pink, extending in all directions. The creature is nearly covered with eyeballs with irises in all different colors, many of which are shades of green, blue or orange.

Then again, Strunge has said Cotton Monster grew out of her love for creating “quilts with eyes,” and knowing what her blankets led to makes work like this all the more beautiful:

A quilt spread out with a black border. The quilt is composed of numerous pieces of different, and differently colored, striped fabrics. One long strip of interconnected fabrics zigzags across the quilt, creating several isosceles triangle shapes. Each triangle has an eyeball inside its smallest point and another eyeball in the middle of the opposite side. All eyeballs are different colors.

I highly recommend a perusal of Cotton Monster. Whether or not you get a beast with a mouth pocket (or a cloth eye to watch over you, or a creepy-crawly sea-dweller), Strunge’s fabulous work may swallow you alive.

All images from

by Deb Jannerson
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6 Comments Have Been Posted

An awesome article about an equally awesome gal...and her creations!

Very interesting creations.

Very interesting creations. I kind of got scared though.

You're frightening me, lady.

"I felt like I'd been waiting all my life for toys, art, and eyeballs to intersect."



Thanks is very beautiful.


This is kind of intensely disturbing but amazing at the same time - I sew so it's great to see people using the craft in an off-beat way, but WOW. That middle image looks strangely real.

//Jenn @ the <a href="">Creative Agency</a>

Juniper is amazing!

I think my little sisters work is exceptional! I sleep with one of her creations every night (spongebob)!!!

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