Visit Tamar Mogendorff’s workshop and you’ll see that it’s been turned into a funky and surreal paradise of hand-stitched fabric birds, owls, bears, dogs, deer and swans, and the first words that will escape from your lips will be, “This is incredible!”
Israeli-born Mogendorff, now a Brooklyn resident, was the third generation of women in her family who was born to sew. As a child she admits to having a predilection for crafts and as an adult sewing continued to be a hobby. In 2001, with a degree in design from Jerusalem’s Bezalel’s Academy and Design in her hand, she moved to New York and worked for a florist. Sewing and making her assorted beastly kingdom was still considered a pastime, until they caught the eye of a colleague who loved the work and immediately displayed it in her store. And from that moment on, Mogendorff’s animal farm grew and her hobby turned to be a full-time job.
For Mogendorff the challenge in making her animals comes from the fabric that inspires her to make a collection, but ideas also come from disparate avenues. “I can see an image or a movie, an object, or have a conversation or even a dream. It can be anything. I’m not always aware of the process, though, and I can find myself surprised by the results, which is fun! I give a lot of credit to my intuition. I follow it.”
That intuition has led her to her experiment with a variety of fabrics and wools including linen mohair yarn, vintage fabrics, tweeds, and uses antique buttons, beads, old ribbons, and metallic threads. She even plays around with dyes made from leftover vegetables found in her refrigerator. When asked who has influenced her she generously gives credit to her friends, but admits that her animals come from deep inside her soul. “It is something in me…my aesthetic is my hand-writing. I can’t do it any other way. It’s like illustration, but three dimensional.”
Of the many animals that she stitches together, one Mogendorff’s fun projects include a wide range of bird houses made from a variety of vintage fabric that also incorporate newspaper into the design, her little birds nest on the rooftop or serenely perch near the small entrance. She also creates a delicate fabric caged world for birds, which she admits are her favorites and has been making them for the past five years, a positive sign that they are popular among her collectors and retailers.
During this past holiday season, Mogendorff was in an animal wonderland decorating store windows and making a Noah’s ark of animals to sell in a number of stores. In addition to her retail work, Mogendorff participated in a local Brooklyn show, but one of major highlights of 2010 was the commission from Manhattan’s Neue Gallerie to create Milly Von Barksky, the museum’s canine mascot that barks out Mogendorff’s signature touch.
Milly was stitched together with woven cotton and hand-dyed and was based on Neue Gallerie director Renee Price’s actual miniature chocolate Schanuzer. Creating Milly Von Barksky proved to be one of her most ambitious projects in part because it had to resemble a living and breathing dog, yet with Mogendorff’s panache for creating soft-sculpted animals. To make the task at hand even more difficult, her Millie had to strongly convey the personality of the dog and not have it appear as any ordinary plush toy, while also communicating the museum’s focus of early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design.
Mogendorff’s work appeals to young and old alike. Her animals can be found in diverse boutiques that cater specifically to fashion, home décor, and children. A good thing she says because it keeps her on her toes to create for various clients and tastes.
As for upcoming events and projects, she is evasive, but jokingly refers to her psychic who has foreseen great happenings in the near future.
When asked if she, like Geppetto in Pinocchio, dreamt of bringing to life one of her animals which would it be? She replies in a diplomatic manner as if not to hurt the feeling of her cloth pets. “I think they’re all alive, in their own weird way. But if I had to choose, I will choose the owls. I sometimes feel that they’re staring at me at night—and I love their wisdom.”
For more information on Tamar Mogendorff, please visit tmogy.com. To purchase Milly Von Barksky, please Neue Gallerie’s shop at http://www.neuegalerie.org/shops/Design%20Shop/Tamar%20Mogendorff