Artist Anna Yastrezhembovskaya's wool animal dolls.

Artists are sometimes inspired by visions, dreams, and other ethereal encounters. For others, the muse that arouses creativity is much more mundane. Anna Yastrezhembovskaya’s motivation was the latter: a simple plaything she ran across in a toy store.

The Power of Plush

While perusing toys for her young children, Yastrezhembovskaya came upon a collection of plush toys made from wool and felt. She was instantly taken aback by the incredibly soft tactile nature of the creations. Unlike typical stuffed toys, these were so soft and cuddly — they seemed to melt into her hands when she caressed them. And what could be more comforting than a soft sculpture that appeared to have a positive response to human touch?

Artist Anna Yastrezhembovskaya's wool animal dolls.

Anna knew right away that she had to try making these toys herself, so she stocked up on wool, felt, and tiny glass spheres to use as eyes. However, creating creatures that looked real (her ultimate goal) was more difficult than she anticipated. She admitted, “My first toy wasn’t nearly as pretty, it was rather funny. But I enjoyed the process so much that I kept trying. I was felting during my free time, even at night, and I got better with each toy I made.”

Pushing Forward

Artist Anna Yastrezhembovskaya's wool animal dolls.

Before long, Yastrezhembovskaya mastered her art, and her portfolio started growing. She gained her inspiration from the wildlife that thrived in the local forests, including birds, hedgehogs, and bats, as well as more common pets like rabbits and cats. Spiders and baby chicks also became part of her repertoire. When she began marketing her creations online, interest grew, but it was one particular creation that catapulted her into the public eye.

Up to Bat

Artist Anna Yastrezhembovskaya's wool animal dolls.

At the request of her daughter, Yastrezhembovskaya attempted to make a brooch that resembled a bat. When her efforts failed, she opted to create a wool and felt bat instead. Not only was her daughter impressed by her art, but the oft-maligned creature also proved an instant hit with her online fans. Before she knew it, the bat was in so much demand that she felt overwhelmed — mostly because it takes Yastrezhembovskaya 10 12-to-14 hour days to make just one of them.

She says of this experience, “I am flattered that my bats won the hearts of so many people, but the amount of orders I got was terrifying. Of course, I will keep felting as many bats as I can, but I want people to understand that these toys are fully handmade, so it’s a fairly lengthy process.”

A Passion for Perfection

Anna’s business started growing after she sold a few pieces on Etsy. From there, she started sharing her crafts around the world on a variety of platforms. Fans can feel the love and pride she feels for every piece she makes and how important flawlessness is to her.

Artist Anna Yastrezhembovskaya's wool animal dolls.

Wool is a very gentle and cozy material for me,” she says. “When I sort the fibers between my fingers, when I shape them with a needle — I put my soul into each toy.”