By Genevieve A. Suzuki
La Mesa shop owner Katharine Bowen’s heart may be softer than the stuffed animals she crafts by hand.
Bowen, 27, owns Handmade Market, the newest store in Grossmont Center. She is dedicating 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of her stuffed animals toward opening a no-kill animal rescue. It’s not entirely surprising that animals are Bowen’s passion — each of her unique creations is a thoughtful tribute to the spirit of the animal it represents.
“I have always loved stuffed animals,” Bowen said. “When I was a child I had mountains of stuffed animals in my bedroom, which are now mountains of stuffed animals in my parents’ attic. Creating them was a merge of my love for stuffed animals, sewing and real animals.”
Additionally, every Handmade pet has a name.
“I named the fox ‘Theodore’ and the raccoon ‘Barbara,’ after my grandparents,” she said. “While watching a mother raccoon that came to my porch with her babies [one] night, I was reminded of my grandmother. While incredibly loving and caring, my grandmother will also let you know when you are out of line or acting a fool, much like a mother raccoon. My grandfather is the sly trickster of the family; it only seemed appropriate to make him a fox.”
The dolls lining the shelves in the little shop, which looks like a crafty Etsy store brought to life, are a sharp contrast to the gadgetry that inhabited the space before Bowen opened Handmade.
“I am quite familiar with Grossmont Center as I have been a patron for about 20 years. … It seemed like a very comfortable place for me to begin my shop,” said Bowen, who also lives in La Mesa.
“I decided to open in Grossmont Center on a whim,” she admits. “I was walking through one day to find the perfect birthday present for my stepfather when I passed the open space I am now in. After spending over an hour trying to find a unique gift, it occurred to me that you cannot really find such a thing at the mall.”
Before Handmade, Bowen sold her work online. She still operates three shops on Etsy: Her main site is LilyandPeabody, where she began with large-scale knitting and debuted her stuffed animals. After the animals took off, she gave them their own shop: TheKittyGram. Her third shop, EdithBarnswallow, focuses on larger home décor items. In the coming months, Bowen said the site will host a children’s book series called Big Kitty and Edie’s Magical Adventures, complete with corresponding mini stuffed characters.
For those of us who prefer to touch, see and squeeze our prospective stuffed pals, Bowen’s brick-and-mortar shop offers both ready-made stuffed animals and the opportunity for customers to pick a new animal for her to make along with their choice of colors and facial expressions. Bowen’s little zoo features cats, dogs, an opossum, a skunk and an owl. She has also made wolves, pigs, sloths, rabbits and whales. Bowen also creates stuffed animals modeled after beloved pets.
“They can send me a photo of their pet and I will match their color, markings, and hopefully, their personality,” Bowen.
—Genevieve A. Suzuki is a freelance writer and former La Mesa Courier editor. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.