If you’ve been to any craft show in the Los Angeles area, chances are you’ve seen Jane Ragasa (aka, the mastermind behind her plush toy company, “Janie XY“). Jane (wo)mans a fruit stand stocked with creations that are food inspired, but will never turn– they’ve ripe for cuddling up to, sharing with small friends, and garnering a gleeful laugh.
Jane is someone I spend a lot of time with, and I feel like I’ve gotten to know pretty well…so much so that she’s one of the sixteen women I featured in my zine, “The _____est Girl In the World“. She’s super funny, super positive, and creative like a whip! We’ve had some great talks about the importance of certain toys during a child’s development, and what that means. Velveteen Rabbit, anyone?!
We decided to have a juicy chat, and here are the fruits of our labor (WHAT? I can’t resist!)
Jane and her partner, Sergio.
Your toys have such a cute, familiar, and lovable look– what inspired you to create them?
When my sister was in third or fourth grade, she got a stuffed dog, Patch from 101 Dalmations, for her birthday. She brought him everywhere and I so badly wanted a little stuffed dog of my own. When I came home one day after a day out with my family, there was a brown paper bag hung over the knob of our front door. Inside was one little stuffed dog (we later found out it was from my mom’s friend) and it was addressed as a gift to me! I was so happy that I found my new best friend (I named her Westcliff because it was the name on her label and I assumed all toys came with a name because my sister’s dog did). Since that moment, Patch and Westcliff went on “vacations” with us during nap time, were lead singers in a band that only sang one song called “Surfing in the U.S.A.”, and joined us for daily bike rides. I still have Westcliff to this day and I’ve known the bond a kid–and an adult–can have with a toy and I’ve always fantasized that maybe one of my creations out in the world will be another kid’s Patch or Westcliff.
What has been your favorite customer experience?
My customers have been so good and supportive to me, it’s hard to pick just one. But if I have to pick, it would be this little boy I met in San Francisco. I think he was only 3-years-old and he was with his parents holding a pear of ours that had obviously been washed several times. His mother and him were naming all of our toys without looking at their tags and she then explained that she bought him his pear the year before and since then, he’s taken it on all of their vacations and almost never leaves the house without Fernando the Pear. She said that he often asks her to go on my website and read him the names and stories of all my toys, as if they were his bedtime stories. It really made me feel good to know that our toys were that big a part of a family’s lives. Mission accomplished!
Janie XY is a total team experience with you and your partner Sergio. How do you two split up duties and decide on new ideas?
Sergio is an amazing help to the whole process. He’s incredibly supportive and has been a big part of it every step of the way. I design, make patterns, and sew the toys. He cuts, stuffs, and ships the toys. And when it comes to the displays, it’s a completely collaborative effort. I come up with the concepts, he takes over building it and is amazing with merchandising the product for the customers. Usually, the lines get blurred and we help each other with the tasks. It’s a way we spend time with each other now. Just the other day, we had a “toy stuffing party” where we rented a couple movies and stuffed toys for hours.
Where do you see Janie XY and your sweet toys in the future?
Right now, I still have a day job–which luckily, is really fun and creative, but eventually, I’d like to work on Janie XY full time. I often fantasize about having a little shop where I hang out with customers on a daily basis and have crafting parties and share some fresh baked goods or fresh brewed tea with them. Oh, that would be the life! I’d like to write crafting books so people can share the joy I have in seeing a creation come to life!