My name is Aly Parrott and I dream up, design, fabricate and market peaceful, earth-friendly, durable works of interactive art and Montessori toys. I live and work on top of a mountain in a little hamlet in upstate New York.
Drawing, sewing and spinning tales were simply a part of my life as a child. My mom and I would sit for hours, poring over books on historical fashions for some insanely detailed Halloween costume I wanted, or finding patterns for quilt blocks from the 1850s and trying to make them. I loved what we made, but I loved learning the history just as much, and I would make up stories to go along with whatever I was making. Fast forward 16 or 17 years, and I’m basically doing the same thing and getting to call it my job! I love to think that the things I create might spark that kind of passion in another young soul.
Every object I create begins with some little pocket of fascination waiting to be shared – a life cycle of some sort, an old tale longing to be brought to life again. Then I do a lot of reading. I try to find as many different images, interpretations and facts about my idea as possible before focusing it into a clear, concise plan that will simultaneously teach and delight. After that, I lose myself in rich paint colors and wool felt shapes, depending on the nature of the lesson I’m planning, and who I’m planning it for. Little hands seem to love the tactility of the wool felt, while the discerning eyes of an 8-year-old tend to crave the details of a meticulously drawn character from a favorite story.
It’s a great, great feeling when you finally see something through that you have been daydreaming and doodling about for months come together like it was meant to happen. My strawberry Montessori work was like that. My brother and I used to scour the field at our parents’ house for wild strawberries. I have such vivid memories of hunting through tall grass for the little white blossoms, with the early summer sun on the back of my neck and the bright red of the berries against the greens of the field. I wanted to capture that shining little moment of childhood joy in a felt creation, and when I sat back and looked at the first one I made, I was transported back to that place in time.
Etsy has grown to represent independence for me. I am exceptionally bad at forcing myself to do things if I don’t love doing them, so after college I was determined not be stuck in a job I hate. Working directly with people to meet their unique needs has been the foundation for building my business. Literally half of the items in my shop have started off as custom items for teachers, librarians, homeschooling parents, and other imaginative people who entrust me with their ideas. Etsy has given me that opportunity, but more importantly, it has introduced me to a whole realm of people with endless amounts of talent and knowledge. The idea that we all exist in our own little corners of the world and come here to share and discuss the things we are most passionate about is still so amazing to me.
I’m trying to think of a way having my own business hasn’t changed me. I suppose, at my core, I am still the same daisy-chain making, barefoot-in-the-dew-frolicking mountain girl I always was. That’s a good thing, I think, considering what my business is all about. But the part of me that isn’t channeled through cloth animals and needle-felted dolls, the behind-the-scenes me that fills out the tax forms and tries to keep a studio under control in a very small space, has seen much more success since I started this little venture. Ultimately, I am more confident in what I do, and my ability to make my own way in the world.
All photographs by Aly Parrott.