My name is Jessica Near, and I’m the owner and artist behind Opposite of Far. I work with my small, four-person team here in Indiana to make felt animal masks, crowns, and beards for imaginative children of all ages.
Opposite of Far started out as a dream during a difficult time. I had emergency surgery on my back in 2010, which forced me to stop working for several months — and then a second surgery, which kept me home even longer. During that time, I struggled with my identity and my dwindling work possibilities; it became clear that going back to my previous profession as a preschool teacher, or even working part time as a nanny, would be impossible. Luckily, I had a skill to fall back on: sewing. I’ve been sewing since I was very young, and I even dabbled in making and selling purses, pillows and plush animals once upon a time. It didn’t take long before I started thinking seriously about making my small-business dreams a reality.
I took the leap by opening my Etsy shop in January of 2011. Before I knew it, Opposite of Far was real and prospering. In the beginning, my focus was on making plush dolls and animals, and in the fall of 2011, I created child-sized masks to match my fox and owl dolls. After three days of being in my shop, I realized the masks were going to be a huge hit. Since then, I’ve expanded my mask designs from foxes and owls to more than 80 creatures.
I’m constantly inspired by the children in my life — nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and fans. When I’m designing a new mask, I always look to real animals as a model. I want my masks to be friendly to children, but also recognizable and more realistic than a cartoon version. My hope is that this will spark curiosity and pique children’s interests so they’ll want to learn more about each animal.
Without Etsy, Opposite of Far might have floated away like other unfulfilled dreams. Etsy gave me a platform to easily present my work, as well as a sense of confidence and community. I still have some customers who made purchases from me when I first opened my shop, and their children have literally grown up with Opposite of Far. Seeing photos of their happy, masked kiddos reminds me why I do this. So what’s next for Opposite of Far? The sky’s the limit! I have some amazing partnerships lined up for the end of this year, and some continuing into 2016. I hope to see Opposite of Far in more and more little hands — playing, pretending, and imagining — and I hope to see Opposite of Far in more shops around the world, too.
All photos by Opposite of Far.