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Featured Shop: Opposite of Far

Oct 9, 2015

by Jessica Near

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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All photos by Opposite of Far.

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