About us

Sewing a pillow as chubby as my cheeks

Welcome, friends! My name is Jane Van Cleef. As you can see from this picture of me in preschool, I have always loved to make things.
I started Hazel Village in 2010. I knew I wanted to embark on a big creative project, but I didn't know what. One weekend, I decided to make a toy that I would have liked as a child - a cute and soft doll with a big wardrobe. I cut up some good fabric scraps in the front room of my apartment in Brooklyn, then sewed them into a tiny version of Annicke Mouse. I thought she was so cute, so I made some friends for her and started to imagine the animals' forest world. I listed the dolls on Etsy, each with its own little outfit and back story. And I took them to local craft markets around Brooklyn.

Here I am selling some of my first wares.

I didn't know if anyone would buy the dolls, but people loved them! It was so gratifying to make something that people wanted to buy, and before I knew it I was racing like a lunatic to keep up with demand.
In the years since Hazel Village started, we've expanded our ability to produce the animals responsibly, striving for heirloom quality at a reasonable price. We've sent animals to over 200 stores, including Barney's, ABC Home, and Nordstrom. We have our own storefront in Brooklyn, where six people work full-time making doll clothes, shipping orders, and helping customers. And every Christmas, we go into high gear, sending thousands of animals far and wide. Basically, I'm a professional elf now, or maybe I'm Santa...Seriously, we think about Christmas all year! 

 I'm so lucky to get to do this every day. I love making quality toys that can stay with children as they grow up - first as soft, snuggly friends, then as companions for storytelling and dress-up play, as the inspiration for craft projects, and eventually as treasured keepsakes.

Hazel Village is named after the American Hazelnut tree: a source of delicious nuts, magical divining rods, useful twigs for basketry, and food for caterpillars.