Friday, February 25, 2011

The Wright Mouse for the Job, By Ellen McDaniel-Weissler for Teddy Bear and Friends...

By Ellen McDaniel-Weissler for Teddy Bear and Friends

Put away the traps and hide the cheese. Don’t run screaming or climb up on a kitchen chair—not that you would want to. One sight of R. John Wright’s very newest mouse creation, Little Tommy Tittlemouse, and the only place you’ll want to “trap” him is in your curio or what-not shelf.

With myriad bears, bunnies, squirrels, ducks, and even a monkey in the Wright collection, it seems only reasonable that mice have joined the parade. Today the artist’s mouse figures cover holidays and seasons, Mother Goose and Beatrix Potter.

The first mouse, The Mouse Tailor, appeared in 2001 as part of the Beatrix Potter series. “Several
of [Beatrix Potter’s] books feature mice characters,” explains John, “and we decided to produce The Mouse Tailor as an exclusive edition. We had never made a mouse before, and once we had worked out some of the design/production problems inherent in such a small piece, we saw the opportunity to develop other mouse characters.”

This first creation, seated atop a spool of salmon-pink thread and perusing a newspaper, is a delicately crafted piece in every detail, from his filament whiskers to his primly crossed ankles. He wears a remarkably animated expression for so small a work—peering over his spectacles with a look of scholarly inquiry. Such intricacy was the result of great experimentation and innovation.
“The main difference in making mice for us was the issue of size,” recalls John. “If a mouse becomes too large, it begins to resemble a rat! So it was important that the mice be no larger than four inches.”

This would, as John and his wife Susan feared, limit the artistic interpretation of the character. “At first it seemed like it would not be possible to keep the mice small and detailed if they were made of mohair plush,” says John. “Steiff produced small mohair mice, but we felt they were not detailed and realistic enough to evoke Beatrix Potter’s images.”

John momentarily considered making the mice in molded felt rather than mohair but felt they would be more appealing if made of plush. And so, to achieve the desired effect in plush, new design and production techniques were developed for the mice. According to John, mohair has a “spiky” quality to it if not treated to lie flat. “The direction of the lay of the fur was taken into consideration when sewing the parts together,” says John. “We had to develop new techniques for the fine mouse ears, and decisions had to be made concerning the paws and tail.”

Other Beatrix Potter mice have followed in The Mouse Tailor’s footsteps, including Johnny Town-Mouse, Hunca Munca, Tom Thumb, and Appley Dapply.

In 2003, the first in what became a series of holiday mice appeared: Nibbles, the original R. John Wright Christmas mouse who stands 3 inches tall, sports a dapper blue and grey scarf and clasps a delectable peppermint stick.

“The Christmas mouse Nibbles was made exclusively for the Toy Shoppe, who may have approached us with the idea of a mouse holding a sweet,” says John. “Initially, this was not planned as a series, but the response to Nibbles was so overwhelming that we quickly decided to make it an annual offering for the holiday season.

“The first prototype of Cocoa did not have a nightcap,” John continues. “Danny [Shapiro] at the Toy Shoppe asked if we could put something on the mouse to give more of an anthropomorphic effect, his reasoning being that the previous Christmas mice all had ‘human characteristics’ in the form of scarves, ribbons, etc. We made Cocoa a nightcap so he would be more compatible with the series. It was an immediate improvement!”

Danny of The Toy Shoppe (; 800-447-7995) remembers the exclusive premiere of Nibbles well: “Four exclusive mice later, we continue to be enchanted by John’s talent for bestowing such character in them … Our little Petit Four exhibits such emotion that you can actually ‘feel’ his longing for that delicious treat! It’s through this gift that John strikes such an emotional chord with all collectors.”

Lest the fans of autumn holidays think that Halloween has been slighted — think again! Trick or Treat, the first of the Halloween mice, appeared in 2008 and is followed this year by Black Magic. Each of these limited-edition pieces have been created exclusively for FairyTales Inc. in Lombard, Ill. (; 800-495-6973). “We had specialized in miniatures for many years with many of our collectors focusing on mice [like those by] Wee Forest Folk,” says James Pokorn of FairyTales. “Since Halloween is one of our strongest holidays, it was a logical choice to pursue Trick or Treat for our shop. Our collectors have embraced the mice created by John and Susan. Each is truly a piece of art with its own character and personality.”

“Black Magic will have sort of a ‘sorcerer’ motif to his costuming,” says John, “with coloring being primarily black and purple. The prototype has not yet been finalized, but the Halloween series will feature other small accessories not limited to sweets. And yes, there are ideas on the drawing board for further mice in the Halloween collection.”

The newest mice of the R. John Wright line derive from some of the oldest children’s stories. “The latest mouse collection is the new Mother Goose series. The first piece in that collection was Daffy Down Dilly based on the nursery rhyme of the same name. … The second piece in that series is Little Tommy Tittlemouse from the classic Mother Goose rhyme.”

Little Tommy Tittlemouse, who finds himself on the cover of this issue, stands just 3 inches tall. Wearing a natural straw hat and complete with fishing pole and felt fish, he is limited to just 150 pieces and available through the RJW company store.

Fans of the Mother Goose mice collection can expect more mice to come, including Little Maid, Pretty Maid, and Wee Willie Winkie.

And for those fashion-conscious collectors interested in the sartorially minded mouse, don’t forget Lady Mouse and Gentleman Mouse, who model the latest fashionable rodent attire of the 18th century. And the simple change of seasons is celebrated with Annamarie and Fritz, the Winter Mice.

Although there are no plans in the making for perhaps a Fourth of July or Thanksgiving mouse, John readily admits, “It could be a fun direction to go!”

Appley Dappley™, Beatrix Potter Series, was made in 2007 exclusively for Apple Pie House in the U.K. Includes embroidered apron, custom-made basket, and plate of pies.

New for 2009, Black Magic is the second mouse of the Halloween Series, available through FairyTales. Includes silk wizard’s hat, cape, and wand.

Right: Trick or Treat, the first of the Halloween Mouse Series for FairyTales, was made in 2008. Includes silk cape and hat, shoes, and felt candy corn.

To Order any of the R John Wright Mice, please click on the header above ( The Wright Mouse for the Job.... ) This will take to their Page.

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