Wednesday, December 8

Standing in awe...

I have met a lot of incredible folks while doing this blog. Many have enormous talents and the personality to match. I feel very blessed to be able to get to know these artists and then pass them along to you. I recently came across something so far beyond my usual. The artwork held me, mesmerized. I instantly had to know more! The creations were bits and pieces of fabric, buttons, lace mashed together haphazardly and yet at the same time deliberate, a mishmash of bliss. They formed little Rag Tag Critters. Little bits and pieces all held together with perfect stitches coming together to form the most creative critters one could imagine. I combed through the descriptions and online profiles and still had not satisfied my insatiable thirst for more. The images and words lingered in my mind and I knew I needed to contact this artist. It was as if a thread had begun weaving itself into my soul.

The more I learned about this artisan the more I felt as if I knew her. As if the fabrics of our lives had somehow been stitched together a hodgepodge of serendipity. Something almost Devine weaving the fabric of our lives together. We shared so many scraps of our lives, our own personal struggles and triumphs were like complimenting pieces of fabric. She the calico and me the plaid, her the silk, me the satin.
So today I so humbly give you Rag Tag Critters

Created by Peggy Elliot in Door County Wisconsin, the work and words you see here will leave you feeling different. You will see the personality of both the writer and the characters emerge as you too get to know this incredible woman. I have started and deleted this post uncountable times. I am not sure just how to capture something so magnificent. There are times in life when you just know something is so much bigger than you, more profound. How would you paint with rays of sunlight, how would you fill a jar with stars? This is how I felt beginning this blog.

Dog walking his person!
So In her own words I will let Miss Peggy Elliot tell you about herself. No amount of magic marker scrawling across the screen, could add to her words, no cyber scissors could take away from them. I want for you to meet her in her completeness and feel this vibrant celebratory spirit come to you unfiltered by little ole me!

1. Can you tell us your name and a bit about yourself and where you live?

To introduce myself, I am Peggy Elliott and I reside in Door County, Wisconsin. Though held housebound by a body that has betrayed me, I roam the world through this instrument that has become a lifeline for so many of us - the computer.

Being “stuck” in Door County is not such a bad deal, either, for this is a glorious haven for all creative types, with a very large and, surprisingly, well appreciated artist community.


2. What about your family, can you tell us about them?

My family means the world to me, though I don’t get to see them too often. My daughter, her husband and 2-½ grandchildren live 7 hours away, a busy family of teachers and nurturers, with little free time to spare. I do miss them.

My parents are closer, and I’m so fortunate to still have them both, though they, too, have had to surrender to a life of far greater limitations.


3. When did you first become interested in art?

I have always been involved in creative pursuits. Too many, in fact. In my younger days the joy of my life was found in singing, but I have always been messing around with pencils, pastels and paints.

My mother taught me to embroider; high school taught me how to use the seam ripper - I was the champion, in fact. If you’d told me back then I would one day be creating these dolls it would have struck true terror in my heart! Never!


Goat in a moat!
4. Who was your biggest influence and why?

I guess you’d have to say the creation of the Rag Tag Critters came from my desire to do something fun and different for my granddaughter and grandson. I’d made a couple of “normal” dolls, one was finishing up a lovely lady my grandmother had begun and never finished. So I had an idea of how to sew them, had lots of material around, goodness knows, I had the time!


5. What is your favorite medium and why?

Rag Tag Critters are aptly named, for they are created from the recycled fabrics, clothing no longer wearable (amazing the amount of “shrinkage” my friends, family and I seem to have run into) and other cast-offs and cast-outs everyone seems to have cluttering up rooms and closets. One person’s “rag” is another one’s “Rag Tag Critter!”

I’ve been very lucky, as there have been so many people who have gone out of their way to provide materials. Without their support I would not have been able to create the Critters. Sometimes I can’t believe the supplies I go through - I had a supply of buttons I thought would last a lifetime. Wrong!


6. How long have you been working in this medium?
The first Rag Tag Critters were made for the kids’ Easter gifts in 2008. People who saw those two wanted to know if I would make some for them. The teenage granddaughter of a friend wanted one and then so did her friends. Sewing like a fiend, I managed to supply them with 25 for a fund raiser.

And on it goes…. When people actually see and hold the Critters they tend to come back for more.


8. Can you tell us a little bit about your process?

I begin a Critter by first drawing a rough sketch. This provides a simple guide, so I have an idea of the materials I’m going to need, and how I want to put them together.

The workroom has piles of fabric, shelves of yarns, ribbons, “stuff,” all neatly arranged and categorized (Yeah, right!). From the sketch, I have an idea of the colors I want to put together, what all is needed to create the character that is just right, if not more than a bit “weird.”

Everything is cut out by hand, everything is sewn by hand - this isn‘t because I have an aversion to sewing machines so much as I never learned how to control one (see earlier reference to “seam rippers“). I’ve even been known to occasionally make tatted lace for collars, edgings or head pieces. These are definitely labor-intensive one-of-a-kind items.

The most fun comes from watching these bits and pieces come together to form a Critter, with their attitudes and unique individual characteristics. They take on a life of their own as they grow in my hands and by the time they are done, they have a name and a life’s story to tell.


Sr. Citizen Tooth Fairy
9. Where do you find inspiration?

I’ve always had an over-active imagination. I just finally found an outlet that’s appropriate.

Despite how they appear, these Rag Tag Critters are grounded in the world around me. Even the “Sr. Citizen Tooth Fairy” arose from an incident in which my Scottie knocked out one of my bottom teeth. “Where’s the Tooth Fairy when you need her?” says I to myself.

Well, she’s here now - her wand held together with Duct Tape, once beautiful locks of hair now frazzled, tattered wings and carrying a bag of denture adhesive instead of the quarters we used to get as kids.

Like I said, an over-active imagination!


10. Where can we find more of your work?

The Rag Tag Critters are found online on Bonanza, Etsy and eBay. I am also honored to have them featured for sale at the Miller Art Museum, located in downtown Sturgeon Bay, WI.

So there is Peggy in her own words. I know huh! Incredibly interesting. I think some back story will add to this wonderful person you have just met. So please bear with me as I continue.....

Peggy like me, deals with Chronic health issues. As I mentioned the serendipitous twist of the divine, we both have Crohn's disease; we both deal with mobility issues, and the other obstacles that go with it. To deal daily with an illness turns you into a different person. No longer viewing the world as others. Minimal tasks become mountains and as Peggy said “we are rock climbers” It strengthens a person, it toughens us and gives tenacity like no other. It is in the creating the artistry that we forget this difference that art, truly becomes something more than a creation.

She pours her heart and entire soul into each Rag Tag Critter. One stitch at a time brings her hands to agony and yet her mind to unabated bliss. I know this. I know that feeling. A viewer can see this in her work. You can look and stare and then something happens. Those critters walk ever so real into your heart. They stitch themselves on your psyche and don’t let you go. Isn’t that what true art is supposed to do? Weave its way into your life to hold the viewer and not let them go? Of all the features of the entire artist I have seen, no one, not one has captured me the way Peggy has.

Happy New Year
I hope you see this. I hope you are profoundly affected by the haunting look in the eyes of these amazing works of art. I see the “Skool Dazed” doll and then suddenly stitched across the dolls face and mine are the jumble of emotions of those first back to school days. When I saw “Happy New Year” I saw a woman struggling with where she has been and where she is going. The doll a woman ageing trying to recapture her youth, not ready to give up the youthful flashy clothes and make up. Dolling herself up for one more chance to grasp the magic of New Year celebration. Questioning herself and yet setting her jaw, dolling up and stepping out- determined to make this the best year yet.

Skool Dazed
Tiny details fill each Critter. Hand tatted lace, little beads, a tuft of hair, a perfectly chosen button for an eye. Every small detail builds upon itself and suddenly the medley tells a huge story. Peggy explain in and email “There's been such a transition, not "growth," as so many like to tag it, but more development, more assured and engaged in the creation of the Critters. Guess I've given myself permission to experiment with them, allowing them the freedom to become what they want to be, instead of my forcing them to fit an idea I have for them. “ I am left in awe of each and every one of her Rag Tag Critters and though I have purchased two I know instinctively –the same instinct by which I knew I had to find out more about Peggy- that the two critters will not be enough. I will buy more. I won’t be able to help myself. With amazing talent, incredible personality, and an artistry above no other. Rag Tag Critters have sewn themselves tightly to my side, woven into my heart and buttoned to my brain!

PLEASE PLEASE check out her stores and see more of this wonderful work!


  1. What unique creations! Such feeling in them. I love the dog-walker, have been in that position with, I believe, that same expression on my face! :) Thanks for the introduction to this wonderful artist!

    Julie aka Quirky Dame

  2. What a wonderful talent! Great reading about you and your inspirations for your whimsical and fun creations!
    All The Best To You!!!