The Art of Making Monsters

Kaitlin Juarez holding her creating in TechCentral.

Kaitlin Juarez holding her creations in TechCentral.

When Kaitlin Juarez moved back to Cleveland after a decade spent living in West Virginia and Rhode Island, she needed to find new facilities to make her line of handmade designer toys—and Cleveland Public Library fit the bill.

Juarez’s “monsters” are whimsical fabric characters with playful identities and imagined histories. Juarez crafts the monsters from 100% wool, which she cuts with a laser cutter and sews with a foot-pedal sewing machine to conserve electricity. The eco-friendly process aligns with the characters’ origin myth, which depicts the monsters crash-landing onto Earth and helping humans learn how to preserve and protect the planet.

“People love their stories and facial expressions,” Juarez says of the monsters in her MadKnits line. “When you play with one of these toys, you’re an active participant, and you can use your imagination. I suppose those are all reasons why I love the Library, too.”

Upon her return to Cleveland, Juarez discovered Cleveland Public Library’s MakerSpace in TechCentral, a free resource for makers, artists, and entrepreneurs that quickly became a part of her monster-making routine.

“The facilities I used in Rhode Island to make my monsters were really different—that was a private room. Here in TechCentral, it’s so open, and people come up to talk to you,” she explains. “I loved coming to the Library to work. The staff were always so helpful, and I liked the social aspect of discussing my project with other patrons. And the fact that it’s free cut out a huge amount of my costs. I could lower my prices a bit, and I could get more done because I wasn’t dependent on making a sale before creating another monster.”

CJ Lynce, TechCentral Manager

CJ Lynce, TechCentral Manager

CJ Lynce, TechCentral Manager, says entrepreneurs and artists like Juarez highlight the Library’s focus on innovation and technology.

“Our MakerSpace allows patrons to experiment, to explore new ideas and tools, to find the initiative and drive to try something new. It’s all a part of Cleveland Public Library’s role in informal, creative learning,” Lynce says. “What do you want? How can we help? We intend for this space to be open and collaborative.”

While Juarez has slowed her commercial production of monsters in recent months, she remains invested in the Library and the impact it has made on her business—not to mention the Cleveland community at large.

“This library is like a refuge. If it’s hot, there’s free air conditioning. If you’re bored, you can check out a book or DVD. If you need to connect, there’s the Internet. And this is a place kids can come after school,” she says. “So I think investing in a library is about investing in a stronger community. It’s about getting people excited about books, about the imagination, about experiencing the world in a different way.”