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Sipping on a warm Chai Tea Latte, Michelle Lorentzen reminisces about the first “creature” she made. “It was this little octopus with four tentacles, and she had a little bow.”

Lorentzen continues, “I tried to use different fabrics on the front and back. Hmm… maybe it was a tetrapod since it only had four tentacles.”

While the clatter of the baristas can be overheard in the background of the coffee shop, she scrolls through an online photo album of her original creatures on her laptop. Soon enough, a picture of the octopus-creature pops on screen.

“Creatures by Claire,” is a personal project for Lorentzen that specializes in cute, cuddly one-of-a-kind creatures. Getting its name from the creations’ creature-like appearances and “Claire” coming from Lorentzen’s middle name, the shop offers unique lovable creatures that are completely customizable.

“I used ‘creatures,’ since a lot of the things I make are off-the-wall,” Lorentzen explains. “Some of them aren’t even recognizable animals, just kind of bits and pieces of other things I put together.”

The shop was inspired by other plush dolls on the market such as Ugly Dolls. Lorentzen got the idea for her own type of creature when she was given an Ugly Doll as a gift from her boyfriend’s sister.

Soon enough, a hobby of making stuffed animals emerged as an Etsy shop along with a booth at First Friday for creatures to be sold.

Lorentzen officially began her online shop in September 2010 after she received many requests for creatures.

For custom orders, patrons can choose their own color and fabric combinations while Lorentzen decides on the overall features of the plush doll.

“Each time I make a creature they’re always different. ‘One of a kind, all the time’ is my motto,” says Lorentzen.

The process involves Lorentzen tracing an outline of the creature onto the chosen fabric and spontaneously choosing the details of its look.

“After I make the general shape of it I decide if I want to have tentacles, or arms, or two legs and then after that I decide if I want it to have one eye, two eyes, four eyes, five eyes, and then it just goes from there,” she says.

These kooky creatures each have their own quirks. Googly eyes, fuzzy mustaches or clean cut, multiple eyes, legs, or in some cases, tentacles — each one charming in its own special way.

Every creature is made with the intention of being adopted to a good home. Although they are nameless, each one oozes with its own personality.

“A lot of people ask me if I name my creatures and my answer is always ‘I’m terrible at naming things,’” she laughs. “Since I make a different one every time it’s difficult to name it and give it its own identity when each of them is always different.”

Prices fluctuate based on the size of the creature; miniature ones can be purchased for $3, while small and medium plush animals are sold between $10 and $25. Large custom orders can be placed for around $60.

In the future, Lorentzen would like to expand her online shop by selling art prints based on the creatures and allowing customers to share personal stories of their new plush pal. Having customers name and make a background story after the creature is made is just one of the new features Lorentzen wants to add to the site.

Over the years, learning to separate from these adorable memories has proven to be a personal struggle for Lorentzen, she confesses. These adorable minions are hard to separate from.

On wanting to keep certain creatures for herself, Lorentzen admits it happens “all the time.”

“I kind of fight the temptation to keep it and think, ‘I make these to let them go,’” she says.

Creatures can be purchased online at Etsy.com/CreaturesByClaire and custom orders can be placed on the Creatures by Claire Facebook page. Lorentzen also sets up a booth on First Fridays at 1008 S. Alamo Street, across from Tito’s Mexican Restaurant.

For more information, visit Facebook.com/creaturesbyclaire.

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