FERNDALE — Austin is a fan of baseball who makes pajamas and loves hot dogs with bacon grease. Surfey, on the other hand, loves surfing the web and only eats orange foods and the occasional chocolate.
The only similarities between Austin and Surfey are that both are hand-sewn monster dolls created by 10-year-old Finnegan Mueller.
Mueller, a fifth-grader at Coolidge Intermediate School in Ferndale, started sewing at the age of 3. This summer, with the help of his family, he started the business Finnegan’s Monsters.
“My little brother likes the movies ‘Monsters Inc.’ and ‘Monsters University,’ so that was my inspiration,” Mueller said. “I really like sewing, and there was this art show that me and my mom started going to, and last year, I had a shop called Finnegan’s Fun Shop to test and see how it would do. I did really well and so I started sewing monsters and selling them at art shows and on Facebook.”
Each of the monster dolls is one-of-a-kind with fabrics and features. After Mueller sews the monster, his mother, Nan Kerr-Mueller, puts on the finishing touches to make sure nothing falls off.
And, as much as Mueller likes sewing, he said his favorite part is creating each unique backstory for every monster with his dad, Chris Mueller.
“My dad helps with making the backstories, and we come up with some really funny backstories,” Mueller said. “One of my favorites is my dad made one of a guy who really likes to party and slacks off but wants to grow up and own a nice Trans-Am.”
Kerr-Mueller said all the women in her family, from her mother and grandmother to her aunts and cousins, have been trained seamstresses. When she had children, Kerr-Mueller said she wanted each of them to know the trade.
“Sewing definitely has a sense and feeling of pride of being self-sufficient and making your own clothes and making things for people you love,” she said. “Finn picked up on that right away, and he has always liked making stuff for other people, and it brings him a lot of pleasure. He has already donated a couple dolls to auctions to make sure he is doing good things.”
Kerr-Mueller said her son started getting interested in starting a business when he made homemade cards and pencils for an art show. In the past, he has also spent time making three-dimensional objects out of cardboard.
While a lot of kids his age like to play video games or play outside, Mueller said most of his free time is spent making products for his business.
“Sewing is really relaxing, usually, and it is really fun and something to do when I am bored. And I like doing it, and I can make all kinds of different shapes and make some really funny looking things,” he said. “I usually am working in all my free time because if I go to a big show, we want to make a lot of monsters because so many people we know go to those things and really want to buy monsters.”
Mueller may be creative, but he isn’t above creating specialized monsters for people. Kerr-Mueller said neighbors have asked for monsters for their nieces and nephews, and Mueller used the kids’ names and likes and dislikes to make something they would like.
Seeing her son at only the age of 10 be so responsible and taking charge is great, Kerr-Mueller said, even if she and her husband have to help him not spend all his money.
“Finn is pretty artistic and free-spirited, so we are trying to work out a savings plan so he can have money to buy stuff, give some to charity and put some into a bank to save until he is older,” she said. “It is very surreal; he is very creative, and I guess I am proud of him. He is his own guy and at a point in his life where he can stay his own person, an individual, or be part of a pack. Part of me hopes this business helps reinforce that being his own person is a really cool thing.”
But Mueller isn’t taking credit for everything, even if he knows he is doing something unique.
“I think it is really cool to have a business, but I don’t really own it myself; I share with the whole family, so it is kind of like a family business,” he said. “But I don’t know any person in my school that owns a business yet.”
For more information on Finnegan’s Monsters, search the business on Facebook.