Good afternoon. How are you? As always, lots and lots is going on here at the 344 Empire, and as you can tell, I've been falling behind on things. But I'm chipping away at the backlog, and I'm happy to introduce you today to four new friends that have been keeping me company for a few weeks now.

A few months ago I gave a talk at the AIGA Educators Conference at MICA in Baltimore. There I met Jennifer Bennett Gubicza. Jennifer works under the moniker ZooGuu where she creates fabulous handmade plush toys. Now, conferences are where well-meaning people gather and say well-meaning things to each other like "Oh, we should totally do a project together!" or "You know, I could help you with that." And everybody beams, and then everybody goes home, and all those joint ventures shimmer away like a mirage at sunset.

But Jennifer is a woman of action! And one day, a box arrived here at the studio -- a box of Monsters. Big plush monsters, inspired by the cover of the Monster Book. Cuddly and fierce are not usually words that go together, but here I think it's the only combination that captures her work. These fluffy curmudgeons are clearly city monsters. They're shtarkers. They may be huggable, but they don't take any guff. If I were a sock monkey, I wouldn't want to run into them in a dark alley. (Though they probably turn out to be pretty affable if you approached them politely.)

Well, enough of my rambling on. Please meet the Plush Monsters:


It just took me a little while to have a little photo shoot
with the guys. Here's a glimpse behind the scenes:


They are surprisingly fussy (and moody) about their grooming:


Did I mention that Jennifer sent me a Bonus Monster, too?
This one is based on one of the Monsters
from the SEND A MONSTER Facebook app:


So the real question in all this is: How cool is Jennifer Bennett Gubicza?

I'd like to chat longer, and I have more things to show you in short order, but right now I must get back to my day job for a little bit. But I'm happy that I finally had a chance to show you these excellent plush monsters. Oh, and by the way, I do hope you remember that 344 LOVES YOU