BERKELEY -- You might find Madeline Stanionis with dog parts in her briefcase but rest assured, she's carrying around spare limbs and button noses for a good cause.
The fruits of Stanionis' labor go beyond the briefcase to Lanesplitter pizza in Berkeley, where colorful stuffed dogs, rabbits, squirrels and even the occasional goat, line the walls and wait for a good home. Dubbed Scrapyard Dogs, the consulting and services agency CEO began crafting the pets with Lanesplitter employee Alice Worland in 2009 on a whim; they have since raised thousands of dollars for local animal-focused charities.
"I wanted to adopt a billion dogs but I can't take home a billion dogs, so it was our way of giving back," Worland, an Oakland resident, said of her pet project. "We didn't want to impact more of the world by adding more stuff so we used scraps, people's leftovers."
Both lifelong animal lovers, Worland and Stanionis met at Lanesplitter and took their first sewing class together at Stone Mountain & Daughter in Berkeley eight years ago. As one pursued a career in fashion and the other delved deeper into crafts, each produced a bounty of scraps they couldn't bring themselves to throw away and decided to put to good use.
Using a pattern they found online, the two made nearly 150 stuffed dogs from scrap fabric and called their creation Army of Dogs. The army -- which are delicate and not made for pets or children, Stanionis noted -- were displayed at Lanesplitter, an advocate for local artists. At $25 each (now $35), the one-of-a-kind stuffed animals sold out quickly and all proceeds were donated to the Berkeley Humane Society. Scrapyard Dogs have since benefitted Greyhound Friends for Life, Berkeley Animal Control and Berkeley Humane. Worland and Stanionis just completed a yearly tradition of making these stuffed animals and are looking forward to helping actual animals. "It brings a nice feel that we use all of these scraps, all of these leftovers to help dogs that are left over," said Stanionis, who lives in Berkeley. "We raised prices over the years partially because there was so much demand. I think that we have raised somewhere in vicinity of $10,000 between all of the animals in all the organizations."
Once a months-long operation done between day jobs, Worland and Stanionis have split the task with a handful of volunteers and re-focused their energy on adding special touches to the animals they make. This year's crop features rabbits, squirrels and pigs, in addition to the original dogs. One volunteer from the southwest made six Javelinas, a pig-like animal indigenous to Central America.
"Now people come to Lanesplitter on Jan. 2 because they want the first pick," Stanionis said, adding that regulars have bought whole "families of animals."
With names like PigConito -- Stanionis' favorite, a pig with glasses and a big nose -- and She Wanted a Cup of Coffee, each animal has a story in line with its pattern or the mood of the person who created it. Worland is particularly attached to a dog sewn from the pink satin of an award-winning dress she designed and recently made Pi-Rat, a chubby rat with a pirate logo and pie symbol for its eye.
"I like all the designs I do because they mean something," Worland said, adding that she'll often take Scrapyard parts to parties and sew. "I feel like life happens when you keep putting life into it. It takes time, but that's what charm is, it's time."