Q&A: Woman creates Mon-stors to ‘eat’ toys

MONSTER SMASH: Cody Bauchman says her daughter, pictured, likes to cram all of her toys into her Mon-stor at the end of playtime. Photo courtesy of Bauchman

Canton native Cody Bauchman‘s idea to create storage monsters, or Mon-stors, came out of necessity.

In 2009, the single mother and her then 3-year-old child, Gauge, moved to Kansas City, where she found herself in a one-bedroom basement efficiency apartment without storage space. Bauchman wanted to teach Gauge to clean up on their own, but also wanted to make it fun — and that’s when she came up with the idea of a monster to which they could “feed” their toys. After designing and sewing the first bag from cotton and burlap, with no prior design or sewing machine experience, she posted the finished result on Facebook. All of a sudden, she had a full notebook page of orders. That’s when her online business, named Lu & Ed (Lu after “Lucretia,” a character from the video game Final Fantasy 7, and Ed after “Radical Edward,” a character from the anime Cowboy Bebop), was born.

It wasn’t until Bauchman started working at a fabric store six months later that she was inspired to begin making more sustainable bags.

“[I] quickly saw how detrimental purchasing new materials is to the environment — pallets of fabric wrapped in layers of thick plastic, grouped into smaller boxes that were wrapped in plastic, and each individual bolt inside of that box also wrapped in plastic,” she tells Xpress. “When seasons changed and clearance sales ended, the remaining fabric was ripped or drawn on, so it couldn’t be taken from the dumpster to be used.”

Bauchman decided to leave that job quickly and started to use items found at salvage centers, textile misprint and refuse places, and thrift stores, as well as donated materials. In late 2015, she moved back to Western North Carolina. Bauchman spoke with Xpress about being a single mom of now two children, making monsters and saving the world.

This interview has been condensed for length and edited for clarity.

Xpress: Tell us more about how you ensure your products are zero waste.

Bauchman: Blankets, robes, pajamas, curtains, sheets and things like that with a small rip, broken zipper, little stains — I cut them up to create usable materials and then turn those materials into the biggest monster I can. From those scraps, I make smaller monster toys until they are so small, I can’t make any more monsters from them. Then they become eyes, mouths, horns, noses … and when they are too small for even that, I dice them up and blend them with Poly-fil (made from recycled plastic bottles) and use them for stuffing. Sourcing postproduction materials and using this closed-loop recycling process diverts over a ton of landfill waste annually.

Why monsters?

As a young single parent, I knew that if I wanted my child to use whatever toy storage solution we had, it needed to be fun and like a game. I thought feeding a giant monster would be a blast. “Can you feed the monster everything on the floor before the timer goes off?” Or “Can you feed the monster all the dolls for a snack so they aren’t hungry while you’re at school?” are ways I get the kids to pick up. Chores don’t have to be boring or a struggle.

Do your children clean up after themselves more often with the bags?

Yes, definitely! With regular use, they create lifelong tidying-up habits. My youngest is 6, and she is more of a chaos cleaner, grabbing everything and shoving it into a Mon-stor at the end of playtime. We go through once every few weeks and empty the Mon-stors in her room to reorganize all the toys back into some semblance of order, but I really appreciate that Mon-stors work like a toy box when everything is lumped together … dump them out and [there are] endless possibilities for open-ended play.

Speaking of children, how do you manage raising two as a single mother, plus having your own company?

It is definitely not easy. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. I love being here to see all their milestones, spending every day with them. We also home-school, so we do whatever we can to make it work. Lots of super early mornings for me to cut out monsters (rising around 4 a.m. some days) and some pretty late nights to finish sewing. I do a lot of 10-plus-hour workdays with loads of breaks in the middle for home schooling, play dates, making meals, going to the park or hiking. I work when the kids are self-entertained, before they’re awake in the morning or after they go to bed. It’s often exhausting, but it allows us to live a really fun life together and see our friends a lot, and I love it.

What feedback have you gotten from other parents who have bought your products?

A lot of caregivers have reached out after purchasing monsters to thank me for creating sensory-friendly toys and for making cleaning up less of a struggle. I’ve heard that they really help lighten a caregiver’s mental load by making a task that can cause a lot of friction way more fun.

How, if at all, has your client base changed over time? Are you seeing a larger number of parents interested in purchasing zero-waste toys?

While I would love to say that I’ve seen an uptick in the concern for zero waste, my particular market has actually shifted over time to people that are more interested with the postproduction local sourcing of my materials, and the positive effect that has on local economies. It’s been interesting to see that organic shift in consumption among caregivers and people shopping for children — or themselves.

Your motto is “saving the world — one monster at a time.” What makes you want to save the world?

We’re only here for a short time. I’ve always wanted to leave the world a better place than I received it, and I’ve always been really conscious of buying postproduction stuff for myself and my family, even before launching my monster business — because every purchase has an impact. Our entire wardrobes are mostly from thrift stores, almost every piece of furniture in my house was purchased secondhand. I’ve always tried to shop locally whenever possible to keep money in our local community. I also collect boxes from neighbors and friends to flip inside out and ship monsters in. While what I’m doing alone isn’t much in terms of a global impact, I have definitely seen the ripple effect of other makers switching to using postproduction materials and recycled packaging after interacting with me. That makes my heart really happy and hopefully creates a bigger ecological impact as more and more creative people turn to postproduction materials and resource sharing.


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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