The Science Of Swag: Dr Mummenstein’s Monsters

Her handiwork: Dr Mummenstein's Monster 4 in Johnsonville geocache Rattlling Zoo.

Her handiwork: Dr Mummenstein’s Monster 4 in Johnsonville geocache Rattlling Zoo.

Mary Shelley found fame with Dr Frankenstein’s monster; now Sarah Coddington-Lawson is following suit with her Dr Mummenstein’s Monsters.

In less than four months, the Wellington newcomer (GC handle: docmum) has become well known for the collection of hand-stitched soft-toys she leaves in geocaches as swag.

Geo-zoo: Rattll's pet rocks have even inspired a cache in their honour. Photo: MRSID

Geo-zoo: Rattll’s pet rocks have even inspired a namesake cache. Photo: MRSID

Her hideous progneny were inspired by the friends who introduced her family to geocaching back in Aprol. They had just placed a cache in honour of the 53 colourful pet rocks created by Whanganui player Rattll.

“I was amazed at how excited my boys got about collecting their first Rattll pet rock because their friends had collected so many they had had to create GC43P2C Rattlling Zoo to house them all. They were so much more excited by the beautiful one-off pet rocks, I thought ‘I could do that’.”

After some brainstorming, Coddington-Lawson opted to use her nickname and love of science to create something her children would enjoy. “My geocache name is DocMum which is because of my licence plate. I have a PhD and when I first had to ‘give up work’ to be a mum I sat down and told my four-month-old son I was ‘just a mum – Dr Mum, but still just a mum’. My mother gave me the plate for my next birthday and the nickname has stuck.

Dr Mummenstein Monster 8 in Strawberry Patch

Berry nice: Monster No 8 in Lower Hutt hide Strawberry Patch.

“My kids (now aged 8 and 9) have to explain to all of their friends that ‘Mummy is not THAT type of doctor’ and, after recently hearing one of my boys describe me as ‘a Dr Frankenstein-type doctor, not a sick-person doctor’, the idea of creating Dr Mummenstein’s Monsters was born!”

Creature comforts: Each Dr Mummsenstein Monster features odd-sized button eyes and a crooked grin.

Creature comforts: Each Dr Mummsenstein Monster features odd-sized button eyes and a crooked grin.

To-date, she has sewn 20 monsters – of which a dozen have been released between Wellington and Taupo – and a “special-edition” sporting character just for GC3RNMN First Fifteen.

Each creation is unique, she says, though all “feature odd-sized eyes and a crooked, cheeky grin – I want them to be nice, protective monsters not scary ones (us, mad scientists have a bad reputation)”.

Coddington-Lawson spends about an hour bringing each one to life. “They are my relaxing time in front of the TV, unwinding at the end of the day.”

There’s no pattern involved; every monster is based on “whatever shape of the scrap of fabric that shouts at me at the time”. And the expense? “Nothing really, I’m just using up old scraps of fabric/buttons etc that are always accumulating for the next craft project. The filling is from old pillows too so it really has been no cost so far.”

Ball boy: Johnny the Johnsonville Rugby Monster.

Ball boy: Johnny the Johnsonville Rugby Monster.

Her favourite design is ‘Johnny the Johnsonville Rugby Monster’, which she left in GC3RNMN. “That cache is ‘owned’ by our friends’ nine-year-old. I was NOT going to let the puzzle beat me so when I finally figured it out I HAD to make a special monster to celebrate. The fact that our boys play for Johnsonville Rugby Club makes him even more special to them too.”

And it’s this feel-good factor that keeps Coddington-Lawson churning out monsters, rather than trading McDonalds toys or other generic swag. “The reaction of my kids to finding Rattll’s rocks is so much more than when they find other McDonalds or $2 Shop toys; I think it’s the fact they can’t get this swag any other way than from geocaching that makes it special.

“We generally cache as a family, so anything we can do to encourage the boys outside and away from their electronics is firmly encouraged! If we can do the same for another family, then it’s even better – and our boys love finding good kid-friendly caches to hide the monsters in.”

Patched members: The gang's all here.

Patched members: The gang’s all here, well Nos 1-12 anyway.

Originally, she considered making her toys  trackable so she could follow their adventures and see what each finder had to say, but then decided “to leave them as swag or collectibles so people could enjoy them as they wished”.

“I did post a few photos on my Facebook profile when I first started making them and the feedback from friends was very encouraging. Some said they now wanted to try geocaching with their families, and I even had a request from the United States for some monsters to be sent to a little girl who fell in love with one photo.”

In return, Coddington-Lawson sent her young fan a set of monsters that spelt out the letters in her name, as well as a “special Kiwi shaped one” which its new owner adores. “The letters were fun; I might make an alphabet set if I get bored with the monsters but I wouldn’t make anymore ‘animals’. Rattll has the animal market well and truly covered.”

*Have you found any original swag worth raving about? Tell us below …


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