Stuffed toys bought as a child. I think there are not many people who remember the brand but there are many people who remember the expression and feel of their familiar stuffed toys.
When I stopped by the Bibai Folk History Museum while I was visiting Bibai, I saw a woman visiting there point at the stuffed toys in the Bibai special product display corner and remember fondly “I have that! I wonder why that’s here!” It was a stuffed toy made by Zoo Planning. It did not seem that she was aware of that but she immediately recognized the stuffed toy from that expression to which she had attached affection.
In this special feature, we report on the experience of making a one of a kind item at Zoo Planning, which makes such memorable stuffed toys.
What is Zoo Planning?
Zoo Planning is a stuffed toy manufacturing company with a workshop in Bibai, Hokkaido. Their products are at Hokkaido’s famous tourist attractions such as Asahiyama Zoo, Maruyama Zoo, Otaru Aquarium, Farm Tomita, Otaru Music Box Museum, and so on and they produce a wide range of products from souvenirs to personal memorial bears.
When I went in, the shelves were stuffed full of stuffed toys! It was overwhelming because there were so many kinds, from characters to realistic ones.
Join a stuffed toy making experience!
It is done in the stuffed toy making classroom in the space on the second floor of ZOO Planning's workshop. The classroom is made to feel like an elementary school classroom.
In the classroom, first we choose what animal we want to make. We select which one we want to make from the five kinds of animals (polar bear, stoat, penguin, seal, or flying squirrel) that are actually manufactured at Zoo Planning.
They are all so cute it is hard to decide but I chose a polar bear.
Since the back of this polar bear has not been sewn up yet, first we adjust it to our desired softness while adding or taking out stuffing.
When the adjustment is finished, it is sewn in a zig zag with a needle and thread. Even if you are new to sewing, you do not need to rush and it is not difficult. The teacher also explains thoroughly.
When you have sewn to the end, pull the thread. You have to be careful to pull the thread tight so the closed part will not be uneven. Once the closure is adjusted naturally, tie a knot and brush it. By doing this, you can hide the sewn part. It’s wonderful because it feels just like touching a real animal. Now the body is finished.
Decide the expression for the important facial features
Next, add the facial features. First the nose. There is already a hole in the place to put the nose so you use a glue gun to put glue on the nose and attach it by putting it in the hole. The glue gun gets hot so be careful not to get burned when handling it.
Next the eyes. Since this is the part that can show the most originality, make sure to do your best! Try putting them close together or far apart and the expression really changes depending on where you put them.
When you think “Ok, this is the place,” mark it with a pencil and make small holes with a cutter. When you put the eyes in, the holes get bigger. It is dull work but it is an important process, so please do your best. After opening the holes, insert the part of the eye which is threaded, and pull out the needle from under the chin of the stuffed toy. Bring the right eye and the left eye close, tie the two threads there, and cut it leaving the thread a bit long. By the tightness of the thread, the solidness of the face changes so you can adjust the face how you like. When you have decided on a good face, tie it in place and cut the thread leaving just a little.
I was wondering if all of the threads would be arranged neatly so it was surprising to leave a bit of thread but it seems that this is the standard way to attach eyes to stuffed toys. Please pick up the stuffed toys around your house and have a look.
Finally attach the eyes with a glue gun, finish the face, brush it and it’s done!
Here is the finished stuffed toy!
Don’t you think I did a pretty good job? His eyes, looking like he is saying something, are so cute.
I had no idea that with a ready-made product using the same pattern and materials such different expressions could be made freely so I liked the stuffed toy I made even more than I imagined.
Stuffed toy making is perfect for a souvenir for an important person. Would you like to make a memorable one at Zoo Planning?
About Fees, Reservations
Where Zoo Planning (072-0801Hokkaido, Bibai, Higashi 7 Jo Kita 1-2-10)
Fee 2,160 yen (includes fee for materials for 1 stuffed toy, class)
Time required 1 hour- 1 and a half hours
Reservations Because materials have to be prepared, you must make a prior reservation with the form below.
※ Depending on the number of people, the day the experience is possible may be different. For 2-7 people, the 2nd and 4th Saturday and Sunday every month. For 8-20 people, weekdays are also ok.