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Child's Own Studio

Kid-commissioned customized toys

by Fiona Killackey in Design on 25 April 2012

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Be it a bunny or a bear, there's often at least one special toy that a child clings to for security, without which their world—and their parents'—might swiftly crumble. Creative mom Wendy Tsao sets out to strengthen that relationship with Child's Own Studio, which she founded to make custom stuffed plushie toys based on kids' drawings. "When my son started kindergarten, his school asked for a comfort toy to put in his emergency preparation kit. Instead of sending in one of his favorite stuffed toys or running to the store to buy something, I decided to sew one myself" she explains. "I was thinking of making his favorite animal, but then I saw his self-portrait. He drew it all the time, and it always—more or less—looked the same, with huge eye circles, stick arms and ten long wispy digits. So, I thought, 'why not?' And when I was finished, my son immediately recognized it and was very appreciative."

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Tsao realized the potential for child-commissioned toys, and five years later she continues to build whimsical creatures for both children and parents of children who have passed away, like the red Ferrari softie conceived by a boy in the U.K. who passed away, for his brother who missed him. From a stick figure morphed into a peculiar, stringy-legged fellow to a remarkably detailed pizza chef complete with a handful of vegetable toppings, Tsao's plushies bear a strong resemblance to the 2D masterpieces that inspire them that's sure to make kids feel both pride and delight at first sight.

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Although the name of her company appears to limit commissions, Tsao accepts the occasional adult request, but with caution. "They have to look child-like, not designed nor computer-generated," says Tsao. "I find accomplished drawings the least inspiring for me. There is no room for my creative input or possibilities of interpretation, which is what I find most rewarding in the whole process." Tsao says the reception to her craft has been overwhelmingly positive, but admits that sometimes she has to decline requests, "I often turn away orders—usually from adult designers—if I think it's beyond my skill or patience level."

While each design is different, most toys take Tsao one to two days to complete. In addition to the one-of-a-kind aesthetic, her creations stand out for their range of vibrant materials that help to bring a child's drawing to life.

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As Tsao makes her way down the waiting list of monsters, farm animals, princesses and heroes, she has let her own imagination start to wander. "I started embellishing my softie projects on my blog with little stories—maybe it's my interest in stop-motion movies creeping in," she says. "This is a new direction that I might pursue further if I have enough time."

Due to volume Child's Own is currently not taking additional commissions for the wait list, but Tsao recommends similar services in her "Softmaker Showcase" on the website.

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