Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ugly Dolls

In "Giant Robot" magazine, there is an interview with the 2 creators of the plush toys known as "Ugly Dolls". Both met during college in an Art class. David Horvath is from the States and the Sun-Min Kim is from Korea (a guy and girl team). The process actually started out as simple, funny sketches. But steadily grew into a plush doll. They decided to pursue a course in making these "Ugly Dolls" despite a lot of denial/confrontation/threats from corporate toy companies in the beginning.

I actually own 2 of their dolls, and it was interesting to find out that the first 1,000 were handmade by Sun-Min (all before she discovered the sewing machine; now they finally got a manufacturer)! They get a lot of offers now from the very same toy companies that caused them problems. But they refuse to have their product go corporate and prefer focusing their sales in more "Mom & Pop" style shops. They could have also easily made them expensive, but wanted them to be affordable and practical. I admire that they are willing to stick to their guns and not be lured in by the "corporate machine". And being around small town communities all my life, I like the idea of building support for "Mom & Pop" shops.

The article/interview goes on to discuss the classic under-dog story of pursuit despite failures and the golden success at the end. But, the one thing Sun-Min said about the order of success stuck with me:

"If you set out to do something you love, it pays off with satisfaction, and then it pays off with money." - Sun-Min Kim

Their satisfaction is in the audience's reaction to their pieces. Lots of fan mail, of all ages. From collectors to kids in hospitals, these "Ugly Dolls" have slowly crept into the hearts of a loyal minority. Even to the point where they get random letters & postcards with pictures showing their "Ugly Doll" traveling in various parts around the world. In addition, the audience gets to interact with it physically and emotionally:

"The doll's face is simple, but whether it's smiling or frowning depends on a person's imagination." - Sun-Min Kim

I think getting their audience to have this kind of reaction/interaction must be enormously satisfying!!!


Blogger Professor Melis said...

Very well written post. I've always wondered about those dolls and I've seen them pictured enough that I'm surprised to learn they're not "corporate." What a successful "mom and pop" product! Are they sold anywhere in Manhattan?

3:26 PM  

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