The doc­tor who saves cud­dly toys

Toy hos­pi­tal gives poorly ted­dies a clean bill of health

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - NEWS - By Tracey Bryce TRBRYCE@SUNDAYPOST.COM

It’s surely the most un­usual hos­pi­tal in Scot­land. The pa­tients be­ing pushed around in wheel­chairs and helped to bal­ance on crutches aren’t peo­ple, but some of the most loved cud­dly toys in the coun­try.

Mari Jones is the brains be­hind Ed­in­burgh’s Leith Toy Hos­pi­tal, where skilled seam­stresses spend their days patch­ing up the bears and other an­i­mals that have been hugged just a bit too much.

And maybe it’s be­cause she’s a big kid at heart, but the 28-year-old says it’s the “best job in the world”. In 2014, after study­ing tex­tiles at Ed­in­burgh Col­lege of Art, Mari opened Pic­ture to Pup­pet, pro­duc­ing toys for a range of clients, from par­ents to TV pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies.

But last year, in­un­dated with re­quests to fix up bears with loose seams or limbs hang­ing off, she in­tro­duced Leith Toy Hos­pi­tal, ded­i­cated to re­pair­ing and restor­ing old ted­dies in need of some TLC.

Now it’s be­come a big part of the busi­ness.

“We’ve got re­ally busy over the last six months,” Mari said. “In fact, we prob­a­bly get about two or three pa­tients a day in the toy hos­pi­tal.

“It’s usu­ally kids with their ted­dies that have been cud­dled so much that they’re start­ing to get holes or the legs, arms or heads have come off or the stuff­ing is flat.

“Or adults want­ing their old child­hood teddy re­stored so that they can pass it on to their chil­dren or grand­chil­dren. In many cases there’s been a soft toy in the fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions and they want to keep it for many more to come.”

While it’s mostly re­plac­ing an eye or top­ping up the stuff­ing, Mari has seen some poor bears.

“We’ve had ted­dies that have been run over, or mauled by dogs. “One of the worst ones I can re­mem­ber was a man who brought in a bag, which was ba­si­cally full of shred­ded fab­ric. There were so many pieces, we didn’t ac­tu­ally know what an­i­mal it was to be­gin with. “But we pieced them al­to­gether and they made a lovely dog. It was so nice to be able to hand it back.”

An­tique toys are also re­stored, with the old­est pa­tient hav­ing made it to the ten­der age of 120!

“Part of the think­ing for the toy hos­pi­tal goes back to my own child­hood,” said Mari. “I had a favourite called ‘lovely bear’. One day my mum put him in the wash­ing ma­chine and he came out in pieces.

“I cried my heart out but my mum said she could give him a new skin and put all the pieces in­side a new piece of fab­ric.

“It be­came a tra­di­tion to give it a new ‘skin’ when he got a bit worn.

“And it worked be­cause I still have the bear to­day.”

Mari is help­ing en­sure ted­dies now last longer than ever – and it saves par­ents buy­ing re­place­ments.

“After all, when a bear is loved as much as the ones we see, it’s unique to the child,” said Mari. “They know the feel and the smell of it – and it holds so many me­mories. That’s some­thing you can’t buy.

“As is the smile on peo­ple’s faces when we give them back. The chil­dren are so ex­cited to see their ted­dies with a new lease of life. It re­ally touches your heart.”

Pic­ture

Mari Jones of Leith Toy Hos­pi­talAn­drew Caw­ley

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