Now it’s time to take a look at a small but competitive business making a difference for the Korean economy.
Many people remember making models with paper in their childhood for a school assignment. These paper models are now evolving into “paper toys.” Paper is cut and pasted to create animal figures or characters from famous cartoons and films. These paper toys are produced in accordance with assembly drawings by specialists, so they can express detailed and delicate features, which are incomparable to those of traditional paper models. Paper toys are adored by not only children but also grown-ups with childlike tastes and sentiments. A company called Pollystory is adding more creativity to these new toys. Let’s hear from Lim Hyung-jin, the head of the company.
My company’s dream is to make toys that help adults relive some happy childhood memories. People ask what the name of my company means. The word “Polly” is a nickname that I have used for a long time. It is my personal nickname, but in a sense, other individuals may find their own identity in it. Pollystory represents my challenge and hope that people, including myself, will create their own interesting stories. I was totally fascinated with toys when I was little. Even as I became older, I couldn’t put toys out of my mind. When I was an office worker, I would travel to Japan and Hong Kong, carrying a big bag to collect various toys. I’m extremely fond of toys, and I decided to make wonderful toys on my own.
The former industrial designer set up Pollystory in 2014. The company chose paper toys as its main item.
I found that toys were mostly made of plastic, and I chose paper for my toys. The biggest benefit of paper toys is that I can print out new designs right away to easily make the toys by myself, and I can modify or correct things instantly, if necessary. Paper is also a familiar material for consumers. But poor durability and the difficulty in producing complex shapes are the weak points of paper toys. To differentiate my product from existing ones, I considered a new structure that can prop up the paper from inside. I also adopted an egg as a new theme.
It’s quite fun to fold paper and make three-dimensional toys. But paper toys have limitations as well. They are not very solid and it can be difficult to make curved shapes. To improve durability, the company added a different material known as woodlac, which is a type of synthetic resin panel.
The first product of my company was a paper toy called “Eggplustic.” The face was in the shape of an egg and used a plastic hemisphere, while the body was made of woodlac. The purpose was to increase durability but it turned out that the assembly process was too complicated. To overcome the shortcomings, we developed a new product called “Egg Friends.” The entire body is made of plastic and paper is applied to the body, as if putting clothes on a doll. Every part made of paper, including the shoes, pants, jackets and caps, can be fitted to the plastic body. Thanks to the plastic body, the toys became more solid and stable, while it was easier to express curves more naturally.
The “Eggplustic” product was launched in 2015. It was inspired by Mr. Lim’s childhood memory about decorating an egg during art class. Just like drawing facial features on the surface of an egg to complete the face, stickers were attached to egg-shaped plastic to express various facial expressions such as a smile or a frown. But the product needed several more materials, other than paper. That means it was more difficult to produce, causing the product prices to rise. So the company worked on its second product, “Egg Friends,” to strengthen the advantages and eradicate the weaknesses. Users can assemble paper-folded clothes, shoes and caps to make figures of a baseball player, a doctor or a soldier by themselves. The product can better utilize paper for detailed expressions and added the fun of assembling. It was selected as one of the recipients of the Hi-Seoul Good Products Awards certified by Seoul City and the Seoul Business Agency. Encouraged by the positive result, Pollystory has unveiled another product that has further expanded the scope of paper toys.
A product called “Bird Healing Mobile” is attracting a lot of attention these days. It is a mobile shaped like a bird. Straps connected to the body are pulled and then released, and it flutters naturally, like a real bird fluttering its wings. Reflecting the enthusiastic response to this product, we were able to collect funds through crowdfunding in May. The final amount was a whopping 450 percent of our initial goal. People may think that mobiles are for babies. But math or science teachers want to use this product in class, taking note of its delicate and scientific fluttering. It can be used as interior decoration in homes and coffee shops. Some people want it for emotional healing.
The Bird Healing Mobile is a semi-automatic, do-it-yourself product. The fluttering of the wings is so natural that it is hard to believe the wings are actually made of paper. Outside of Korea, meanwhile, the “Egg Friends Multiculture” series are drawing attention.
From the beginning of developing this product, we considered the possibility of exports. The “Egg Friends Multiculture” series, which features traditional costumes of different countries, was first unveiled at the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair in January this year. A lot more foreign buyers showed great interest in the product than we had expected. Since we began to export the product in July, orders have been on a steady rise. We plan to participate in exhibitions in Indonesia and Japan in September, and we hope to expand export destinations. We hope to see many children in various parts of the world enjoying our products.
Pollystory seeks to enhance the joy of playing with toys with new ideas and bold challenges. We believe the company will be able to fulfill its goal of bringing happiness through toys.