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Marvin the 12 foot cuddly bear

Marvin the 12 foot cuddly bear

I know, I know – it’s been a long time, and I’ve been missing in action. It’s been a busy year so far: Extreme Knitting in South East Asia, producing sock monkey hats by the bucket load (available this fall!), filling large orders of ski masks (more on that one later) in addition to working out new designs for the knitters out there! Of course that’s just the knitting related jobs…

Marvin the bear getting huggedOne big chunk of time, and many sleepless nights were spent working on an outrageous project this spring. I got a random email in March asking if I could make a giant stuffed teddy bear. Dimensions? A mere 6 foot by 12 foot, and nearly 6 foot tall at the head.

The guys requesting it turned out to be an awesome crew from Red Paper Heart – they needed the bear for their interactive art installation at FITC in Toronto. The bear was going to be going on an international tour!!! How could I say no?

After meeting with them and seeing a few of their previous projects like their award-winning cycling challenge, I knew this was something I had to be a part of. They sent me a drawing detailing the shape and colors and provided a jumbo sized bean bag to use as the bear’s belly. Then they let me loose!

Making the bear

Since I had never made a 12 foot bear before and had no pattern to go by, I thought it would be best to start with a clay model. That way I had a 3D figure to work with. From that I was able to measure out a pattern for the individual pieces (tin foil, a marker and a ruler came in handy for this bit!). Have you heard the one about the guy who built a giant boat in his basement… well luckily I realized early on that this particular bear would have to be built in pieces. It would also need to be assembled fairly easily. As far as getting it through customs?? uhh… not my problem?

The original Marvin Drawing  Larger model bear to be used for drawing up material sizes and patterns  Sewing the burlap together

Sewing the fur onto the leg of the bear  With and without Marvin!  FITC Installation from Red Paper Heart

I came up with the idea of having the head, arms and legs zip off for ‘easy’ packing and transport. Oh and it was going to be impossible to build in our tiny living room (12′ x 18′ plus all the furniture). Luckily a neighbor was away for part of the construction, so I was able to stash my sofa in her living room for a little while.

Once I sorted out the pattern, it was just a matter of cutting out the pieces and sewing them all together! Ok, a lot of the sewing was done by hand so it wasn’t quite that simple. Plus we had to acquire 100 lbs of stuffing – not an easy feat in Manhattan – particularly transporting it conveniently during rush hour on the subway.

The gang came round early one morning and we had one final zip test. Luckily everything squeezed into the elevator – even if it was only 2 arms or one belly at a time.

Marvin The Bear Goes to Toronto

Marvin with a jump-hug in progressThe newly named Marvin made it safely through customs (phew!) and was well received at FITC in Toronto. In fact, rumor has it he was a hit!

The installation was an interactive bear-hugging exercise. People were encouraged to leap into the arms of Marvin and their efforts were displayed through an animated projection above. The harder you hugged Marvin, the more vibrant the animation! The Red Paper Heart gang put some great pictures of bear and people in action over at the Red Paper Heart Flickr set.

It’s great to see so much joy being spread – one giant hug at a time!

Word on the street is that Marvin may be making other appearances at some point, so follow my tweets and I’ll keep you posted!


Marvin with the overhead animated projections


Other links:

Red Paper Heart
Red Paper Heart on Flickr
Red Paper Heart on Vimeo