Marvin the Bear
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!
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?
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.
The 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!