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Press Release: Leith Toy Hospital
Leith Toy Hospital is a small studio in Edinburgh, Scotland, repairing all sorts of modern and antique toys. The majority of our patients are teddies and dolls, but we get a huge range of other items such as marionettes, jack in the boxes, rocking horses and ornaments. Our customers vary from children, whose favourite toys have become damaged, to elderly people, who want to get their childhood toys restored in order to pass them on to the next generation. All of them share a desire to preserve their beloved objects, which hold huge sentimental value; the range of services we offer and the promise of making well-loved toys last have resulted in huge demand for the toy hospital.
Leith Toy Hospital grew out of Picture to Puppet, a small business that makes custom puppets and soft toys to order, started by Mari Jones in 2012. We make puppets and toys from photographs of people, pets, children’s drawings, school mascots, corporate mascots and pretty much anything people want! They’re ordered by TV and theatre shows, individuals, schools, parents, authors, illustrators and more. People kept asking us about repairs, so eventually we set up the Toy Hospital, and now it’s a big part of the business.
With a ‘teddy surgeon’ seamstress and ‘plastic surgeon’ doll specialist on staff, the variety of repairs we are called upon to perform is far-ranging and always keeps things interesting! Our most common repair services range from seam repairs to new jackets to full reconstructions. The services we offer for soft toys include surface cleaning, darning, patching, joint replacement, new paw pads, new eyes, new facial features, restuffing, new clothes and “new skin.” For dolls, we do a lot of restringing, crack repair, finger rebuilding, new clothing, new blinking eyes/ eyelashes, and new wigs.
We get a lot of dog, moth and mouse related injuries, and older toys who’ve just been cuddled to bits! One of the most challenging repairs is putting smashed porcelain dolls back together and trying to cover up the cracks. Part of the challenge of the toy hospital is to restore the toy to full strength without changing the character of the toy or making it look too new and different. We always provide a personal service to the customer to make sure they’re getting exactly the level of repair they want. When each toy arrives, it gets a spot in one of our little hospital beds, its name on a chart on the wall, and an individual treatment plan. When they’re fixed, they get a fresh ribbon around their neck, a sick note detailing their return to work guidelines and an “I was brave” sticker to take home!
Some of the toys have really interesting stories – we had a lovely doll that came from Latvia originally, it was brought in by an older lady whose family came over as refugees during the second world war and she’d kept the doll ever since. We also had a man bring in his girlfriend’s childhood teddy that his dog had just chewed up, and he needed us to fix it in order to save their relationship! It was completely torn to bits and we had to piece it together strip at a time. We had some teddies dating back to about 1906 and some even older Victorian dolls. It’s a privilege to work with these treasured objects that hold such sentimental value to people and to restore them back to health.
There used to be a lot of toy hospitals, and our customers often tell us about ones that used to exist in Edinburgh. Now they’re much rarer, and there’s always a demand for our services. We’re generally treating about 30 patients at any one time. We get patients in from all over the British Isles, but our services are available worldwide a recent order was from as far away as North America. The services we offer are in keeping with the growing interest in repair and reuse, as part of more sustainable consumer choices, but ultimately, the Toy Hospital’s popularity shows that no matter how old you are, there are few things more valuable than your favourite teddy.
Address: 64 Constitution Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6RR