‘Toy doctor’ strives to repair broken toys

“Owners have invested their toys with life and a deep affection,” said Liu Haimei, a “toy doctor” whose job is to give people’s beloved belongings a second life by restoring them to their original appearance to the greatest extent possible.

Liu, born after the 1980s, developed some basic handiwork skills during her childhood due to the influence of her mother, who had worked at a stuffed toy company in Yangzhou, east China’s Jiangsu province.

Liu had also worked at a toy import and export company between 2011 and 2020. She was forced to leave the company when it was hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic.

“After I lost my job, I decided to try starting my own business repairing toys. As I enjoy making handicrafts and have been in the field for a long time, I believed it would suit me well,” Liu said, explaining her original intention in launching the toy restoration business online.

Liu usually starts repairing a toy by first washing it carefully, as many toys hadn’t been washed for many years. Then she replaces the stuffing inside the toy and patches up any holes it might have.

Among the hundreds of toys Liu has repaired, the oldest was more than 60 years old, but the one that left the deepest impression on her was a worn-out toy seal named Huihui. According to Huihui’s owner, a young woman, the toy seal had been with her and become her best friend for over a dozen years spanning her childhood and time studying overseas since 2006 when her father bought it for her as a gift.

As the toy had become old and worn, the owner asked Liu to help her restore her old companion to its original look. She even published a journal for Huihui every single day on the instant messaging application WeChat to document the restoration process.

“Thanks to your hard work, my toy seal can finally come to life,” the young woman said, expressing her gratitude to Liu after her toy had been given a second life by the craftswoman.

Liu takes her job very seriously, as she believes it is of great significance. She once repaired a broken toy 10 times so that it would be in the best possible shape when it arrived at its owner’s home.

“I was completely concentrated and devoted while repairing the toys, and I always gained a sense of fulfilment after I successfully fixed them,” said Liu.