| Art |

Budsies: New Florida Company Turns Your Drawings Into Adorable Stuffed Animals

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Remember being bored as a kid or teen, and doodling up some imaginary characters in your notebook when you should have been paying attention during lectures? Actually, that sounds very much like your college days, too.... and like your behavior during meetings at the office today. What if those doodles didn't have to die each time you tossed out your notes? What if you could turn your mindless animation into a real, tangible thing?

Think three dimensional, but not like a 3D printer. More like a hand-sewed, fuzzy buddy -- a Budsies, to be exact. Budsies is a Florida company, headquartered in Boynton Beach, which celebrated its launch not more than a month ago. Budsies takes a drawing, any drawing, and turns it into a quality plush toy for you to cherish and keep forever.

The idea originated when Alex Furmansky, founder of Budsies, noticed the lifespan of his younger sister's drawings. Furmansky says how his mother would hang them up in the kitchen, on the fridge, and then they were moved to the basement, and eventually thrown out. "Meanwhile, on her bed, she had so many stuffed animals that she would tuck in every night," he remembers. "How cool would it be if I could transform her imagination into something she can tuck in every night and be a part of her life?"

The answer to that question: very cool.

Since his sister, Michelle, inspired his company, Furmansky says her very first Budsies is sort of like the company's mascot now. Idealy, he plans on making her one every year in order to track her artistic progress; "Imagine a row of Budsies where it starts more abstract with lines, and then you get a sort of face, then some sort of body, [and so on] -- it would be so cool to see that progression."

Furmansky brought a Budsies creation with him to our interview. It was a green alligator/dragon/unicorn with the softest plush material and the most charming snout. "The key is to see the picture and then see the toy," he said while pulling up the image to compare. The resemblance was incredible, to say the least.

"How can you not feel good about your life, making these toys?" Furmansky said, beaming.

The final product may look as if it sprung out of the paper, but the process behind its creation is a lengthy one. As Furmansky explains it: "First, an operator here looks at the incoming artwork and does two things: one, verifies that it's not obscene, and two, adds basic notes, like" -- he uses the alligator to demonstrate -- "this tail should be exaggerated, the horn should be white, etc." Next, "it goes to a designer who takes those notes and actually starts picking the fabrics and drawing the patterns. Then it goes to the worker who actually sews the plush together."

The last stop before shipment is quality control, where the toy gets poked and prodded, and pulled and pushed for safety and durability. Then, they'll hold up the original artwork along with the finished product and compare: "is it cute enough? If not, we scrap it and start again." Once it passes the cuteness test, the Budsies is carefully gift wrapped and sent along with a framed copy of the artwork it was based on, and arrives at your doorstep within two to four weeks.

If you're thinking that making a toy out of a silly drawing is something just for kids, think again. Budsies is not just for children; Furmansky made one himself for his dog, and he tells us how he's already getting orders from adults; in particular he's received two requests for a sort of office mascot.

We may not tuck in our plush toys before bed every night anymore, but that doesn't mean us grown ups don't appreciate a good stuffed animal every once in a while. Think about it: guys, don't you get stuffed animals for your ladies every so often? It would be more original and thoughtful if you were to doodle something inspired by your lady (or man) and turn it into a plush toy she can cherish forever. She'd be the only girl in the world with one like it - talk about making a girl feel special.

You know who else you can make feel special? Needy children. Budsies participates in the One for One movement, which has inspired companies like TOMS shoes and Warby Parker to give products to needy children. During the months of October and November, for every Budsies ordered, they will make an exact replica to give it to a struggling child.

"The principle there is to connect the child who is getting the Budsies made from his or her drawing with the child in need. And so, both kids are the only two kids in the world that have that exact, unique pair of Budsies," says Furmansky.

Furmansky's own family immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine. His mother and father worked hard to provide for him and his sister, and today, he says, they're doing pretty well. For Furmansky, the One for One movement is more than just giving life necessities, it can also be used to share emotional support. "I think every kid deserves to smile," he says, and being instrumental in making that happen is priceless.

"If you're struggling, especially as a kid, life gets hard," he says. "It's nice to have something there that you can hug, you can laugh with, you can cry with, and even grow up with."

Want your own Budsies? The process is simple from your end. Customers can use Budsies' streamlined website to submit their masterpiece, text a photo of their drawing for submission, or simply attach it to an email from their smartphone or tablet.

Send in something original, however, rather than a photograph. Why, exactly? Furmansky explains: "A photo captures an existing creature, so in your head you know exactly every single detail of that creature, so if [the Budsies] doesn't match exactly what that is, it feels off. If you have an abstract drawing, we can use our artistic prowess to make it cuter and embellish certain things, and all of a sudden it gains personality."

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