Bringing Junko Mizuno's Hana to life in soft vinyl!
Hana was designed by Junko Mizuno to be made in the sofubi medium (Sofubi = Japanese soft vinyl – the same soft vinyl material Barbie was originally made from!). For many of those who ordered Hana, this may very well be their first step into the world of sofubi toys, so we wanted to highlight all the steps that go into making these truly artisan figures! After years of talking to customers in our store, we have come to learn that most people do not realize the truly handmade nature and process behind sofubi toys! It's pretty amazing to learn about, and I know for us, it is the timeless process that made us fall in love with the medium. After the initial design phase by Junko, Hana was then hand sculpted in clay by a master sculptor in Japan.
Once the sculpt was completed and approved, a silicone mold is then hand cast from the sculpt. Wax is then poured into the silicone mold to make a wax copy, which after many hours of careful hand cleaning and perfecting of the wax copy will be used to make the final metal mold. Once the wax copy is perfect, the wax goes through a kind of electroplating process that takes several weeks to build up the metal mold layering. When the mold is complete, it’s time to pull the vinyl!
(Entire sofubi "factory" fits in one room and may comfortably hold 2 workers at best!)
The vinyl is poured into the mold as a liquid and cooked in a chemical bath for a specific amount of time. The longer you cook the vinyl the thicker and harder it gets! Hana was very tricky for this first version. She had to be made thick enough to stand properly, but thin enough to allow an inner paint design to show through. Once the vinyl cooks to the proper thickness, it is pulled out of the mold by hand (actually pliers – it’s hot!) and then the process starts again for the next one.
(Pulling parts out by hand!)
The vinyl then must be bathed and dried to completely to degrease the parts and prepare them to be painted!
For this special version, Hana parts were carefully hand painted on the inside and then allowed to dry and offgas completely.
Once dry, the parts have to be carefully trimmed by hand, and then assembled and packaged and then Hana is finally ready to ship out to her new homes!!!
Due to the handmade nature of Hana, each one is unique. There will be slight variations in the paint due to the inner paint technique used, which was chosen to make her look unique as well as give her this “glass sculpture” look. We hope you truly enjoy this beautiful piece of handmade art for years to come. If you would like to learn more about the art of sofubi making, check out more of our past blog posts!