//Folkmanis – History
Folkmanis – History 2018-07-03T10:04:32+00:00

Folkmanis® – History

The most innovative, creative puppet maker in the world!

Folkmanis® Puppets believes imagination is the key to a healthy childhood, encouraging play and discovery to develop the skills necessary in life. The company has been making the most innovative and engaging specialty puppets in the world since 1976, delighting imaginations and winning nearly every industry, child development, and kid-tested award, many repeatedly.

39 Years and Growing!

Conceived as a “cottage industry” business in Watertown, MA., in the late 1960’s and nurtured among the street vendors lining Berkeley’s famed Telegraph Avenue, Folkmanis® Puppets are the expression of Judy Folkmanis’ active imagination, sewing wizardry, and love of nature.

Creating her first animal puppets to entertain her own children, Judy was astounded when her unsung, but cuddly, creations began attracting a growing group of paying customers. Most often these were other parents who sought high play value from their toy purchases and an appreciation of the natural world for their children.

Joined in the burgeoning endeavor in 1976 by her Ph.D. husband Atis—who happily abandoned a career in biochemistry for pattern-cutting—the couple realized that launching a menagerie of carefully detailed and realistic animal puppets was their “right livelihood.” They hired several seamstresses and never looked back. The rest, as they say, is toy industry history – as Folkmanis’ line and renown grew by leaps and bounds.

Still headquartered in Emeryville, California, today Folkmanis, Inc. has grown to become the premier manufacturer of plush puppets worldwide. Folkmanis® Puppets offers over 200 of the most heartwarming and realistically designed creatures—both exotic and familiar—on the market today. And, after more than 35 years, Folkmanis, Inc. is still a family business. Judy and Atis oversee both the creative and operations sides to ensure that the quality and love of the natural world they wish to convey through their toys remains true to their original vision.

“The success that Folkmanis Puppets has enjoyed for more than 35 years simply reinforces the fact that when it comes to children, old-fashioned, open-ended play patterns are the best, and the simplest toys are really the healthiest gifts one can buy for a child,” says Elaine Kollias, marketing director. “That is why puppets are so firmly in the ‘good toy’ category – not just that they encourage and inspire imaginative play, but that they represent a thoughtful and fun gift that is more than ‘just’ a toy.”

Widely regarded as the most innovative puppet-maker in the world, Folkmanis® Puppets consistently designs beautifully crafted toys that inspire creativity, promote hands-on discovery, encourage interaction, teach fine and gross motor skills, help develop early language, and become a child’s lovable companion to be treasured for years. The company’s line includes a virtual menagerie of plush pets and friendly wildlife friends with new designs constantly on the drawing board.

The European distribution was taken over the year 1988 by Jochen Heil who actually comes as a curative educator from a completely different profession. Through therapeutic work with children, he was able to gain a deep insight into the really important needs of children. This helped him a lot in the selection of pedagogically valuable toys on the rather confusing toy market, first for the Verwenung in their own educational work. The Folkmanis® Puppets have inspired him from the beginning, especially because they have an almost immediate onset of play on children and adults. In the game it is very easy to interact with the game partner. Imaginative stories and solutions are almost self-evident, and fun and enjoyment are by no means neglected.

Jochen Heil started importing folkmanis puppets and a growing fan base wanted to order more and more of them. The result was a mail-order catalog, which primarily delivered to kindergartens, schools, therapists and clinics. Later, this delivery service was also offered to families and other individuals, and became so successful that Jochen Heil had to give up his real job. Whereby the years of pedagogical experience still play an important role in product selection. The product range expanded.  The mail-order catalog “JOCHEN HEIL” was enriched with numerous other playing and therapeutic toys.

Owing to the success of the business, over the years wholesalers were added who now supply retailers in Europe and Russia. Numerous agencies were opened to provide local service in their own language. Folkmanis-Puppets is also present at all major toy and gift trade fairs in Europe. But the most important thing is still the Nuremberg Toy Fair – where the whole world meets every year in February to see and order the latest in the market.

Folkmanis® is considered the world’s leading puppet maker, creating lovely designs that promote creativity, pleasure in discovery, collaboration, language development, and coarse and fine motor skills. In addition, our puppets can become a beloved friend for many years. Our collection consists of a menagerie of cuddly pets and friendly wildlife; new designs are added constantly.