Dolls have been with us for many centuries now, evolving from wooden dolls, clay dolls, and paper dolls, to plastic dolls, but the message that they send us has always been the same. They are often imbued with symbolism about what is acceptable and desirable in our society.
For children, dolls can mean a lot of different things, but most importantly, dolls can help them build their creativity, imagination, individuality, and even self-esteem. For this reason, Eunice Chen launched the World’s Very First Asian Heritage Wooden Magnetic Dress-Up Dolls.
Read through as we learn more about the journey that led Eunice to create Stay Curious Toys, all of which she shared through an exclusive interview with Asian Hustle Network.
THE CREATION OF STAY CURIOUS DOLLS
When Eunice first embarked on her project of designing an Asian princess and giving her many traditional Asian clothing, it was purely for her own enjoyment and fulfillment of one of her childhood wishes. She wanted to share her designs as a free resource to the Asian community, so she created paper doll versions and posted them online.
“I wasn’t expecting much response, but it BLEW UP!” Eunice said. She got thousands of likes and hundreds of comments from people thanking her and asking her to turn it into a real toy product.
Months passed and people were still asking her to make the dolls into a wooden toy. She did not know where to begin and literally just Googled and researched online. Somehow, she stumbled across a factory that she (later on) discovered also makes wooden toys for big brand names such as Disney, Fisher-Price, and Melissa and Doug! One thing led to another, and now she owns her own toy company called Stay Curious Toys, with her first products being magnetic dress-up dolls.
PIVOTING FROM BEING AN ELEMENTARY TEACHER TO A FULL-TIME DESIGNER
Before becoming a designer, Eunice was an elementary school teacher. In December 2020, she decided to do a complete career pivot to become a designer, and had a dream of working as a designer in the animation industry. Growing up though, Eunice also wanted to become a fashion designer.
Little did she know that all of her dreams would come true, and that she would have the opportunity and enjoy designing her own toys and their clothes too.
Despite having no formal education in art and no connections in the art industry, Eunice worked hard, took art classes and learned to ask for help. She is now working as a full time designer on a Disney TV show, has illustrated four books, and designed toys.
Just like everyone, Eunice faced some challenges along the way, one of which was fear of failure, and a lot of self-doubt.
“I still don’t know the best way to deal with it and I haven’t overcome it, but I just continue to push through. I know that if I take small steps towards my goal or dreams daily, then one day I will get to the destination,” she said.
CULTURAL ROOTS AND MODERN FLAIR
Eunice’s multicultural upbringing in Canada/US and Taiwan plays a significant role in shaping her dolls. Infusing Eastern and Western influences, she creates designs that celebrate Asian heritage while offering a modern and fresh perspective.
In Taiwan, Eunice had a lot of Asian role models to look up to and instill within her a lot of pride in her identity. It showed her more diversity in the types of careers and interests an Asian person could pursue.
In the US/Canada, Eunice experienced what a lot of Asian Americans go through, how they always feel like an outsider and constantly having to be perfect or prove themselves. But she also witnessed the grit behind every immigrant and stories of their families.
However, in both places, she hadn’t seen Asian dolls that truly represented the richness and diversity of Asian Culture. And in some way, her creation is something that she wished she had when she was a girl.
WORKING ON A DISNEY TV SHOW
“I knew I had limited time and a lot of catching up to do, and since I was starting from the very bottom, I had no ego (or no shame). So I just kept putting myself out there and tried to learn from everyone and everything. I also developed thick skin and learned to take rejection lightly. Eventually, after countless applications, I got an art test for Pupstruction to design a bus for the show. They liked my design and hired me!” Eunice shared.
Eunice uses the same lessons she learned from landing her Disney job now with Stay Curious Toys: “keep a clear goal, continue to learn, don’t let rejections or setbacks deter you from your goal, and make friends!”
A near-death experience shaped Eunice’s outlook on life.
“It made me realize that life was too short to be lived for other people’s approval. And so I started making choices for myself…and through that process, I discovered that when I was making things that I truly enjoyed, it resonated with people and people responded,” she shared.
ADVICE FROM EUNICE
For those who want to pivot their career – “Be clear in what you want–even if you can’t see the final, ultimate goal, you have to know and believe what your next steps are. And in any change, risk is involved, so you have to know when to take that risk/jump. It is also important to filter out the noise/feedback you get from your friends and family–listen to them and then make your own assessment with the information you got from them. Each person and situation is different, so I am only sharing what has worked for me. But ultimately, the most important thing is to make or do what you love, and not what others want you to do.”
For those who want to pursue a career in art – “Make sure you develop a strong set of foundational art skills and learn those from good artists and references. Think about which field in the art industry you’d like to be in and curate your art portfolio to match the type of job you’d like. Stay humble and hungry, and surround yourself with peers and mentors by reaching out to them and asking questions. Keep putting yourself and your art out there, and know that even the best artists experience imposter syndrome.”
CONNECT WITH EUNICE CHEN / STAY CURIOUS TOYS
*Pre-order at staycurioustoys.com, starting February 1, 2024. The first 100 customers will receive an exclusive tote bag designed by Eunice.