Bocchetta Plush Toys was established in 1948, in Arona, a small town on Lake Maggiore, in Piemont, a Region in northwest Italy.
Our founders are Giovanni Bocchetta and Clementina Ottobrini. Giovanni was a wood designer by trade and Celementina was a seamstress who, as a young girl, understudied as a seamstress and designer in a tailor’s shop.
The young couple met at a doll factory where they both worked. Giovanni was a traveling toy-salesman and involved in the manufacturing process and Clementina was in charge of the cutting and sewing departments for rag dolls.
They got married in 1941, during the Second World War, and continued to work at the factory until they decided, in 1948, to start up their own small business.
Bocchetta Plush Toys began on the ground floor of their home – where they lived with their two little children, Maria Lina and Luigi. It was an old villa, named Isola Caprera (so-called by its former owner, a veteran of Garibaldi’s army of the Risorgimento War for the Unity of Italy in the Seventeenth Century). The building stood in the middle of a great meadow surrounded by a private boundary hedge mixed with honeysuckle flowers. The villa had an orchard with several fruit trees and a vegetable garden which fed the family during the start-up phase of their business.
Giovanni adored animals and was thus inspired to produce stuffed animals instead of dolls. He left a rather big collection of books on animals, which he poured over in an attempt to perfect the anatomy of his toys. The first toys that Bocchetta produced were bears, lions, elephants and giraffes.
Both Giovannia and Celementina loved dogs and on returning from the Great St Bernard Pass in Switzerland with their new pet, Elis the St Bernard, they were inspired to replicate him. They also produced border collie plush toys in honour of their other dog, Dolly.
The Bocchetta’ Family moved to new and larger premises (a couple of years after their third child’s birth, Giuseppe) as they required the extra space to accommodate their growing collection and staff.
The whole family was involved in the business. They made all of their own fur and every toy was hand sewn. Giovanni spent all of his free time designing new toys – making a wooden carving of each animal before handing them over to Celementina to cover with fabric.
The business grew from strength to strength. Giovanni, without being able to speak a word of English, flew to New York to purchase 2 brand new stuffing machines. He then also took the toys to the trade fair shows in Italy (the Milan Trade Fair and the Milan Toy Exhibition and the Toy Fair in Nuernberg in Germany).
Giovanni was awarded the title of Knight of the Work of the Italian Republic by the President because of the success of the little business that he started on the ground floor of his home.
Giovanni passed in 1994 at the age of 80, Clementina in 2012 at the age of 98. “Signor Giovanni and Signora Clementina” are still fondly remembered by their workers and the families of these workers.
Some of the toys were made with moving parts. The organ on this little wagon played a tune when the crank was turned.
Linda Bocchetta, an Australian citizen, met Luigi while she was living in Italy. They continued to operate the family business in Italy together before moving it to Indonesia, where they focused on growing the range and increasing the scope of production. In 2005, they moved the design and wholesale section of the business to Australia where it still continues to operate.