Bears can be a Great Hobby........
(.....and You meet the nicest people)
Some of the very nicest people in the world make and/or collect Teddy Bears.
I've been lucky enough to meet many collectors as well as a goodly number of makers, since
I began collecting in the 1980's. Any collector of these little critters,
eventually wonders if it's possible to make one of their own from scratch. It is a
time consuming craft, made more so, if the aspiring maker lacks most of the basic sewing
skills or if such skills are relatively dormant.
I made a little 12 inch bear from a pattern which was found in the Teddy Bear and Friends magazine, over ten years ago. He was completely sewn by hand, using needle and thread and a backhand overlap stitch. No machine stitching, because my skill at machine use was only good enough to close a torn, straight seam in clothing. Because he was all hand sewn, He took several days to complete and was "born" on July 4th, so I named him Julius. It was just a few days until the beginning of the first ever Bill Boyd's Teddy Bear Jubilee, in 1990, which for the first few years was held at the Park Place Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri.
Julius and I headed off to that convention and even though he was very rough compared to the professional standard of most of the bear makers who were at that convention---well known makers such as Kathleen Wallace, The Bear Lady....Monty Sour and "Grandma" Lynn Lumley plus dozens of other wonderful artists, He had been made with love and several other collectors admired his joie de vivre. He went nearly every where with me during the convention, peeking out of the basket I carried and we had a great time!
It was at that convention that I met many of the members of the Mo-Kan Teddy Bear Society and found out about this area's Chapter of the Good Bears of the World. It became my first link with local collectors and also with several locally based teddy bear making artists, including Monty Sour and her husband Joe and Bettina Grough who markets her creations under the name of The Glass Dragon.
Making Julius gave me even more respect for the well crafted hand made teddy bears that the true Teddy Bear Artist makes. There is one very well known artist who can make five of her creations in one day. She offered one of the workshop programs at the Jubilee several years ago. It was quite interesting. However, I must point out that her "day" started at about 7 AM and stretched throughout her day (with caring for a family and house) until about 10 PM. So bear making, even with a lot of experience, isn't a snap.
The vast majority of bear makers take great pride in their level of overall craftsmanship. When you are choosing a new bear, craftsmanship probably isn't what will grab your attention. The FACE is the THING. If you already collect bears, you know what I am talking about. From an aisle away, you make eye contact with THE ONE. You hustle through the press of the crowd, hurrying so that HE will still be there for you to sweep up into your arms. I have gotten so enchanted with a FACE that I was willing to overlook minor flaws such as a less than perfect alignment of a little fellow's legs or (once) a back seam that wasn't fully closed and puffed an occasional plastic pellet. (Having a daughter who is a bear maker helped on that one, because she did the needed seam closure and the seam was completely hidden at the end of surgery.)
However, making a bear of your own, will give you a basic knowledge of exactly what goes into the process and may tend to make you a more discerning collector. At the very least, it will give you a new respect for the makers and an understanding of why these little bears can cost so much more than the average commercially produced teddy.
Here is a little information on making a teddy of your own:
That should get you started on your way to making a Teddy Bear. Good Luck, Have Fun and I hope you will Love the finished Him or Her as much as I Love Julius.
P.S. Don't forget to buy your new friend a ribbon to go around it's neck. You might want to wait until your bear is born and take it shopping with you. You would be amazed at the fun you can have in the store while shopping for that ribbon. Just stroll right into the store with Teddy draped over your arm and begin your little shopping expedition. A few murmured words to Ted to find out his preferences in color and style should get the ball rolling. Some people will think you are crazy but an equal number will completely understand.
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