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Michelle Helen Chaska, Minnesota
Posts: 2,895

Though I am not a professional bear artist, I have been making bears and other critters for 15 years. It was rather a fluke on how I began my making bears. In 1995 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. I was 35 years old. When I was still in the hospital, a nurse walked in with a teddy bear and said “everybody always focus on children when they get cancer. Nobody ever thinks that an adult is suffering too. This bear is made by a group of people who do not want you or any adult to be forgotten†. She called it the Sojourn Bear.

When I was feeling better, I contacted the person who organized this mass teddy bear making initiative. I told her I don’t sew but offered to help in another ways? Well I went to their meetings and met a women (surviving cancer too) who taught me how to make bears. From there I never looked back....

New Avenue Crew New Avenue Crew by Debora Hoffmann
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Posts: 1,959

I love reading everyone's stories. Thank you for sharing yours, MaryAnn. I think you've taken a difficult time with losing your daughter coupled with your need to express yourself and have soared! :hug:

Tami E Tami Eveslage Original Teddy Bears
Milford Ohio
Posts: 2,367

My old thread revived!!! And many new stories! Thank you all for sharing.

thondra rosenheim / bayern
Posts: 311

my story is so diffrent to yours :D
very unspectaculare

i had i dream, i am making teddybears and selling them
then i started to search for a pattern, tried at first with a nice goldenbrouwn SATIN fabric to make this bear from a free pattern
and was getting realy realy realy frustrated, because the head looked like anything, but not like a bears

my man then suggested, to try at first a patternpack, so i ordered a little snow white bear with mohair and all
and then i tried it ... somehow i managed to get the wrong pattern though, and as the nose on the satin bear was soooo long, i shortend the nose too ...
out came something very strange ....
but i got the feeling i could do better, and ordered some more mohair, a sparse in white (i had no idea what sparse ment) and some nice light brown with dark tops (just see it ... the avatar bear is this brown mohair :))....

and made my second bear, which we (me and my man) love :D
his eyes are uneven, his nose looks wrecked up, but he is absolutely sweet with his 13cm ....
i wanted to fix his eyes and his nose now, but my man says no way, he got to stay as he is

this was last summer, and since then i am in the bear sewing fewer :D
now the first part of the dream came true .... now i hope the second part comes true too ... as i run out of space, and faux fur and mohair are not cheap to come by

Lisa q.D.paToOtieS
Near Fredericksburg, VA
Posts: 1,349

I was a sickly child and often stayed at home with my grandma when my family went places.  She would entertain me with all sorts of games (Jacob's Ladder) she knew from childhood, played board games with me and then one day, when I was about 7, she taught me to sew by hand.  The first thing we made was a dress for my Cinnamon doll.  She never used patterns so she showed me how to make things without a pattern.  After we made a few things together, I was hooked.  I would take scraps from my mom's fabric stash and make doll clothes.  Doll clothes evolved into critters somehow and I created a Piglet to go with my Pooh Bear (they didn't sell them back then to my knowledge).  Creating Piglet opened up a whole new world for me.  I made a HUGE doll for the haunted house my sister and I put together every Halloween and after that it was on to bears.  My first bears were out of corduroy (because that was what my mom had left over).  They were string jointed and instead of a head gusset, their snout was sewn on and resembled half a football.  Instead of an embroidered nose, they had one of those leather buttons.  The eyes were large round beads.  I made a lot of these bears just to make them and continued making bears and clothing for myself well into my teens.  Then, I went to college and forgot all about sewing and concentrated on studying (yeah, that's what I tell my mom).

I had collected dolls all my life and found out about Artist Dolls while I was in college when I fell in love with a Julie Good-Krüger doll I saw in Doll Reader Magazine but couldn't afford it as she cost more than my books for that semester!  Once I had my job, I started buying dolls from some of my favorite artists and joined a UFDC Doll Club.  I met a lady that lived locally and we decided to open a Doll and Teddy Bear store mainly to showcase her love for sewing for the American Girl dolls and sell some of the dolls from our own collections.  We hadn't been open long when the first Doll and Teddy Bear Expo came to the Washington, DC area and we attended as shop owners.  It was there that I discovered Artist Bears and my first interaction with any artist was Sally Winey.  I adopted a bear from her with the intention of putting him in our shop but somehow he managed to come home with me.

It wasn't until I got married and moved to Charleston, SC where I could not find a job that paid me what I made "up North" that I even thought about making artist bears myself.  We had just moved there and we were going into all of the shops in downtown Charleston when I went into a bookstore.  My friend and I had closed our shop when I moved but being a collector myself I always bought the magazines because I was always buying, selling or trading my dolls and with the Internet expanding the way it did in the 1990s, it made it easier to see the latest from my favorite artists.  I saw the artist bear magazines as I picked up my doll collector magazines and it made me think back to my one artist bear and how I used to make bears back when I was a kid.  So I bought both "Teddy Bear Review" and "Teddy Bear and Friends" and came home and got online.  I think somehow I found TBML (Teddy Bear Mailing List) which was like a forum but the messages from everyone were E-mailed to you.  It was there that I met other artists and found out about a teddy bear show that was being held in Hershey, PA which also had some classes.  I had designed a few of my own patterns by then and was anxious to show them to the person teaching the class (Garth Davies) to see what he thought.  I learned how to joint my bears with hardware in that class, Garth gave me the nod of approval on the two patterns I had come up with so far, I bought my first mohair and went home to see if I could make some bears.  I made up my patterns in mohair and was shocked at how much better they looked then when I had made the test bears out of corduroy and then a few out of plush felt.  Wow.  This stuff is good.  No wonder it's so pricey but SOoo worth it.  I was now fully addicted and so in April 1998, I became Bunting-Thoms Teddybären.  My name has changed a few times since then to reflect my "breaks" in making bears but the love of making them has never been lost.  I think that is something that will always stick with me no matter how many breaks I take.

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