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Past Time Bears - Artist bears designed and handcrafted by Sue Ann Holcomb
Shelli Makes - Teddy bears & other cheerful things by Shelli Quinn

Mo Beary Mo Bear Designs
Redcliff, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,536

This might be a really silly question but it has been on my mind so I just have to ask.  And please please don't be offended by this question. 

Is there anything that distinguishes you as a bear artist as opposed to a bear maker.  Or is there a difference?  Are you a bear artist because you love the art of making bears? 

Is a bear artist someone who designs their own patterns and a bear maker someone who makes bears from someone elses patterns?

I would just like to know if there is a difference so that I'am politically correct if and when I sell my bears.

A little confused.


Dilu Posts: 8,574


What a great, thought provoking question. 

I may have differant criteria than the others, because of growing up with a 'real' artist.  And the criteria I have I developed over all  my years growing up.

I think an artist has the following characteristics:
they are original
they are innovative
they are imaginative
they love other's work and are supportive and positive, yet keep others work separate from theirs-  ( In other words they don't steal the ideas of other people)
They are always trying harder to do better, and sometimes don't recognize when they have done great!
They are human, make mistakes and are willing to learn from them
They are willing to support, help, teach, share with newer, unfounded fledgling artists coming along
Their work adds something special to life, it enhances the world in some way and it doesn't denigrate, ridicule, hurt the world.

A bearmaker makes a bear.  It's like making a dress....follow the pattern and the directions.  Their bears may be wonderful and fun but they may not have moved that last step up the ladder.

I think of art as a continum and at one end are the greats-Reubins, DaVinci, Michelangelo etc and at the other end those people who do things like a portrait of the Virgin Mary and then slap dung all over the portrait.  The rest fall somewhere in the middle.

Christo with his yellow umbrellas- hmmm, interesting, maybe even amusing, but art?

Any way that's my quarters worth.  (hey there's inflation guys! :lol:)
These are the characteristics I watched in my father as I was growing up. 


Marion Acid Attic Bears
Posts: 2,284

But as far as bears are concerned, isn't it just a simple way to differenciate people who design their bears and people who don't, a lexical short-up ?
I don't consider myself as an artist, but on ebay, it's a category by itself...

Wisdom Bears Wisdom Bears
Ayrshire, Scotland.
Posts: 951

Hi Jane,
                   I was told that you are a Bear Artist  if you design and create your own patterns. But I do remember after I won my first award ,someone said to me ,you can call yourself a Bear Artist now. Whether or not its relevant I have no idea, I just enjoy the creative side to making a bear.

   Hugs Rita xx

Deb Upstate New York
Posts: 1,650

IMO, I would think an artist would imagine a look and draw a pattern, and knowing how to do that would be the knowledge part (along with the actual assembly) of creating a teddy bear.  Seems the "art" is in the imagination that involves the choosing of the fur and the placement of the eyes, the sculpting of the face, etc.  I wonder too, if whether you are or are not an artist is not up to you or your peers, but rather up to the critics (customers).  (I have no clue, I'm just wondering!) :D

If you really want to think too much, check and search on artist

Noodle this for example: 

     Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.
      ~ Pablo Picasso

Enjoy the site!


Dilu Posts: 8,574

Well I make my own patterns-and I, for the most part do a pretty darn good job, Yentle and pigmoneybear aside.  I do not consider myself an artist in bears, yet.  I do not believe I have reached the same quality of work as the Judi's. Sue Ann's or Shelli's of this world.  Yet.

My gollies are a little bit unique, I can find nothing like them on the internet, but then I believe Jane and Laure make artist Gollies.

I see my bears as in transition

I see my gollies as a blooming Grandma Moses-kind of folk-arty

But I am not a real artist yet.

For those who chose to think they are that's great...but perhaps it goes back to the continum...and trying to do better.


Chico, California
Posts: 9,939

Shelli Retired Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

I find this a provacative and interesting subject.  One which I've seen discussed passionately several times before, on various forums and private groups.

For that reason, I'd like to suggest that, whatever you might be inclined to post, you do so with extra sensitivity.  I have yet to see this debate come to a good end, and somebody's feelings always end up being trampled... often, inadvertently, but to hurtful and distancing effect all the same.

Tread lightly, fellow bear creators.... ;).... you're doing beautifully so far.

PS  Just for the record, I'm not touching this topic with a ten foot pole.

Mo Beary Mo Bear Designs
Redcliff, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,536

Oops!  I didn't really appreciate what a sensitive topic this would be. 

I welcome all the points that have been brought up and appreciate all of the opinions.  I was merely trying to get some sort of guidance.  I do consider myself an artist as I design all my own bears however, I wasn't sure if there was some laid down criteria to be a bear artist.  I didn't want to offend anybody by calling myself a bear artist and then someone questioning my teachings/credentials etc. and I would be left with 'egg on face'.

So sorry if anyone is offended.


Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568

Gina said:

Art is imagination and creativity.

Though not Webster's definition, I like this one. So, if you put these elements into your work then you are putting in your originality. I've read in many places that is what makes the difference between maker and artist in the bear world... for all intents and purposes. Originality vs. copying a pattern.

Food for thought: Interestingly: We don't call painters 'picture makers' or 'crafters', we call them artists, right? Most of their work is original, right?

I don't know of any Bear Creator Bible that states what differentiates the two. If you feel your work is art then so it is!!!

Like Dilu, I'm not at artist status either but I'm getting there.

But as far as collectors are concerned either you are or you aren't. So I understnad the need to determine a guideline, it's just too tough to do!


Wisdom Bears Wisdom Bears
Ayrshire, Scotland.
Posts: 951

Hi All, I think we all have one thing in common ,we all love making and creating our bears, whatever we call ourselves does not matter one hoot as long as you enjoy what you do.  Hugs Rita xx

All Bear All Bear by Paula
Posts: 5,162

I'm never comfortable with the term 'bear-artist', so I always describe myself as a teddy bear designer. bear_cool

Eileen Baird'sBears
Posts: 3,873

bear_laugh One of my favorite topics, but I have no answer!

I've been looking at some "Make-Do" creations lately, usually when I'm searching for something else. These are a form of folk art that use scraps of anything and everything to make figures, critters, little sculptures, etc. Most are crudely constructed, and rather . . . weird. :/

The funny thing is, some of these grab me right away as witty, creative, and irresistable. There's a unmistakably individual head, heart and hand behind the work. It's got a definite not-for-manufacture air to it, and you know that there will never be another like it, because the maker/artist made it up as she/he went along, whatever the original purpose. The work has an all-of-one-piece look to it, a kind of organic integrity.

I hope this isn't too confusing--my head is beginning to hurt! I think there are two sometimes incompatible, sometimes compatible perspectives going on here. Believing that you are creating art and creating what looks like art in the eyes of others are not always the same thing.  Whether this matters I don't know. But I'm with Rita--I love doing this!


Eileen Baird'sBears
Posts: 3,873

On the other hand, now that I'm fully awake, it seems to me that whatever we call ourselves as individuals, we need to support the concept that these bears are art.

There's no reason why a few daubs of paint on a canvas, or a lumpy clay thing should be considered art, except that the maker considers it so, and somebody agrees and displays it. I think I've said this before, but at the Art Gallery of Ontario there's a whole room given over to the display of a huge fabric hamburger! :lol:


Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568

Teddy Bear Designer....."Hi, I make designer Teddy Bears! What do you do?"
Hee Hee! Sounds a bit Hollywood or NYC... hey, then we should get thousands for our bears!!!
I really kind of like the title, though!

Daphne Blau
Teddy Bear Designer

(Funny, hubby and I just started a second business and called it Back Road Designs! Nothing to do with bears though.)

Eileen Baird'sBears
Posts: 3,873

I like that, Daphne! :D

"I design and make bears" sounds less pretentious than "I'm a bear artist", I guess because it describes what you do, not what you are!


Mo Beary Mo Bear Designs
Redcliff, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,536


I like 'Designer' as well.



Love Bud Bears Love Bud Bears by Sandy
New Jersey
Posts: 224

hi- I'll keep most of my option to my self - but I love all your creations & think everyone on this form has the right to call themselves artist.
(I personally like to describe myself as a bear maker)
I wanted to share the info. in Nancy Tillberg's book "101 Bears To Make". The book states the definitions are open to interpretation & not carved in teddy bear stone. ( I thought it was interesting, so maybe you will too)   
Artist Bear: a bear conceived, designed & created by an individual.
Artist Designed Bear: the pattern was conceived & designed by one person, but created by others.
Bear Crafter: one who makes bears using patterns they have not created themselves.
Bear Maker: Anyone who makes a teddy bear- artist, crafters or manufacture
Edition: The number of bears made from a pattern before the pattern is discarded.
Exclusive: A bear that's only offered in a specific place & time.
Handmade Bear: A bear made by a person using various tool rather then by a commercial manufacturing company.
Limited Edition: The bears made from a pattern are limited to a certain number. A small edition could be 3 or 10.
One of A Kind: A bear is created once from a pattern & then the pattern is discarded.
One Of A Kind In A Series: A bear is created from a pattern with a unique appearance. The pattern is re-used, but each bear is finished differently.
OOAK: One of a kind.
Open Edition: Bears are made from a pattern until the creator decides to stop using it & retires the design.
Prototype: sample bear from a new design to test over all proportions & aesthetic appeal of the pattern.

Dilu Posts: 8,574

Kirsten- I think you got it....that's what I meant by continum....we all land along that line in different phases of our developement.  :)

I can't speak for others, but you certainly didn't hurt my feelings and I hope I didn't hurt yours.  I do come at this from a different perspective growing up with a father whose life was art.  By watching him and his incredably high standards that he had for himself, not for anyone else, I began to put together what he was about.  What art meant to him and how important it was to him to do better, be better.  Always striveing to improve.  I found that inspiring.

When I was studing seriously my music and preparing for a concert career he was unbelievably supportive...which made me feel guilty, because i would remember when I didn't practise as hard or slaked off and played or whatever,and I had to try harder.  I didn't want to let him down.:(

Now I know that I didn't and couldn't.  We do the best we know how at the moment in time where we find ourselves.  Now I realize that those times when I did goof off just might have been the best I could do at that time.  Even an incredably driven person needs down time.  I didn't get it back then. :)

I'm with Daphne, we're getting there, and I like archetect, although Lisa there are some of us who believe Frank Loyd Wright's archetecture was art.  I surely wouldn't argue with that.  But designer is nice too. Hmmm

Well I do know one thing we can all agree on, we love what we are doing, and every day in every way we are getting better and better. :D

Jane- your face looks pretty clean to me.....;)

PS  Maybe for our business cards we have to be as optomistic as possible lest we confuse the collectors?

Hugs to all


matilda Matilda Huggington-beare
Posts: 5,551

.....My bears must be...
Exclusive handmade prototype artist bears by a bear maker. LOL Lol

Thankyou all for a wonderful read!!!! luv ya , matilda

kbonsall Kim-Bee Bears
Posts: 5,645

Here is my opinion, so hang on :P

I create my patterns, I sew my bears, I spend time thinking of what to decorate with and what materials to use... I consider my bears pieces of art.  I spend hours upon hours on them, sewing, cutting out, designing, painting, shading, trimming, sculpting, jointing, decorating, painting eyes, baking (in some cases for fimo clay), sure, maybe I dont even come close to Shelli or Judi but there are different degrees of painters out there too but they are all considered artists. 

That is my two cents bear_original

Taiwan Angel Love Bear Forever
Posts: 109
All Bear wrote:

I'm never comfortable with the term 'bear-artist', so I always describe myself as a teddy bear designer. :cool:

I like how you call " Teddy Bear Designer"   :clap:
Artist sound very serious and not reachable ......

But I can only call myself now a bear maker as I do not know how to design them my own yet.
Hope in real soon I will try to make design of my own and then I can call myself a teddy bear designer too.  bear_original

kellydean k e l l y d e a n & c o m p a n y
Narrowsburg, New York
Posts: 718

a newbie playing catch-up on a few old posts here. . .

I have always liked to call myself a bearsmith and have done so from the beginning, but because I make so many different critters, I frequently refer to myself as an artisan toymaker.  (as a 50-something-yr-old man, I can tell you that dropping the phrase 'I make teddy bears for a living' is a sure way to stop the conversation in a sports bar)

artisan works for me because I think some of what we do is art, some is pure craftsmanship and some is pure craft.  it also implies creativity and craftmanship without assuming the mantle of 'artist', leaving that disinction up to the viewer, because from my viewpoint, it doesn't matter what you call yourself, only what others call you.

this conversation always makes me laugh, because it reminds me of the day I called my mother to tell her I was quitting my 'day' job to make bears full time.  I was the food service director at a christian youth outreach camp at the time and to my mom this was practically the Protestant version of being a catholic priest - she bragged about me endlessly, lol.  anyway, when I told her I was quiting, she wailed 'but what will I tell people you dooo???'  what will I say? ? ?

and I said mom, you do what I do. . . look them right in the eye and say 'he makes teddy bears for a living'.  . . and everyone will go 'Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. . .  . '

and then you tell them how much they cost . . and everyone will go OOOOHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

and that was the last conversation we ever had about it  :crackup:

Tammy Beckoning Bears
Nova Scotia
Posts: 3,739

Kelly, welcome to TT.  Your post just cracked me up.  It is so funny how people respond to the " Job description", then the price .

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Loved reading your post Kelly. bear_thumb  bear_laugh  bear_laugh  bear_laugh

  I have never really liked calling myself a "bear artist" because I too make other critters and do other types of art besides 'stufties'...and people used to look at me funny when my hubby would say, "she's a teddy bear artist" bear_wacko   I just say I'm an artist and soft sculpture is my bread and butter....then give them a website instead of trying to explain. bear_shocked  bear_original  bear_original  bear_original  bear_original  bear_original

It's great to be at home and be your own boss   bear_thumb  bear_thumb  bear_thumb

Plum Cottage Bears Plum Cottage Bears
Long Beach, CA
Posts: 2,151

Plum Cottage Bears Cute Animal Ambassador

What about soft sculpture artist?  That allows room to make critters other than bears.

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