Monday, March 28, 2011

Handmade Teddy Bears Spotlight Artisan: Michelle of Michelle's Bear

Today's featured teddy bear artist is Michelle of Michelle's Bears!
Do you have a favorite style of teddy bear?
I do...my favorite style is and always has been a more traditional/old fashioned/primitive style bear!

Do you have a favorite medium/texture/plush you like working with? Is there anything you eventually want to get in to and master - whether dealing with teddy bears or any other artistic endeavor?
My favorite medium is vintage velveteen! I love the textures, the great retro colors and what happens to it when I "age" it so that my teddies take on a wonderful old fashioned look! I get a huge thrill out of finding old golden velveteen drapes from the 1970's...I get some wonderful looks from people when they see stuff like that in my hands...I'm sure they're wondering what I'd possibly want with something so darn tacky!!! My secret of course!

I think I am where I want to be in regards to my teddy bears. I prefer to stay on track with a more traditional style for now.

As for other artistic endeavors, I've often thought that I'd like to attempt working with polymer clay whether to incorporate different aspects into my bearmaking or to work on completely different projects such as fairies, dolls, etc.

What kinds of other artistic projects do you like to work on?
I love photography. My own handmade bears, vintage/antique bears and dolls as well as other vintage collectibles usually become the subjects of my very amateur picture taking skills! I love to use those photos to make greeting cards and even thank you cards for my customers!

I also like to make whimsical cushions from well worn and sometimes damaged linens and fabrics that I come across on my treasure hunts through vintage shops, antique malls, yard sales, etc.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you're not creating art?
My husband and I love to collect just about anything under the sun including vintage/antique teddy bears and dolls, vintage Fisher Price toys, vintage ladies' hats and gloves, vintage sewing baskets and supplies...well, anything vintage! I guess that means that when I managed to get a spare moment, I absolutely love to frequent antique shops, thrift stores, yard sales, anywhere there might be some hidden little treasure just waiting for me to snap it up!

I also love to organize my home...seems there's always something to organize! Organization brings on lots of inspiration!

How long have you been making bears?
I've been making teddy bears now for a little over 20 years!

When did you first start selling your handmade bears? What inspired you to do so?
I first started selling my bears after I sent off a photo of one of my miniature teddies to Teddy Bear Review Magazine back in 1999! I'd never actually sold before and once that issue came out, I received several handwritten letters (that was long before I ever had a computer...everything was done in handwriting!) from excited ladies who wished to purchase that lucky little bear! That was really my first stepping stone to selling because it made me realize at that moment that I had something worth selling!

What inspired me to do so? I think that I was inspired by the other beautiful bears I saw in the magazines and I wanted desperately to be a part of that wonderful world of handmade teddy bears because, really, before I laid eyes on my first bear magazine, I didn't realize handmade teddy bears extended beyond making a cute little plush bear from a store bought pattern for my children. I found out from those magazines that it was a real art and a way to express my imagination and to really indulge in my own love of teddy bears!

What style do you decorate your home in?
Our 104 year old home is a mixture of vintage and retro styles. My kitchen is in the style of the 1950's and always a work in progress while the rest of our home is in a very vintage style with cabinets in every single corner of all the rooms filled with vintage bears, dolls, cameras, toys, sewing supplies, photos, barware, books, etc. It's really a hodge podge of styles I suppose and we love it that way!

Were you artistic as a child?
YES! I was told that by everyone who knew me so I guess it must be true! I loved to draw and paint and I think I made every single project a little girl could from macaroni and popsicle sticks imagineable!

Did you like teddy bears as a child? If not, when did your love for teddy bears begin?
I can't be 100% sure I liked bears specifically but I did hang onto my first bear who has a very prominent spot in my collection now! I loved my dolls and playing house!

My love for teddy bears started around 22 years ago when I bought my first bear magazine! Shortly after that, I fell in love with bears made by some of my favorite artists such as "Ted Menton", "Brianna Long" and "Barbara Buehl"! Barbara was one of the first artists I wrote to asking for advice on bearmaking! She was a well established bearmaker and very accommodating to me and at one point, even flew with her husband in their tiny plane to where I lived on Vancouver Island to visit with me and to happily pass on two large boxes of British bear magazines, patterns, etc. so that I could learn more about the amazing bear making world! What a great day that was for an aspiring bearmaker such as myself!

Did anyone inspire you as a child or when you were starting to become artistic?
I think I can safely say that my Aunt was my first inspiration because she was very artistic and sewed a lot of fun things including clothing and accessories for my Barbie dolls. She even made my Barbie furniture! I also think that becoming artistic was my way of "hiding" away from the world as I was extremely shy as a child. It was a "comfort zone" for me growing up.

Was there a point when you realized "Wow, I'm an artist/artisan!"
You bet! That was when I was asked to be a part of a book commemorating bear making in Canada! The book was "Bears Across Canada" and I will be forever grateful to the gals who started that book, took an interest in my work and put it out there for bear lovers everywhere to enjoy! I was thrilled to be a part of it and to be included with some of the most well known bearmakers in Canada who were some of my "idols" before I even got started!

Confession time: What does your craft room/studio really look like? Is it organized?
At the moment, my craft room is shared with the spare room in our tiny little two bedroom house! Today, it is very organized as this past weekend was set aside for just that reason; however, at the best of times, it's a cluttered, messy and yet a wonderfully inspirational place for me to work! I have one of my retro kitchen tables and a comfy chair positioned in front of a large sunny window where I can enjoy a tree full of birdfeeders and little visitors while I work on my projects! I have an antique vanity in there as well that holds most of my supplies and books and a collection of vintage canning jars assembled in front of the window holding my favorite supplies such as buttons, vintage ribbons and bells! It's a calming place to be when I need to shut out the world for a few simple hours of bearmaking!

Please list the urls to your blog(s) and shop(s).
Michelle's Bears Blog
Etsy shop
Facebook Fan Page


  1. Thank you Tracy! Nice job!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to fill us in on your world of teddy bears, Michelle. And thanks for Tracy for posting this! Hugs, Vicki

  3. Aww...you're welcome Vicki!
    Thanks for visiting!

  4. Great!! Michelle!!!

    And thanks Vicki,


  5. Awesome!!
    Michelle creates such wonderful Bears and other creatures! Bit she also makes existing "Stuffies" whole again, you know, the one's who have been loved so much they are in danger of disappearing! She did just that with my nieces stuffed animal that she has had since she was a baby (and she's almost 20 now) and the result was astonishing, Michelle is truly gifted and I am blessed to know her!
    Great article, Great Blog!!
    :) Kristin