My name is Michelle Mutschler and I have been invited by Miss Tracy to be a “guest poster” here on Handmade Teddy Bears and Raggedies! Of course, I’m more than happy to oblige and very excited to talk about two activities I enjoy very much (and it will be a little long winded...sorry about that!). Making teddy bears and collecting them! This first post will give you an brief idea of how I began with some photos (please bear with me as some of the photos are scanned images!) of some of the bears I made over the years and hopefully, by the time I do a second post for Tracy…I’ll have gathered up some information about vintage bear collecting, perhaps some stuff you didn’t know!
I’ve been a bear “artist”, as we like to be referred to, for well over 20 years now! I'm also an "arctophile"...but I'll explain that later!
When I began this wonderful journey, I was newly married and about to become a mother for the first time. I really needed something for myself…some sort of outlet for my creativity. I'd been doing all kinds of art including oil painting for years but I needed something that would be easy to take from one place to another, something that would be able to be put down for a bit and picked up on later without skipping a beat! Bear artistry was already in full force and it was love at first sight when I purchased my first teddy bear magazine! I was awestruck at what bear artists of the time such as "Brianna Long" and "Barbara Beuhl" were creating and very excited about the prospect of perhaps joining the ranks!
With next to nothing for money and very limited experience with sewing of any kind (before bearmaking, I was making my own versions of raggedy doll angels if you can believe that!), I managed to stumble through my first bear. I used whatever supplies I could find in thrift stores, a store bought pattern and set up shop on the kitchen table. Now I’m not going to lie to you! I couldn’t understand the directions for the pattern, sewing terms were basically foreign languages and the poor little fellow looked more like a goblin when he was completed! But I persevered and kept moving forward with my dreams to create the ultimate teddy bear and as time went on, the store bought patterns became a little easier to understand and soon I was creating my own! In no time at all, my addiction to making teddy bears went straight to a new level. I began selling my work!
Soon I was featured in beautiful shops throughout Vancouver Island in British Columbia alonside some of the best photographers and potters around. I also had the incredible opportunity to have my work shown in magazines and then shown in "Bears Across Canada"...a beautiful book that was created in 1993 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear! And if that wasn't enough...I was absolutely thrilled when I was asked to teach and I did just that for two incredible years through a local craft shop, a community hall and eventually right from my home! Those ladies...nearly 40 of them in total were amazing and fun to spend time with! Two of them remain dear friends of mine today and several of them were visitors from other countries including Germany!
From inexpensive plush to sought after mohair to recycled fur coats, my creations have been diverse over the years to say the least! I’ve made theme bears which made collectors smile, antique style bears that took collectors back and memory bears that made people cry. I’ve been very lucky indeed not to mention the fact that this “career” has given me the best gift of all…friends! I’ve made some incredible friends of fellow bear artists, collectors and even artists of different mediums and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
"A Very Happy Young Lady!"
"A Teddy That Was Made In Honour Of A Daughter Who Was Murdered"
I’ve seen over 400 bears leave my heart and hands as they journeyed throughout the world to be loved and treasured by collector’s and hopefully to become family heirlooms for generations to come!
A few months ago, Tracy was kind enough to “interview” me for this very blog. I would like to invite you to check out that interview, here, to get a few more details into my life as a bear artist.
I'm always amazed at the beautiful work of fellow bear artists and enjoy watching my friends soar to new heights in the world of teddy bear art! For me, just to keep moving along, even if at a slower pace, keeps me tuned into this wonderful form of artistry!
My love of bears goes way back and as a bear artist and a collector it never ends. I plan to be around for a very long time yet and even though I feel I'm slowing down a wee bit, I hope that I can continue to create teddy bears for as long as my eyes, hands and mind allow.
Next time, join me for a peek into the history of teddy bears and an introduction to some very special bears who made their mark in history as some of the most valuable and the most important bears of our time!
6 days ago