Most people know me thru my business, Loverly Cottage, French Cottage inspired home goods, brocante, and painted furniture. Did you know that I am also a Bearaness? Yes, I spelled that correctly. I have been creating the most charming teddy bears by recycling vintage furs for over 25 years and that makes me bear royalty, a Bearaness, so to speak.
My love for creating began at an early age, I believe that is an inherited trait because I came from a line of professional tinkerers.
My grandparents were always creating something and my father was a jack of all trades.
Some of my favorite memories of my grandmother were sitting next to her on the sofa as she taught me to needlepoint handkerchiefs and darn socks when I was a little girl.
Since my grandparents were married during the Great Depression, they learned how to get by with little and to repair anything they could. My grandfather was always coming up with new inventions from bits and bobs he had on hand.
Every time I repurpose something, I know that they are smiling down on me.
Although I am more well-known for furniture painting, I always have a sewing needle and thread at the ready.
I started sewing teddy bears when I was a teenager, but I did not like any of the patterns. So I researched teddy patterns and created my own pattern.
When I was 16, my first teddy bear was created with faux fur. Once I honed my skills, I graduated to mohair, as it was popular with teddy bear collectors. It was so much fun to see how each bear would take on their own personality. Even though every bear was hand crafted from my own pattern, they were all hand detailed with my own signature style.
One fateful day, I stumbled upon a fur coat at a garage sale. I carefully cut out the lining and removed the damaged areas. Then I laid out my custom pattern and carefully hand-cut every piece.
By the time I finished sewing and assembling the pieces together, my first heirloom bear was born.
Of all the things I repurpose, my favorite by far is my special line of heirloom bears.
As I look back, I cannot believe that I have been creating these charming bears for over 25 years.
When my daughter was a little, she was bear quality control.
If she didn’t like the face, she would tell me. “Momma, his face doesn’t look happy” or “Momma, this one’s nose doesn’t look right”
The cutest was the first time she saw me packing up a trio of bespoke Heirloom Bears.
“Momma, where are you taking my friends?”
I had to explain that those bears weren’t ours. They were special remembrance bears for a family that lost their grandmother.
She thought for a moment and replied, “Well, can I hug them goodbye?”
“Of course, my darling.”
After that, every bear that I created was carefully inspected by my darling. When she was satisfied that they had happy faces and were squishy enough, she would give them hugs goodbye before they continued their journey to their forever families.
Teddy bears are a symbol of unconditional love, so every bear is created with love.
Yes, they are time consuming and fur is a pain in the bum to work with but over the years, my bears have become treasure heirlooms for many families.
Over the years, I have created hundreds of heirloom bears from reclaimed fur coats.
My assistants are never far away, making sure that I do a good job.
Every bear is hand cut, with supervision, of course.
Closer supervision while sewing the bear body parts on the sewing machine.
Not to be out done, Kitty Boo loved to help during the final stages as I was hand sewing the bears.
The heirloom bears are either created from reclaimed furs that I find or from someone`s heirloom fur.
Heirloom furs are garments that are passed down and the bears are created as a remembrance of the former owner.
I received a letter from a customer for whom I created a teddy bear from her mother`s fur coat. Sadly, she lost her mother to cancer.
Her letter stated, “I remember the smell of my mom`s perfume on the fur coat as I snuggled up next to her in church. I still miss her every day but having the bear give me the chance to give a hug that feels like I am hugging her. I am sure she feels it, too. It is such a treasured bear.
Thank you for giving me such a special way to remember my mom.”
The heirloom bears are a true labor of love for me.
Occasionally, I have had to take breaks from making the heirloom bears, because my allergies can be an issue. The fur flies and the sneezes ensue.
I am getting a batch of heirloom bears ready, just in time for the holidays and I can`t wait for you to see them!
Juliet, aka the Bearaness