Gary’s Stories and Quote Gems for March – The Teddy Bear Issue
I’ve been sharing my personal stories with you since the June 2019 issue of my monthly “Quote Gems”. Stories entertain, teach and emotionally connect us through our shared experiences.
This month, I’m sharing a secret passion few people know about along with a side of some of my favourite quotes.
Unlike past issues, this isn’t a story about me as a boy, but a story of me as an adult engaging in a passion that some could construe as childish. It all began with a chance encounter with a very artistic Teddy Bear.
I wasn’t the “teddy bear” type as a child. I was more into building things and feeding my curiosity than cuddling with a “baby” toy. So, I didn’t expect that in my early thirties, I would fall under the spell of a ursine cuddle toy.
I was on a business trip to Carmel-By-The-Sea, California when I came across a number of craft shops catering to the “Arts & Crafts” crowd. One shop sold only Teddy Bears. Each bear was unique. In the days before e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, we actually had to explore brick and mortar shops to find and buy things.
When I asked the shopkeeper about these unusual stuffed bears, she told me that there was a large Teddy Bear subculture of folks dedicated to making and collecting hand-made, one of a kind “Artist Bears”.
Not having children, Teddy Bears were completely off my radar. The TV show, Brideshead Revisited changed that. The main character, Sebastian was very attached to his bear, Aloysius. The popularity that show and of Aloysius, the Teddy Bear, is credited with having triggered the late-20th century teddy bear renaissance.
Like Sebastian, the collectors could have been trying to postpone adulthood, or to get on the bear bandwagon. Then there were those less concerned with nostalgia and more interested in viewing stuffed bears as an art form. Whole communities of bear makers were sharing designs and sewing techniques. There were “hobby” magazines catering to the Artist Bear community as well as conventions that pulled in designers, makers, sellers and collectors.
My first artist bear purchase was from that tiny shop in Carmel-by-the-Sea. I bought two “military band” bears, outfitted in full dress uniform. Each stands three inches tall and has a fully movable head, arms and legs. They remain two of my all-time favourites to this day.
Over the subsequent years, I became an avid collector and could name off all the top artist bear makers from across North America. I took advantage of the business travelling I was doing to research and visit artist bear shops wherever I went.
As word of my new “hobby” spread to my friends and family, it wasn’t long before bears were raining down on me like Tribbles. I received bears for just about every occasion. Cute as they were, most of these bears were machine-made. In no time at all, I was the owner of well over two hundred machine-made bears. I had to find foster homes for them so I could make room for my hand-crafted bears. I packed them up and took them to the local children’s hospital where I knew they’d find open arms and plenty of love – and they did.
Being now an artist bear purist, only hand-crafted bears would make it into my bear menagerie.
Famous Bears. Which is your favourite? Did (do) you have another beloved bear?
I still collect artist bears and remain diligent in establishing the bears’ artistic pedigree.
Each one-of-a-kind bear has its own style, its own story. First, the meeting, then the flirtation, and finally the moment I brought the bear home to meet the family.
I would love to hear your “bear” stories. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these Spring and Teddy Bear inspired quotes that speak to optimism and innocence.
The thought I leave you with is by the classic German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.”
If you enjoyed this read and don’t want to miss another, I invite you to subscribe via the link below to receive my gems each month in your mailbox.
In case you missed last month’s Gems, you can check it out here: Gary’s February Gems – The Sweetheart Edition