When she was 27 years old, Alison McKee of eTeddys underwent a kidney transplant. With her mother's lovingly donated kidney, Alison recovered.
Shortly after Alison's surgery, a neighbor came to visit. She brought with her a teddy bear that she had made, for another friend, to show her. Alison through it was adorable.
Inspired by her visitors creation, Alison decided that, since she had been sewing since the fourth grade, she could make a teddy bear and that's exactly what she did.
In fact, she would make five big, floppy teddies from an old chenille bedspread by Christmas!
With the encouragement of friends, she started to sell her bears. People would bring her their old clothing and Alison would turn their articles into teddy bears.
Then it happened!
Alison discovered artist designed teddy bears on eBay. "I couldn't believe how beautiful the bears were and I definitely couldn't believe the prices they were fetching," she recalled.
Alison told her husband, Robert, "That's what I want to do when I grow up!"
Trying her bear making skills using mohair, she knew she was on her way to becoming a teddy bear artist.
She started her search for mohair with a local shop in Phoenix. The shop sold bear making supplies and "I inquired about the cost of mohair and nearly croaked!" The shop also offered weekend classes so Alison decided that she had better take a class before she cut into expensive mohair fabric costing $80 and up per yard.
The bear making instructor, Beverly Judd, soon became her mentor and good friend. She helped Alison learn the basics and encouraged her to participate in a teddy bear show.
Beverly even traveled to several bear shows with Alison.
"Bev was very instrumental in my beginning years in giving me the guidance and confidence I needed," she remarked.
From her home in Phoenix, Arizona that she shares with her husband and two teenage children, Kelsey and Tyler, Alison works diligently on her truly inspired bears.
Now, ten years after her first bears made their way into the world, Alison is busy selling her eTeddys on her web site and online auction sites.
"With two teenaged children, it's hard for me to travel to shows, but I did attend an expo last year, teaching my own workshop and had a great time."
"I hope to travel to do more shows and teach more classes in 2009-10."
Alison designs about 10 new patterns and makes 50 or more bears per year.
"That's not a lot of bears compared to full time bear artists. I take a lot of time with each bear and critter I create and generally make each of them start to finish," Alison acknowledged.
Her daughter often pitches in during her summer break from school and helps with cutting and sewing the seams.
While Kelsey helps with some of the production, the additional time is used for adding eye lids, waxing noses and finishing details.
"But it's those aspects of my bears that I find make eTeddys really appealing to a wide range of collectors and it's well worth the time spent."