Online, Monthly Teddy Bear Magazine

Bear Artist

Bear Maker

What's the difference?

Bobbie Ripperger        Contributing Features Writer           Sept. 2009

 

"I'm a fiber and textile artist, specializing in miniature teddy bears since 1990, and you've finally hit the subject that's in my back yard!

This was my reply to an old friend: I'd recently been asked by a sewing magazine editor to define 'miniature artist teddy bears: she received a manufactured miniature teddy bear gift and was proudly showing everyone her new 'Artist Teddy Bear'.

We had time for a quiet talk later, after I'd had time to reflect on her question.

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Loraine Jones designed a 3" tall, heavily weighted sparse mohair Ted with 2 custom fit embroidered, hand knit outfits.


'Cuddle Up' 4.5" tall and won a
TOBY Nominee of Bobbie's which is made from mohair with Ultra-suede hands.

Harley-David Son is 3" tall. The ballerina 'Stage Fright' is 3" tall. All costuming and accessories are artist-designed and made.


Bobbie Ripperger's 1998 TOBY Small Bear Public's Choice Award
'Restrained: She Who Must Be Obeyed.'
The Mom is 3.5" tall. Cub is 1.5" tall. Both engineered in static pose and all unjointed with long pile sparse and vintage 'cashmere' fabrics.

Bobbie's 2000 TOBY Public Choice Award 'The End of The Rainbow' designed just to see how far I could go to defy gravity!I loved this play-on-words. Grizzly stands 3.5" tall and like Paul Bunyan, the trout had to be Ginourmous!
My first metal claws, now a studio exclusive hand-painted, designed rainbow trout.

First, in our specialized teddy bear artist's arena, imported miniature bears are not considered 'artist bears', they are manufactured bears. Each is hand made by an individual usually with production line, produced by many Asian and other overseas workers.

'Artist' teddy bears, by most accounts, are larger bears and were only developed in the 1980's by the Van Port family from the Northwest.

Teddy bear collecting is a relatively new collectors' market.


Artist bears are usually tagged OOAK (One-Of-A-Kind) and made one at a time or in very small, limited series; usually less than 5 or 10.

My work is 2" to 3" tall, sewn 20 stitches to the inch using vintage long pile, either Malden Mills' or similar fabric, turned right-side out, stuffed, extensively needle and scissor-sculpted, shaded by hand.

This is labor-intensive work on a 2" teddy bear may take well over one week to design and create: accessories and clothing all clock up extra time.

Before I switched to needle felting 2 and 3 inch, realistic looking bears out of wool fiber, I spent over a dozen years designing miniature fabric teddy bears.

Insetting paw pads, hand-sculpted noses, yes-no mechanisms, specialty studio techniques for jointing and other trade secrets, which set each artist apart, all add to the time it takes to create these tiny treasures.

And unlike the artists who have the space in standard-sized bears, in which to work out all of these features, we miniaturists must make all of them work and look natural and in perfect proportion and scale and all within fractions of an inch!

Manufactured miniature bears have been designed by many leading artists, then mass produced overseas for sales on QVC, Home Shopping Club, etc and carried by major retail outlets. Each bear started out as an artist's prototype.

And while manufactured bears do have a place on teddy bear collector's shelves, tucked in between their OOAK Artists Bears, many bring joy to those who can't afford the OOAK artist bears. All bears continue to enthuse the collecting spirit.

Beanie Baby-type animals helped stimulate the interest in collecting, as they foster a love for these tiny treasures and as a child's taste matures, they may seek better quality and begin to look around and upgrade to collectible artist bears.

Their education will come through Internet searches, attending teddy bear shows, trade magazines and eBay sales.

In person contacts are always the most pleasant, as teddy bear artists and collectors meet face-to-face and lasting connections are made, with a new horizon opening up for both.

Our grandson gifted me with the grey manufactured Pup from his collection that now sits in the sun room window along with its Bunny friend, because 'Grandpa and Grandma need a dog.'

It's now our watchdog!

Thank you, Bears&Buds, for giving me the opportunity to explain the difference in manufactured miniature teddy bears and artist miniature bears—from an Artist's viewpoint; why the ones seen in the retail shops and from imported manufacturers usually cost under $20 and true Artist Teddy Bears, of the same size, may cost $750.00+."

Bobbie Ripperger

Creative Design Studio

Member Since May 2005

 

The sheep shown on the left is made from cotton string mohair by a German friend 
Martina, who knows that I secretly collected sheep, not Bears; Shhhh!


My 3" tall, grumpy 'Uncle George', who wears a miniature vest made by needle punching one strand of embroidery floss in three colors, carefully graphed and then needle punched, sealed and trimmed on the reverse side of the body pieces before the parts were sewn together, then the bear-making proceeded as continues as usual.


Mary Bures' Barney Bears is 2" tall.


Rose Policky's the Polar bear is made from Ultra-suede and the body and head are all of one piece. All seams are carefully sewn from the outside with perfect satin-stitching. The curving body parts are wondrous to see considering the Polar Bear is only 3/4" tall!


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