The Original Online Teddy Bear Magazine
   Notchlok Bears              March 2007
 By: Dawn Emerson Assistant Editor

What's In A Name?

Curiosity might have you asking Sandy Czaja, “what is a Notchlok?”

The answer may surprise you.

“My husband Brian helped me name my company,” Sandy recalls. “I was worrying over what to call my new company, and he asked me what I wanted my bears to be. I told him that I wanted the bears to be the very best that I could make. I said I didn’t want them to be schlok bears. My Grandmother used this German word to mean ‘not very good; not perfect.’ Kind of a 4-letter word! Thus, my bears became NOT-SCHLOK or as I spell it; Notchlok.” And that is how the name Notchlok Bears came to be.


Bears have been a pivotal part of Sandy’s life. “When I was an infant, I was given a bear by my aunt Dorothy. I loved all the fur off the bear because he never left my side.” Sandy goes on to say that her mother mentioned they once turn the car around and headed back to their vacation cottage because her bear had been left behind, and she wouldn't stop crying. “I don't think my family was as fond of my bear as I was!” Sandy added.



When asked how she started in the bear business, Sandy was quick to mention that it was not a planned event. “I worked as an office manager/dental assistant, and for a long time the girls in the office would ask me to make bears for shower gifts and wedding presents.” Having made stuffed animals for her own children and clothes for herself, the hobby evolved little by little. “At one point, when someone wanted to pay me for a bear, my husband suggested I give up my day job and try selling my bears.” Proving to be a smart move, Sandy went on to do her very first show. “It was a Bright Star Promotion’s show in Buffalo, New York,” Sandy recalls fondly, “I can't even remember the hotel where it was held, but I know I was hooked! I can't even remember if I sold a bear!”

She began seriously with her business in 1994, “I probably started a year or two before then, and could not believe anyone would love my bears as much as I did.” But they did.


Majoring in art at college, Sandy’s bear drawings soon transition from paper to fur and started her on the way to building a successful business. “Watching the design on paper become a cardboard pattern and then transform into a furry little creature that started in my head, it is amazing!” After finishing a bear, Sandy kisses it on the nose, and that is usually when she decides it is the best bear she has ever made. “This ritual is repeated each time I finish a bear, and the next, and the next.” 


Currently Sandy and her husband of 44 years, Brian reside in Arizona where they enjoy their picturesque home close to the San Tan Mountains. “The scenery is wonderful to look at each day and it helps keep us grounded,” she said. Sandy and Brian share their home with a variety of animals. “I’m sure sharing life with children and animals was a wonderful platform which helped prepare me for designing and creating “critters,” especially bears,” Sandy states.

Drawing inspiration from her surroundings, she finds ways to make her bears mimic human characteristics. “I try to express, with the look on their faces, by the way they stand, pose, and the costumes the bears wear, that they have something to say,” A self-proclaimed “sap” for a sweet face, it is one of the features she looks for when she is collecting bears.


When asked what she loves most about the teddy bear industry, Sandy jubilantly replies, “The collectors, no…the other artists, no…the process of creation! I LOVE ALL OF IT...I wouldn't want to do anything else.”





Sandy Czaja
Notchlok Bears

Member since March 2006



Sandy with her youngest son Adam, who is her own
live teddy bear!

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