Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Bag Bears

In the past, I had a process for working on teddy bears and, frankly, it worked out quite well.

The process went like this. I would go to the closet, bring out all the mohair, plush, fuzzy fleece, and any other material that I thought would make a likely good bear and place it on the floor in the teddy bear room. Then I would bring out my various teddy bear patterns and my stash of cloth bags.

The Potential

Sitting on the floor of the teddy bear room, I would flip on the TV and begin to cut out teddy bears. As I worked, I would begin to get new ideas and inspiration for different types of bears. So, I would grab up a fabric and a pattern and cut another bear, based on the idea I just had. Hours later I would still be cutting and placing bear parts in bags in the midst of this incredibly messy teddy bear explosion. By the time I was done, I would have at least ten bags of bear parts, ready to sew. And it was all so exciting, because I had all these potential teddy bears just waiting to be born.

Empty Bags, Waiting for Bear Parts

About six months ago, I decided to change my process. I wanted to improve my skills and thought that by changing my process, I could change my skill level. So I began by working on one single bear at a time. No more magic bags. No more teddy bear room explosions. No more in the moment inspirations. I made a plan before I cut out the bear, I grabbed the perfect material, I knew what it was going to look like before I started, and from there I went from joyful creating to painstakingly trying to make what I thought would be perfect teddy bears.

Some Are Perfect......and Sadly, Many Are Not

What I found as a result of striving for all this perfection, is that my creativity level dropped, my production dropped, my enthusiasm dropped, my income dropped, and frankly, I’m just not making the bears I want to make. I spent hours just trying to make the perfect nose. I respaced ears and sewed and resewed eyeballs into perfect sockets, only to find they were crooked upon final inspection. I became judgmental, skeptical, critical and picky. I found that the teddy bear room felt more like a courtroom than a magic place for teddies to be born.

More Teddies.... Waiting to Be Judged

I’m not talking about quality here. I’m not talking about taking shortcuts or hurrying things along just to get the job done. I’m talking about creativity….. about letting the teddy be born, instead of me “insisting” he turn out a certain way.

And it’s OK to have a plan…. However, I need to be willing to revise the “plan” and listen to another voice. Perhaps the voice of the teddy himself, telling me who he is, and asking me to lend a helping hand in creating him the way he is meant to be.

Don't Make Such Rigid Plans.... or I might never have been born. Says Beth, made from an old coat from the Salvation Army

What do I really want? I want to make bears out of old coats like I used to; I want to make bears out of old shirts and bedspreads. I want to make bears with personality, and crooked smiles and laughter lurking in their imperfect little tummies. I want to make wonderful spirited teddies that are excited to move to new homes to love and care for their new owners. I want to put a little bit of me in every bear I make… It’s that simple. Lopsided eyeballs, crooked smiles, cockeyed ears…. who said life was perfect?

Oh no, I hate it when that old lopsided ear thing happens...

I think just by writing this post, I have actually made huge progress with the way I think about my business. I believe it’s time to step back and get my bear parts back into the bags where they belong. I want to create my bears out of the teddy bear explosion rather than the one at a time where I judge them fiercely and I become frustrated when they don’t turn out to be what I think is perfect……Ouch for me… and for the poor teddy.

Ouch !

I know I will continue to strive to become a better teddy bear artist…. however, I have made a unique discovery about myself and my “art.” I have my own style, I have my own personality, and I have what works for me in my creative ventures. My bears reflect who “I” am….. not some idea of how I think they should be based on a standard I can’t quite achieve.

So, with that said, I think I’ll create a teddy bear explosion…. and just see who decides to make an appearance.

Love and teddy hugs to all of you from Vicki and the bag bears.


  1. Oh Vicki, that was so beautifully said.
    I applaud you and so very much agree. I love your teddy bear explosion, bag bear approach to creativity.
    Let the fur fly as well as your spirit, which is delightful. You always inspire me!
    Love & Hugs,

  2. Hi Laura and thanks for dropping by! You and your lovely shop and sweet teddies inspire me, too! Much love and hugs from sunny Juneau! Vicki

  3. Thank you for this post, Vicki! It is inspiring to share in another's creative journey in this way - the journey that always leads back to the heart. You expressed it so well. I also recently read something that writer Toni Morrison said that seems on point: "What I feel most is that because I am open and available, the universe--the idea--comes to me. It feels a little like being called." (Toni Morrison, O Magazine, July 2009). Now tell us, what is the sound a teddy bear makes when she/he calls to you? Smiles, Billie

  4. Bravo Vicki!! You have just reminded me of the one thing that really counts ... the love for the teddies and their own individuality. Thank you!
    Lots of love and hugs from me and the Southern Bears. xx

  5. Hi Vicki, I'm glad that you wrote this post as it's given me cause to evaluate the way that I work. Too often I can be over critical with my work so I've taken a leaf out of your own book and decided to just let it flow!
    I am smiling as I'm typing this thinking of your teddy explosion :-) have fun Vicki and thanks for this post it's really made me think!!

    Hugs, Ginie-Lee and the laid back bears!!! xx

  6. Hi all and thank you for your comments! Billie-The sound a teddy makes is kind of like that "still small voice" inside :) Pat-Thanks for your comment; reminding myself, too, of why I continue to partake in this adventure. Ginie-Lee, I'm happy to hear from you... let the explosion begin ! Love from Vicki and the bears

  7. Well said Vicki! Bears are like people - no two are the same - and that's what is so wonderful.
    Imagine what life would be like if we were all perfect?! (A lot less interesting for sure!)
    I've just finished making my second bear. Fast I am not!

  8. Exactly, Lynda... we are all perfectly imperfect (to quote some perfect author). Hugs to you, Vicki