Hi, welcome to The Inner World of Emma's Bears. A little place where you can get to know a bit more about the person behind the hands that make these handmade teddy bears!
I created my very first teddy bear when I was 14 years old, way back in the late 1990s. It feels like so long ago now! I needed a project for sewing class at school and was tired of making daggy clothing that I'd never wear (or subject my family to wearing!). I had been given Jennifer Laing's 'The Art of Making Teddy Bears' by a friend of the family, purely because she knew I was fond of teddies. I remember flipping through the book and enjoying the pictures, but never imagining I'd ever make one. It all seemed way too complicated.
But necessity meant that I had to get creative. I needed a project for school. The book was just sitting there. How hard could it be?
That first, sad little bear made from faux velvet, sewn on limbs (I didn't even know what joints were!), googly eyes and a triangle of fabric scraps glued on for a nose, gave me such an incredible sense of achievement that I never looked back!
I was soon sewing bears for friends and family. For a few years there all anyone got for their birthday/Christmas was teddy bears!
Around that time I was also diving headfirst into the possibilities that the internet was opening up - connecting me with bear-makers all over the world. I soon stumbled across the wonder of online teddy bear communities, bear supply stores, bear making magazines and the eye-opening amazement of hints and tricks other artists were happy to share.
I tracked down better quality faux fur (throwing away the flimsy velveteen!) and even found a few bits of the ever-elusive mohair. I found glass eyes, joints, good stuffing and bought my own set of tools (don't get me started on the tools! So many times I needed a screwdriver or a pair of pliers and they had been put somewhere 'safe'. So safe no one could find them!).
Once I was more confident in my abilities, I put started selling my bears on both eBay and the very early days of bearpile when there were only a few dozen artists listed! I was flabbergasted that people were willing to pay money for my creations. And I was so motivated by the sense of satisfaction and pride that I felt after completing each piece, that the bear making bug took a permanent hold of me.
You can see the slow improvement of my technique in the following photos of my very very early work. (And trust me - it was a SLOW improvement!)
Once I started to be more mindful about how I wanted my faces to end up (rather then just drawing them and seeing what resulted!), my designs began to evolve into the Emma's Bears you now see today. Back in those early foundation years I was really inspired by Tracey Milligan of Lilly Pilly Bears (no longer in practice), with her distinctive big chunky bears, HUGE, perfect noses, large feet and incredible expression. I can still see her influence in my work today.
Up until this point we were only making bear for sale periodically. I was studying full time at uni and working nights at a community organisation to pay the bills. Bear-making was squeezed between assignments as a lower priority then ever before. Then came full time work in the human services/youth work industry, and again exhaustion and a simple lack-of-time was putting a significant restraint on what I could achieve with the bears. The few we were managing to complete were selling better then I'd ever expected though, so we made the decision to formally register 'Emma's Bears' as a small business in 2007, and went about things a little more seriously than we had previously done so. The quiet plan was to grow the Emma's Bears business so that we could afford for me to stay home with our babies when we decided to start a family.
Because with the naive ignorance of a person-before-kids, I thought free time would come raining down on me after the babies were here! (As I'm sure many of you know, this is NOT the case at all!)
On the 21st July, 2009 we were thrust head-first into parenthood as Chelsea Claire was 'laughed' into the world (you'll have to ask me about that another time!). 18months later, on the 1st February 2011, Byron Chris completed our little family. Bear making got really hard at this point!
The kids are a little older now, and life is getting a bit easier (at least we're not doing night feeds anymore!). My hubby and I decided to expand on my bear making business in 2012, registering our new online store Fur Addiction where we now import the best teddy bear fur fabrics from around the world and offer them to the bear making community. We also stock a range of our exclusive Emma's Bears patterns and Kits, and our hand-painted mohair and glass eyes for the really one of a kind creations.
You can find our finished bears and fabrics available in our etsy store, or if you're mostly just looking for fabric and supplies you will find the best range in our eBay store, and the best prices direct from our website at www.furaddiction.com.