Sue Pendleton’s charmingly crocheted bears brighten up the room and collectors’ hearts.
One of the most fascinating things about bear artist Sue Pendleton is that she is so understated and modest about herself and her experiences. Though she presents herself as an average Jane with a typical workday, her bears spotlight something altogether different.
They are vibrantly colorful, saturated with rich hues and imbued with soft textures and interesting fabric choices. They showcase their creator’s unbridled sense of whimsy and humor. Pendleton enjoyed a globe-hopping upbringing, but she exudes an honest sense of down-home, country charm—no mean feat. When told how engaging and exciting her life has been, she sincerely replies, “No one would ever want to make a movie about me.” Well, there are some folks who would strongly disagree.
Pendleton has lived in Africa, has wandered through the Casbah, rubbed shoulders with tribal indigenous people and learned the customs and rituals of exotic ceremonies, along with everyday foreign affairs. And she did all of this before she even learned to drive!
The oldest of five children in a military family, she grew up with her parents and siblings overseas, soaking up the sunshine and the customs, and harvesting an open-minded appreciation for what is different and unknown.
“We moved nine to ten times during my school years,” Pendleton shares. “We had two three-year tours overseas during that time, to Morocco and to Taiwan. Our lives in those countries were culturally rich, because Dad insisted on living as far away from the military bases as was feasible. As a result, we had many, many friends among the local people.”
While other adults fondly reminisce about Fourth of July fireworks and boxed picnic lunches in their youth, Pendleton recalls “shopping at the Suq, and eating couscous in a tent in the desert.” Interestingly, as a child, she pined for normalcy, a more all-American upbringing.
“I longed to be like the other kids at my school, on the base, living among Americans. Now, though, I’m grateful for those experiences,” she says.
When the family was located stateside, they lived in the South, and spent much time with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Family mattered to Pendleton then, and it matters to her now. She is a big believer in sharing her time with her loved ones and helping them to achieve the best they can be.
As a child growing up in the 1950s, Pendleton describes those years as “the Dark Ages, before video games, DVD players or computers.” When pressed to reveal her birth date, she chuckles and offers: “The number one song at the time was ‘Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart’ by Vera Lynn. Does that help?”
The artist’s playful nature is on full display with that answer and, likewise, it comes through when she explains how she named her company, Bluebeary Treasures. “I was fooling around with computer graphics, working with a drawing of a bear that I liked. I accidentally colored him blue, and thought, ‘Hey, that’s kind of cute—a blue beary!’ Everything that a person makes with his or her own hands is a treasure in my book, so Bluebeary Treasures seemed like a fun name.”
Teddy bears have loomed large in her life from primary school onward: “When I was about 8 years old, I got a teddy bear for Christmas, and I literally loved him to bits,” Pendleton says. “Believe it or not, he slept with me every night until I left home to get married!”
At the dawn of the millennium, while surfing the Internet, browsing for bears to buy, Pendleton realized she could probably make her own tiny teddies. “It was 1999 and I saw some small crocheted bears on eBay. I really wanted to combine my love of bears with my love of crochet. I wanted to make some for myself. I couldn’t find any patterns at the time, so I started to experiment with designing my own.”
Pendleton launched her company as a “real” business in 2003. Her risk-taking paid off, and she advises other burgeoning artists, or anyone with an unrealized dream, to follow her lead: “Don’t sit around and wait for life to come to you—you should go after it! And most of all, be patient and persistent.”
Before becoming a bear artist, who also tackles cats, mice, rabbits and lambs, Pendleton worked for the federal government for 23 years. She decided to take an early retirement in 2002. During her business career, she was also an active and creative mother to a son and daughter. With her second marriage, to current husband John, she became a mom to two stepdaughters as well. “They’re quite a creative bunch,” she proudly says of her children, and then adds, “My husband is my most important critic. I value his opinions very highly. He keeps track of the financial aspects of the business. Regarding my collecting, he’s supportive—as long as I don’t bring too much ‘stuff’ into the house! Mutual friends at work had schemed behind our backs to get John and me together. And all I can say is God bless them!”
Currently abiding in Kerrville, Texas, Pendleton leads a happy and satisfied life. “It’s a beautiful area in the Texas hill country,” she notes. “There’s an easygoing atmosphere that is very comfortable. The lifestyle is casual, but the arts and culture are very important. I can’t think of a nicer place to live.”
Pendleton will maintain there’s nothing cinematic or noteworthy about her life and times. For those of us who have gotten to know her, we can envision a Technicolor romance from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Cast Doris Day as the optimistic working gal, who makes good and gets the guy, and James Garner as the humorous, stalwart hero she lands—that’s a crowd-pleasing movie worth sharing!