Jack and Marion Finhold bring their passion and strong creative instincts to everything they do. From Jack’s flair for experimentation in the kitchen and mastery of several musical instruments to Marion’s love of the written word (their house is filled with her collection of books) and talent for knitting, the couple’s artistry comes together to make some of the world’s most captivating teddy bears. However the Finholds express their creativity, their originality and love of life always shines through.
“Jack and Marion are devoted artists who have the passion it takes to make beautiful bears,” says Diane Drake of Diane’s Doll Shoppe in Greenwich, Conn. “They create a small bear with very unique features; you have to stop to study them. And the bears all say something with their individual expressions.”
Barrie Shapiro, co-owner of The Toy Shoppe in Richmond, Va., also recognizes the care the duo takes in creating their bears’ unique allure. “Their remarkable ability to artistically incorporate rich, natural fabrics and the most unusual materials to bring to life their whimsical little personalities is unlike any other’s,” she says. “Their diversity is intriguing and their craftsmanship of the highest quality—rich in contrasts, combining a magical mix of emotion, warmth and humor.”
No detail is overlooked as the creative couple handcrafts the tiny teds in their home studio in Steinhagen, Germany. Each thread is glued into place on the bears’ noses to keep them from slipping. The bears are often adorned with miniature knit sweaters and hats or felted accessories. Many of Finhold Gallery’s imaginative teddies and quirky mice are placed in scenes or paired with adorable accents “Their shape sets them apart from the typical bears and they seem to be always smiling,” Diane says. “They are rather thin with a graduating large belly, which adds to their cute expressions.”
Marge Voigt, owner of The Nursery Window in Kohler, Wis., says when she attends IDEX each year the Finholds are some of the first people she stops to see. “Their bears are unique and European-looking, appealing to the advanced collector,” she says. “Their names are charming and I have collectors who always wait for the new ones and have a hard time deciding which ones they will adopt. I find their smaller bears are popular with my collectors who are running out of room to display large bears.”
While most of the Finholds’ cute creations are just 6 or 7 inches tall, the bears are big on personality, much like the artists themselves. Jack says he and Marion are “crazy leftovers of the sixties. Well, at least that’s for me. Marion is just wonderful. You have to know her personally in order to know what I mean. She’s indescribable!”
Born in Germany, Jack moved to the United States when he was 6 years old, living in the Midwest for ten years before returning to his homeland. When the couple met in Germany in the 1970s, Marion was working as a governess and Jack was playing guitar (the accordion, flute and lap-style guitar are now also part of his musical repertoire). His creativity eventually followed him into the kitchen and he opened several restaurants, including a vegetarian one. The couple married in 1975 and their focus turned to family. They now have five children and three grandchildren together.
When Jack and Marion made some new friends who designed marionettes, it paved the path for a new career. Jack was intrigued with how the marionettes functioned and moved. After working with their friends awhile, the Finholds began their own business making marionettes. Jack worked with clay to make the molds for the heads and hands, and he would sometimes look to comic books for ideas for marionettes. This brought their first bear (“a Teddy-faced kind of bear, not the contemporary style we have now,” Jack notes).
When they attended the New York International Toy Fair in 1977, they brought their one and only teddy bear along with their marionettes. They sold the bear to a retailer in SoHo, who immediately sold it to a collector. A few years later, with the market for marionettes dwindling, the Finholds switched their focus to bears.
Passion and Creativity
Jack says inspiration for their designs comes from “everywhere on planet earth—in our own minds, downtown, other designs that inspire us in some way, other things around us, a smile or an idea of a friend.”
Typically, each design is offered in a limited edition of about 20 pieces. “All the bears are handmade one at a time,” Jack notes. “Sometimes we have help in the knitting and other accessories, like the felting, but all designs are created by us.”
When it comes to naming the bears, the entire family helps out. “There is a story behind each bear and Marion takes the time to tell you about them,” Diane notes.
Bears aren’t the only adorable animals the Finholds have introduced to collectors over the last several years. “We have done mice and a cat and a dog,” Jack shares, “and we are working on a dino design, ducks and a stork.”
Whatever the Finholds create, collectors can be assured each one will be crafted with the same passion and creativity Jack and Marion put into everything they do.