Photos courtesy of LeftyBears
I think that one of the reasons why the Academy Awards airs in February is because the event’s producers count on the hibernation factor. When it is chilly out for a large portion of the U.S. and other territories, the awards governing body counts on more eyes glued to the screen at home. It’s true — more folks are apt to connect with the slumbering bear within and watch the Oscars on a cold, wintry night rather than a beautiful spring evening. It’s a matter of common sense and commercial sensibility!
With Hollywood’s big day rapidly approaching — Sunday, February 26 — it’s fitting that this week’s PLUSH LIFE shines a spotlight on an artist who has been jubilantly inspired by movies and film characters.
German teddy bear maker Natascha Sabo adores the bear world, and she approaches each of her designs with the keen eye of a motion-picture scriptwriter and creative director. When I interviewed her, she was living in a picturesque town in the southern region of Germany. “My home is west of Stuttgart, and close to the Black Forest,” she explained.
A little more than 20 years ago, in 1995, she was at a department store and a bear kit caught her eye. She sat down, tried her hand at coaxing forth a teddy bear, and was happy with the finished result. “I realized I could do this,” she said. “I felt delighted, and I knew this was what I wanted to do. I knew I could make a bear that would make customers smile!”
Sabo had always been “crafty,” so she began her bear-making career with a slice of confidence and a side of determination. “I realized that when I made a bear, I could combine so many different techniques. I could use all my skills. I just love when a piece of fabric or some yarn becomes ‘alive’!” she proclaimed.
Her affinity for bears and other plush pals preceded her first attempt at fashioning one on her own. Her stuffed animals were an important part of her childhood. She loved chatting with them, playing with them, and confiding her secrets to them: “I actually still have some of my old childhood friends. I used to have a little doggie that my parents bought for me for my first Christmas. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive his last ‘bath.’ I placed him in the washing machine, and it was not pretty. I was really, really sad after that happened, and I was already 23 at the time. I truly felt for that little, lost dog.”
Over the years, Sabo has earned a loyal following of collectors and has also nabbed many TOBY Awards and nominations for her brand, LeftyBears. Like the celebrities who will be congregating at the Dolby Theatre for the ceremony, Sabo has picked up a trove of trophies to decorate her home mantelpiece. She said she feels “honored and humbled” to be the recipient of so much love.
“I want to thank everybody who has voted for me over the years,” Sabo admitted. “There are so many talented people in the bear world that it makes me so proud to think that I have been chosen to receive awards for my work. It makes me very proud and very happy. I want to thank everyone for thinking my bears are among the best.”
Many of Sabo’s creations salute the fragility of the environment, honoring the need for curating and preserving wildlife: “People should remember how precious our world is and that we need to protect our environment and all the beautiful animals that live in it!”
The artist is concerned about the ecosystem, but she has not abandoned her core mission of making people smile. “Many of my creations are inspired by real animals and are naturalistic,” she observed. “But I also love to make the animals that are funny and are fantasy creations. I want to make my animals for happiness. I want them to bring that feeling to the collectors.”
Natascha Sabo adores the chance to chat with her collectors online and in person at fairs around the world. She also loves the opportunity to meet with bear colleagues and potentially “trade and swap bears with fellow artists.”
According to Sabo, “The bear world is filled with wonderful people. It is my good fortune that my bears have let me meet so many of them!”