Salzburg, Austria — When you think of that European capital city, don’t you imagine glorious, orchestral music (Mozart and “The Sound of Music”) plus fire-breathing dragons? Huh!! Yep, you read that right. Nestled in the lovely boulevards of Salzburg, Austria, there once dwelled a little girl named Andrea Maria, who was enthralled by tales of princesses, knights, and all manner of curious beasts. Andrea grew up to design bears, pigs, and a whole village worth of colorful, friendly dragons. Living in Salzburg today as a mature, married woman, she adores the chance to fashion her dragons and their pals amid the beautiful buildings of her most romantic childhood hometown.
“I started making bears about 11 years ago. It was in January 2005, and I honestly can’t imagine a life without my bears anymore,” Andrea reveals. “When I first started making bears, I thought I’d do two or three, maybe five at most. In the meantime, I’ve made nearly 600 bears, pigs, mice, and, of course, my dragons.”
The dragons are a particular passion for Andrea. She has nabbed awards for their designs and they speak to her in a friendly and comical way: “I am hooked on my dragons! My dragons have to be nice and cozy. They are made of lovely materials, and some of them are designed as baby dragons. They are ready to be cuddled. My dragons have to be nice, and they have to give love to their moms or dads.”
Andrea knows a thing or two about motherhood. She and her husband of “around 30 years” are the proud parents of two adult children, Michael and Christina. She met her husband-to-be while on summer vacation in Italy, 37 years ago, and she considers her spouse to be “the best husband in all the world.” She describes her son and daughter as “two of the most wonderful children,” so it is quite clear that Andrea Maria Mazzitelli-Köhler is quite happy with her life. It is her joyful state of mind that informs much of her soft-art creations.
“I love to be a part of this huge, wonderful family. It is the family of bears,” Andrea confides enthusiastically. “When I started my bear making, I soon got into some chats on the Internet. I found so many lovely friends from all over the word, and I am still in contact with them today. The world has come into my home, and I am really thankful to all my bears and dragons for bringing such joy into my life!”
Inspired by the fantastic connections she has made with her collectors and colleagues, Andrea also assumed the role of show organizer. At the time of my interview with her, she had promoted and arranged shows in both Linz and Salzburg, Austria. “I love to have contact with the collectors. I love to see the smiles on their faces when they stop at my table and look into the faces of my darlings,” she muses aloud.
It is the faces, and particularly the eyes, of her characters that grab the heartstrings of her fans. “I love to create bears with very big eyes. They look into the eyes and the hearts of their future moms or dads. I think — well, no, I hope — that people collect my creations because they do love them as much as I have loved creating them,” she remarks.
Within her home, Andrea has a special place for the teddy bear that she adored during her youth. “My very special own bear is the bear of my childhood, and that bear is still living with me,” she proudly admits.
Andrea Maria Mazzitelli-Köhler has a palpable and meaningful connection to the important touchstones of her childhood. She can conjure up the moments that held significance and provided happiness to her. It is, in fact, what gave her bear-and-critter company its name.
“My business is called Dreli-Bears from Austria. When I was a child, Dreli was my nickname. A dear neighbor used to call me this. When I started making bears, I thought about a funny name for my bears. I remembered my name from when I was a child. I had a name for my business, and it is so very special to me!” she declares.