Well, my friends, or should I say, mes amis, this week’s post has to do with the blending of two age-old undeniable truths: “April showers bring May flowers” and the lyrics from the classic chanteuse tune “April in Paris”: “Chestnuts in blossom/Holiday tables under the trees/April in Paris, this is a feeling/No one can ever reprise.” That old American standard, written by Harburg and Duke, is playing in my mind 24/7 because three of my friends from my real-world circle, and from my Facebook exchanges, have all set off to Paris for grand excursions of world-investigating and self-discovery. I have done a fair share of traveling myself, and I am always delighted when I see that the “wanderlust” bug is gently biting (ouch!) other people in my milieu.
How lovely that these three ladies — all hailing from different regions of the country and from diverse backgrounds — have traveled to the City of Lights to give themselves a unique chance to sparkle and shine. Once I got this nightclub melody trapped in my head, I just gave in and surrendered to the ditty completely. The constant thunderstorms and monsoon-level rain that we’ve been experiencing here in the Northeast have now taken on a more romantic aura. Of course, I shrug, there has to be downpours in order to appreciate the sunny days and the flowers popping from the earth, mais oui? Though I’m not putting on a beret or munching on a baguette, I am showing off an array of bears made in France by trois talented French artistes.
These are three very skillful and creative European artists with whom I’ve had the pleasure to correspond with and cover over the years. Let’s get out our Plush Passport and take a quick jaunt to the studio of Nathalie Guidi. In fact, let’s hop on a bicycle and pedal to her atelier, which is named La Fée Chiffonnée. (The very strict translation into English is The Fairy Crumpled.) Nathalie, called “Nath” by her colleagues and friends, has written about her lifestyle in the region of France known as Provence: “There is often the sun and I can make a great bike ride! Life is pretty quiet and I like it!”
Unwinding in a more laid-back, carefree manner is second nature to Nath. According to her philosophy, “What I love, above all, is to invent a little world out of time, a peaceful world, which does not depend on the fashion and our current pace, which is often too fast. I like to find a part of childhood, and I think that is what people are searching for when they buy my creatures.”
Another very clever artist we can drop in on is “Mama Bear,” or “Nanours,” as her customers and friends have dubbed her. Marina Boildieu, aka Mama Bear, has developed a deep affection for her collectors, who reside all around the globe. Marina corresponds with them quite frequently. She has an open, sunny disposition, which is obvious in her vibrant craftsmanship.
Marina has said, “It’s thanks to my collectors that I always want to do better, to innovate, to create and go further in my creations. What I love most in the world of the bear is the sweetness that comes with each creation. It is like seeing yourself in your child’s eyes, and finding her hand in your own.”
Marina’s studio is titled Un Ours Dans Ma Maison, which is French for A Bear In My House. Her collectors often don’t stop at just swooping up “a bear” to add to their hugs; instead, they visit again and again and leave with several. “My greatest reward is when a person becomes a collector, and they have adopted one of mine as the first. Initially, when I began to make the bears, I made them for me. When I had a certain amount, I put them on sale. Immediately, the arctophiles arrived at the rendezvous! That’s how it all started!”
Gentleman bear maker — and onetime professional florist — Laurent Bergmann understands what makes collectors tick, because he is an admitted aficionado too! In addition to being a multiple award-winning artist for his Lovable Bears studio, Laurent loves to browse and buy bears for his own ever-expanding collection. “There is no limit to the creativity of the bear world,” Laurent has written to me. “When a little shine comes in the eyes of the bear, and light and life seem to come on their face, there is something magical in the air! I know that to be a famous artist, I must have a style that every collector can recognize, but I prefer to follow my own creativity!”
Bringing up a rich and diverse cuisine — something that the French and gourmands everywhere can appreciate — Laurent gives us this deep tidbit to chew upon: “Just like how people don’t eat the same thing every day, I like to make different kinds of bears. I can’t see me doing the same kind of bear or any other animal every day, for every year of my bear-making life. I do what I want — and what I need to do to make me feel good and free. It is only with this way that my bear can take on life.”
We bid adieu to these three French creators — Laurent Bergmann, Marina Boildieu, and Nath Guidi — and wish them bonne chance in all that they continue to do and achieve. We shall be making other make-believe trips this spring and summer. Make sure your Plush Passport is up to date and always check back for our next incredible itinerary. The world is a big place, but our shared love of teddy bears makes it a smaller, more manageable one.