Photos courtesy of Sunshine-Teddy’s
Do you have your Plush Passport out? If you do, get ready to have it stamped for ASAP arrival in Passau, Germany. Passau is a city in Bavaria, located about 100 miles from Munich. Today, we’ll be popping in to say “Guten Tag!” to teddy bear artist and cuddly critter creator Heike Buchner. Buchner has a joyful and vibrant personality and rejoices in her children and grandchildren. Her warmth and cheerfulness is embodied by her studio’s name, Sunshine-Teddy’s.
“At one of my first bear fairs, the visitors told me that seeing my teddy bears warmed up their hearts. I equated ‘warmth’ with ‘sunshine,’ and this was the birth of the idea of Sunshine-Teddy’s,” she explains.
Buchner’s journey as a bear artist began more than a decade ago, in 2002. Her first creation was knitted from a special wool: “After about one year, I took part in a special course to learn how to make my own patterns.” Buchner found her release in this artistic craft and she took to it immediately and passionately. She brings her own twist to the critters that she coaxes to brilliant and buoyant life.
“It took me eight years of hard work before I was able to sew a bear EXACTLY the way I imagined it,” she shares with us. “I have specialized in making animals that are true to life. But I admit that I hardly ever stay completely lifelike. There is always a little bit of a teddy bear hidden in my work. No matter how lifelike, there is always that bit of cuteness,” Buchner made sure to explain to me.
Most of her creatures have eyes and mouths that can close, and they sport handmade claws and teeth. These touches are hallmarks of her commitment to work meticulously and tirelessly. If she has to devote a large amount of time to get her bear or pooch the way she envisions it, she will go that extra mile. Consider it the “Goldilocks Effect”; Buchner toils until the character is “just right.”
When asked how long it takes to complete an animal, Buchner estimates between 40 to 60 hours. “My animals are all made by me with love and care, and this love gives them a soul. I really believe this,” Buchner emphasizes. “I always try to create individual pieces by using different furs and different patterns. Many of my creations are baby animals or young ones. I do that because they attract collectors and because they appeal to me.”
One of the German artist’s biggest thrills is when she is at a bear fair and she witnesses the first interaction between collector and brand-new “adoptee.” Buchner reveals that this is “the greatest gift of all.” She loves to close her eyes and recall these precious meeting moments: “I love when collectors hug my bears and then take them home happily! I often receive photos of how my collectors share their lives with their bears, and this is how I can still take part in their existences.”
From firsthand experience, Buchner understands the special attachment between an arctophile and her hug. Though she didn’t have a teddy bear when she was growing up, she did get a beloved plush seal when she was five years old. To this day, that toy seal accompanies her throughout life.
“What I like most in the bear world is not only the ability to make people happy, but to meet and get to know the many different colleagues and collectors,” she confides. “I love meeting like-minded people that I can have interesting talks with. Big friendships have grown out of these meetings for me.”
An award-winning bear artist — she has earned TOBY nominations and awards — Buchner is humbled and honored to have garnered these prizes and nods. She adores the opportunity to “create many more bears to make people happy.”
Heike Buchner would be over the rainbow if we all dropped in on her studio to watch her bring another Sunshine-Teddy to brilliant life. She “gets” collectors because she is one as well: “I am still collecting bears and other animals from colleagues. Those Teddies, though, are always the complete opposites of my work. I know how difficult it can be to find a bear that suits you. In the beginning, I was only collecting bears and I wasn’t aware of the whole bear scene. I didn’t know it at all. I am so pleased that my bears are suiting people. I am happy that my bears are finding homes.”
Over the past decade her creations have found their way to fans and followers around the world, and this brings her great comfort. “International collectors have adopted my bears, so many of my bears have traveled throughout the world,” she muses aloud. “That is a great accomplishment, and I am so happy.”