Photos courtesy of Dagmar Seibel, ds-Bären
Anniversaries are special occasions. It is difficult to cultivate “stick-to-itiveness” when the world is so full of distractions and diversions. A popular TV commercial for a safer automobile claims that the average attention span has now dropped to . . . oh, look, a squirrel just ran past my window . . . oh, that is so cute . . . wait, where was I? Oh, that’s right — the average attention span is now 8 seconds. So, with people having less tenacity and more technology and leisuretime, it is heartening to see an individual making the 20-year mark.
That’s why my imaginary hat is being tipped to German bear artist Dagmar Seibel. This year, 2016, marks her 20th year in the ursine universe. I had the pleasure of interviewing her in October of last year, and found her to be so enthusiastic about her creations that it was charming and contagious. After speaking with Seibel, you wanted to go out and add a dozen more critters to your hug. Here, then, are some highlights of my cyber chat with the very sweet artist.
Since Dagmar Seibel was trained as a dental technician, it might seem that becoming a bear maker is a far cry from what she was educated to do. However, that’s not the case. Since dentistry is affiliated with smiles, her bear artistry is proudly carrying on that connection. Her bears induce smiles in their collectors, and that is her exact mission: “In my bears, I attach a great importance to the expression. I think a doll or a teddy bear who looks at me, and has a special look, has a lot of beauty and dignity. I spend a lot of my time on the design of the face, which I compose of different kinds of mohair. When I am done, I want my teddy bears to seem alive. I want them to look at you and you will feel that you can talk to them and they are living creatures. That is what I try to do.”
Seibel’s handiwork has won a slew of awards, and her collectors agree with her assessment. They find her designs to be good-natured, soulful, and highly collectible. Her fans, who reside around the world, applaud her for her craftsmanship and her commitment to making critters that seem to mimic childlike attitudes and behavior.
“I think it is great when I am at a bear show and I might see people who have had experiences with me. They have already adopted some of my bear children. I am happy to meet these bear parents, and I am even happier if they have one of my bear kids with them!” Seibel stated to me. “It makes me so glad to see that my bears are living in new homes where they are loved. I love my bears and it makes me happy to see that the collectors love them, too.”
Yes, Seibel knows that her creations are pieces of soft art, but her poetic, imaginative side does imbue them with humanlike traits and characteristics. She cannot help herself. Because she spends so much time in the fashioning of them, the bears grow close to her heart. They become real and significant to her: “Teddy bears are entrusted with so many secrets. People say so much more to their bears than they might say to other people. But, I realize, bears are bears, and people are people. I am glad there are so many nice people in the world so that nice bears can be matched with them!”
In her personal life, Seibel is an arctophile as well. She has acquired a good-size collection of vintage and older Steiff bears and some artist originals, too. She adores her personal hug, and that empathy colors her own creations. “When I look at the bears I collect, I still remember where and why I bought it,” she explained. “Each time I study them, I share a story with myself. I want my bears that I make to do that with their bear parents.”
The language that Seibel utilizes is very family-centric. She honestly does consider her artwork to be part of her family and extensions of her own self. “I feel that I birth my animals. I don’t feel that I am just ‘making’ them. They are being born. I birth bears, cats, dogs, and other animals because it gives me so much satisfaction and pleasure. It adds fun and meaning to me!” she admitted.
Having reached the 20th anniversary, Seibel is still immersed in the mohair field and is still challenging herself to usher brand-new “bear babies” into the world: “I think my collectors have always appreciated my creativity and the quality of my creatures. A German newspaper once wrote about me that ‘the secret of her bears is the view.’ That is what my collectors love about my work. They love what they can see in the bears’ faces and postures.”
Reviewing her past accomplishments and considering her future path, Dagmar Seibel has one focused desire: “My wish in my bear career is that my bear children will be loved by their new owners and will give them a lot of joy. I hope that my health continues and I shall be able to raise up many more bear children going forth. That is what matters most to me!”