Summertime definitely means more outdoor activities, but for some folks (like me) it means more chances to travel to historic mansions, Victorian estates, and the curio shops that surround these beckoning landmarks. Yes, it’s true that the summer means more sun, more warmth, and more excuses to exit your front door and soak in some much-needed, naturally occurring Vitamin D.
I’m thinking about my favorite antiquing, antiquated pastimes a lot these days. I’m counting down the number of days until the children are out of school so we can embark on some road trips (history for me, miniature golf and laser tag for them, escape rooms for all of us)! One teddy bear artist I recently had the chance to chat with reminds me of myself. Just like I’m besotted with mysteries from the past, so is Vermont artist Lynn Gatto. (And you can learn more about her and see many more of her photos in our upcoming September issue of Teddy Bear & Friends.)
Lynn and her husband, Phil, are the very talented and tireless humans behind Limerick Bear. Lynn is the artist, and her spouse ably assists with tracing, cutting, and jointing the bears. What’s so admirable about Lynn’s artistic attitude is that it reflects her affinity for long-ago treasures.
“I collect some artist bears, but my biggest collection is pewter, of which I have more than 450 pieces,” Lynn told me. “My next largest collection is of Santas and Santa candy containers!”
Lynn is like a kid in a candy store when she is let loose in a bric-a-brac vintage shop. She can’t resist all the delights that surround her. In her home studio, she has stored an impressive amount of old-fashioned clothing, accessories, and other accents that she attaches to her bears. Sometimes she even uses her vintage mohair carriage robes for her bear line as well.
Working outside in the summer sun, sitting on their patio and observing the natural wonders found in their backyard (they’ve spotted actual, living bears browsing on their property), Lynn and Phil are communing with Mother Nature and with their own natural selves. They love the chance to stroll together and to work side by side. That’s a marvelous tribute to their marital ties.
While many of the Limerick Bears are garbed in these prized antique-shop finds, some are allowed to enter the world undressed. “Yes, some of my bears do not like fancy clothes. There are always available bare bears!” Lynn enthused.
I can appreciate both styles of Limerick Bears. I like the ones that are so specifically dressed to invoke a special nostalgic feeling. The Polly bear is such a proper young miss. I love the blue ribbons perched atop her head, and she looks like she is curtseying as she proudly gets her photo taken. What an adorable and sentimental ursine creation, splendidly decked out in her authentic vintage cloth pinafore! She numbers among one of my favorites, which makes sense because I love all mementoes of the early 1900s. (Downton Abbey, anyone?)
On the other hand—other paw?—Rowland is a noble, sturdy bear who looks dignified despite not having on a stitch of clothing! With his bell collar, he appears to be a strong and masculine Teddy. He also looks like he emerged from the Darling family nursery—the siblings who populated the pages of “Peter Pan.” Though I think if Rowland had been present when Peter appeared at their attic window, the Darling children might have hesitated to fly off to Neverland. Rowland has that much charisma and fortitude that he might’ve given Tink and Peter a run for their money!
The bears that pour out of the Limerick Bear studios are all variations on the theme of past whimsy and long-ago innocence. They are all physical symbols of a time that we like to visit now and again in our imaginations.
Or, if you are like me and my family, and like Lynn Gatto and hers, you also like to go to physical places that evoke the feelings and the aura of antique possessions and people. It is an honest-to-goodness treat to be surrounded by totems of a past society.
As I travel around the Northeast this summer, with hopes of getting to Rhode Island and its heady array of Gilded Age estates and mansions that rival castles, I’ll be thinking even more of the Limerick Bears. These one-of-a-kind and limited-edition teddy bears are true originals: recalling memories of events that only haunt our dreams, and inspiring us to chase after those fleeting visions.