Photos courtesy of Anne Seeuws
A great part of writing a weekly blog for the Plush Life is that I get to visit and, in some cases, revisit my favorite artists, their studios, and their ursine philosophies. A bear maker that I had the pleasure of chatting with about a year ago was Anne Seeuws. She was part of a look I did at European craftspeople, and her fantastic outpouring of work was given a limited amount of space. (There were just so many respondents and glorious photos!) Here, then, is a chance to show off what didn’t make it into print, and to share Seeuws’s professional outlook and personal experiences!
Residing in Ghent, Belgium, Seeuws is a bona fide bear lover! Her connection to the world of Teddies and other cuddly critters is so infectious that she comes across as both a collector and a creator. Seeuws — let’s call her Anne because it’s easier to pronounce and sound out — has been a bear booster since early childhood.
“As a child, I regularly got a Steiff bear from my father. Those bears gave me a comforting and safe feeling. They were like friends that you can stroke!” Anne declares.
Her affection for owning a “huggable hug” prompted her to try to fashion her very own teddy bears. More than 20 years ago, she decided to sit down and try to build a bear that embodied everything she liked best about the critters. “In the beginning, I used bear kits and made bears created by other bear makers. I was soon fed up with them,” she recollects. “Since deciding that, I’ve only made my own designs. They are always hand-sewn, and I prefer mohair.”
Anne gravitates to mohair because the fabric is reminiscent of the Steiff bears that she loved so much in her youth: “Mohair gives a natural feel to it, and you get that as you stroke it. A bear signifies nostalgia for me, and people should be able to give them a special place in their lives.”
When she begins to plan out one of her bears, Anne is guided by wanting to make it adorable and personable — these are two traits that figure high in her mind. “I try to make my bears sweet and attractive to the eye. I want them to appear like that in their expressions, as well as in their meanings,” she details. “Sometimes I dress my bears, but I actually prefer to keep them undressed — accentuating the mohair.”
Many collectors comment on how heavy her bears appear to be. That is a definite part of her mohair mission. “I stuff them with granules,” she admits. “I am so thrilled that my bears have become collector items for adult bear lovers. It makes me so happy.”
Recognizing herself in her fanbase, Anne gushes about the warmth and affection she feels from her collectors. “We all share the same passion. That is what I enjoy the most about the world of bears,” Anne muses. “I also like to make bear accessories. By that, I mean pincushions, brooches, and key rings. As such, you can always keep the bear discreetly close to you!”
One of Anne’s favorite pastimes is strolling through museums and zoos. She lists her visit to the Steiff Museum in Giengen, Germany, as a touring highlight. She also recalls her trip to the Pairi Daiza animal park in Belgium as a fabulous memory:
“I was able to admire the giant pandas Hao Hao and Xing Hui there. My favorite bear in the world is the panda. I’ve create a panda bear myself, and I have the utmost respect for people who actually do something for the REAL bear population in the world.”
A true animal lover, who adores creatures great (pandas) and small (“I really like cats as pets!”), Anne Seeuws keeps her passion for four-footed beasts alive and well. Her bear label was created by taking part of her name and merging it with her mother’s — Anne and Isabelle: Annebelleke. She had kept a blog about her adventures in bear making (annebellekesberen), where she showcased her past and present work.
“My bear passion is something that I would miss having,” she told me last year. “It gives me a great deal of satisfaction and has become my way of living.”