Photos Courtesy of Lena Volkova
In show business, there is a term called “triple threat.” That means the performer can sing, dance, and act. When an entertainer becomes a “quadruple threat,” feel free to throw in how she can direct or write, too!
The teddy bear world has its share of quadruple threats, and Lena Volkova is certainly one of them. She is known for fashioning bears, bunnies, cats, and dogs! A true animal lover and a talented artist, she brings a blend of realism and whimsy to all of her creations.
I had the honor of chatting with her for a Teddy Bear & Friends feature article, but didn’t get the opportunity to show off all of her fantastic work. Here’s a chance to showcase lots of her lovely and lyrical critters.
It’s interesting that the term “lyrical” can be applied to Volkova’s handiwork because she began her professional life as a concert pianist! Trained as a classical musician, growing up in Russia, young Lena never imagined that she would gain a worldwide following for her craftsmanship with a needle and mohair. She has happily traded in “tinkling the ivories” for thinking about irises and snouts, tails and teeth, mouths and claws! Such a switch in occupations certainly gives a person paws!!!!
Lena Volkova has an appreciation for her customers and for what she creates. Living in the United States these days, she has called Colorado and Michigan home. In fact, the views from her Michigan window heavily influenced what she has dreamed up: “I have been surrounded by beautiful woodlands, with lots of wildlife. We can watch it from our window every day!”
In Volkova’s mind, she is presiding over a Teddy Kingdom, and her imagination and business is ruled by King Theodor, his picture is the symbol of her company and it pops up on her website’s banner headline. Each piece that she hand-makes features King Theodor’s image on the sewn-in tag.
Lena and her alter ego, King Theodor, have been a part of the bear universe for more than 12 years now. She loves the interaction that this pursuit has provided for her: “I travel around the country for teddy bear shows and I’ve seen many beautiful places in America. I have met a lot of wonderful people — bear collectors and artists — who have become my friends.”
Volkova must be doing something right — she’s certainly hitting all the correct notes with teddy bear enthusiasts. She’s been nominated for several international awards: “In 2009 and 2011, I received the Golden Teddy Awards, and in 2009 I received the Second Place Award for the TED Worldwide. I have been a nominee several times.”
The bear artist is happily married to a supportive and encouraging husband, John. She considers him to be her right-hand man in business and domestic affairs. “He makes disks for joints, manages the shipping, and assists with the shopping. Most important, he can replace me in the kitchen when I need it!” she jokes.
Corresponding and chatting with her collectors, Lena has learned how they view her creations. Among their feedback, she prizes this comment the most: “When I hold your bear, I feel comfort in my soul.”
That is a perfect compliment for a woman who was trained musically to elicit emotion from her hands, her heart, and her head. She was brought up to move people through her classical performances, and now her creations do the conversing for her.
“According to my collectors, my teddy bears are more traditional, have kind expressions, and have ‘talking eyes,’” she muses. Her critters’ eyes are warm and insightful; they are perfect for fans of naturalism and wonderment. That’s a great blending; that’s a marvelous duet!