Photos courtesy of Bosley Bears
The best bears are made when an artist has a connection to her creations. It can be a meditation upon a beloved cub from her own childhood, a rendering of a favorite literary character (think the Velveteen Rabbit or Paddington), or a tethering to an experience where a bear made all the difference in one’s personal life and happiness. Such is the case for Karen Skindbjerg, who discovered that the making of a bear could take her mind off her quest for a baby.
Having to endure rounds of IVF treatment, Skindbjerg occupied her hands and her thoughts by fashioning homemade teddy bears. Finding solace in this hobby, she was overjoyed when the positive announcement of her pregnancy arrived. In some magical way, her ursine hobby became a totem for ushering good things into her life. It’s quite heartwarming to think that storks supposedly swoop into the nursery, conveying cooing and gurgling bundles of joy. For Skindbjerg, her bevy of bears — called Bosley Bears — bore the grand news.
When I chatted with Skindbjerg, her longed-for daughter was turning six years old, and Karen was “over the moon” with her life as a mother and teddy bear creator. She was residing in the part of Australia called Sandgate. As she wrote about it, it sounded like an idyllic place to raise a child and, most important, to commune with one’s inner child: “It takes us just a couple of minutes to walk to the waterfront. We enjoy beautiful sea breezes, which are quite welcoming through our hot summers. Sandgate is a quaint little suburb with lots of old, traditional Queenslander homes. The main street is village-like, and my favorite shop (the material shop) has been there since the 1950s. I remember going in there as a child with my grandma. Sandgate is a northern suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. We love living here in the sunshine state, the weather is beautiful most of the time.”
The niceties of her hometown must have helped to fan the creative winds that lovingly blew through her house. Skindbjerg discovered that she had a knack for making bears and was adept at turning recycled mink into adorable boy and girl cubs. She was able to unleash her talent of thinking of a potential design and then making it real.
“I love making bears for the enjoyment that it brings and for the looks and smiles on people’s faces when they see my bears. Making bears, for me, is my outlet or stress relief, and I believe that bears have some kind of healing effect,” she sincerely maintained. “I would describe my bears as cute and cuddly. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I am meticulous in every aspect of my bears. I take my time and take care with what I am doing. I like them to be stuffed firmly but still be soft and cuddly. I like to shade them a bit to give them a bit of personality. I want to make them seem alive and friendly. That is one of my biggest aims.”
Among her favorite parts of the bear-making routine was the hands-on stitching seamstress portion. “I love the sewing part! I hand-sew all my bears and I just seem to really enjoy it. I find it relaxing. I also love putting the final touches on the bears, shading, adding a flower or a bow. For me, that is when they come to life,” she revealed. “One secret that I will admit. I REALLY dislike sewing the ears on!”
Knowing how much comfort and enjoyment her handmade bears provided for her, Skindbjerg didn’t want to contain all the fun for herself. She was determined to share her knowledge, advice, and inspiration with her collectors. She created kits and patterns to aid her collectors with “birthing their own bears.” She has provided tutorials and encouragement for folks who want to follow in her footsteps. “I started selling my patterns and bears when I gave up full-time work to have my daughter. I know that people will appreciate the chance to learn how to make their own bears. I found so much satisfaction when I taught myself how to do it. It really elevated my mood, and helped me to rise above feelings of sadness and depression,” she admitted. “Originally, I went to a bear-making class to learn how to make a Teddy, but I have learned much on my own since then. I taught myself how to make patterns, and I am always searching the Internet to look for new ways to do things.”
Determined to expand her range of bears — initially opening up to include other types of critters — Karen Skindbjerg has also launched another facet to her bear business. In addition to her mohair and mink favorites, she has found great acclaim for her Memory Bears. Recognizing how important all of us are to one another in our brief lifetimes — and how a loved one’s significance should not and will not fade with death — she has created this line of custom-made characters. These Memory Bears blend a person’s biographical detailing with her one-of-a-kind custom craftsmanship. She takes robes, pajamas, sweaters, flannel shirts, and all other kinds of heavy-duty, thick fabric and then creates a bear to honor a departed loved one. Or, the bear doesn’t have to be a testament to a deceased friend or family member. It can simply be a moment frozen in time that a person wants to remember and hold on to. The decision what to remember, and why, is as unique as the bears that Karen conjures up.
“Bears can be companions for life. They can bring you comfort and they can elevate your moods. It is an honor for me to make one-of-a-kind hugs that provide so much happiness to collectors,” Karen Skindbjerg penned.