Photos courtesy of Artist Bears by Rosalie Carpio
Walt Disney was a visionary for a lot of reasons, but foremost among them was his uncanny, early ability to recognize that we are living in a small world, after all. Putting that earworm song aside, Disney’s notion that we are all interconnected becomes more real and more true every single day.
I guess that’s one of the reasons why I was so captivated by the talented and very surprising Rosalie Carpio. I had the chance to interview her and she was bursting with vitality and was loaded with anecdotes. Carpio is the embodiment of the universal citizen. She is comfortable anywhere in the world, and has chosen to make her home in Hong Kong. She arrived there many decades ago — more than 30+ years — with the intention of simply staying for one month. That snowballed into years, decades, and then eventually into the new century and millennium. She is a part of the Hong Kong cultural scene — an in-demand cabaret performer and nightclub entertainer.
After leaving school as a young woman, Rosalie fell in with a traveling show that originated in London and landed in Melbourne, Australia, where she was born. A gifted singer and dancer, she joined the theatrical wanderers and was whisked away immediately. She performed in New Zealand and in Singapore, and she found a home away from home in Hong Kong.
While residing in her newfound land, Carpio continued to challenge herself to learn new languages and translate that knowledge into her stage shows. “I can sing in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi, Arabic, Tagalog, Portuguese, and French,” she explained. “I love being versatile, and that’s why I also love to perform all kinds of music. Jazz is my first love, but I also like disco and show tunes and rock-and-roll. If it has a rhythm and a beat, I can connect with it!”
Another challenge that Carpio set for herself is the secondary career as a bear artist. She’s been making her critters since 1999: “I owe my sewing skills to my mother, Gwen Rose. I am grateful to her. The part I love most about bear making is creating the head! I especially like to finish the face. For me, that is when the bear actually comes to life.”
Busy with her performing gigs, Carpio manages to set aside time for her bear pursuits. “When I finish a show, in the wee small hours of the morning, that’s when I make the bears. It’s an unusual angle and a lot of people don’t expect that from a bear artist,” she enthused.
Many of Carpio’s bears reflect her adopted country and its culture. “I have a range of bears based on the Chinese Zodiac — for instance, Year of the Ram, Year of the Dragon, Year of the Snake — and I’ve made quite a few pandas!” she revealed. “Additionally to that, I do make a traditional teddy bear on occasion.”
One of Carpio’s teddy bear honors occurred when her creation Mei Ling, a Chinese bear, was accepted into the Teddy Bear Museum of Hong Kong. “That made me so happy and proud,” she said. “My motto always has been to make a quality bear.”
As an entertainer and a craftswoman, Rosalie Carpio has attained great success and a loyal following: “Teddy bears and all their friends are accepted and collected in many countries around Asia. There is a big following in Japan, and there are many wonderful Japanese artists. There’s also a following in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. There are many adult collectors, and I am proud that many people have found my work and have appreciated it. That’s a great reward!”