Photos courtesy of Margaret Jackson
Right around this time last year, I had the honor to chat with Margaret “Meg” Jackson of Pinney Bears. Jackson is a true-blue bear person. Not only is she a sought-after teddy bear artist, but she’s also a collector who has been hugging and cuddling with her cubs since she was a toddler. The North Carolina resident has a room devoted to her sprawling collection, and there’s also a special spot in her heart for a fallen comrade.
Her craft business’s name — Pinney Bears — is a tribute to her first childhood plush pal. Despite all the “warm and fuzzy” memories Meg has about Pinney, her tale of friendship has a sad conclusion. During one of her moves, Pinney was placed into a box and was sequestered in storage. Without her knowledge, the bear was sold at auction. Having the ties to her childhood severed in such a fashion inspired Meg to make her own bears, each one a testament to the bonds that could — and should — exist between human owner and soft-toy sidekick.
“One of the nicest compliments I have gotten is from one of my collectors who takes one of my bears with her whenever she travels,” Meg shared with me. “She told me that she feels an ‘emotional pull’ to the bears. They remind her of family members.”
Many of Meg’s collectors respond to her approachability and empathy. They write to her and confide their deep attachments and connections to her work: “I love hearing from my collectors about the bears after they have them for a while. I received a picture of two of my bears having a ‘getting to know you’ party and it absolutely delighted me.”
Having the ability to create happiness and familiarity is paramount in Meg Jackson’s mind. It is one of the effects of her handiwork that most impresses her. “I think the appeal of my bears is that they are cute and generally have a quizzical look about them, and that makes people smile,” she revealed. “I respond to the emotions of my collectors, and their happiness inspires me as I make my bears. It is definitely a ‘driving force.’”
In addition to her collectors’ reactions, Meg is also influenced by the components that end up comprising a Pinney Bear. “I am inspired by the colors and textures of the fabrics and furs that I use,” she itemized, “and the trinkets and toys that I find to go along with the bears.”
During my interview of Meg, she and her family were actively involved in putting the finishing touches on her ursine originals: “My husband, Bill, who also takes care of our Balloon Décor and Delivery business, is very supportive of me. When I am at a show, he helps me out so much. He also helps me with the jointing of my bears, and is a major cheerleader for me. He is so helpful .My son, Dan, has a vintage shop and I am always raiding it for trinkets. My granddaughter, Lilly, is so enthusiastic, and so are our kitties. They all encourage and inspire me in their own ways!”
Meg’s cats have opened up her mind to making other critters beyond bears (though the teddies are still her favorites). She’s created kittens, kangaroos, bunnies, frogs, mice, dogs, ducks, and hedgehogs. It’s always a challenge to begin a new project — and a new species — and Meg is up for any task that she decides to tackle.
“When I was young, I did take a sewing class, but I am pretty much self-taught in the art of bear making,” she explained. “Over the years, I have taken classes from a few artists in the techniques they use. It has given me confidence.”
For more than a dozen years, Meg has been making bears that mirror her optimism and her trademark cheerful style. “My bears are meant to make you smile. If I don’t accomplish that, then my bear has failed. Thankfully, I think I have always managed to achieve that,” she admitted. “Being in the bear world, I’ve learned many different skills. I’ve learned needle felting, jewelry making, website design, and how to run a business.”
Of all the lessons Meg Jackson has learned, one stands out the most: “Teddy bear people are the friendliest people in the world. No one else even comes close to them!”