Photos courtesy of Shaz Bears
I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to showcase so many different artists and their life’s work in this blog format, and I have always enjoyed seeing how The Plush Life springs into reality via their talented hands and always turning minds.
One of the really intriguing parts of blogging about teddy bears is seeing which characters embody a plush life. For me, that phrase hints at luxury and comfort, sophistication and glamour, maybe some kind of elegance and opulence. When all of that is thrown into the creative blender and mixed to perfection, I think we can all agree that Sharon Hale’s body of work truly exemplifies the plush life and a spirit of joie de vivre (joy of living).
Hale has been making her bears, bunnies, kitties, and all manner of cute critters for more than 20 years. When I reached out to her at the end of last summer, she off-handedly mentioned she had been plying her craft for “more than 25 years,” which absolutely floored me. It is amazing to think that she has been ushering forth her artistic vision for a quarter of a century, and then some!
Residing in Australia, Hale has been happily immersed in the artist-original bear world, specifically in the realm that she terms shabby chic. Though her daily life and studio have been based out of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, her imagination is right at home along the flowing Seine River. Her mind and her mohair ambitions belong in the City of Lights: Paris.
The artist gleefully told me: “My work has changed over time, and that makes sense, because I have made thousands upon thousands of bears. They have been known as ‘shabby chic,’ but also as time has passed, more and more are called ‘French provincial’ and ‘vintage romantic.’ My motto has always remained the same, even when the looks of my bears have changed. I firmly believe in ‘detail, detail, detail.’ I absolutely love to do things that many other artists would leave out or overlook. Truthfully, I study each outfit I make like I am creating it for a human being. I treat my costumes like they are going to be worn by a person, not a bear!”
Her attention to details is not just empty rhetoric or hyperbole. She does spend a huge amount of time making sure every little piece of her vignettes and wardrobes are exactly right.
“Years ago, I made bears the way many of us Australian artists did. That meant, I put a bow around their necks, and that was the ornamentation and decoration. I have changed so much, and customers expect so much more these days,” she shared. “I believe some of my customers buy the bears as ornamental or decorative pieces for their homes. I think some of the people want bears to match their homes’ furnishings and décor style. That is a great honor to think my bears are sought out to help make a person’s room even more special and beautiful.”
In Hale’s own domestic life, she has pointed out that bear artistry allowed her to work at home while raising her two sons. “Being able to stay home and raise my boys was very important to me, and that is something I will always thank the bear world for giving to me,” she stated.
Before she was an internationally successful artist, Hale started out as a collector and a hobbyist. She and a friend attended a local bear show and she became smitten with a particular tiny Teddy. He was not for sale, but there was a kit available to design a similar one. “I attended a class to learn how to make bears, and I have never looked back since that day!” she declared.
Because Hale had such a first-step, significant experience as a student, she has always recognized how important it is to be a student with a concerned and hands-on instructor. She has been teaching a bear workshop for many years now and counts that as among her greatest accomplishments. “It is a chance to share creativity, to make bears, and to make friends. These have become lifetime, lifelong connections,” she revealed to me.
Married to a supportive and proud husband, joyfully overseeing her sons’ developments into adulthood, and functioning as a grateful and loyal daughter — her mother, Julie, was the person who opened her home to Sharon for her bear-teaching classes — Hale has garnered a lot from her 20+ years in the ursine field. She never forgets how fortunate she is to have landed in this lap of luxury.
When asked what she has culled from her experiences, Hale is able to speak from her heart: “I love creating bears. I can’t say why it turned out to be my life’s calling, but it did. I never, never get tired of doing it. I love making orders and doing research, finding out about the collectors and what they most want and hope for. I love being able to add touches that a customer never imagined was possible! I have made Chanel bears and Louis Vuitton bears, using old bags and real Chanel buttons and materials that I have found in thrift stores.”
It is, indeed, that focus on “details, details, and details” that distinguishes Sharon Hale’s lyrical and lovely critters from so many others. They do seem to be living and loving the plush life.
“My Shaz Bears live all over the world! They can be found in the United Kingdom and the United States, China and everywhere else on the globe! I love adding little special touches to them to complete the scene, and I love the chance to work with all different types of fabric to make their French vintage feeling come alive to the collectors,” she explained. “My sincere wish is that my Shaz Bears become your friends, and that owning one puts a smile on your face! That is what I strive to do.”