Photos courtesy of Jo Symon
Now that the Olympics are in full swing, I am hearing the plaintive cries of “Mom, please can we go to England? Spain? Germany? Australia? The Netherlands? Brazil?” You get the picture. With every swimming race or volleyball tournament that they witness, my son and daughter get the desire to become intrepid global explorers. I’m delighted that they have that urge to see lands that exist beyond our “fruited plains,” but I simply don’t have the plane fare to launch them into their jet-setting dreams.
One of the countries that they frequently pine to see is Merry Olde England. Being brought up on a steady diet of Harry Potter, Charles Dickens, and Agatha Christie BBC mysteries, both my children are enamored with that faraway country. They’d love to go there, and hold secret wishes that Hogwarts Academy is actually a place of higher, magical learning and will accept late-semester transfer students. I hope that one day they can travel to the United Kingdom, and it would be marvelous if I could accompany them on their trip. In the meantime, though . . . we have our Plush Passport to get stamped yet again!
Today, in honor of my kids’ clamoring for a British getaway, we are stopping at the studio of Jo Symon. Symon is the creative hands behind Joxy Bears. In a very quirky, comical way, she explains the origin of her business name: “I once wrote a greeting card to a loved one and signed it, ‘Love, Jo xx,’ but in my haste, the second kiss mark looked like a ‘y.’ My friend exclaimed, ‘Who is Joxy?’ So, at that moment, the nickname was born!”
Symon’s bear business was born in 2004, and it reflects her love of canines, personal artistic creativity, and her home landscape of the East Yorkshire coast. “Besides teddy bears, I also make lots of other animals. I do everything — dogs, foxes, badgers, hedgehogs. I’ve even made some of my bears turned into insects, like bumblebees and ladybugs! I get my inspiration from the wildlife that surrounds me. Animals and protecting them — that is a cause that is very close to my heart!” she explains.
Living along the coastline has also influenced Symon’s bear-making skills and critter-fashioning desires. She includes a token or a souvenir from her little corner of the world in her designs. “I was born a little further up the coast, in Whitby, and I give some of my bears a bit of Whitby jet to take to their new home,” Symon shares. “Some of my other bears are ‘beachcombers’ or ‘fossil finders.’ They all have their very own beach gem or fossil to take into their new hugs. It’s usually in the form of a pendant or a bracelet!”
When it comes to creating new characters for her collectors, Symon is on their same wavelength. She is a true-blue bear collector herself, and one of her favorite pieces is the one that she got as a going-away gift: “When I left my last ‘real job’ more than a dozen years ago, I was presented with this bear. She is a Cotswold bear and brings back memories of all my old friends.”
The Anglo arctophile is always ready to meet and greet new acquaintances, new colleagues, and new customers. She realizes she is in the perfect field for getting to know folks who are like-minded and open-hearted. “The thing I like most about the bear world,” she muses, “is that ‘beary’ people are generally nice people. We all do have that common interest. Plus, most bear people are also animal lovers, too. In my book, that is a very good thing to be!”
Jo Symon lives and loves her bear existence. It fuels her home routines and her shopping sprees as well: “Once you start collecting or making bears, it does become some sort of an addiction. I love to make all of my critters. It is so enjoyable. When I go out, I honestly don’t shop for myself anymore. I shop for ‘beary’ things. It’s my passion!”