About a year and a half ago, I had the pleasure of receiving some fantastic photos and comments from Italian bear artist Antonella Dulio. Like Madonna and Cher, the bear maker prefers to go by her first name: Antonella. The solo-named artist began to create her own ursine pals around late 2012 or early 2013. She found that she had a talent for this craftsmanship and decided to dub her newfound business Cicciorsi.
The moniker was a derivation of her dog’s name. “Cicciosi is my dog. He was already 15 years old. In all our time together, I won plenty of glances full of affection and sweetness,” Antonella recalled. “When I create a bear, I try to give them the same expression. Sometimes I succeed and it is a great thrill!”
Antonella drew upon her courage, and plumped up her confidence, when she attempted her first handmade teddy bear. This was not an arena she was familiar with. She had been a collector, but had never envisioned herself as a full-fledged bear artist. She knew she had creative skills, but this was a bold, new leap for her.
“I love to experiment and learn new techniques,” Antonella shared. “Even as a child, I always loved to do manual tasks. Over the years, I have dedicated myself to many forms of creativity. I’ve tried embroidery, crochet, and sewing. I’ve done modeling with polymer clay, graphic design, and decoupage. I love to garden — I love nature and animals. I think maybe I always knew I should become a bear maker.”
The first bear that Antonella successfully completed was named Cherie, and that creation holds a place of honor in her heart and home: “Cherie is my special bear. She was the first one born from my hands. I hope never to part from her.”
Realizing that she could accomplish this — “Each of my bears comes from a drawing of mine” — Antonella was determined to usher more ursine friends into the world. “I love to make sweet little puppets to cuddle. I love to introduce sweet little bears to love,” she enthused. “For me, it is such a great satisfaction to be able to hug the bears that I have imagined. I want to spread the love for handmade things, and I love that I am able to do this.”
Over the past few years, Antonella has received compliments and positive feedback from her customers. “I think they are drawn to their sweetness, tenderness, and their originality,” she mused. “I think customers like the guarantee of uniqueness.”
Because she has emerged from the world of soft-art collecting, Antonella has a strong foundation that she has built her bears upon. She knows what collectors seek out and appreciate, since she was one herself.
“In a bear, the most important thing is the expression of the face. That is what gives the personality to each of the teddy bears. To get the sweet look that distinguishes my bears, I study the ideal position of the eyes. I also sew the bear’s nose, giving it a special and unique shape. It all works together in the face,” she said.
Beyond the teddy bear’s visage, Antonella also makes the wardrobe and costuming that adds to their appeal: “My bears are complemented by clothes and accessories that are made by hand. They are made from high-quality fabrics, like silk, linen, and cotton. Often, the outfits are touched with lace and vintage accessories. I purchase these at antique markets, to give them a worn look. Even though they are new, I want them to have an old look. They are to look classic.”
Antonella’s Cicciorsi bears have come with certificates of authenticity. Every step of the way, these creations are true originals: tradition meets contemporary soulfulness.