Photos courtesy of Pamda Bears
I think there is one fact of life we all can agree on. There is never enough time! Period. End of statement. Even folks who have the wealth of Midas and the riches of a sultan can’t purchase additional time. There are only 24 hours in a day, and we all have to deal with it as best we can.
I think this appreciation for time — and how fleeting, yet fixed, it is — is at the core of science fiction’s love affair with time travel. More and more movies and TV shows are popping up that deal with brave (but foolish and reckless) souls who are willing to throw themselves into the space-time continuum. They are all courageous enough to make that quantum leap, and viewers are enthralled to see what unpredictable (but predictable, in terms of TV scripts) mishaps will ensue.
In the world of ursine artistry, I see Pam Pontious as one of these trailblazing, time-traveling visionaries. Many of her creations are a celebration of SteamPunk sensibilities, and they ideally merge that blending of the forecasting unimaginable with the imagination of a talented, forward-thinking woman. Her critters are emblematic of what could be, what will never be, and what we hope will come to pass. They are three-dimensional renderings of the best literary escapist story plots.
“I love the sci-fi genre,” Pontious told me in an early 2016 interview. “I especially like the works of Jules Verne, and these help me create the characters’ personae along with their stories. All of my SteamPunk characters have backstories.”
It’s true that her teddy bear universe is always expanding and inviting more and more diverse and unique critters into its orbit. “I have been making SteamPunk creatures for more than five years, ever since my husband and I attended the Steamcon convention in Seattle in 2011. It was a genre that spoke directly to me,” she stated.
Though Pontious’s immersion in the realm of speculative fiction is fairly recent — not even six years, to date — her entrance into the world of teddy bear artistry occurred 30 years ago. In 1987, she started her bear business with the support and camaraderie of her husband. “He came up with the name — Pamda Bears — which stuck! I was making the teddy bears, but I was continuing to work at my ‘real job’ as a clinical lab technical supervisor. Later, I became a health-care systems analyst.”
It’s so fitting, then, that many of Pontious’s characters do have that science connection. Even if a healthy number of them seem to rank among “mad scientists” rather than a benevolent Louis Pasteur or a selfless Marie Curie. Pontious has fun dreaming up protagonists, like Felinus Punk, who is a doctor with a penchant for experimentation. When he can’t locate a patient, he’ll gladly operate on his lab assistant, Rattus Maximus. The daring doctor is a pioneer in the harnessing of mechanical apparatus to animal flesh (his own damaged tail is supported by a tiny wheeled cart, which lab mice love to ride around on).
“I know the stories behind the creations are outlandish! I love that about my work,” she revealed. “They are full of attitude, humor, and laughter. My creations are rarely serious. I can’t make a critter look mean or angry. It just doesn’t happen.”
That is so true: even her mad scientists never look mad, and their laboratory aides all look quirky and comical. “The critters all tell me what they want to be,” Pontious remarked. “They are not always forthcoming with their names or genders. Sometimes it takes a few days to understand what they want to be, and what name suits them. When I see a smile from a collector or receive a comment about how a face makes them laugh, I know I succeeded in making someone a little happier.”
Her growing gallery of SteamPunk occupants includes interestingly named creatures. In addition to the lion-like mad doctor and his rat version of Igor, there are Victorian dandies, like Ursus Punk and Lepus Punk. The great explorer and hunter Elephantidae “Eli” Punk is a crisp, courageous gentleman who never faced a charging rhino that could get the better of him. However, an injury to his trunk led Eli to the offices of Dr. Felinus. After the scientist’s tinkering and toiling, Eli’s trunk was fitted with an automated gear. It’s a dash of cyber reality with alternative biology!
“I can’t wait to see what direction my art takes me,” Pontious wrote back in 2016. “I find that I am making more and more seasonal creations — Halloween and Christmas. The expansion into these themes has sent me into the world of Paperclay sculpting and new painting techniques as a way to embellish my creations. The longer I work in this field, the more I learn and discover. As I have moved away from the dense mohair fabrics into sparse mohair styles, I have added more European faux furs to my stash. The amazing selection of Tissavels and other faux furs feed my imagination with the wonderful array of colors and finishes.”
It’s a perfect marriage of materials, mechanics, and make-believe. Pamda Bears swings open a portal to the creative zone and beyond.