Photos courtesy of Minkitzbären Holger and Claudia Schlue
The temperatures have certainly taken a nosedive in my neck of the woods. After a prolonged Indian summer, my hometown has now begun to feel more like Moscow than Madrid. It is getting incredibly cold; the winds are kicking up briskly (my poor garden gnomes are flopping to the ground whenever a powerful gust blows by); the air seems to hold a possibility of snow to come. Yes, it is beginning to look (and feel) a lot like that ho-ho-holiday time of year.
Of all the collectibles, bears are the best suited for this change of weather. Whether they are dressed (with warm scarves, wooly sweaters, or oversize knit mittens) or undressed (their plush fur will do the trick), teddy bears convey a sense of comfort and joy, warmth and happiness. It’s nearly impossible to come nose-to-muzzle with a teddy bear and not feel a flood of peace and acceptance. Following in the paw prints of Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington, teddy bears have a way of providing security for all of us.
German bear maker Claudia Schlue well knows the magic and mystique of our mohair friends. She first began creating bears in 1999, but she was pursuing the patterns of other bear designers. After working for a year — experimenting and challenging herself to go beyond the lines — Schlue realized it was time to coax forth her own cubs. Since 2000, she has been dreaming up and designing her own unique critters.
“Before I started making bears, I often bought a bear, when I didn’t feel very well,” she confided to me in our 2015 chat. “Then one day, I thought that I wanted to start making my own bears. In my own childhood, I did not have a teddy bear. Perhaps that is the reason for my love of teddy bears to this day!”
When Schlue crossed over from collector to creator, she established a niche for herself in the miniature realm. Most of her ursine offerings measure between 1.9 and 3.5 inches tall. Despite their small stature, they pack a huge wallop of emotion and cheerfulness. In fact, their faces play a huge part in their success: “I think my bears have a childlike/friendly expression. I think that is what people like most about them! My bears often bring a smile to the face of my customers when they see them for the first time. Also, I think the size of my bears is perhaps also important. Because they are small, they seem very special and cute. They are tiny so they seem to be very sweet!”
A fan of other bear artists who also work in the mini medium, and who “birth” bears that have heart-tugging appeal, Schlue gravitates to the accomplishments of Louise Peers, Ingrid Els, and Wendy & Megan Chamberlain. “I buy bears for myself when I see one and it is love at first sight,” Schlue observed.
When Schlue reflects on her professional accomplishments, she is proud of the fact that she puts so much of herself into each and every critter that she whips up: “I dye all of my fabrics on my own. Every time I use my own individual fabric and color. Very rarely will I use some Schulte or Helmbold mohair. Really, everything from the design, to the first stitch, to the final finish, is handmade by me. Nearly all of my bears are one-of-a-kind; only sometimes I do make a series of them. My aim is to put a smile on my collectors’ faces. I think I am successful when I accomplish that!”
Schlue also is a firm believer in giving credit where it is due. She gives a large and heartfelt salute to her husband, who has assisted her in countless ways: “My husband has supported me as much as he can — not by making the bears, but by helping me in the household! That is very important.”
Attending bear shows and bear fairs, selling online, and overseeing her website, Claudia Schlue has adapted to her life as an in-demand bear artist. It is a career choice that has brought her much satisfaction and enjoyment. “For me, it is a great pleasure to meet the other artists and also the customers personally at the fairs. It is also wonderful to be in contact with them via e-mail,” she declared.
Getting the opportunity to make mini bears that bring great joy to her collectors is something she treasures and deeply appreciates. Schlue does not take any of her achievements for granted. Each accomplishment matters to her enormously.
“I am so happy to be part of this fantastic bear world and it makes me so happy to visit the fairs. And thanks to my bears I have made a lot of friends all over the world. All these facts make me really feel happy and I am really grateful for it. I am very happy that a lot of my bears have found new homes all over the world,” Schlue revealed.
Claudia Schlue’s teddy bears and their human parents wholeheartedly agree! They are matches made in ursine heaven!