Easter 2020 is weird amid the Covid-19 pandemic. All of us who celebrate Christianity’s most holy day of the year are missing our families. We can attend church services virtually or replay the sound of dear voices raised in cherished Easter hymns in our minds.We can only hope that our social distancing is helping to stem the spread of this disease and we’ll be together next year.
I thought I would share a little Easter cheer in the form of some of my collection of bunnies. It’s not all bears, you know! Spring is time for bunnies. In fact, I scared the Easter bunny the other day as I poked around in my garden to see what is blooming and what is poking out of the soil to delight me in the weeks ahead. Boy, he sure can run!
This is my Easter cabinet display. The plush bunnies are all by Steiff with one Leghorn rooster in the lower right corner by Joel Hoy!
Blessed Easter, everyone! I am grateful today for my memories of Easters past.
When I found out that I was going to be at a board meeting in Kansas City on my birthday this year, I figured I’d better buy myself a new bear. Sounds good, right? I would have bought myself a new birthday bear anyway!
This happy fellow is a 14 inch tall chocolate brown fully articulated Steiff mohair bear. I am not familiar with this fellow. He seems to be a cross between a Teddy Baby and a Zotty. I collect Teddy Baby, but not Zotty. I am a sucker for open mouth bears done well, and this one is done well. He’s in perfect condition and has a beautiful growler. If you know anything about this guy, please let me know. Steiff EAN# 008504
My board meeting went well. It’s always great to see this group of women. I did not have time to do any antiquing, which was sad. It was just before we were really aware that this pandemic was going to change our lives dramatically. Many of the antique shows that I look forward to in the spring have been cancelled. Bear hunting is going to be difficult.
Every year I do some fundraising for Rett Syndrome research in honor of Emma Larson who suffers from the condition. The Cure Rett Iowa Strollathon does a fantastic job and has raised an impressive amount of money each year. They have an silent auction of donated items and the first year I participated, I found that the people who come to these things do not understand what an artist bear is or how much it might be worth. I ended up offering it online at the same time as the auction and it sold for a respectable amount to Mostly Bears owner Trish Stoll. Thanks, Trish!
This year I am bypassing the auction and will just put the bear up for collectors to buy online with the funds going directly to my Rett fundraiser account on rettsyndrome.org. This has worked well for everyone in the past. It will also let me do my own thing as far as designing the bear without worrying about catering to potential buyers at the auction.
Coming back from Christmas in the country with my siblings and their families, we stopped to take a photo. I am always on a bear hunt and couldn’t pass this one up!
Turns out my sister’s co-worker knows the family who made the bear. I have seen bears made out of hay bales and odds and ends several times in my travels. It speaks to the universal appeal of the teddy bear as a symbol of love, peace, and good will.
In a nod to my love of all things Christmas, I have been making needle-felted Santas and reindeer every year. This year’s collection had make-do Santas mounted on various antique industrial spools. In the past, my Santas have pretty much all carried a teddy bear – obviously. But this year, I wanted to change it up a bit. I found a couple of lots of antique putz stick-leg horses that were affordable enough to include in my pieces without making them outrageously expensive. I have been collecting the spools for a few years, as artists do, trying to amass a group that I could use for something.
I was a bit stymied by a bunch of flat spools that I got from Sandee Millet at Greenwood Merchantile in Greenwood, MO. I knew they would be good bases for figures, but wasn’t sure how I would use them. It took me several months of back-burner ruminating, but I finally figured it out. I needed a tiny figure!
These little guys were well-received and I will be making more for next year. The flat spools are not as readily available as some of the other styles, so I will be on the hunt for more!
I did not have time to make any Santa bears, so I will work on those for next Christmas also. I have the one polar bear started and I think he will just be carrying a tiny Santa doll of his own.
I went to one of my favorite stores – Home Goods – to shop for a few Christmas gifts and it turned out to be a bear hunt! Right inside the door, I found a huge – 6 ft? – FAO Schwartz teddy bear sitting in a large decorative sleigh. You never know what you will find at Home Goods.
I am not sure about this size of teddy bear. Where would you put it? Would it scare a child? Should you buckle it’s seat belt on your way home from the store?
I did not buy it, but I did decide to look for more bears.
Just around the corner and down the aisle, I found this big polar bear. There were a couple of them around the store. Again, I didn’t know where I would put a bear so large or store it in the off season. But, when I went back a week later, both the giant bear and this bear were gone. Some people had a beary happy holiday!
The last really cute bears I saw were on this table runner. I brought this home with me. I figured I could use it all winter and the three bears were just so happy looking!
So that was my bear hunt at Home Goods. You never know where you will find bears. Who doesn’t love them?
My partner in crime, Lucy to my Ethel (whomever is driving is Lucy for the day), Linda Dorr and I love going to the Midwest Antique & Art and The Collectors Eye Shows in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It happens twice a year, spring and fall. On October 20, we set out bright and early and were some of the first ones in the door!
It seems like there are always more bears in the fall, although the hunting is pretty good in the spring, too. There are also lots of fun things that go well with bears like rocking horses and horses on wheels, other animals, quilts, children’s furniture, and this ice cream mold.
We were especially drawn to this blue-eyed bear at the first booth we visited. I nearly brought him home with me. He was in good shape and looked especially good with the blue and white quilts hung behind him. (Those were also tempting!) I have blue and white quilts. I think I might have bought one at this show in a previous year.
Anyway, upon doing a little research we believe this might be a (blank) bear.
The most wonderful old Steiff bear we have ever seen was at Scott Tagliapietra’s booth. I think he wanted $4,000 for it. It was pristine as far as we could tell. I actually got to hold it. This is not something you would ordinarily see at a midwest antique show, but Scott brings a lot of wonderful pieces. I once bought a tiny Steiff squirrel from him, but generally, his stuff is beyond my pocketbook. Most of it is displayed in a huge locked glass-front cabinet.
There were a lot of American stick bears and the like scattered throughout the show. It’s fun to spy these treasures perched on a tiny chair or tucked into a primitive cupboard. It really makes the show so cozy and friendly when bears abound!
There were many more, but these are the most interesting. There was even a bear made from a feed sack in one booth and a beautiful new Steiff One in a Million cinnamon bear. Something for everyone!
As markets took a nosedive about a decade ago, many shops offering high quality artist-made and manufactured collectible soft sculpture were forced out of business. Do you ever wonder what happens to those shops and their inventory?
I know of some that had big going out-of-business sales. Many still had leftover stock that they continue to try to sell online or store in their basements.
The inventory from one shop, Verna Mae’s in Greenwood, Nebraska is up for sale now. Verna closed her doll and bear shop, which was housed in an old brick school building, a number of years ago. I shopped her going-out-of-business sale and got some great bears, but she still had an overwhelming amount of inventory when she closed the doors for the last time.
An organization, One Whole Heart Ministry out of Omaha, bought the building and its contents. They are now in the process of sorting, researching, pricing, photographing, and writing descriptions of each item and listing them on eBay (omaharma). Upon contacting the seller, I learned that they are open to shoppers by appointment and would like to be open to the public on a limited basis in the future. Once the inventory has been sold, they have plans to renovate the building for use in their ministry.
I traveled to Nebraska on July 1, 2017 to meet up with Craig from One Whole Heart Ministry who showed me around. You could see their task was daunting. There were still shelves and shelves of teddy bears and collectibles in one big room and many dolls in cases in another. As we looked through I did my best to advise him on what would be the most sought after pieces, current values, and a little history on some of the artist bears and antiques. It took me over an hour to go through things. I did locate one bear and one needle-felted Santa that I had made. In the end, I picked out four bears by artists I have known and admired over the years who are no longer making bears. I was happy to get them and they are in perfect condition.
One of the ones I picked was a little bear by Anne Cranshaw. Anne was one of the original members of the Iowa Teddy Bear Makers’ Guild before she moved out of state. I bought the bear on the right in the photo. The one on the left, I believe is offered on eBay as I write this post. They are sweet little squishy bears with cute little smiles. My children were still small when Anne and I were both going to shows, so at the time, I was not buying bears for a collection of my own.
The other three that I chose were by Janet Reeves, Betsy Reum and Mac Pohlen. Again, when they were making bears, I was not able to have a collection of my own, although when Betsy retired after the last Teddy Bear Reunion in the Heartland in 2010, I was able to add one of her small bears to my hug.
The following are some more things I saw during my visit. It would be impossible to show everything. There is so much inventory left. But, watch omaharma on eBay for more listings!
The first is a limited edition Steiff teddy bear workshop. It is wonderful. We didn’t figure out all of the accessories that make this piece so detailed, but it looks like everything is there and in mint condition. This is probably the single most valuable piece in the collection. It includes a bear in an apron and two smaller bears.
Tucked away on one shelf, I found an elderly Schoenhut donkey! There aren’t very many antiques in here, so I wonder where he came from. His paint appears to be rubbed off like he was played with a lot.
In addition to collector bears, there are quite a few suitable for play, so if you need a gift for a child, you can probably find one here! This photo is of a group of dressed bears any little one would love!
There are lots of teddy bear tea sets, cups and saucers, figurines, etc. from the store’s inventory. I saw a big group of Cherished Teddy figurines and lots of Winnie the Pooh items.
On Sunday, March 19, teddy bear artist, friend and mentor, Steve Schutt passed away after a long illness. He had a number of health problems over the years and had retired from bear-making. A former art teacher and avid puppeteer, he was the founder of the Iowa Teddy Bear Makers’ Guild and the Teddy Bear Reunion in the Heartland in his hometown of Clarion, Iowa. He asked me to work with him to produce one last Teddy Bear Reunion for June, 2015. Despite our hard work, his health was a determining factor in cancelling that event.
A gentle and humble man, Steve inspired us to create art through his teaching and example. Like many others, he helped me to enter the crazy world of collectable artist teddy bears.
I took this photo of him two years ago when I helped him clean out his studio in preparation for selling his house. It was a difficult time for him, but despite his pain and frustration, to the world, he presented his gracious smiling self.
He asked me to continue the Teddy Bear Reunion in the Heartland tradition in the Des Moines area. If you knew Steve, you would know that it was hard to refuse him. I said yes and Prim Folk Fest is a result of that promise.
I can only hope to live up to a fraction of Steve’s vision and familiar charge to “Be Magic!”
Since I was mixing it up in the family room, I boldly had my husband set up the big Christmas tree by the front window in the living room. We haven’t put this tree up in years and I was thrilled to be able to enjoy it. Sometimes we get busy and just run out of time to get everything out every year. I had been making do with the white tree full of Steiff ornaments in the family room, but I really missed my treasured ornaments that go on the big tree.
Polar Bear Extraordinaire
The ornament that thrills me the most is this blown glass polar bear head. It was made in Poland by Slavic Treasures. They make incredible ornaments. I found this one years and years ago at Tuesday Morning. I remember looking in all of the boxes at the store because nothing was actually displayed out of the box. When I opened this one, it took my breath away. It’s as big as my hand.
If I could have found more, I would have bought more, but this was the only one they had. Of course, by the time things make it to Tuesday Morning, they are at least last year’s stock, so I never found another. I wish I had one for back-up. I have carefully wired this to the tree so there is no chance of it falling and I even set it back from the edge of the branches so it would have some cushion if the tree actually toppled over. I am so careful with it that I pay attention to the placement of furniture and rugs around it, calculating the risk if anything should happen. Okay, I am obsessed with this ornament.
Another treasured ornament is this star I made when I my children were little. I took a wallet-sized print of the three of them together and made the star from some scraps of dance costumes I was making for a studio at the time. (Yes, I used to take in sewing!)
A Dog-Friendly Tree
I like to use an old quilt for my tree skirt because Rowdy loves to sleep under the Christmas tree. Even though it has been a few years since this tree has been up, he remembered and went right under for a nap! Here he is “helping” me decorate!
The dogs are really good about not disturbing the tree. On the other hand, I loaned a tree to my son, and his two kittens have already destroyed it! They have knocked it over trying to climb it and batted the ornaments right off! I’m glad I chose to loan him unbreakable ornaments for those silly boys!
Waiting for Santa
The big tree is happily shining in the front window this year. Bruce put the lights on a timer so they come on right before I get home in the evening and turn off after I go to bed. Then, they turn on in the morning when I get up and off when I leave for work. So nice to have the Christmas cheer of a tree in the window!