Farewell to an Industry Legend – Steve Schutt May 15, 1950 – March 19, 2017

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.

SteveinWorkshopI 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!”

2016: Christmas Living Room Decorating

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 ma20161230_135008de 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 20161218_162301an 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 Swaiting for santaanta

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!




2016: A Prim Christmas in the Family Room



I haven’t done counted cross-stitch embroidery for many years due to a problem with my wrists and not being able to see where the stitches go anymore. My vision has been improving lately, and my hands aren’t as bad as they used to be, either, so I decided to try a small project. I discovered that I can do it as long as I don’t work too long in a session. I made this little pillow tuck using a pattern from a magazine and altering it a bit. It kind of set the tone for the family room display.

Feather Tree

I mixed it up a bit this year. Usually I have a tall skinny white tree in the corner by the fireplace that displays my collection of Steiff Christmas ornaments. Alas, the Steiff ornaments never made it out of their baskets, but maybe next year I will figure out a place for the white tree.

Bruce finally fixed my four foot tfeathertreeall feather tree which had somehow had the trunk broken and had been out of commission for awhile.  I started to paint my picture with that. I love feather trees and have since I used to play with the one in my Grandma and Grandpa Tanner’s attic. Mostly I have reproductions, but they are artist-made, as I like!

I placed the tree in a chippy white galvanized jardiniere that I purchased from Joe Carter at Broad Street Market in Story City, IA several years ago. I had been using it to hide the plastic pot of my amaryllis each year at the office, but it was flaking off all over and I decided it needed to go home!

Around the Tree

I chose a quilt with a primitive palette to cover some small trunks for elevating the feather tree. This coordinated with the big sitting Arnett’s Santa who took up residence on a little off-white metal stool. I love these little stools with the curved backs for supporting teddy bears and cloth dolls. This one was a purchase from The Picker Knows.

Handmade or Vintage Ornaments

I started decorating my feather tree with only spun cotton ornaments. I added two this year – a Westie and a little girl bear from Trish Lewsader of Lucky Duck Art. Still I didn’t have enough. So I added a candy container bear by Terri Larson, some cross-stitch ornaments I had made years ago, papier mache ornament by Janny Miller and some vintage mercury glass balls.

cubbies with sheep

Christmas Cubbies

An old cubby piece that I got years ago from the Rusty Pumpkin and you have seen me use before came out of hiding and I filled some of the spaces with German stick-legged putz sheep. A favorite feather tree design pillow tuck filled one cubby and I used LED candles in others. A small green feather tree, some books, and an LED candle in a silver bowl topped the cubbies. Since I had used red bound copies of Hitty and A Child’s Garden of Verses, I included a little bisque jointed doll. Like Hitty was at times, she is naked.

Adding some dimension are a candy container Santa and a papier mache angelby Janny Miller. I got the candy container Santa and the little bisque doll at the Des Moines Doll, Teddy Bear and Toy Show.

I brought out my mercury glass bead garlands and used those to dress up the cubbies also, allowing them to flow out over the edges. The multicolored ones were used on the big feather tree.20161230_132214

More of the sheep flock and assorted candles inhabited another set of cubbies on the mantel beside a large Santa by Christy Robb that was a new addition this year.

The Stockings Were Hung

stockings on mantelInstead of cloth stockings, I hung a group of wooden stocking stretchers that I collected from an estate sale. The Arnett’s Santa is holding three little dolls: A dollie bear by Joel Hoy, an Izannah repro by Judi Hunziker, and a Robert Raikes Hitty.

Those Little Red Santas!

Finally, on the mantel, I used my chippy white medicine cabinet to display my little 1940’s Japanese Santas. I hung a red berry candle ring wreath on the knob and a red prim bear by Judy Mathis stands guard. The grungy electric candle that I bought on a trip to Winterset, IA has a built-in timer! Best candle innovation ever! I set them to burn 5 hours in the evenings and they have lasted for months without a battery change.

2016: The Christmas Cupboard

santa cupboard

santa cupboard

First Impression

I have shown you my beloved funky little cabinet that I got at Found Things a few years back. Recently, I placed it by the door to the kitchen – directly in your line of sight when you come in the front door. Then I filled it with most of my collection of Santa Clauses.

Mass Displays for Greater Impact

Sometimes it’s good to display a collection en masse. One glorious overload of the jolly old elf! And it hits you as soon as you walk in our front door! It exudes Christmas cheer and invites you to stop and examine the pieces closely – one delightful depiction after another!

Santa is the Spirit of Christmas Giving

The spirit of Christmas is strong at our house. Santa, Father Christmas, St. Nichlolas, or whatever you call him is the spirit of Christmas giving.  I have been collecting Santas for a long time. In this display, you’ll find manufactured pieces and artist pieces side by side. I love them all. Artists represented include Joel Hoy, Janny Miller, June Wildash, Ruth Hare, Edna Bossert, and Nan Wright.

2016 Fall Frolic

20161012_134522I managed to acquire a brown feather tree at a good price. It was made by Bethany Lowe and has been discontinued. I saw one years ago when I was shopping in Kansas City and always regretted not buying one, but they were pretty expensive. It is perfect for fall decorating.

I didn’t like the tin tree stand it came with, so I set the whole thing into this pretty jardiniere (also acquired at a bargain price!) and used the bright turquoise as an accent color. I made the beaded garlands myself, incorporating more of the turquoise.  Over the years I have found various fall glass ornaments – leaf, acorns, squirrels, etc. They look great on this tree! I finally have a perch for a prim owl by Martha Burch.

Squirrel Nuts

I added a spun cotton squirrel by Trish Lewsader of Lucky Duck Art to my collection this year. He’s a little bigger than the rest of the ornaments, but I like him just fine hanging at the bottom of the tree. There’s a vintage Steiff squirrel by the base of the tree.

More Blue for the Mantel

Continuing the blue, I placed some silk sunflowers in a blue pitcher I bought from Once Upon a Barn. I scoured the Planned Parenthood Booksale for the right colors of old books to use as a riser for the pitcher. Another little Steiff squirrel perches nearby and the tall cubby is filled with various autumn-themed items including a Halloween “Little Ginger” from Nancy Malay.

Prim Folk Fest is Born!

In the summer of 2016 my plans for successor shows to Steve Schutt’s Teddy Bear Reunion in the Heartland (TBRH) have finally come together as Prim Folk Fest. Updating a 25 year old event for today’s market was quite a process. I ended up with two smaller events that I hope will find a place in the hearts of collectors and artists.

Americana Fine Folk Art Festival

Folk art is a big category encompassing many forms that compliment each other, so it’s no wonder it’s a collector favorite. Many teddy bear artists have embraced additional art forms and make upcycled jewelry, assemblages of found things, make-dos, art and primitive dolls, steam punk themed pieces, and needle-felted pieces in addition to the traditional mohair bears.

We’ll celebrate the diversity by featuring the work of a wide variety of artists on June 16 & 17, 2017. The show is Americana-themed, but you will probably find other treasures as well. We have invited a number of Midwestern folk artists whose work we love and you may not have seen before!

Teddy Bear Festival

Lovers of teddy bears and their friends will be treated to an array of their favorites on October 20 & 21, 2017. A lot of artists who were signed up to exhibit at TBRH 2015 are already on board for this event. Collectors from past TBRH’s, Kansas City Teddy Bear Jubilee and other Midwestern events that have gone by the wayside will gather for a long-awaited reunion.


Finding the right venue was a struggle. I didn’t want this to be just another sale in a hotel ballroom. As luck would have it, just when I felt I would never find the right place, a couple of entrepreneurs opened a charming new venue in the same building as their thriving antique mall. Our events will take place at Decades Event Center, 1208 Grand Avenue, West Des Moines, Iowa. It’s close to the freeway (it’s hard to get too far away from things in the Des Moines area!), easy to find, in a nice neighborhood with plenty of free parking and it is decorated with antiques for a rustic and charming atmosphere.

Schedule of Events

How do you keep things simple, yet festive and special? The schedule will be the same for both events. We’ll be open for an Early Buy celebration on Friday evening from 4:30 – 7:00. Admission is $20 and includes a pass for a return visit on Saturday. There will be a cash bar and opportunity to be the first to see and buy some wonderful creations, relax and show off your purchases to other collectors, visit with friends about your favorites at the show, and maybe make plans for supper with artists and collectors after the showroom closes. On Saturday admission is $5 and we’ll be open from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. We may have some surprises up our sleeves for this day as well.

What Else Can We Do In Des Moines?

If you haven’t visited Des Moines in awhile – or ever – you might be surprised at all of the events going on here all the time! It’s one reason I found it difficult to schedule Prim Folk Fest! I know when we make a road trip to an event, we always look for other things to see and do to enhance our visit.

There will be plenty of other activities to entertain anyone who attends Prim Folk Fest whether it’s finding something else to do after you have been to our show or need something to interest family members or friends who might accompany you on your trip. We are working with the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau to make you feel welcome and help you take in all the great things our city has to offer while you are here.

In addition to our shows and The Picker Knows antique mall next door, there are many antique shops and malls in the area that will be helping us promote our events. Maps and recommendations will be available!

If you come to the June event, there is a huge annual city-wide antique walk Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the town of Walnut, Iowa just a little over an hour west of the Des Moines metro area. If you like antiques, this should be on your bucket list. Visit the show on your way into or out of town!

Visit Our Website

Be sure to bookmark our website, www.primfolkfest.com and visit it often for updates. You can also sign up for our mailing list there. We’ll send out an email whenever we have a new development. Exhibitor profiles will also be found on the website to help you plan your shopping!

A Bear from Russia with Love

One of the features of artist teddy bears is how different artists play with proportion. My bears usually have more human proportions, but other artists distinguish their work with larger heads, longer bodies, big feet, etc. Placement of facial features also plays an important part in marking an artist’s work as their own design.package

I love adding bears to my collection that exhibit characteristics that are different from my designs, but still convey an old classic teddy bear feel.

Today, I went to the post office as soon as they opened to pick up a package from artist Olya Isaenkova. The post is slow from Russia to the U.S. and I had almost forgotten about this purchase.  When I received the delivery notice it was my husband who suggested it was probably “another bear thing” and then it hit me!  I could barely sleep in anticipation!

Tulip arrived snuggled in tissue paper and bubble wrap tied up with string and a cute tag.  I wasted no time when I arrived at my office and soon had her set free.

TulipMeetsFriendOf course, one of my bears was on hand to greet her. I nearly always have a bear with me in my purse or on my desk. You never know when a welcoming committee will be required.

From the top of her head to the heel of her tiny ballerina-like feet Tulip is about 6 inches tall.  She is made of a delicate jade green short sparse mohair and will look pretty with my turquoise bears.

Olya stuffs her bears with pine sawdust.  They have a good weight and a bit of a pleasant crunchy feel. She has embroidered a tulip with silk ribbon on the bear’s tummy.

TuliponComputerI think what drew me to Olya’s bears was the long body paired with long slender limbs, small ears and a tiny snout. The shape of the face and placement of the features are child-like and endearing. She used the same size onyx beads for eyes that I did on my 4 inch bear – tinier than what some artists would choose for the head size, but this choice enhances Tulip’s winsome expression.


The two little friends will sit on my computer today and supervise me as I work. It makes my work day more pleasant to be surrounded by the things I love.

I can’t wait to see how Tulip looks with my turquoise and teal bears.  They will make a very spring-like grouping! And look – she matches my McCoy pottery!


To Market, To Market…I Bought a Pig

Tiny Steiff PigLast Sunday, I went to Midwest Art and Antique Show and Collector’s Eye in Cedar Rapids with friends Linda Dorr and Pam Bostwick.  If you read my blog or follow me on Facebook, you know that this is one of my favorite shows.  Most of the stuff on the Midwest Art and Antique Show side is way more expensive than I can usually afford, but as I was perusing one booth, I spotted this little pig.

The price was reasonable and when I showed it to the exhibitor, she laughed, said she had picked it up somewhere because it caught her eye, and lowered the price.  I happily paid and tucked him into my bag.

There is no ear tag or even a hole where one would have been, but this looks like the classic tiny velvet version of Steiff’s pink Jolanthe pig.  Some this size were attached to pin cushions.  The exhibitor had a lot of textiles, antique doll dresses and the like, so maybe this was in someone’s sewing basket.  It’s possible the felt parts – ears, nose and chin – were replaced because they are much cleaner than the velvet. The bright blue eyes, stance and airbrushing are typical Steiff.  In fact, my daughter has a larger mohair pig in this design that my husband brought from Germany for her when she was just a baby.

He is firmly stuffed and has held his shape well.  He even has a little curly wired tail. He measures about 10.5 centimeters or 4 inches from nose to heel and just about 2 inches from top of head to toe.

I have not attempted to clean this little guy. After all, he is a pig.  If anyone has any ideas about cleaning him, let me know.

PigsideIn the meantime, I will just enjoy this fellow sitting on my computer at my office.


Embracing Imperfection

REDWhiteBasketQuiltinBoothLast month I went to possibly my favorite antique show – Midwest Art and Antique Show and Collector’s Eye in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with friends Linda Dorr and Pam Bostwick.  I bought a salvaged quilt piece that I intended to bind and use with my bears and baskets as I decorate my house.  I collect doll quilts, and even though this is probably a piece cut from a larger tattered quilt, it is the right size.

That very same day, I went to the fabric store and bought red double fold tape to bind it.  Then they sat forgotten while I did other things.  Why didn’t I just go right up to my sewing machine and sew the binding on?  Well, because I always want to do everything correctly and perfectly.  That’s how I was raised. Whoever cut this piece from the quilt did not cut exactly straight.  I would surely have to lay the piece out on a table on a big cutting mat and use a see-through ruler and a rotary cutter to straighten it out so it would be perfect.

Who am I kidding?  My table is always covered with half a dozen projects.  I am not sure where I have stashed my cutting mat or my rotary cutter. Shocking, I know.

A few days ago, I listened to a speaker, Suzanne Hull, who has branded herself the “Get It Done Girl”. She helps people and companies with their social media and things like that and was speaking to my AWC group about making the most of our LinkedIn profiles.  But later, that “Get It Done Girl” seed sprouted. Maybe it’s not what the presentation was intended to inspire, but I realized it’s time to “Get It Done”.

I took PTO on Friday so I would have a long weekend and I started to get it done.  I am tackling project after project to set my house in order.  The closer I get to retirement age, the more urgently I feel the need to get it done.  And I need to let go of that instinct for perfection.  It’s an excuse that has bogged me down for years and prevented me from moving forward.  Not that I want to be sloppy or substandard.  I still want to do things well.  But they don’t have to be so perfect that I set them aside.

QuiltBindingonMachineSo here I go.  The binding is sewn on and I am ready to wrap it around the edges and whip stitch it to the back.  After all, this is a decorative piece.  It will be hung on the wall, draped over a table, used on a doll bed or maybe it will just be peeking out of a basket. It doesn’t have to be perfect to give me joy and it will be DONE!

Then on to the next unfinished project!

From the Bucket List: Ghoultide Gathering 2015

My friends and I frequently talk about events or places that we would really like to go to…some day.  Well, in the spirit of getting older, I decided that this year we would go to Ghoultide Gathering in Chelsea, Michigan.  These artists put on a good show.  They seem to do everything right and we have wanted to go and experience it in person.  When I mentioned it to friend Joel Hoy, he literally clapped with delight.  He and partner Daniel Epley decided to go, too.  It’s a 10-hour drive for us from Des Moines and probably another four hours for the guys, but we were undaunted.  Bruce and I drove it in one day.  Joel, Daniel and I arose early to “get the whole experience” as Joel put it.  We were at the fairgrounds an hour before the doors opened for early buy and lined up in the early morning to await the magic moment when the doors would be opened and all of the Halloween art would be revealed.
DanielandJoelbeforeGGIt was cold waiting for the doors to open, but the outdoor decorations were fabulous.  Here are Daniel and Joel with a huge Ghoul under a tent set up outside the venue where folks were waiting. We actually met a few people we knew while we waited

I have to say that this is the coolest show I have been to and the artistry of the whole event was fabulous.  Here are Daniel and Joel in the tent that was provided for early-buyers.  It was cold that morning and I wished I had brought a jacket as I shivered in my sweater.

We got a chance to chat with some of the other early-birds while we waited and discovered that they come from far and wide and try not to miss this event.

PocheWhen we finally got to go inside, we were treated to wonderful displays at each booth.  They had imaginative backdrops, table coverings and props and some were even in costume. Poche even took advantage of the steel fairgrounds building’s rafters to hang many pieces in a fascinatingly different approach. This wouldn’t work in every showroom, but how fun! (I have no idea how he got these down for the buyers!)

WithJody We have all been in the business for years and there were several artists we knew or with whom we had been to shows or were at least acquainted. We met our friend Jody Battaglia who was there with her Fun Town creatures and her new book which I forgot to purchase in the excitement. It was great chatting with Jody as we hadn’t seen her for ages.

Fellow bear-maker Lori Ann Corelis had these cute and spooky creations. I couldn’t resist a little bear on a  pumpkin pin cushion.

I am not a Halloween fanatic, but this show would almost make you one. The whole atmosphere, the presentation, the artwork, the people…not to be missed!  I bought a few pieces to enhance my autumn décor at home – after all, I came this far!  The town of Chelsea is filled with interesting old houses and restaurants and I wished we had allotted more time so we could explore more of the area. Maybe we’ll have to go back!

When we left, we discovered the outside had been transformed, too. Perfect Halloween experience!