Teddy Bears became popular in the early 1900's after a cartoon depicted a galant and merciful Theodore Roosevelt and the "cuddly" black bear he refused to kill on a hunt. "Teddy's Bear" was quickly developed into a popular child's plaything and companion, and they have been redesigned and mass produced ever since.
Materials for the Teddy Bears
When first created, the bodies and heads of the bears were made with mohair material (Angora goat hair woven into cotton backgrounds), and stuffed with anything from hay to wool waste to wood shavings or excelsior. As the production process developed over time, bears began to be created with various styles and finishes of mohair and alpaca fibers, and now, with extraordinary synthetic materials in every color, length and style. The same weaving companies that first supported the Teddy Bear industry are still producing these resilient, nearly indestructible fabrics. Most of the old pioneers, such as Schulte Mohair and Hamboldt, are in Europe, but new companies and suppliers are opening all over the globe, including in Africa and Australia.
German wool felt was and is still used today to create paw and footpads, however newer designs now include other materials such as leather and upholstery fabric.
What is in a Teddy Bear?
Many different types of stuffing were originally used to give bears their unique shapes, such as wood wool, (wood shavings), foam, cotton, polyester stuffing, plastic pellets, and even the addition of steel shot for weight and positioning. Looking for an alternative to using many of these toxic and environmentally "unfriendly" products in her pieces, Isabella actually introduced the use of glass beads as a stuffing supplement to the bear industry. Having had previous experience using glass beads as a dental lab technician, this innovative idea brought a new, non-toxic approach to giving bears "weight" and is now a widely used practice in the USA.
Once the pieces of the mohair are cut, sewn and stuffed, they need the right parts to hold everything together. Bear limbs were first attached to the bodies with wire jointing, and that evolved into using flat-head nails with fiberboard discs. Eventually, rounded cutterpins, T-pins, nuts, bolts and washers, and now plastic safety joints were added, making the bears even more flexible and resilient.
Additionally, some bears are also designed to have built-in music boxes, yes/no head turning mechanisms, and other special features that make each one a unique and loveable piece of art.
Face to Face
Equally important to the use of quality materials in the construction of a great bear is the design and completion of a beautiful head and face. Creating the head and face will take most of the production time, and it results in bringing out the real character of your perfect little pal.
The sockets of the eyes, the bridges of the noses and even the mouths are often pre-sculpted during the assembly process in the effort to make each piece unique. Thereafter, techniques like hand stitching the noses, shearing hair from the backing, and shading help to bring out the features of the bear. It takes a tremendous amount of skill and ability to use a variation of threads, and stitching and sewing techniques to develop the beautiful faces on the finished pieces! Every artist has a different mental image of how their bears will look after completion, and their pieces tend to develop a "style" that serious collectors can often easily identify over time. Isabella has the uncanny ability to reinvent her designs to keep them fresh and exciting, while also upholding her traditional vision of what makes a simple handmade stuffed animal a beautiful collectible teddy bear.