Local crafters turn love of bears and dolls into art 0
Kevin Rushworth photo Rose Olson, from Lundbreck, has been creating teddy bears from recycled fur coats for over 15 years.
There is no doubt that cuddly bears and beautiful dolls play an integral role in our early childhood. Though, as the years pass us by, the adventures, stories love and devotion doted on these best of friends become fond memories.
Hosting a recent teddy bear day at Lundbreck's Windsor Heritage Centre brought out rare artistic talent-ladies who not only create teddy bears and repair dolls but also present the history on our fluffy friends.
Earlier in April, crafters Rose Olson-who creates bears out of recycled fur coats-and Monica Primrose-otherwise known as the Doll Doctor-were on hand to inform interested guests about their craft.
Before the artists spoke on their work, Barbara Clay, former chief librarian at the University of Lethbridge, relayed the history of the teddy bear.
In the early years of the 20th century, President Teddy Roosevelt killed a bear on a hunt and regretted the decision when he found the orphaned cub.
"They wanted him to shoot the bear, but he refused because it had been left an orphan," she said. "About a year or so later, a man who was a toymaker made a bear and thought it would be a neat idea if they could be called teddy bears."
Long after Roosevelt's deeds named the Teddy Bear, Clay said bears have been spoken about in European stories for centuries.
"We have or should have a healthy respect for them, and yet we see them dressed up in children's clothing and all kinds of things like that," she said.
In 1993, the library started a special birthday bear program where cherished bears spent birthdays with each of the staff members-after getting their bear related work in order.
Clay said the project was a huge morale booster for the entire staff and people enjoyed having the chance to spend time with a bear on their birthday.
"Lately there's also been the idea of the geo-bear and these are bears traveling around the world and sent onto different people," Clay said.
Rose Olson-who lives in Lundbreck-has been creating bears out of recycled fur coats for 15 years and enjoys the opportunity to personalize bears for her family members.
"I don't like to see these fur coats thrown in the garbage and that's what's happening with a lot of them," she said. "You go to the second hand store and see them hanging there. It's neat to be able to make something instead of throwing them out."
One of her favourites comes in the form of a Scottish bear, which was made for her husband after his mother passed away. With patterns from the family's precious Scottish tartan, the bear now wears a small kilt and tam.
Having made close to 12 bears, Olson said her craft has been put on the backburner, but is hoping to bring it back with a fall class.
"I guess I'm getting back into it because the ladies at the (Windsor) centre now want to learn," she said. "I'll be teaching a (fall) class."
Enjoying the opportunity to craft bears out of fur coats, she said personalizing bears with hand-made clothing and hats has become her favourite part.
"You can make the same bear, but as soon as you decorate them, they all look different," she said.
Repairing once cherished dolls for over 30 years, Monica Primrose-who lives west of Coleman-said she has worked on modern dolls and ones from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
"I've worked on dolls that probably date from 1895 up to very modern," she said. "The old ones, you are handling something quite old, delicate and precious so it's a little nerve-wracking. You're very careful not to make a mistake or drop anything."
Loving them as a little girl, Primrose said her dolls became part of her life-among being given shots and fed strange concoctions, they were loved.
"After we were married, I spotted this one doll in a store, had to have it and started collecting," she said. "I realized you can't afford mint condition dolls when you're on a limited budget."
Working on dolls-once cherished love ones-has become important to Primrose and fixing dolls in deplorable conditions gives her pride.
"There aren't many people who do this work or have done it for a long period of time," she said. "I have seen work come in from another repair person who hasn't done a good job."
Edie Barlishen-also a Lundbreck resident-was not able to attend the April seminar, but she enjoys making stunningly beautiful miniature teddy bears, able to fit into the palm of your hand.