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January 2011

Furry Labour of Love

There is never quite a gift like a Teddy bear. Furry, big-headed, wide-eyed and baby-like, these hundred-year-old soft toys are still popular amongst children, women, and some very keen—and manly—bear enthusiasts.

Commercially-made and mass-produced bears still make up a large percentage of the children’s toy market today. But there are companies, such as Steiff that still sells handmade collectible bears for hobbyists. There are also many bear artists from Europe and America, who sell their unique, one-of-a-kind bears online for the very discerning bear lovers.

Singaporean company A Bear Place is one such enterprise that brings the joy of bear-making closer to home. The store at The Central showcases a wide collection of bears from designers the world over, from the very traditional brown, wiry-haired Teddy bears to the colourful and fantastical. What makes A Bear Place very different from other do-it-yourself bear shops is that you can book yourself into a bear-making class and learn how to make your very own bear. Under the expert guidance of experienced bear artists, many bear lovers have made their bears from a mere swath of mohair and cotton stuffing, into a special keepsake that no one else in the world would have.

The notion of this one-of-a-kind bear is so attractive to Adrian Lin that he signed up for a class at A Bear Place alone, without ever having picked up a needle until that point in his life. For two weeks, he turned a design on a template into a beautiful experience, one bear part at a time.

Says Adrian, “A Bear Place is actually located in the same building as the gym that I frequent, so I noticed the new store front when it first opened. I was quite impressed with their variety of bears and originally thought they were only in the business of selling. The idea to make a bear resurfaced when my girlfriend’s birthday was approaching. I figured that a personalised gift like this might make a bigger impact than flowers or a store bought gift.”

To start, Adrian had to pick a colour for the fur and paws, and since his girlfriend’s favourite colour is white, he picked a snow-white fur and cream velvet for the paws. Experienced bear artist, Emen Chen, then helped him cut out the various parts from the original piece of material and showed him how to use the various stitching and knotting methods to sew the pieces together. “Overall, the process was very enjoyable, and despite all the minor cuts and scratches I got, the final piece of work was definitely worth it,” emphasises Adrian.

Having received such a heartfelt gift, Adrian’s girlfriend decided that she would make one too. “When I realized that it was a handmade gift, I was very impressed, surprised and touched,” says Siew Kian. “We named the first bear Cuthbert, and after some time, we thought it might be a nice idea to make a mate and cub for him. We’re planning to name his mate, which is black, Chloe, and are still working on a name for the bluish grey cub.”

It is a very gratifying process, first picking out the German-imported mohair, then laying out the needlework, and finally watching it come to “live” in front of your eyes. You can even choose to dress up your bear with the many accessories and clothes available at the store. Or, if you’re feeling up to it, you can even make your own.

Siew Kian sums it all up by saying, “The handmade gift is unique because I believe that the effort put in by that special someone is something that can’t be replicated by machine or even by a manual worker. That in itself brings a special meaning to the gift.”

Want to win a Couple Bear-making Class worth $590 from A Bear Place? Look out for the details at our Facebook page Join us if you’re not already a fan!

A Bear Place is at 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, #02-24/25 The Central, Singapore 059817. Contact them at 6225 3575 or visit their website for more information.

Photo Credits: A Bear Place & Adrian Lin

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