One talented bear maker has learned never to dismiss something unless you’ve given it a try.
Anke Komorowski was first introduced to handmade teddy bears through her neighbour in the year 2000. Her response was, “Very nice, but not for me.” It seems, however, that she spoke too soon. “Of course, you know that you should never use such a sentence near handmade teddy bears,” she said. “A very short time later, I fell in love with a teddy in a teddy bear magazine and I found my first experience of bear making through a teddy bear club in my hometown.” Living in the small town of Oer- Erkenschwick in Germany with her husband and two children, Anke runs her teddy bear business, Bearsonalities, from her own home.
“I had a small working space in our living room for some years, but when my oldest daughter moved to another town to study at the university in 2012, I took over her room as my working room,” said Anke. “I really enjoy having all of my things in one place.”
Besides being a bear maker, she is a full-time childcare worker and remedial teacher, a group leader for The Prague Programme for Parents and Children (PEKIP), and she works for the youth office on a project that helps families with young children.
Bears continue to be an important part of Anke’s life despite her busy schedule. In fact, her busy schedule gives her the inspiration and motivation to make more bears. “Working with little children for more than 20 years now, I can say they give me lots of inspiration,” she noted.
“Sometimes, I can see a special child in one of my bears and my bears are like little children too—with big eyes, sometimes a bit curious, sometimes cheeky, sometimes merry, sometimes kind and honest - and sometimes a bit grumpy or sad too.” Like the children who are the inspirations for Anke’s work, no two bears are the same. “I’m proud of my talent for trying out new techniques and styles. My bears are very different. I make modern contemporary bears as well as traditional bears, in almost all sizes.”
While she is always checking out new techniques of bear making, Anke often makes her bears with open mouths. This only adds to the enjoyment of creating a bear’s head—Anke’s favourite part of creating teddy bears. “I love to make the head most because that’s the part when a bear comes to life and develops his special personality.”
Such variety of bears and techniques used requires a very flexible process in the making of a bear. “I start making a pattern and searching for the right mohair for it,” Anke told us. “And sometimes I do it the other way around—I have a piece of mohair or several pieces of fitting mohair and faux fur, and I start making a pattern for the bear I think it could be.”
Anke makes the head of the bear first. “I can change the pattern if the head tells me that it needs a different body than planned,” she said. After the head is made, Anke machine sews most of the body parts and hand sews some pieces of the head and paw pads. Most of her bears are filled with polyester filling and stainless steel pellets.
To finish a bear, Anke adds some airbrushed accents to intensify his personality. When the creative process is all done, Anke then photographs the bear, updates her newsletter and adds the bear to her website and online shops. “Every bear gets his own personal certificate with his personal data too,” she added.
In addition to making bears for her bear business, Anke also visits bear fairs and has competed in several bear competitions in the past. She has expanded her small business to include airbrushing teddy bear t-shirts, hand-dying and selling colorful mohair, and working as a teddy doctor. “I am inextricably linked to teddy bear making now,” she says happily.
Although it took a while for Anke to fall in love with teddy bears, it is now plain to see that she has fallen in love with making bears and everything that comes with it. She hopes to attend more bear shows in the upcoming year and to write some of her patterns in English so she can offer her kits and patterns worldwide. Anke’s plans only include moving forward with all of her teddy-related endeavors. Other than that, she says “I’m very happy with my life and I hope I can continue on like this in the future.”