Pamda Bears thrives with the creativity of founder Pam Pontious, who strives to make her bears huggable while also filled with happiness and attitude.
Since her childhood, Pam Pontious had been making stuffed characters by altering patterns to suit her. It was back in the late 1980s when she stumbled upon the premier issue of Teddy Bear Review at her local book store. It contained an advertisement for a teddy bear convention in Seattle. Pam attended and was captivated.
Pam Ponticus is originally from Kankakee, Illinois but now lives in Bellingham, Washington where she lives and runs her teddy bear business, Pamda Bears. As a retired Medical Technologist and Healthcare Systems Analyst, Pam now works on her furry creations in a spare bedroom of her home that she uses as a workspace. “It has been taken over with all of my supplies,” she tells us, but “with enough notice, I can reorganise the chaos, move storage bins to the garage, clear off a chair and counter top to make room to lower the Murphy bed for guests.”
Within her workspace, her supplies include mohair, alpaca, and the new Euro faux furs–some of her favorite bear-making materials. She has also made custom memory bears from a large variety of clothing fabrics which was a “very challenging and fun” project for her to try out.
Of her many tools, her Viking all metal sewing machine from the 1950s is her most valuable: “It is a workhorse. The computer machines are not happy with the thick furs, especially the faux furs.” Looking everywhere for inspiration, sometimes Pam finds it in other mediums, sometimes she finds it in nature, sometimes she is even inspired by her own cats. All of her bears, no matter what their inspiration, typically have happy faces with attitude. Pam also creates her bears with shaved muzzles like vintage bears. Pam has two favourite creations. “I made two versions of Native American story tellers modelled after a story teller figure in my collection which led into making a special bear for a gentleman whose granddaughter is half Alberta Blackfoot. I enjoyed doing the research to dress the bear with a suggestion of the native costume of the Blackfeet tribes and symbolism.” In the industry, Pam always admired artist Steve Schutt. “He was an amazing craftsman in every medium he worked in. He was a wonderful person and friendly to everyone he met,” she shares.
“Teddy bears will always be around in some form,” Pam believes. “We need to continue educating the public on the value of owning our creations from an artistic point of view.” Aspiring teddy bear artists should “have fun and learn new techniques,” she recommends. ”I am always learning new things from other bear artists as well as artists in other mediums that I can apply to my bear making.” What Pam loves most about teddy bears is that they “want to be hugged and give hugs back. Except for special gallery pieces,” she says, “I don’t dress my bears with elaborate costumes, so they will be huggable.”
While Pam has been dreaming up new bears and always improving her creations, she does miss making some of her older creations, such as her realistic bears on all fours with armatures. “So I have been updating the patterns and using new fabrics,” she says. “Also, I am working on incorporating other mediums and nontraditional materials into my bear making to keep my creativity fresh.”