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Teddy Bear Artist

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Ellen Sotos


It was about 1983 when I started to make teddy bears. The first bear was made for my son who was then about 4. He was with me on a shopping trip when we passed by the window of an expensive toy store. In the window was a Steiff bear. He wanted it so much, but all I had planned to purchase that day were some buttons from the fabric store. I not only bought the buttons, but also some synthetic fur and a teddy bear pattern. I promised my son I'd make him a bear, even though I'd never made one before. I just could not bear to see him cry for the one in the toy store without promising him one. I laid out the pattern but I could tell by looking at the pieces that it would not be anything like the lovely bear he had wanted. So I modified it right from the start. The arms needed to be longer. The body needed more of a hump back. My mother had been a dressmaker and an expert seamstress. She was able to look at a dress in a shop window and make a perfect copy to exactly fit someone. I never tried to sew clothes. But a teddy bear was more interesting to me. The first bear I made did not turn out the way I wanted it and I changed some things and started another. I crammed the first effort into a drawer and did not give it another thought, until I opened the drawer a few days later to find it missing. I remembered my sons little eyes watching me as I examined that first bear when it was finished and stuck it in the drawer, shaking my head. I went up to his room, and there was a lump in his bed. Sure enough, not only was the bear tucked in next to the pillows but it was wearing his pajama shirt. I finished the second bear and gave it to him too. And I kept making bears because I knew that there is a special place in the heart that a teddy bear can fill. I've seen that look he had in his eyes in children, young and old, when they see a special bear. And I love to make bears. I've also found that people who love teddy bears are wonderful to know. I've met so many exceptionally fine people over the years through my bears. My first teddy bear show was a Linda Mullins show in San Diego, in the 80s. Linda put me right next to Flore Emory, who made wonderful old style bears and had quite a following. I did sell bears at that first show, but being near Fore's exhibit was both intimidating and inspiring. Through the years, my styles have changed and developed. I have always completely handstitched every bear, and I do every step myself from design to finish. I have also been an antique dealer since the 80s, and now specialize in antique dolls, bears and toys in my antiques business. I love to put vintage clothes and hats and accessories with my bears. I love to make vintage style bears, and I also love making polar bears and pandas. This August, I plan to return to the Linda Mullins show and to exhibit. Over 20 years ago, I began this artistry I love. I hope it will continue for the next 20. I strive to make the next bear better than the last one I made. I do not feel that I am competing with other artists, but rather with myself and all my previous work. I have never been able to limit myself to one style of bear, but I have developed my own style in each type of bear I make. I hope you will enjoy seeing my work and that at least one special bear might touch your heart. Like all forms of art, the inspiration for each piece comes from somewhere beyond ourselves. It is a joy to create this work and a great pleasure to see people love it. I'm hooked on the feeling it brings! And I share that point of view with many other artists, I'm sure. The name of my bearmaking business has changed through the years. Most recently, it has been changed from "Bears of Carrollton" to EWS, which are the initials for Ellen Welch Sotos. I do not plan to stay in Carrollton, Georgia, so I felt that the name needed to reflect myself, not where I reside. Fortunately, this is something I can do from anywhere I might live. I have been featured in several magazines over the years, in the US, England, and other countries. I've won many awards. I do not want to name all of them and toot my own horn. I think what matters is how you, the collector, like my work. I value very highly the honest opinion of a teddy bear collector. I am not competing for a prize. I am sharing what I love to do. I speak from the heart and I hope that you will too. I welcome your comments and hope that you might email me about a bear you have seen.

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