Granby: Handmade teddy bears preserve memories one generation at a time
April 25, 2008
People have about two more weeks to catch a unique display of handmade teddy bears at the Granby Library before their creator whisks them away to new adventures.
Named after the artist, Amber Tetlow, the “ARTcrafts Ambears” are the culmination of not only Tetlow’s initials (A.R.T.) and name, but also her skill and spirit.
They are just “one of the things I do quite often,” Tetlow said. She lowers her eyelids modestly and then looks up, “Sometimes you just need to explore.”
The proud mother of three and grandmother of four (with husband, Bill), began sewing in college with a machine she got at a great price ” she dated a guy who sold sewing machines for Sears. She recalls her first project on the machine well, a dress with lots of detail. Later, as she became a mother, her talent evolved into quilting, which she does to this day. She also knits.
Her first Ambear was born when her eldest daughter Rebecca left for college.
“She went with a bear,” Tetlow said, “and I thought ‘She shouldn’t be the only one.'” So, their next daughter, Jennifer, went off to college with an Ambear as did son Derek, made with various “beautiful” plaids.
“I just loved the plaids out there,” she said.
Since then, creating the bears has “been a seat-of-the-pants” project for the savvy seamstress who is “always working on one.” Her daughters’ sorority “pledge daughters” were given custom Ambears as gifts and many of Tetlow’s co-workers were delighted to receive one ” each whose design had some kind of connection to its new owner.
“Then they all started having babies,” Tetlow said. Her co-workers started having children. Her daughters had daughters (Ariana (14), Daria (11), Mara (almost 2) and six-month old Ana); and her daughters’ friends started having babies.
Tetlow was happy to say that she and Bill have made many friends up here in Grand County since they moved full-time from Louisville in 2000. With gifts to many of them (and most likely their children) Tetlow’s Ambear count, which is on the label, is up to 750.
She was flattered when friends asked her to show some of them at the Granby Library.
Hot air balloons, nautical flags, Winnie the Pooh and crew, and lady bugs ” she never uses the same fabric for more than a couple bears and the whimsy and opportunity abounds. (She likes “the real strong” patterns.)
Made in mostly two sizes, the plush keepsakes are put together from what are usually carefully chosen fabrics. In fact, Tetlow frequently uses heirloom material to make the bears. Many times, by request, she has given new life to a family quilt by creating a new Ambear or two.
A couple of her bears are enrobed in elegant white velvet, once part of a wedding gown a customer wanted to somehow pass along through her family. Other interesting heirloom materials that now grace Amber’s bears include a Persian lamb coat and mink stoles.
“It’s just fun,” she said of the bears. “A lot of times they’re very special. I love to see how they’re going to turn out. It’s memories for them and I love just being able to preserve them.”
Ambears may also be made from those special old baby blankets. With one of the most common destinations for the Ambears being new babies, they begin and complete a cycle. Simple designs and bold colors make them eye catching and safe (no button eyes or fixtures) and the heirloom cloth is passed down the family.
Many of her beautiful bears have been donated to raise funds for Heart of the Mountain Hospice fundraisers, and Tetlow said she wants to do bears for similar projects.
“I really want to give back,” she said, mentioning she’s thought of somehow getting bears to children who are going through tragic times “so they’d have a very special bear.”
Anyone who has extra material or ribbon (just a yard is enough) they think might make a great bear may donate them to Tetlow’s cause. She’s also open to consignment pieces for those who have material from heirlooms who want to pass it along family lines in a unique way.
Tetlow hopes her bears’ owners appreciate their new “companions” and are a welcome sight to the new babies who come into the world. Guests may view a small den of the Ambears through the month of April, along with several other local art displays. Interested parties may reach the artist at (970) 887-2548.