Stearnsy Bears – Handmade Custom Teddy Bears

Cindy Saperstein with Stearnsey Bear "Granny Grace"We’ve featured Stearnsy Bears in Artisans Quarterly Review Vol 1 Issue 3 and in Vol 1 Issue 4, but they’ve yet to bear it all on our blog. Stearnsy bears makes no effort to hide, this bear making clan has been at it since 1981 and once their bears are acquired by a collector they are immediately deemed as prized heirlooms. The thing is though, like most of us that are building our business  within the art markets they have barely reached a fraction of their potential clients, in the US and abroad.

Our blog, we’ve stated, is being designed around featuring a continuous variety of artists that offer truly unique hand made pieces. Each artist feature expands our footprint just a bit more, now entering in into the world of custom hand made teddy bears. We’re calling on bear collectors around the world who find this blog! Link back to this Stearnsy Bears feature, and pass the word around to your friends, family, and fellow bear enthusiasts!

Shown above right is bear collector Cynthia Saperstein (my mother) with Granny Grace. Granny hitched a ride back from Stotts City, MO with Teri and I in the summer of 2008 when we ventured cross country to Austin, TX to deliver a New Wave Gothic dining set. (Click Here For 2008 Road Trip Newsletter Feature) Granny is an example of Stearnsy’s finest bear stock, she is lovingly hand made and dressed in the finest antique clothing, even a stole, and vintage jewelry. Granny’s personal spectacles, came along with one cracked lens, but Granny is no high spender, she knows how to survive in a recession, and how to keep her family together; she’ll continue to use the lens without muttering a single complaint.

The Stearnsy family imparts this level of creativity into all of their bears, there is always a history to each bear, before you even take them home they have developed a unique personality. Charles and Vicky are experts in recycling materials including stuffing, furs, clothing, jewelry, furniture, and incorporating them into each custom made bear. Sizes range from small, only 4″ or so, through to that of a standing child, around 3ft or so high. Granny Grace arrived at our household and within just a few minutes laid claim to a child’s size rocker that Teri and I restored for use in my mother’s bear room. All said and done, Granny is entirely green! From stuffing to fur, clothing, accouterments, and even her chair are all reclaimed materials.

The video link includes a few details about Charles and Vicky Stearnsy, shown in action and in their home town shop in Stotts City, MO, the couple’s true appreciation for their work, their clients, and their family show through. My mother is not easy to shop for, it’s not that she’s difficult, its just that she is not materialistic. We always get her a few thimbles, and random bears from our travels. The problem we were trying for years to solve was what to get her when it was really time for something special. I spotted a bit of a rough looking billboard along our migration south from St. Louis in route to Austin, it mentioned something about hand made bears and I was doing about ummm, the speed limit, but it went by fast. We decided one of our interstate offshoots was due, so we took the exit and began our search for Stotts City.

“Welcome to the shop. We are located in what used to be the Old Stotts City Hardware Building. It was built in 1916 and is just as old as it looks. If you are looking for a fancy new place, you probably should just drive on by. But if you don’t judge our book by our cover, we will show you our teddy bear magic on the inside.” – Charles & Vicky Stearnsy

Stearnsey Bears shop in Stotts City, MOInside the Stearnsey Bears shop in Stotts City, MONow, Stotts City is about what you may figure, as we drove into town someone updated the population sign by +2, and as we left they waved us off and once again returned it to the native population of what seemed to be a dozen or so people. We spotted the shop, admittedly on our third pass down main street, and pulled truck and trailer up in front of the building. We wandered in, and were met by a friendly couple at work on their bear creations.

Charles was a very refreshing humble compared to a lot of us “east coast artists.” Admittedly, we are quite a bit more aggressive about our work, given the climate and the competition levels to succeed you just kinda have to develop an artistic tenacity. Introducing ourselves and glancing around the room (I’d already decided I was leaving with a bear.) Charles began explaining how his bears were priced, and what justified their tags. True to my character, I paused him and asked him to wait just a second. I guess I just wanted to pay a compliment in my own way; these are truly hand made works of art, bears with a persona, no justification required!

Stearnsy Bears LillygraceI went to the truck and grabbed our portfolio and showed him a few of our pieces, commenting that given this is what we do, you’re dealing with another artist, I’ve been here a few minutes and there is no doubt in my mind, we are walking out of here with at least one bear. Smack in the middle of nowhere (don’t worry they ship!) Teri and I stumbled upon the  permanent solution to our shopping problem for my mother.  The level of quality, attention to detail in the obvious, subtle, and even hidden places is just amazing. I only had one qualification remaining for our first bear; we had to find a bear that fit the rocking chair we restored for my mother. Granny Grace must have overheard about the rocking chair; she walked right up and introduced herself and the deal was done. We left Stotts City, a good couple hours after we arrived, with the perfect bear, and having made some new friends!

Granny has already been joined by granddaughter Lilly Grace, above shown right, and rumors are about that other members of the Grace family may be migrating towards New Jersey to make their dens in Cindy’s bear room!

Here are just three examples of the Stearnsy Bear collection – they have literally hundreds in their personal collection, as well as usually a few dozen ready for adoption.

ON SALE NOW! (As of June 30th, 2009)

Stearnsy Bears custom hand made bear Jeruhsa Beck
Jerusha Beck. “Precious Memories, how they linger”.

Jershua is one of our continuing series of Beck Family bears. The Stotts City branch of the Beck family are all dead and gone now. But golden memories of them live on through Stearnsy Bears. The Becks were at the top of the social ladder in Stotts City. You can still visit the old home place a mile north of town. It has fallen into disrepair but with a bit of imagination you can still see the generations that grew up there. Jershua or Rush (pronounced Roosh) as she was know to friends and family and her spinster sister May were Stotts City Socialites in the early days of the 20th Century. If only the old walls could talk could talk. What stories they would tell and what songs they would sing.

Jershua Beck is from the Stearnsy Old Family, Old friends Collection. These bears are ones that remind us of the colorful past history and local legend of Stotts City, MO (the home of the Stearnsy Bears), Lawrence County and other parts of the Ozarks. We like to draw off things that are familiar to us for inspiration and the Stearns Family has been part of the Ozarks for 6 generations. Jerusha is a round 9″ tall and made from an old brown coat. her outfit is a Vicky Stearns original made from antique material and is accented with a wonderful piece of white on black tool that is even older. Wonderful stuff for an unforgettable bear.
Jerusha Beck is $135.00

Stearnsy Bears custom hand made bear Froggy

Froggy. “Gone a courtin, to ask for the hand of Miss Mouse.” Froggy is around 10″ tall and handcrafted from classic gold color mohair His outfit is a Vicky Original made from vintage fabrics and accents. The inspiration for Froggy comes from the very old poem “Frog Went A-Courtin” which first dates to 1548 in Scotland. The song was first widely heard in a 1953 Tom and Jerry cartoon. Froggy is priced at $97.50

Stearnsy Bears custom hand made bear Francis Schnake

Mary Francis Schnake. “Old Fashioned School Marm.” Mary Frances is from our old family, old friends collection. A dedicated teacher who started her career in one room schools and who was till teaching when I had her for third grade in 1963. I have a vivid memory of her telling our class the day President Kennedy was assassinated. It is our pleasure and privilege to dedicate this bear to her memory. She is dressed in an exquisite 1890s beaded top accented with a feathered hat and a vintage pin. This bear is around 22″ tall and made from honey color German mohair. At Stearnsy Bears we make and keep memories. Mary Francis is priced at $395.00

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