Teddy bear artist Karen Brady Hammontree creates old-fashioned teddy bears like Rose and Lily who have worn mohair bodies and shoe button eyes and are designed to look like they have been loved for years. Although they appear to be vintage, they are definitely not old.
Hammontree’s stuffed bears, bunnies and big-eared elephants, are all designed, sewn, assembled and dressed in her Brady Bears Studio, located in a small room in the home she shares with husband Bart and daughters Isabella, 6, and Sophia, 17 months.
The stuffed animals look like they could have come from an early 20th-century nursery, but they aren’t really designed for children with their $175 to $300 price tags. These bears and their pals are typically bought by grown-up collectors and are available for purchase internationally through online auctions and the Internet, as well as through retail stores from New Hampshire to Belgium.
Hammontree has worked as a teddy bear artist for nearly three years and her work has already earned her national recognition as she was named a top artisan by judges who choose artists and crafters for the annual Directory of Traditional American Crafts. Additionally, she won a Teddy Bear of the Year, or “TOBY,” Industry Choice Award.
Her bears come in four sizes, ranging from 12 to 20 inches and their outfits range from none at all, a simple festive collar, to frilly girly outfits or circus clown costumes. Hammontree makes up to eight to 12 stuffed animals at one time, production line style, using patterns she’s designed, although she says she’s no seamstress and doesn’t understand traditional store-bought patterns. “That’s all too technical for me; I’m totally a right-brain person. When I first started, my husband had to thread the sewing machine.”
To create the worn, long loved look she strives for, Hammontree gets rough on her materials by doing such things as plucking and shaving the mohair. She also sands, paints or uses tea or coffee to stain the fabrics that she sews into clothes for the animals.
The animals are stuffed with a wood fiber and then they have gravel pellets added to their bottoms in order to give them a heftier feel and help them to sit better on a shelf. All her stuffed animals have joined arms and legs and hand sewn noses and mouths.