Art Attack - Wendy Meagher

Wendy Meagher
Art Attack - Wendy Meagher

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Wendy Meagher’s hobby-turned-full time career is one made famous by the fabled, tiny men and women of the North Pole: she is a vintage-inspired toy maker creating the most magical of teddy bears.

Inspired by German toy maker and creator of the original teddy bear, Margarete Steiff, Meagher bravely abandoned her post as a computer programmer 18 years ago to launch Whendi’s Bears. The result is a bear that looks as though it was lovingly toted around by a toddler in the 19th century or gleefully recovered from one’s great grandmother’s attic. Each is handcrafted one at a time entirely by Meagher. Surprisingly, she has no background or training in toy making, just a lifelong love of arts and crafts and, as she puts it, “old things.”

“I always loved vintage and antique bears,” states Meagher. “I try to make the bears look like they’re 100 years old already.” Using only the finest materials, such as German and English mohair and aged leather, Meagher sews the body of the bear from patterns she’s designed, then fills them with wood wool. The character really begins to emerge in the careful sculpting of the face, which determines what type of animal it will transform into. Once the head is complete and the species determined, the real fun begins—accessorizing. Here Meagher must decide if the dog/bear/elephant will be a boy or a girl, a clown or a sailor, clothed or au natural. Found treasures such as antique shoe buttons and poker chips are used for the bears’ eyes, noses, and accessories: “If I find something I want to use, I make it (work),” she tells us. All of the clothes are handmade by Meagher using vintage textiles, laces, and trims found at antique shows, shops and on eBay.

When asked what her favourite piece is, Meagher names the French Bulldog and Boston Terrier as her most loved. One must assume that her own Boston, Zoe, has something to do with this personal bias. “She’s been a huge inspiration, just by having her face here every day,” Meagher gushes. “I use her as my big drawing board.”

Bears start at $200; visit whendisbears.com for more details.

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