The wonderful world of bears entered my life in 1989. In a shop window, sitting all alone, a furry little fellow with soulful eyes begged “take me home, please”. How could I resist, and how could I have known that this was only the start and that life would never be the same again.
I started collecting bears and one day, I saw a kitset for sale and bought it. The thought of making my own bear appealed, even though I had not sewed for years. One day at home sick I started sewing and before long he was ready to be stuffed, but what could I use as stuffing? A solution was found. My husband's pants! Don't worry Roy wasn’t wearing them at the time. The bear was finished, complete with crooked smile and crooked ears. My passion for making bears had started!
It was difficult to find the materials to make bears from, so after much debate we decided to open a Teddy shop supplying fabrics, kits, patterns and collectors bears. This was a momentous decision as I was a Bank manager and Roy was an avionics engineer with Air New Zealand, so we really were jumping into the unknown. ‘Bear Essentials’ fortunately became very successful and kick started the bear making craze around the country. The unfortunate down side was it gave me no time for my own bear making, so after 7 years we sold the shop to concentrate on developing my own range under the name 'D’Lyell Bears'. The name D’Lyell was my original family name from France that was shortened to Lyell many centuries ago when the family moved to Scotland.
I have developed my own unique style, following on from my love of collecting vintage fashion accessories. We started with our 'Bears of Yesteryear' Collection that I fondly call my ‘old girls’. They were inspired by a vision of a little old lady, dressed up in her Sunday best waiting for a train. She wears a coat, hat, fur stole and carries a handbag filled with necessities an elderly lady needs. Vintage accessories are used whenever possible, even down to vintage lace on their underwear. Because they are so detailed we make only a few of these one off pieces each year and each bear comes with a detailed portfolio. I have been asked to make ‘husbands’ for some of my ‘old girls’ and also special commission pieces using momentos from elderly family members incorporated into the bears. This is especially rewarding for me as I work closely with the customer resulting in a very ‘special’ piece having great sentimental attachment.
These bears make beautiful display pieces and the response from around the world has been fantastic. We have been delighted with how many people buy them who have never bought a bear before, hopefully encouraging new customers into the world of collecting bears.
I am now enjoying making new animals. Starting with little ‘Spike’, our hedgehog, and now ‘Cedrick’ the rat, these animals are very interactive. Spike will roll into a ball and Cedrick holds many interesting positions. Both feature special magnets that we first used for Monty, which was the second bear we designed for the famous German company 'Teddy Hermann Original' which was very successful. Hermann since released 8 of our designs since Edwin in 1998 and we have been extremely proud to be able to work with this prestigious company.
Our latest project is designing and collaborating with a fantastic new English company called 'Charlie Bears' (www.charliebears.com). We were the first designer Charlie approached when they started their company in 2005 and it has been really rewarding to watch them grow Internationally. We get quite a thrill out of seeing our 'children' being sold all around the world by Charlie and continue to work closely with them.
Another highlight is to have been an official Judge at many International Bear Shows. While this can be quite stressful it is also very rewarding to see so many creative people make such wonderful pieces. Often it can be quite difficult to pick a winner out of the top entries in each category! I have also been the feature Artist in many International magazines and it is great to be acknowledged by these publications.
Exhibiting at shows since 1997 in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, China, America and Belgium certainly keeps us busy. Roy and I make all the bears completely ourselves so we tend to work seven days a week between shows from our home in central Auckland. We have a large studio above our garage, so at least we don’t have far to go every morning.
In 2017 we started a Bed & Breakfast in our home and if you want to know more just go to the Bed &Breakfast section.