Coleraine’s teddy bear artist Carol Conley has just produced her 1400th bear!
Talented Carol spoke to The Coleraine Times this week about her passion for bears, and said that she is proud to think that there’s a little bit of Coleraine in all corners of the globe.
Carol, who may be Northern Ireland’s only teddy bear entrepreneur, made her first bear back in 2002, after her granny, who has since passed away. asked her to make a bear to sit on a rocking chair in her home.
Since then Carol hasn’t looked back. Her passion for designing and making teddy bears on a 1932 sewing machine is stronger than ever, and she’s delighted with her 1400 bear, which she plans to auction off for a local charity.
Since 2002, Carol has been creating and designing bespoke bears, under the name ‘Emerald Bears’.
1400 bears later and Carol still gets excited to see the finished product.
“I just love my work,” she said in an exclusive interview with The Coleraine Times.
“Every bear is unique, and it just amazes me that there is one in all corners of the globe.
“I have just had an order from a customer in Malaysia looking for one of my bears.”
Carol has always been creative, she was bought her first sewing machine when she was just 12.
She recalls: “My father used to work in monsanto and he used to bring home old strands of material.
“I used to make things - clothes for me, my sisters, I tried my hand at anything, out of what my father brought home. I have always been creative.”
With four sewing machines in her teddy bear studio at home, Carol tells that she does most of her work on a machine that she bought at an auction.
Unbelievably it dates back to 1932.
“I did buy a state of the art sewing machine, it cost me a fortune, but I have used it only a few times.
“My old one has had a hand in all of those 1400 bears,” she joked.
And, Carol’s 1400th bear is very special. Carol is very proud of her Coleraineroots, and the name of her 1400 bear reflects that - she has called her ‘Kitty of Coleraine’.
“Kitty is very special,” said Carol as she gave me a sneak preview of ‘Kitty’
Standing tall, the bear really is something else.
Her fur is the most fabulous colour. Carol tells it’s called pink frost.
“She is wearing a dress made out of a bespoke fabric that has pictures of a selection of my bears printed on it,” explained Carol.
“I am really pleased with her.
“She isn’t finished just yet, but when she is I want to auction her for a local charity.
“So far there is over £100 worth of fur and fabric used on her - she is something else,” said Carol who is a mother of two.
Down through the years, Carol, has produced bears for many local charities.
In 2008, Carol entered one of her bears into the Taiwan Teddy Bear Olympic Challenge.
‘Oran’ a 22 inch bear wore a green linen jacket depicting the four provinces of Ireland.
He beat off stiff competition from 32 other countries and was named eighth.
Modest Carol went on: “I have bears, all with a little emerald stone on them, saying made in Coleraine, in all corners of the globe.
“I love hearing where my bears are and who their new owners are. I know of Emerald Bears in Mexico, Australia, Canada, America, Malaysia and Guata Mala.”
So here’s to the next 1400 bears, lets hope Carol continues her work as making Coleraine the teddy bear capital of the world!