When you move away from the family pet or it “moves on” from the family, all you have left are memories. Things in your mind. But what if you had something physical to hold and look at? For example, felt teddy bear models. If you are a pet person, then you understand.
Stephanie Cowburn lives in the United Kingdom. She is regularly asked by authors and illustrators to bring their book characters “to life” as physical, three-dimensional felt “teddy bear” models for book launches. She also does commission work for regular pet owners.
“Most of the models I make are of people’s dogs and cats. But I have been asked to make more ‘exotic’ pets such as snakes, cockatiels, donkeys, and horses. I’m happy to have a go at pretty much any pet,” she told me in a recent interview.
Materials & Time to Make Pet “Teddy Bear” Models
Stephanie chooses to use materials of high quality. The softer the wool fibers, the more detail, and comfort she can achieve in the look and feel of the model.
“Hand-made felt is very tactile and needs to be touched or held. I use merino wool to create my models because of this.”
From start to finish, her teddy bear models can take from 12 hours to several days.
“The process involved in making felt from raw merino wool fibers takes the same length of time for each model. Adding markings and sculpting the features can take much longer. Black dogs need to be made in daylight. It’s hard to see what you’re doing even with good lighting. Therefore, it can take days to complete.”
All Stephanie needs for making a felt model of your pet is a few good clear photographs to work with “showing their cheeky character as well as their distinctive features,” she says.
Cheeky character. A British term. But any pet owner knows exactly what she means.
“I love animals. I could leave that statement there, but too many people say they love animals; ‘oh except wasps and snakes, oh and spiders and sharks…’ Actually, I love them all.
I find insects and birds, rodents and domestic animals, for example, fascinating. I’m not saying I’d like a snake or a crocodile as a pet, but the way they behave and move intrigues me. I think we have a lot to learn from them.
Lots of people say that we shouldn’t project human emotions onto animals but when you see how a whale or an elephant or a dog mourns the loss of their young or companion, I think we underestimate them. I think we… I, have an affiliation with animals.”
How did it start?
It all started with making flat pieces of felt to pass the time as her kids had gone off to school.
“I wanted to learn a craft that I thought was a dying art… I did my research and bought a basic kit. Once I had mastered creating flat pieces of wet felt, I progressed to three-dimensional items such as handbags and vessels.”
But there comes a time when you look at all your work, and you say now what? Off to the market to make money to buy new materials!
“I started to sell pieces at an artisan market on the weekends. Lots of children came with their parents, so I made little kittens and wrote out personalities for them. They sold quicker than I could make them, so I branched out into owls and eventually larger animals.
It was my husband that asked if I would make a model of our own dog Heidi, a border terrier for him. Others then saw it and asked if I’d make their dogs for them.”
That Was 12 Years Ago. And the Rest is History
Along the way, Stephanie Cowburn has been commissioned to make some famous people’s pets. Some as a direct request for themselves and some to be gifted to them… the Obamas’ dogs, Ricky Gervais’ cat, Alexandra MacVean, April-Mae Kinney, Charlotte Rains… The last three being American authors she has worked with.
“What’s utterly delightful is receiving heartfelt thanks and recipients spilling out their joy in receiving my models. Many have contacted me for subsequent pets.
I’ve been introduced to people’s best friends, we mourn their loss when they go and there’s a great privilege in having created a replica that you know will be and is treasured for many years beyond the life of their pet.”
For more info on Stephanie Cowburn and her business, check out her social media accounts:
(What type of content should your business website blog offer? Advice rather than product promotion. Be a valuable info resource rather than an irritating source of sales pitches. For example, if you own a pet shop or veterinary practice, then you might share this type of content. Contact me if interested.)