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Cookie's Critters by Donna Nielsen

4385 Elm Tree Rd
Bloomfield,NY 14469

"Cookie" is me, my dad called me that when I was a little girl, and it just seemed natural when it came to naming my bears to call them "Cookie's Critters".

I live in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. My home and my studio are nestled in the hills of Bristol - a small town consisting of an old country store, a library, and a family park. I share my home with my husband, Craig and a chocolate Lab named Chauncy. My son Scott, who now lives in Wisconsin, thought his Mom had gone bonkers when he found me talking to a houseful of bears! My studio consists of a couple of rooms filled with mohair, bear parts, accessories, etc., etc., a computer, and shelves of finished and unfinished bears. As I work, I can watch the wildlife play outside. When I feel like taking a break, I work in the gardens, take a walk in the woods, or out to the waterfalls, or play with my best bud, Chauncy.

When the company I worked for shut down through downsizing, my part-time bear creating became a full-time business. My addiction to Mall shopping has since turned to the excitement of scouring antique shops looking for vintage clothing and accessories for some of my bears.

I majored in Art in school, and dabbled in crafts and sewing for many years. My husband and my Mom encouraged me to turn my love for collecting bears into the love I now put into creating them. In 1994 I took my first bear-making class and was instantly hooked! Soon after came a design class and Cookie's Critters was born. I draw my designs free hand, but always have a specific idea in mind, then it is right to the mohair - trace, cut, sew! Each bear is adorned with a tiny clay cookie - made by Yours Truly - worn around their neck as my Trademark.

I am always ready to try a new technique, create a new design, look at a new little face. Some nights I lie awake as new ideas race through my head. There is always anticipation as I see each new bear emerge from the fur. Many pieces are one of a kinds, or one of a kind series, as I very seldom keep a prototype to look at when creating the next bear. Many designs are named, but the end bear is its own unique self. For example: pearl cotton color used for the nose might differ, or perhaps the stitching of the nose itself, or I might change the color of the pawpads or what material I use for them, or I might accessorize a bear in a completely different way. The way I see it, each little guy or gal lets me know what he or she wants to look like.

In the Fall of 1997 my Mom, B'anna Holland, began designing one of a kind outfits for my 18" line of bears, "Ms. Bear". In the Winter of 1998-99, I began designing other "critters" such as rabbits, cats, and even a frog! Still more critters will emerge in the future. In the Spring of 2000, I introduced a new line of bears I call "Sweet Memories", created from antique string, vintage and matted mohairs. I have also tried my hand at dyeing mohair with silk dyes, natural dyes and even Kool-aid� from the cupboard. It's so exciting to see the colors you can create!

Currently, my bears range from 5 �" to 31" tall. All my pieces are fully hardboard jointed with rivets or bolts with locknuts, and created from the finest imported mohairs, wools, or German plush. Their bodies are stuffed with polyfil, plastic or copper pellets and/or glass beads. I use German glass eyes or antique shoebuttons, and for the paws I use Ultrasuede�, wool, or fabric of choice. I make each bear myself from start to finish, although I do wish I could convince my husband to try his hand. He just waits to give his approval to each finished piece.

I am pleased to announce that my bear "Emmy" was a TOBY Industry Choice Winner for year 2001--making her a nominee in the Artist Category "Large Dressed Bear"--for the Public Choice Awards. In previous years I have won awards for my work at shows in Kansas City--Lincoln City,OR----Oklahoma ----Houston,Texas ---Bears Along the Mohawk, NY----and in August 2003 a People's Choice Award at the Ross Park Zoo Artist Invitational (Binghamton, NY) for my "Cobbler, Cobbler" piece.

I am currently doing shows across the U.S. and in previous years in Canada & England. You can find my bears in various shops, on the Internet , or by contacting me personally. I am also fortunate to have had feature articles in a few Teddy Bear magazines:: Teddy Today (Spring 2000)--Teddy Bear Scene (England-1997)--my Santa bear "Ol Nick" featured in the Holiday section of Teddy Bear & Friends (Dec. 2000) . As well, a publication out by Lark Books (fall 2001) -Making Bears, Celebrating 100 Years, has 2 of my bears included. A couple of feature stories on myself & the bears that have appeared in the home town newspaper have also helped to educate folks in this area about the art & collection of the Teddy Bears !!

The comfort and security that a Teddy Bear gives to young and old surpasses that of any other stuffed creation. To watch the smile grow on someone's face when they see a bear that tugs at their heart makes all the work and love I put into my bears worthwhile.

Finally, I can say that this is an art that I sincerely love and enjoy, and that I will continue to do so as long as that joy carries into the lives of others.

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