|For German bear artist, Ute Wilhelm of Atelier Wiba, there is no place lovelier than her home town of Iserlohn, Germany. Her home is filled with family. She shares her home with her husband, mother, brother and four cats, stating, "We are very close and enjoy the benefits of a common life together."
In 1996, her hobby and obsession for making bears would lead her to form a company with her husband, Lars and her friend, Anja Barbrock.
Wiba Bears was born.
Ute had an early fixation on sewing and designing, having sewn clothes for her dolls and bears and then later self-designing and sewing clothes for her own needs. "In my childhood, I dreamed of becoming a dressmaker or designer one day, but that dream had to wait."
She took on the seemingly secure profession of a bookkeeper and worked that job for several years. Her friend, Anja worked for another company but together they decided that they wanted to make more of their lives.
They started making decorations and sold them at fairs that they organized themselves. "But sewing never left my life and one day, in another creative phase, Anja and I began sewing bears from patterns found in a teddy bear magazine."
After creating several bears with accessories designed by Ute, all their creations found new homes very quickly. It was an easy decision to start a new profession as a teddy bear maker.
"At first, the teddy bears became a second job to the bookkeeping profession."
In 2001, making bears became her main job and they opened a big shop with a loyal following. "We gave workshops for teddy bear making, I worked as a teddy doctor and we lived a beary happy life." Anja left the small business and Ute and Lars continued on.
In 2008, Ute and Lars closed the big shop and set up a small studio for the bears in their house. Ute's style leans towards the vintage look with a little bit of romantic "shabby chic" style.
"We produce various kits, clothes and accessories and offer decorative items and small furniture to add to the look."
Ute feels that their additional passion for antique furniture and shabby-style accessories give her creations the right feel.
Her husband and she love to travel to antique markets in Belgium, the Netherlands and throughout Germany in search of little treasures to accompany the bears.
Ute uses mohair and hand-dyed viscose and other fabrics to create a wide variety of looks; from bears to rabbits, to elephant and cats. From time to time, she'll even use vintage fabrics from the early 1900's when she finds them; although that is usually rare.