Growing up as the second oldest child in a family of 10 children, Martha Burch of Martha's Bears learned sewing, crafting, woodworking and basically anything to do with using her hands and imagination.
"There were so many of us, we always made things. It was our mother's way of keeping us out of trouble." That background gave her a firm love of hand work that has stayed with her throughout her life.
Early on, Martha learned to sew and did alterations and custom dress making, but always loved the antique business since her mother was an antiques dealer. "Something about old lace and fabrics speaks to me."
One day, her mother was about to donate to charity, a box of quilts and textiles that were too damaged to sell in the antique shop. Her mother asked Martha if she would like to take them. "Of course, at some point, one has to use these things or move them, so I designed a dumpy little, string jointed, button nosed, teddy bear and made a batch of them from the old fabrics."
She gifted her large family with them and the leftovers went into her mother's antique shop. They sold the very same day! Martha took the hint that she was onto something.
She made little bears for three years and traveled to Folk Art shows with her mother. It as at one of those shows that she ran into some one who was making mohair teddy bears. "She told me about teddy bear magazines and mohair suppliers.
I was ecstatic to find that I could actually buy this wonderful fabric by the yard."
Her first box of mohair arrived. She couldn't believe that she'd paid $500.00 for the tiny box that turned up on her doorstep. "It took me a week to work up the courage to cut into it!"
Martha designed another bear that had jointed limbs and head; since then, she has never looked back.
"My first bears were very different than those I make today. Back then, there were no classes and few 'how to' books, so everything was trial and error. I taught myself to make my signature nose and now I try to design several new bears and buds patterns each year."
Through the years, she's tried engage family and friends to help make the bears by asking them to cut pieces or help with stuffing or the jointing, but Martha was never quite satisfied with having someone else do the work, so now she does everything herself.