2016: A Prim Christmas in the Family Room



I haven’t done counted cross-stitch embroidery for many years due to a problem with my wrists and not being able to see where the stitches go anymore. My vision has been improving lately, and my hands aren’t as bad as they used to be, either, so I decided to try a small project. I discovered that I can do it as long as I don’t work too long in a session. I made this little pillow tuck using a pattern from a magazine and altering it a bit. It kind of set the tone for the family room display.

Feather Tree

I mixed it up a bit this year. Usually I have a tall skinny white tree in the corner by the fireplace that displays my collection of Steiff Christmas ornaments. Alas, the Steiff ornaments never made it out of their baskets, but maybe next year I will figure out a place for the white tree.

Bruce finally fixed my four foot tfeathertreeall feather tree which had somehow had the trunk broken and had been out of commission for awhile.  I started to paint my picture with that. I love feather trees and have since I used to play with the one in my Grandma and Grandpa Tanner’s attic. Mostly I have reproductions, but they are artist-made, as I like!

I placed the tree in a chippy white galvanized jardiniere that I purchased from Joe Carter at Broad Street Market in Story City, IA several years ago. I had been using it to hide the plastic pot of my amaryllis each year at the office, but it was flaking off all over and I decided it needed to go home!

Around the Tree

I chose a quilt with a primitive palette to cover some small trunks for elevating the feather tree. This coordinated with the big sitting Arnett’s Santa who took up residence on a little off-white metal stool. I love these little stools with the curved backs for supporting teddy bears and cloth dolls. This one was a purchase from The Picker Knows.

Handmade or Vintage Ornaments

I started decorating my feather tree with only spun cotton ornaments. I added two this year – a Westie and a little girl bear from Trish Lewsader of Lucky Duck Art. Still I didn’t have enough. So I added a candy container bear by Terri Larson, some cross-stitch ornaments I had made years ago, papier mache ornament by Janny Miller and some vintage mercury glass balls.

cubbies with sheep

Christmas Cubbies

An old cubby piece that I got years ago from the Rusty Pumpkin and you have seen me use before came out of hiding and I filled some of the spaces with German stick-legged putz sheep. A favorite feather tree design pillow tuck filled one cubby and I used LED candles in others. A small green feather tree, some books, and an LED candle in a silver bowl topped the cubbies. Since I had used red bound copies of Hitty and A Child’s Garden of Verses, I included a little bisque jointed doll. Like Hitty was at times, she is naked.

Adding some dimension are a candy container Santa and a papier mache angelby Janny Miller. I got the candy container Santa and the little bisque doll at the Des Moines Doll, Teddy Bear and Toy Show.

I brought out my mercury glass bead garlands and used those to dress up the cubbies also, allowing them to flow out over the edges. The multicolored ones were used on the big feather tree.20161230_132214

More of the sheep flock and assorted candles inhabited another set of cubbies on the mantel beside a large Santa by Christy Robb that was a new addition this year.

The Stockings Were Hung

stockings on mantelInstead of cloth stockings, I hung a group of wooden stocking stretchers that I collected from an estate sale. The Arnett’s Santa is holding three little dolls: A dollie bear by Joel Hoy, an Izannah repro by Judi Hunziker, and a Robert Raikes Hitty.

Those Little Red Santas!

Finally, on the mantel, I used my chippy white medicine cabinet to display my little 1940’s Japanese Santas. I hung a red berry candle ring wreath on the knob and a red prim bear by Judy Mathis stands guard. The grungy electric candle that I bought on a trip to Winterset, IA has a built-in timer! Best candle innovation ever! I set them to burn 5 hours in the evenings and they have lasted for months without a battery change.

2016: The Christmas Cupboard

santa cupboard

santa cupboard

First Impression

I have shown you my beloved funky little cabinet that I got at Found Things a few years back. Recently, I placed it by the door to the kitchen – directly in your line of sight when you come in the front door. Then I filled it with most of my collection of Santa Clauses.

Mass Displays for Greater Impact

Sometimes it’s good to display a collection en masse. One glorious overload of the jolly old elf! And it hits you as soon as you walk in our front door! It exudes Christmas cheer and invites you to stop and examine the pieces closely – one delightful depiction after another!

Santa is the Spirit of Christmas Giving

The spirit of Christmas is strong at our house. Santa, Father Christmas, St. Nichlolas, or whatever you call him is the spirit of Christmas giving.  I have been collecting Santas for a long time. In this display, you’ll find manufactured pieces and artist pieces side by side. I love them all. Artists represented include Joel Hoy, Janny Miller, June Wildash, Ruth Hare, Edna Bossert, and Nan Wright.

Prim Folk Fest is Born!

In the summer of 2016 my plans for successor shows to Steve Schutt’s Teddy Bear Reunion in the Heartland (TBRH) have finally come together as Prim Folk Fest. Updating a 25 year old event for today’s market was quite a process. I ended up with two smaller events that I hope will find a place in the hearts of collectors and artists.

Americana Fine Folk Art Festival

Folk art is a big category encompassing many forms that compliment each other, so it’s no wonder it’s a collector favorite. Many teddy bear artists have embraced additional art forms and make upcycled jewelry, assemblages of found things, make-dos, art and primitive dolls, steam punk themed pieces, and needle-felted pieces in addition to the traditional mohair bears.

We’ll celebrate the diversity by featuring the work of a wide variety of artists on June 16 & 17, 2017. The show is Americana-themed, but you will probably find other treasures as well. We have invited a number of Midwestern folk artists whose work we love and you may not have seen before!

Teddy Bear Festival

Lovers of teddy bears and their friends will be treated to an array of their favorites on October 20 & 21, 2017. A lot of artists who were signed up to exhibit at TBRH 2015 are already on board for this event. Collectors from past TBRH’s, Kansas City Teddy Bear Jubilee and other Midwestern events that have gone by the wayside will gather for a long-awaited reunion.


Finding the right venue was a struggle. I didn’t want this to be just another sale in a hotel ballroom. As luck would have it, just when I felt I would never find the right place, a couple of entrepreneurs opened a charming new venue in the same building as their thriving antique mall. Our events will take place at Decades Event Center, 1208 Grand Avenue, West Des Moines, Iowa. It’s close to the freeway (it’s hard to get too far away from things in the Des Moines area!), easy to find, in a nice neighborhood with plenty of free parking and it is decorated with antiques for a rustic and charming atmosphere.

Schedule of Events

How do you keep things simple, yet festive and special? The schedule will be the same for both events. We’ll be open for an Early Buy celebration on Friday evening from 4:30 – 7:00. Admission is $20 and includes a pass for a return visit on Saturday. There will be a cash bar and opportunity to be the first to see and buy some wonderful creations, relax and show off your purchases to other collectors, visit with friends about your favorites at the show, and maybe make plans for supper with artists and collectors after the showroom closes. On Saturday admission is $5 and we’ll be open from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. We may have some surprises up our sleeves for this day as well.

What Else Can We Do In Des Moines?

If you haven’t visited Des Moines in awhile – or ever – you might be surprised at all of the events going on here all the time! It’s one reason I found it difficult to schedule Prim Folk Fest! I know when we make a road trip to an event, we always look for other things to see and do to enhance our visit.

There will be plenty of other activities to entertain anyone who attends Prim Folk Fest whether it’s finding something else to do after you have been to our show or need something to interest family members or friends who might accompany you on your trip. We are working with the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau to make you feel welcome and help you take in all the great things our city has to offer while you are here.

In addition to our shows and The Picker Knows antique mall next door, there are many antique shops and malls in the area that will be helping us promote our events. Maps and recommendations will be available!

If you come to the June event, there is a huge annual city-wide antique walk Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the town of Walnut, Iowa just a little over an hour west of the Des Moines metro area. If you like antiques, this should be on your bucket list. Visit the show on your way into or out of town!

Visit Our Website

Be sure to bookmark our website, www.primfolkfest.com and visit it often for updates. You can also sign up for our mailing list there. We’ll send out an email whenever we have a new development. Exhibitor profiles will also be found on the website to help you plan your shopping!

From the Bucket List: Ghoultide Gathering 2015

My friends and I frequently talk about events or places that we would really like to go to…some day.  Well, in the spirit of getting older, I decided that this year we would go to Ghoultide Gathering in Chelsea, Michigan.  These artists put on a good show.  They seem to do everything right and we have wanted to go and experience it in person.  When I mentioned it to friend Joel Hoy, he literally clapped with delight.  He and partner Daniel Epley decided to go, too.  It’s a 10-hour drive for us from Des Moines and probably another four hours for the guys, but we were undaunted.  Bruce and I drove it in one day.  Joel, Daniel and I arose early to “get the whole experience” as Joel put it.  We were at the fairgrounds an hour before the doors opened for early buy and lined up in the early morning to await the magic moment when the doors would be opened and all of the Halloween art would be revealed.
DanielandJoelbeforeGGIt was cold waiting for the doors to open, but the outdoor decorations were fabulous.  Here are Daniel and Joel with a huge Ghoul under a tent set up outside the venue where folks were waiting. We actually met a few people we knew while we waited

I have to say that this is the coolest show I have been to and the artistry of the whole event was fabulous.  Here are Daniel and Joel in the tent that was provided for early-buyers.  It was cold that morning and I wished I had brought a jacket as I shivered in my sweater.

We got a chance to chat with some of the other early-birds while we waited and discovered that they come from far and wide and try not to miss this event.

PocheWhen we finally got to go inside, we were treated to wonderful displays at each booth.  They had imaginative backdrops, table coverings and props and some were even in costume. Poche even took advantage of the steel fairgrounds building’s rafters to hang many pieces in a fascinatingly different approach. This wouldn’t work in every showroom, but how fun! (I have no idea how he got these down for the buyers!)

WithJody We have all been in the business for years and there were several artists we knew or with whom we had been to shows or were at least acquainted. We met our friend Jody Battaglia who was there with her Fun Town creatures and her new book which I forgot to purchase in the excitement. It was great chatting with Jody as we hadn’t seen her for ages.

Fellow bear-maker Lori Ann Corelis had these cute and spooky creations. I couldn’t resist a little bear on a  pumpkin pin cushion.

I am not a Halloween fanatic, but this show would almost make you one. The whole atmosphere, the presentation, the artwork, the people…not to be missed!  I bought a few pieces to enhance my autumn décor at home – after all, I came this far!  The town of Chelsea is filled with interesting old houses and restaurants and I wished we had allotted more time so we could explore more of the area. Maybe we’ll have to go back!

When we left, we discovered the outside had been transformed, too. Perfect Halloween experience!

Full Time or Part Time Artist?

A fellow needle-felter posted the question on Facebook the other day.  Is needle-felting a full-time job, part-time or hobby?

I know she meant “do you support yourself by selling your needle-felted art?” and I think I can say that not very many people can manage that.  When I was a full-time teddy bear artist, my children were small and we wanted them to have a full-time stay-at-home mom.  Teddy bear making allowed me to stay home, but did I make enough money to support myself, let alone my family?   No.  It was extra income, but not very much.  I travelled a lot and spent a lot of time creating product and marketing it.  It allowed for some extras for our children and some discretionary spending money for me, but my husband’s full-time job and benefits provided our support. Eventually, I had to give up a lot of my teddy bear making and spend my days at a “real job” with a regular paycheck and benefits.  This coincided with a downturn in the economy that led to less discretionary spending, fewer people who could be active collectors, shows and shops that went out of business…a downturn in the collectibles market. So things worked out.

Right now, most of my art is donated to raise money for charitable causes.  I don’t have much time to make things.  In fact, I had an order that took me over a year to complete, but that’s another story.

Needle-felting has really taken off in the years since I started sculpting with wool.  When I started, nobody knew what it was.  They liked what I did, but I didn’t really know how to price things, so I priced them the same as my mohair pieces.  I sold whatever I made, but I didn’t make very much.  Now, there is so much wonderful needle-felted artwork out there!  I really want to get back to work!

Back to full-time vs. hobbyist.  I think if you are an artist, you are an artist all the time. At the office, I sculpt with words, I design graphics and forms and coax code into web pages. I choose promotional items that support and reinforce our brand.  At home, I paint with plants in my garden.  I photograph my flowers and dogs and use those images to convey messages. I am always creating, taking pieces and molding them into something else, but it’s not always with some kind of needle.  I tell stories – sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident. There is an art to all of it. So yes, I am a full-time artist.

Does selling or at least trying to sell your work make you a full-time artist?  Is the benchmark how much your earnings contribute to your support?


2015 Easter/Spring Decorating Part I

BunsChicksToday, I share my spring-time decorating with quilts and antiques and teddy bear friends.

On the cabinet by the hearth, I have my big dolly-bunny by Joel Hoy. She is sitting in a wonderfully aged little chair that I got at the Valley Junction Antique Jamboree last year. On her lap is a bunny that I made this year and a ducky by Cindy Hom.

At her feet is a wonderful Lori Ann Corelis bunny wearing a cute cardigan repurposed from a child’s sweater with a Westie motif. This bunny holds a mohair duck with clay beak and feet by someone I used to see in Kansas City. Beside her is an old Dralon Steiff black and white bunny munching on one of a bunch of stuffed cotton carrots that I got recently on my birthday antiquing trip to Kansas City with Linda Dorr.

I love the crib-sized patchwork quilt underneath. Not sure where I got this one, but they are getting harder to find.

PoultryI am drawn to anything with cubbies and here I have used an old desk drawer with dividers turned on its end to display even more of my poultry collection. From the top are 2 Chickies by Martha Burch, a Susan McCay sailor duck, a duck by Martha Burch, a mohair Steiff duck and a Steiff pom pom chick, a duck from Alan Clark and Steve Orique, and a duck by Serieta Harrell. Beside is a vintage Steiff duck. In front are two chicks by Once Upon a Barn in Albia, Iowa (artist Jami Boldy). The GARDEN sign is also by Once Upon a Barn.

SpringQuiltsMy ladder is festooned with spring-colored quilts. The newest acquisition is the one with the purple background that I got awhile back at Found Things in Des Moines. Sadly, Found Things has lost the lease on their building and is now closed. The shop was a local favorite and will be sorely missed.


On my favorite blue metal stool from the Henkes of Rescued Junk in Earlham, Iowa sits one of my favorite bears by Craig Bottiger. By that I mean of he’s my favorite of all the bears Craig has made as well as a favorite from my collection. I am pretty sure Craig used a darling antique Steiff from the Betty Blanche collection as a model. If I had to downsize my bear collection, this guy would be safe! He has an armload of vintage Steiff Chicks.