My partner in crime, Lucy to my Ethel (whomever is driving is Lucy for the day), Linda Dorr and I love going to the Midwest Antique & Art and The Collectors Eye Shows in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It happens twice a year, spring and fall. On October 20, we set out bright and early and were some of the first ones in the door!
It seems like there are always more bears in the fall, although the hunting is pretty good in the spring, too. There are also lots of fun things that go well with bears like rocking horses and horses on wheels, other animals, quilts, children’s furniture, and this ice cream mold.
We were especially drawn to this blue-eyed bear at the first booth we visited. I nearly brought him home with me. He was in good shape and looked especially good with the blue and white quilts hung behind him. (Those were also tempting!) I have blue and white quilts. I think I might have bought one at this show in a previous year.
Anyway, upon doing a little research we believe this might be a (blank) bear.
The most wonderful old Steiff bear we have ever seen was at Scott Tagliapietra’s booth. I think he wanted $4,000 for it. It was pristine as far as we could tell. I actually got to hold it. This is not something you would ordinarily see at a midwest antique show, but Scott brings a lot of wonderful pieces. I once bought a tiny Steiff squirrel from him, but generally, his stuff is beyond my pocketbook. Most of it is displayed in a huge locked glass-front cabinet.
There were a lot of American stick bears and the like scattered throughout the show. It’s fun to spy these treasures perched on a tiny chair or tucked into a primitive cupboard. It really makes the show so cozy and friendly when bears abound!
There were many more, but these are the most interesting. There was even a bear made from a feed sack in one booth and a beautiful new Steiff One in a Million cinnamon bear. Something for everyone!
My husband often has trouble with birthday or Christmas gifts for me – or for anyone, really unless we are talking about our son who shares many of his interests. I should have realized this early on when his mother would show me strange and confounding gifts she had received from him.
That’s not to say he never gives me gifts. He often comes in with a treasure he has found for me at some estate or tag sale. Sometimes it’s wonderful, sometimes hideous. You would think after 40 years, he would understand what I like, wouldn’t you?
Some years, he really does well.
This year he scored a home run! He spotted this Steiff Foxy dog puppet at a local antique mall, recognized that it was in perfect condition and a good price and he waited until my birthday to give it to me!
I love him! I have a few Steiff puppets – bunny, cat and bear – that are in acceptable played-with condition and without their IDs. I really wanted a Foxy to go with them. He has his chest tag, button and ear tag, so he is the king of my Steiff puppets. He looks so cute peeking out of my bag like a real puppy!
When Were Steiff Puppets Made?
Steiff made hand puppets from the late 1800s through the 1960s. I figure most of the ones in my collection are about the same vintage as me – “mid-century modern”. In the late 1800s, puppet shows or “Punch and Judy” shows were popular across Europe and no doubt inspired Steiff to take advantage of the trend. In fact, according to industry expert Steiff Gal, Rebekah Kaufman, early hand puppets were labelled “Punch” in the catalogs of the day. Refer to Rebekah’s blog post for more information.
How Do You Display Steiff Puppets?
I have some tricks to displaying my Steiff puppets. All they really need is something to support them. I often use clean glass bottles inside them. They are usually heavy enough to keep them standing nicely as long as they are tall enough. A wine, water, or soda bottle with a slender neck that will fit up into the finger space in the puppet’s neck will do the trick. You can even fill the bottle with some sand or gravel in the bottom for added stability.
I also like to use antique industrial spools that I collect and use for my make-do Santas. I look for one that has one end that is wide to provide stability at the base and the other end should be no bigger than the shoulders of the puppet so it fills that space nicely, but doesn’t let the neck flop. You can fill out the shoulders with a little polyester fiberfil to help stabilize the head.
As markets took a nosedive about a decade ago, many shops offering high quality artist-made and manufactured collectible soft sculpture were forced out of business. Do you ever wonder what happens to those shops and their inventory?
I know of some that had big going out-of-business sales. Many still had leftover stock that they continue to try to sell online or store in their basements.
The inventory from one shop, Verna Mae’s in Greenwood, Nebraska is up for sale now. Verna closed her doll and bear shop, which was housed in an old brick school building, a number of years ago. I shopped her going-out-of-business sale and got some great bears, but she still had an overwhelming amount of inventory when she closed the doors for the last time.
An organization, One Whole Heart Ministry out of Omaha, bought the building and its contents. They are now in the process of sorting, researching, pricing, photographing, and writing descriptions of each item and listing them on eBay (omaharma). Upon contacting the seller, I learned that they are open to shoppers by appointment and would like to be open to the public on a limited basis in the future. Once the inventory has been sold, they have plans to renovate the building for use in their ministry.
I traveled to Nebraska on July 1, 2017 to meet up with Craig from One Whole Heart Ministry who showed me around. You could see their task was daunting. There were still shelves and shelves of teddy bears and collectibles in one big room and many dolls in cases in another. As we looked through I did my best to advise him on what would be the most sought after pieces, current values, and a little history on some of the artist bears and antiques. It took me over an hour to go through things. I did locate one bear and one needle-felted Santa that I had made. In the end, I picked out four bears by artists I have known and admired over the years who are no longer making bears. I was happy to get them and they are in perfect condition.
One of the ones I picked was a little bear by Anne Cranshaw. Anne was one of the original members of the Iowa Teddy Bear Makers’ Guild before she moved out of state. I bought the bear on the right in the photo. The one on the left, I believe is offered on eBay as I write this post. They are sweet little squishy bears with cute little smiles. My children were still small when Anne and I were both going to shows, so at the time, I was not buying bears for a collection of my own.
The other three that I chose were by Janet Reeves, Betsy Reum and Mac Pohlen. Again, when they were making bears, I was not able to have a collection of my own, although when Betsy retired after the last Teddy Bear Reunion in the Heartland in 2010, I was able to add one of her small bears to my hug.
The following are some more things I saw during my visit. It would be impossible to show everything. There is so much inventory left. But, watch omaharma on eBay for more listings!
The first is a limited edition Steiff teddy bear workshop. It is wonderful. We didn’t figure out all of the accessories that make this piece so detailed, but it looks like everything is there and in mint condition. This is probably the single most valuable piece in the collection. It includes a bear in an apron and two smaller bears.
Tucked away on one shelf, I found an elderly Schoenhut donkey! There aren’t very many antiques in here, so I wonder where he came from. His paint appears to be rubbed off like he was played with a lot.
In addition to collector bears, there are quite a few suitable for play, so if you need a gift for a child, you can probably find one here! This photo is of a group of dressed bears any little one would love!
There are lots of teddy bear tea sets, cups and saucers, figurines, etc. from the store’s inventory. I saw a big group of Cherished Teddy figurines and lots of Winnie the Pooh items.
On Sunday, March 19, teddy bear artist, friend and mentor, Steve Schutt passed away after a long illness. He had a number of health problems over the years and had retired from bear-making. A former art teacher and avid puppeteer, he was the founder of the Iowa Teddy Bear Makers’ Guild and the Teddy Bear Reunion in the Heartland in his hometown of Clarion, Iowa. He asked me to work with him to produce one last Teddy Bear Reunion for June, 2015. Despite our hard work, his health was a determining factor in cancelling that event.
A gentle and humble man, Steve inspired us to create art through his teaching and example. Like many others, he helped me to enter the crazy world of collectable artist teddy bears.
I took this photo of him two years ago when I helped him clean out his studio in preparation for selling his house. It was a difficult time for him, but despite his pain and frustration, to the world, he presented his gracious smiling self.
He asked me to continue the Teddy Bear Reunion in the Heartland tradition in the Des Moines area. If you knew Steve, you would know that it was hard to refuse him. I said yes and Prim Folk Fest is a result of that promise.
I can only hope to live up to a fraction of Steve’s vision and familiar charge to “Be Magic!”
Since I was mixing it up in the family room, I boldly had my husband set up the big Christmas tree by the front window in the living room. We haven’t put this tree up in years and I was thrilled to be able to enjoy it. Sometimes we get busy and just run out of time to get everything out every year. I had been making do with the white tree full of Steiff ornaments in the family room, but I really missed my treasured ornaments that go on the big tree.
Polar Bear Extraordinaire
The ornament that thrills me the most is this blown glass polar bear head. It was made in Poland by Slavic Treasures. They make incredible ornaments. I found this one years and years ago at Tuesday Morning. I remember looking in all of the boxes at the store because nothing was actually displayed out of the box. When I opened this one, it took my breath away. It’s as big as my hand.
If I could have found more, I would have bought more, but this was the only one they had. Of course, by the time things make it to Tuesday Morning, they are at least last year’s stock, so I never found another. I wish I had one for back-up. I have carefully wired this to the tree so there is no chance of it falling and I even set it back from the edge of the branches so it would have some cushion if the tree actually toppled over. I am so careful with it that I pay attention to the placement of furniture and rugs around it, calculating the risk if anything should happen. Okay, I am obsessed with this ornament.
Another treasured ornament is this star I made when I my children were little. I took a wallet-sized print of the three of them together and made the star from some scraps of dance costumes I was making for a studio at the time. (Yes, I used to take in sewing!)
A Dog-Friendly Tree
I like to use an old quilt for my tree skirt because Rowdy loves to sleep under the Christmas tree. Even though it has been a few years since this tree has been up, he remembered and went right under for a nap! Here he is “helping” me decorate!
The dogs are really good about not disturbing the tree. On the other hand, I loaned a tree to my son, and his two kittens have already destroyed it! They have knocked it over trying to climb it and batted the ornaments right off! I’m glad I chose to loan him unbreakable ornaments for those silly boys!
The big tree is happily shining in the front window this year. Bruce put the lights on a timer so they come on right before I get home in the evening and turn off after I go to bed. Then, they turn on in the morning when I get up and off when I leave for work. So nice to have the Christmas cheer of a tree in the window!
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.
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 tall 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.
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.
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
Instead 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.
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.
I managed to acquire a brown feather tree at a good price. It was made by Bethany Lowe and has been discontinued. I saw one years ago when I was shopping in Kansas City and always regretted not buying one, but they were pretty expensive. It is perfect for fall decorating.
I didn’t like the tin tree stand it came with, so I set the whole thing into this pretty jardiniere (also acquired at a bargain price!) and used the bright turquoise as an accent color. I made the beaded garlands myself, incorporating more of the turquoise. Over the years I have found various fall glass ornaments – leaf, acorns, squirrels, etc. They look great on this tree! I finally have a perch for a prim owl by Martha Burch.
I added a spun cotton squirrel by Trish Lewsader of Lucky Duck Art to my collection this year. He’s a little bigger than the rest of the ornaments, but I like him just fine hanging at the bottom of the tree. There’s a vintage Steiff squirrel by the base of the tree.
More Blue for the Mantel
Continuing the blue, I placed some silk sunflowers in a blue pitcher I bought from Once Upon a Barn. I scoured the Planned Parenthood Booksale for the right colors of old books to use as a riser for the pitcher. Another little Steiff squirrel perches nearby and the tall cubby is filled with various autumn-themed items including a Halloween “Little Ginger” from Nancy Malay.
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!