Teddy bears at first appear trivial. They are toys—playthings for children and symbols of innocence, comfort, and nostalgia. But the teddy bear is also a metaphor for the way humans manipulate the natural world to our own ends. The teddy bear is an idea: a docile, cute, friendly invention far removed from the wild animal that inspired it. I create teddy bear anatomical specimens with a pretense of realness to emphasize the artifice of a familiar but unconsidered subject.
To create my teddy bear natural history pieces I start with found teddy bears and reverse engineer the physical 'evidence' of their biological history in needle-felted wool: a material perfectly suited to representing fuzzy and soft yet firm and structural bones and tissues of stuffed animals. My process and technique add to believability: the actual production of felted wool is difficult to discern through observation, and I borrow heavily from real anatomy.
Like museum collections my work aims to educate, classify, and make sense of the world around us by presenting information in a rational and scientific way, but the teddy bear is an irrational and emotionally loaded subject by design. The anatomy of the teddy bear is wholly planned by its creator to appeal to the biological response of human adults to care for their cute, round-featured, helpless babies. The manufacture of teddy bears is a blueprint for bioengineering trends that are taking place today—without the biology. But the sharp canine teeth in a teddy bear skull serve as a reminder that nature can only be tamed to a point. My teddy bear anatomical specimens hold a mirror to the collective human conceit that we can and should improve on and re-shape the natural world to suit our desires.