(TMU) — Oftentimes when we lose loved ones, our memories of them are either intangible and tragically fade with time, or they are left to us in the form of clothing—an old polo shirt, dress, nightgown, or necktie—which tend to find their way into the back of a closet or the local thrift store.
However, a creative Scottish artisan has devised an ingenious method of preserving these evocative articles of clothing—by making customized teddy bears or “Memory Bears” from the clothing of deceased loved ones.
At the young age of 21, Mary MacInnes has already been crafting memory bears for almost six years, since she was only 16.
MacInnes, who studied fashion technology at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, made her first bear for a friend who was bereaved before she was quickly inundated with requests for their own Memory Bear. Due to her studies, however, she was forced to turn them down.
But as her bears grew increasingly popular online, she began to focus on making them full-time.
She told Metro:
“I made my first memory bear five years ago as a favour for a friend and was constantly asked to make more, but turned them down because I wanted to concentrate on university and a career in bridal.
I gave in to requests for bears and once I uploaded photos to my page it just exploded—so at the moment I’m fully committed to making them.”
The bears, which are often purchased for bereaved children so that they have an important keepsake through which to remember their lost loved one, require 5 to 6 hours of work and cost about $65 USD, or £50.
She also now crafts “Memory Cushions” bearing images of the deceased on their former articles of clothing.
Memory cushions pic.twitter.com/oHu9ZgKh4a
— Memory Bears (@memorybears_uk) February 4, 2019
She has now made hundreds of memory bears, and her current waiting list is months-long—to the point that she recently had to temporarily halt taking additional orders.
MacInnes admits that the work can often be emotionally draining, and carries a heavy load in terms of trauma processing. The bears often include the ashes of loved ones, as well as jewelry.
Sometimes, the bears are even requested by those who are still alive but are in the throes of terminal illness. MacInnes explained:
“Recently, I had a 37 year old man pleading with me to make his two daughters aged 10 & 12 bears before Christmas. He insisted on paying in full and gave me £10 extra asking me to post them to his girls.
It turned out he has terminal cancer and won’t see Christmas. I cried the whole time I cut out, sewed and stuffed those two little bears.”
While the work can take its toll emotionally, MacInnes finds such valued work extremely rewarding. She said:
“It really is a privilege to be asked to create something from people’s personal possessions.
I love seeing their faces take on character and I’m absolutely loving life. I really enjoy meeting my customers when they collect bears—80% burst into tears.
I think that’s because garments arrive as sad reminders of the past then it’s almost as if new life is breathed into them. They become something that’s much more acceptable to cuddle and talk to, and the feedback is they definitely can help the grieving process.”
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