When we heard about Cooper Bears making some extraordinary efforts to help with the recent Western Australian Bush Fire Appeals, we knew we had to share their kind efforts with the world. Kay Cooper, the beautiful creator behind Cooper Bears talks to us about the start of Cooper Bears and why she has been so determined to get behind the Good Bears scheme. 

Having been making bears for approximately thirty years and teaching how to make them for twenty of those years, little did Kay realise that her sporadic selling of her creations would turn into an international fiesta, winning several awards for her lovely makes.

“I started selling my bears here and there locally in the beginning under my business ‘Cooper Bears’ which is named after the family name. However, in the last few years I have won a few awards and international recognition so now we are selling all over the world and it’s a real blessing to be able to do what I love every day and share that with the world.”

A proud recipient of the National British Teddy bear award, Excellence in Bear Artistry (twice in a row!), the URSA minor and URSA major awards and a Toby award, Kay shares with us that even though she makes all kinds of animals, she loves teddy bears the most “as they are the one toy most of us had as a child and they offer comfort when we feel sad or sick.”

When asked what is the inspiration behind each bear that she creates, Kay said that she draws inspiration from pretty much anything around her. “Every bear has its own personality. I love colour and a good story so I create whatever pops into my head. Sometimes the type of fabric inspires me, sometimes it could be something I have seen in nature.  And sometimes my bears just become what ever they decide to be and I just go with it.” Kay also has a dedicated youtube channel that provides viewers with helpful hints, tips, inspiration and ideas on bear making.

An ardent supporter of emergency response groups, Kay had wanted to put teddy bears into the hands of first responders and paramedics for as long as she could remember. As most of us would agree, teddy bears have a magical effect when given to children and families in traumatic situations and they are just perfect companions for anyone in need of a hug.

However, the stringent Australian rules labelled Kay’s bears as unsuitable for such situations, so she had to seek alternative methods to still try and help. “The rules here in Australia are very strict and my bears were not acceptable. A good friend of mine, Valerie Rogers from Bears and Buds told me about Good Bears of the World (GBW), a world wide organisation and the good work they do. GBW was the first organisation to donate teddies to police departments in the 80s and since their founding, they have donated thousands of teddy bears to those affected by tragedies. So I got in contact with them and they have set us up as a ‘Den’, which means we fund-raise and then buy bears that are 100{5179fdacbfe29016f900bfe2dcfcbfb2eab94a1d74da343bb56f49e773efcdda} child proof and placed in poly bags to protect them from coming into contact with germs etc in ambulances and so on. Since my bears are mostly collectibles and not child-safe, I decided that for every bear I sold I would buy a Good Bear to donate to someone in need of a hug.”

Apart from being a busybee making these lovely bears, Kay also devotes much of her time to holding regular events and other activities to raise funds for GBW and donate those bears as much as she can. “We have already given out several to Tiny Sparks – an organisation for babies at risk with health issues, our State Emergency Services and to some ambulances. We also managed to give an entire box recently to the fire victims of the Waroona bushfires in Western Australia. My dream is to put one in every ambulance and the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia which provides emergency health services to sick and injured people in rural and remote places.”

Even though the majority of her buyers are keen teddy collectors and adults, Kay has never been short of eager parents and grandparents buying her bears for their children or grand-children as a keep sake as she is able to make special custom orders of bears with child safe eyes and noses. Kay adds in chirpily that she also has a ‘Hospital for Teddy’ bears to see all kinds of friends, young and old, in need of some care and love.

Cooper Bears can be purchased at www.cooperbears.com