Thanks so much for visiting JillyBears site – my name’s Jill and that adorable shih tzu is my puppy, Gizmo. Although I’ve been working on establishing myself as a bear artist for little over three years now, I’ve been making plushies for friends and my video game colleagues for pretty much my whole life.
After graduating from the Art Institute of California – San Francisco with a degree in Fashion Design in 2007, I interviewed for the game company, EA to work on a cute kid’s game title on the “new space-age technology” of the Nintendo Wii. We eventually named it MySims 🙂 It was a kid’s version of the popular life simulation game, The Sims. Some projects after that, I was given the insane honor to be brought on to The Sims 4 team as the producer in charge of our new character creator (we call it Create-a-Sim or CAS for short). While I’ve been so so lucky to be able to have had a creative hand in the gameplay aspects and the clothing for The Sims 4 CAS, I was freaking out after 7 years of having hardly any creative outlet of my own!
Sure, I’d been making lots of video game-themed plushies as commissions for my coworkers (you’d be surprised how many grown men in the Game industry approached me with custom plushie requests), but I’d accumulated this enormous backstock of ideas that I wanted to fully design and make for myself. I had dreams, doggonit!
And that’s when I set out to start JillyBears. Somehow I’d been exposed to the magical world of Artist Teddy bears in one of my searches on either Google or Etsy and it spiraled into an instant obsession. I ordered something like 25 Bear-making books from Amazon, took a few weeks off from work and set out to make my first artist bear, Otis.
Since making Otis, I’ve just kept going and have been making as many artist bears and buddies I can fit into my schedule. I participate in a couple of online artist bear shows and 5 or 6 in-person bear shows per year, including the Quinlan Doll & Teddy Bear Convention in Philadelphia. They give me and my boyfriend Dave great opportunities to scoop up Gizmo and hop in the car for a nice road trip! Since starting I’ve also had a number of magazine features and in 2015 won an URSA award! My “Media” page is still WIP.
I feel like in the past year I’ve been really narrowing in on my look and style of teddy bears. This is from trying at least one new technique for most bears I make. I’m constantly trying to improve from one critter to the next. One thing about my style is for certain: I will always make the paws disproportionately huge 🙂 While the face is the most important aspect of your teddy’s “awww factor”, I consider the feet a very very close second. Another aspect that I’d like to consider my namesake is the painstakingly detailed effort I put into constructing my teddies’ garments. Since I spent 3+ years in militant fashion design classes with the likes of Cindy Chow, I just can’t bring myself to sew a teddy bear’s shirt without properly overlocking the seams or making a tie that isn’t made with real construction techniques, including a hand-stitched satin lining and a loop to tuck in the under-tie.
Anyways, I really hope you enjoy my teddies. It’s my dream to one day be able to fully support myself on this craft and have the utopia life of just drawing, making, and selling my teddy bears all day every day. Maybe when I retire. 🙂