Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Learning Journey in USA (Part 1) ~ Making a Realistic Bear with Joanne Livingston

Joanne Livingston is one of the best realistic bear artist based in USA. She has been making bears for more than 30 years! Her bears are all very highly sought after and highly priced due to all the intricate details she has given to a bear to make them realistic. Her techniques are extremely time consuming especially since she gave her bears needle felted faces and later root fur onto the felted faces. To enhance the realism, armatures were built internally so that her bears can pose as close to look like real ones.

Wayne has known Joanne for more than 7 years; from the very beginning when he first started bear making. Joanne has been his mentor as well as very best friend. Her works have been the greatest inspiration to Wayne to becoming a good bear artist. We have discussed for a long long time that we will visit USA one day to learn from Joanne.

Taken at the Philadelphia Airport. L- R: Philip, Wayne, David and Joanne

The day finally came that we did go. Joanne and her husband, David came to the airport and brought us to stay with them for 4 nights so that we can learn to make a realistic bear from her.

Joanne is a very experienced teacher. She has carefully planned all the instructions for us before we arrived. Prior to our arrival, we have sewn all the parts of the bear and applique all the paws and foot pads.

Joanne taught us how to build a lockline armature, how to needle felt the bear's face as well as rooting fur onto the face.

One of the challenges Wayne faced was rooting fur onto the bear's face. Extremely time consuming, each piece of fur need to be unraveled from the mohair fabic, sorted before rooting the good ones onto the bear's face. When rooting the fur, you need to observe the flow direction of the fur as well to determine the spaces between each fur. The angle which you insert the felting needle is also crucial. The whole process takes time and patience to complete. We really salute Joanne for all her determination and passion.

Due to the lack of time, Wayne and Philip managed to complete felting the face and worked on rooting only 1 side of the eyes. Joanne also showed us how to needle sculpt the paws and foot pads and later using colours to add shadings.

Work in progress bear.
Besides making a bear, Joanne also showed how to make a doll wig for Wayne's cute little doll, made by Nikki Britt!

Of course, we did have some fun time walking the puppies, Piko and Thor every morning! We are glad that they both liked us!

On the weekend, we visited the art flee market down the street.

After the many days of lessons, we are both confident that everything that we have learnt would be very useful for our future creations.

We want to specially thank our mentor Joanne for her time and patience for coaching us as well as her husband, David, for hosting us.

As a token of appreciation, Wayne gave Joanne one of his handmade squirrel, Chestnut.

We hope you enjoyed reading our learning journey :)

P.S: Like and follow Joanne's pages on Facebook!

Wayne & Philip


  1. Looks like you had such a great time, Wayne! Really makes me miss my friend, Joanne! She is a wonderful teacher and such a lovely person. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you Wayne and Phillip for such a nice article.


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