The 21-year-old artist turns the old clothes of her clients' loved ones into adorable teddy bears they can cherish forever.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 22, 2019. It has since been updated.
Memories are such a powerful thing, aren't they? No matter how many years pass, a cherished memory has the ability to bring a smile to your face and remind you of the good times you've had. They are particularly powerful for those who've lost a loved one, as memories are all they have now of their time together. While nothing can bring back the one they lost, having a physical reminder of that person does make things easier, and this is what Mary MacInnes hopes her Memory Bears can do for her customers.
According to a report by Metro, this 21-year-old turns the old clothes of her clients' loved ones into adorable teddy bears they can hold on to forever. While her creations are primarily made from the favorite clothes of people who have died, they can also include jewelry or ashes. The Memory Bears can also be customized with a special pocket in the back where you can store letters and other mementos. While these bears aren't considered toys, they can be gifted to children to help them cope with the loss of a parent or someone equally special.
MacInnes began her sewing career in the bridal industry and studied fashion tech at Heriot-Watt University. At just the age of 16, she won an award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year. As impressive as it was, MacInnes was just getting started. However, making memory bears for a living wasn't a planned career choice. "I made my first memory bear five years ago as a favor 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," she said.
"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," MacInnes added. It takes her about 5 to 6 hours to make each bear, from coming up with the design to planning, cutting, sewing, and completing. The Memory Bears start at about $64 in price but vary depending on the customer's specifications. Apart from being physically tiring, making the bears is often also emotionally exhausting for MacInnes. "It can be emotionally draining some days," she said.
"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," she revealed. However, MacInnes says she's grateful for the opportunities as "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," she added.