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Air Force veteran from Waterford makes high-end teddy bears from mink coats

Posted at 9:43 AM, Nov 16, 2023

WATERFORD — When it comes to items that bring joy and comfort, there isn't much better than a teddy bear. For the past few years, a Waterford woman has been making high-end handmade teddy bears so others can feel their comfort.

Carol Teifer-Searl owned Teif's Teddy Bears. A small bear costs about $50 and a large one can cost $350.

There are a few reasons for the high costs. Her teddy bears are weighted, can take 10-20 hours to make, and some of them are made from real fur. She turns old mink coats into teddy bears.

Teddy Bears
A selection of the teddy bears Carol Teifer-Searl has made. These are all available on her website - teifsteddybears.com

"This is the next best thing - is having a teddy bear made out of (mink coats). So they have the memory of their loved one, and they put the coat to use," Teifer-Searl said.

These bears are known as 'memory bears'. Clients will give her a coat from a relative who passed or old clothes and she turns them into teddy bears. Teifer-Searl has even included sounds in a memory bear.

“A guy had a heart transplant and he wanted the sound of his heart beating to give to the donor," she said.

Memory bears mean even more to her when she makes it for a military family. Teifer-Searl is an Air Force veteran. She served as an electronic technician working on B-52s in the 70s and 80s.

Carol Teifer-Searl
Carol Teifer-Searl works in her Waterford basement making a teddy bear made from a mink coat.

“The smile people get on their face when they receive what they’ve gotten, that’s worth it a lot to me," she said.

Teifer-Searl has been sewing for about 60 years. She has always made quilts and teddy bears, but she decided to dedicate more time to her teddy bear business about two years ago.

Initially, the teddy bear business was good. However, sales have slowed down recently.

Teddy Bears
Carol Teifer-Searl makes teddy bears that sale for $50 to $350.

"They’re high-end. They’re not Walmart quality, so people have to think about whether or not they want to spend the money," she said.

But that hasn't deterred her from making more bears, though.

"I would love to have children all have a bear to hug or take to bed at night."

Since all of her bears are handmade, no two bears are identical. That means it can be hard to tell when a bear is officially finished. Teifer-Searl has devised a test, though. She gives the bear a big hug to determine how cuddly it is. If the cuddley-ness is just right, the bear is finished.

Whether she is making a bear for a grieving family or for a child to enjoy one day, teddy bears are Carol’s way of spreading joy and comfort.