‘Uncanny’ is best translated as strange or mysterious, difficult or impossible to explain. As children, we have a natural affinity for teddybears and, even though they are in no way human-looking, we imbue them, in our childish imagination, with personalities. As we grow into adults we stop playing with our teddybears, but one or two of them stay with us, moving from house to house, from bedroom perhaps to study, as our lives go on. Julia Cameron tells us to keep a totem in our workspaces – a stuffed animal or a wind-up toy – to fuel our childish creativity.
When my first niece was born, I made her a teddybear. I had never made a teddybear before and the process was genuinely unsettling. I cut the pieces out of fur and stitched them together, then I used screws and cardboard discs to attach the limbs to the body. And, all the time, I was thinking, ‘This looks nothing like a teddybear, this is never going to work!’ It is so strange how something that isn’t real, still has such a specific look and shape that anything that differs, ever so slightly, seems completely wrong. Even when I stuffed the head, body and limbs I was thinking, ‘This still doesn’t look right,’ and it wasn’t until eyes, ears and nose were in place that the teddybear looked as it should.
I’ve made three teddybears so far – as soon as people hear you’re making them, the orders come in. And, with each new teddy, I’ve gotten faster at the making but, still, there’s that uncanny moment when I wonder, ‘Is this right?’