Patty Thomas grew up in rural Lee County, KY and says she can’t remember not knowing how to sew. She recalls, “I remember growing up sitting under the quilt frames when my grandmother quilted, with pieces of material and pins.” Thomas has taught her own children to quilt and has passed on the sewing traditions of her family. She comments, “I grew up in eastern Kentucky where everybody quilted and we took it for granted; you just grew up knowing how to do it. It wasn’t a skill or anything special— it’s just something we did.”
The first bears Thomas were made came about as the result of helping a friend who needed to fill an order of teddy bears for Bloomingdales in New York City. Her first bears were made from fake fur which warped and was unsatisfactory. She eventually turned to mohair, which in spite of being expensive, evoked the look of an antique bear. Thomas tries to make her bears look like the old bears that were made in the 1800’s. She sews her bears on a sewing machine adding hand blown glass eyes and stuffing each one by hand. She has managed her production around her full-time job with the state and raising her children. She is a member of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen and the Kentucky Art Council’s Kentucky Craft Marketing Program.
Works by this artisan can be found at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, Berea, KY.