Breaking the Rules with Jingle the Bear

I can’t believe this thing still exists. It’s a tracing of my childhood teddy bear, Jingle—so named for a defunct bell in his right ear.

It’s the earliest independently made piece of artwork that I have any record of, and I actually remember creating it. I was 5, and I was doing something I’d do again and again in my life as a maker: breaking rules.

I was supposed to be taking a nap, but instead I snuck out of my room and into Dad’s studio behind our house in North Tarrytown, New York. I had a vision for Jingle, and this was where all the cool art supplies were. (My dad was a painter.)

I laid Jingle on a piece of brown paper and drew his outline, then wrote, as well as I could at that age, “Savage” on one leg and “Jingle” on the other. I gave him some paw pads (something my actual bear didn’t have, for although I kept optimistically adding them with a marker, they always faded away). Then I gave him a nifty blue vest, a belt with a gold buckle, and a Superman symbol on his chest.

But my new Jingle wasn’t fully realized yet, so I broke another rule, the only one in my dad’s studio: Don’t touch the single-edged razor blades. I picked one up and carefully cut out Jingle along his perimeter. Mission accomplished.

I don’t recall being punished. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t. I do remember that my dad was happy enough with my creation that he framed it, which is why I still have it.

About a year later, Jingle’s place in my heart was usurped by the awesome Gus, a larger teddy bear for which my dad built a fiberglass race car out of hardware cloth and polyester resin. Gus could actually sit in it. For a while I could even squeeze myself into it too. It was the best present ever, and it taught me a vital lesson that has stuck with me ever since: The coolest toys don’t have to be bought; they can be built. In fact, sometimes the only way they’ll ever exist is if you make them yourself.

(This post originally ran on in July 2012)

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