Who’s got Spirit?

Posted August 22nd, 2012

Victoria ChapmanSpirit Bear, that’s who! Inspired by the earth and all of its natural elements, Spirit Bear serves as a reminder that all things are interconnected.  Perhaps the most prominent feature of artist Victoria Chapman’s bear are the six feathers that hang from the bear’s outstretched arms, which create the illusion of wings.  Be sure to catch Spirit Bear before he flies away to the 2012 Easthampton Bear Fest Auction and Dinner.  He’s stationed in front of the Massage School at 1 Northampton St.

Read more about the artist’s inspiration and process in the Q & A below:


Victoria Chapman

What town/city do you live in?


Where is your studio? What is your usual artistic focus/genre, when you aren’t working on a bear?

I work out of my house in the woods of Greenfield. 

When not working on a bear, I do a variety of artistic and creative work.  I’m an illustrator and artist with my favorite medium being watercolors.  I tend to work much smaller than the bear.  My art often focuses on spiritual and nature themes with a very colorful and flowing quality about it.

I’m also a hand crafter.  I sell my handmade work out at local craft events, the Greenfield Farmer’s Market, some local shops and on Etsy.  My product includes prints, cards and other products made with my art, hand drawn batik t-shirts, elven style head jewelry, sewn cloaks and capes, herbal hot/cold packs and more.

Otherwise, I make my living as a graphic and web designer, working with a variety of organizations, businesses and people throughout western MA and beyond.

To see more of what I do, my website is: www.weyakindesigns.com

What was the process you used on the bear?

The first step for Spirit Bear was to sculpt the six feathers to hang from the bear’s arms.  I made a frame of steel wire, masking tape and paper to form the general shape of each feather.  Then, sculpted over that frame with an epoxy putty, which is very hard when it dries.  Then, I attached the feathers to the arms, wrapping many layers of a smaller gauge steel wire around the arms and looping the feathers through, similar to wire jewelry making, but larger.  Following that, to create a smooth surface again and ensure the feathers are attached securely, I sculpted over the layers of wire with more epoxy putty and then auto-body filler.  Since it wasn’t exactly smooth when done, I then had to sand my little heart out until the arms were relatively smooth again.

Once the sculpture process was done, I put a layer of gesso over the entire bear to give it all an even painting surface.  Then, the artwork! I started by creating pencil and marker outlines all over the entire bear to mark out where everything should be.  Following that, I painted and painted and painted with several layers, making sure the colors were solid, vibrant and blended smoothly.  I did my own layer of clear coat on the bear after all the artwork was done, before sending it to have auto-body clear coat done by Full Tilt.

Some of you may have noticed that during the process, I also had a live streaming web cam available for people to watch me work.  That was a new experience for me, but it made it fun! I was able to reach out to people and let them take a peek into how I work.

What materials did you use and why did you choose them?      

For the sculpted parts, I chose the steel wire, because it’s sturdy and it makes a good base.  I chose the epoxy putty at the recommendation of another Bear Fest artist, who had used it in 2009.  When it dries it is very solid and once painted, is also UV resistant.  I also heard it holds up well to the elements in general.

For the paint, I chose acrylics.  I normally work with watercolors, which isn’t realistic for working on the bear.

What is the theme for your bear and what was the inspiration?

I named my bear “Spirit Bear” after the rare Kermode bear from the Pacific Northwest.  One in every ten Kermode bears come out white.  To the native people of that area, they are known as Spirit Bears.  They are very sacred and are protected by the people as they are seen as spiritual messengers.

My Spirit Bear incorporates many natural elements of land, water and sky, including creatures, plants and even the Earth’s inner core, as well as the great heavens above.  Worked into the flowing landscapes are common symbols of native tribes of the American Southwest.  I chose these symbols because they are more universally known and represent natural resources as well as spiritual messages.  The Zuni Bear in the center of the tree, for example, is the most prominent.  The Zuni Bear is associated with healing and protection, which is something the Earth needs greatly.  It is blue because the bear is also associated with the west and blue is the color of the west in Zuni medicine.

At the back base of the bear, I included a proverb, which reads “The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.” We cannot drink up our pond, the Earth, or else we too will have no home.

What have you loved about the project?

I’ve loved being able to spend a lot of time doing what I love most–making art! I also love that I can spread a message about something I’m passionate about through my art and have the public see it.  It’s very powerful knowing that what I have created will be available for thousands of people to see and that I can say something to those people, using art as my medium.  It’s extra nice knowing that my art is also going to a good cause and that I can help make a difference within our community through something that I made with my two hands.

In what ways do you hope your bear will move the folks who view it?

I hope that Spirit Bear will make people stop and say, “Wow, this land is full of beautiful things.” Perhaps in that moment of beauty, it will instill inspiration to do something to preserve what we have, even if in a small, individual way.  Plant a tree, donate to a land trust or even just give thanks for what we have so that we all can appreciate it more.

What else would you like to say about your project or the Bear Fest as a whole?

I’m so honored to be part of such a wonderful event.  Bear Fest is an example of the close-knit community we have in Western Mass that I’m so happy to be a part of.  We live in a unique area where art is appreciated and artists are given opportunities to do really amazing things for themselves and for the community.

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