I never had a teddy bear when I was a child, so one day during a whim in my mid thirties, I decided it was time I did something about it. I’ve always liked the look of hand made toys and realized if I was to have one, then it should be created by me. Hence, berry berry bear was born. He is lopsided, has misaligned eyes, a funny nose and a crooked smile. It’s hard to explain how much I enjoyed the process of bringing him to life. He wasn’t perfect and that to me was an intrinsic part of his charm.
In January 2016, I was walking the streets of Venice Beach (L.A), Abbot Kinney to be precise. It was one of those days where I decided to quickly zip out to get a caffeine hit and fill my lungs with fresh air before returning home to continue writing. I had disheveled hair, no makeup, oversized cardigan, sweat pants, I’m sure you get the idea. Lo and behold as I am wandering toward my favorite cafe this person engages me with her smile and politely asks if she can take a photo of me. I naturally asked what it was going to be used for, which provided the perfect segway into the artist Nina R Salerno telling me about her story.
Nina walks the streets of L.A approaching people to ask to listen to their stories. She has a blog on her website that she updates daily with a new personal share from people she has met. Her objective is to demonstrate that an adjustment in how we choose to see our differences can be the variant between us allowing ourselves to feel like an unreachable outcast or embrace it allowing the very essence of our individuality to be something we cherish, thereby becoming a strength.
It was after this, she pulled out a toy she had made called Wilson named after the musician Brian Wilson. This magnificent one-eared Teddy Bear instantly evoked a need in me to cuddle him. Nina passed him across to me as she prepped the camera and explained everyone she blogs about holds Wilson and tells their story. Honestly, at the time I had no idea of what I would say, all I knew was that I didn’t want to let go of my new bestie Wilson, so I spoke about what was on my mind while she took some images. The whole time the camera clicked I had to resist burying my face in him. He is definitely a special little guy. I’ve intentionally not placed an image of Wilson in this article because I feel your curiosity is best sated by taking a look at Nina’s blog. When you see the smiles on people’s faces while holding this teddy bear, you will begin to get what I am talking about. There is something undeniably charming about Wilson.
I found Nina’s drive admirable and her desire to connect with people is truly amazing. In a world of fast pace where everyone seems to have ‘no time’ she is devoting time to seek people out, to listen.
The experiences exchanged hold an impact, which Nina reflects into her unique pieces of art. I really like that it all begins with a toy being rescued from a thrift store, pulled apart, before being recycled into new forms.
Each of the toys is her expression of celebration around imperfection being a source of beauty, strength, empowerment and joy. Nina is fearlessly putting it out there that it is okay to be who we are. The stories being shared with her demonstrate that people are willing to participate if they are nurtured, accepted and celebrated. Her blog is a testimony to the vast array of challenges people have faced and overcome. It’s inspiring.
PERFECT REJECT® is a line of plush toys. Quirky. Authentic. Wonderful. Just like you. Tattered and torn, vulnerable and soft, Perfect Rejects celebrate the strength in our weaknesses. They cultivate joy and understanding, reflecting difference and empathy for our inner, most tender, human selves.
“Happiness needs to shine from within.” ― Truth Devour
I feel Nina translates a lot of the emotions she receives from her journey with talking to people into her individual pieces. I think intrinsically her secret to making these recycled character filled creations come to life is her love for making them. They represent the presence of happiness in the absence of consumer driven concepts of normal. The quirkiness of each one holds within itself an untold story that I suspect forms with the owner who is drawn to purchasing it.
‘Create art with heart.’
After our initial chance meet, Nina and I made arrangements to catch up for a coffee. This lead to us having a meal and then walking along the shore line while we talked. I find myself blessed to be witness to people like Nina, who are placing themselves out there in the world. She confessed to being naturally shy, yet her need to do this process of connecting with people to know more about who we are compels her to rise above her instinct to refrain. The passion she holds for what she is doing is reason alone to reach out to her. We need more Nina’s extending themselves to follow their calling for it not only gives us a reminder that we are great just the way we are, I feel her energy rekindles a sense of hope. That there are kind people out there contributing in any way they can to make a difference. Who by their actions are demonstrating they genuinely care and want to be a participant in your life, even if it is only for a brief time. What is life other than a series of moments?
Nina Salerno, you are a dear soul. Thank you for relentlessly doing what you do. Never stop recognizing and celebrating our differences and accepting us for who we are. You and Wilson made a delightfully perfectly imperfect impact on me.
Blessings – Truth Devour
All images are used with permission from the artist Nina Salerno http://www.perfectreject.com