• Kati Samson

It has come to our attention after posting a "throwback" Thursday photo last week that many of you don't know the story behind our business name and that our family in fact raised a pet bear named Sammy. The photo to the left is Ed Samson Sr with Sammy when he was approximately 18 years old... yes Sammy is drinking a beer and we will talk more about that later on!

Lets start from the beginning, Ed came across a way to rescue/ adopt a bear from Sharron's Animal Ranch in Wisconsin (currently known as the Valley Of the Kings) This is a sanctuary that is dedicated to rescuing abused or abandoned animals. Ed was able to obtain a propagating license in order to own Sammy.

The spring of 1970 at 8 weeks old Sammy was placed in an orange crate and put on an airplane. He was flown to Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT where Ed and his daughter Shirley (Samson Laflame) picked him up. Sammy is pictured, to the left, with the families toy poodle. Sammy lived in the house for the first year he was here where he had a play pen in the kitchen that acted as his den. He would come out to play with the dog and the rest of the family. People from around the community were allowed to come and visit him so he was socialized much like your family dog would be. Sammy had his canine teeth pulled, which eventually grew back. (Who new bears had baby and grown up teeth.) Sammy was also neutered by the local vet.

He quickly became a big part of the family and we became known "as the family with the bear". Sammy was family, we would do anything for him. He never once messed on the floor while he was living in the house. He new that the play pen was his space so he would always climb back in the pen and do his business and he also slept there. (side note, it was always in the same place, which made for easy clean) Below are a few photos of his time in the house. When he first came he was still young enough to be bottled fed. The photo is of Dorothy Samson feeding him. There is a picture of him being loved on by Shirley, also being held by Mema, rocked much like you would an infant that needed a little extra time. We tried to make Sammy feel as much of his natural elements as he would if he were living outside. There were times he would make a mess eating his bottle and require a bath, and other times he just wanted to play in the water, so you will see a photo of him in the kitchen sink!

Ernie and Sammy were best buddies. Ernie was 8 years old when Sammy became part of the family. When Sammy was a year old he was moved outside into a pen that was made of chain link fencing and a cinderblock cave filled with hay was built. Sammy was so close to Ernie that the first night he spent outside he was given Ernie's childhood lovie to sleep with for comfort. Needless to say Ernie never got his lovie back! Ernie and Sammy spent hours playing and wrestling together. The photo to the right is of Ed Samson Jr (Eddie) outside Sammy's pen not long after he transitioned into it. Sammy loved to play, we tried to give him balls to play with but he would pop them the first time he put them in his mouth. So he was upgraded to a bowling ball. He would palm it much like we would a basketball and throw it around his cage. He was strong enough he could flip over a full cast iron bath tub that was in his cage for bathing and playing in. He had a tree for climbing and a tire swing from one of the branches he would swing on.

Ed and Dorothy used to go fishing and catch shiners to bring home for Sammy. They would put them in his bathtub, which Sammy would proceed to put his whole head under underwater and suck them into his mouth as they swam past. Sammy loved watermelon, he would bite the end off of one and proceed to lick and bite the entire inside out without disturbing the rest of the watermelon skin. What else did Sammy like to eat or was he fed you might ask? Well he was fed horse grain on a regular basis. As things went into season much as if he were searching for food in the wild he was fed, acorns and apples. He loved honey.. but then again what bear doesn't? Once in awhile he would share an orange crush soda or a beer with Ed after he got out of work! During the winter Sammy would sleep in his den, a lot of the time he would have his head poking out. On a warm day he might wonder out to check his food dish to see if there was anything in it. When he found it empty he would turn around and walk back to his cave in the exact same foot prints he came out in. Smart guy, he wasn't going to get his feet any colder or wetter than he had to.

Sammy had many visitors, from people around town to children from school. When you own an autobody shop in the next town over and have 5 children it doesn't take much to get visitors. Sammy was never feeling lonely. When people would come to visit they were allowed to feed him through a tube that went directly into his cage. As he got older the only people who went in with him were immediate family, but most often it was Ernie or his father Ed.

Sammy lived to be 26 years old. His legacy still loves on and we are still known as the family that owned the pet bear! This is why our business is named Big Bear Woodworking & Plasma Art.

We love to talk about Sammy, so please comment below if you have any questions or have a comment! Also if you new Sammy and want to share a story about him please do so... He was loved by many and missed by all who new him..

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  • Kati Samson

March 1, 2021 good Lord where have we been for the last year? Lots to talk about so I'll dive right in. As everyone in the world knows today marks the start of the 12th month we have been living with in Covid -19 restrictions. I'm not going to talk much about what that has meant for us as I know everyone has stories to tell about this time period and we would love to hear about them so feel free to drop us a line at the end of this blog! I want to focus more on how our business has been surviving and actually thriving during this very challenging time. So sit back relax and enjoy reading about ride we've been taking for the last year.

March 2020

We are both working full-time jobs that we have been at for many years still working BigBear nights and weekends. Business is going great, we had done the Hartford Garden Show in Hartford, Ct in February. We had the best show we have ever had and left there with large orders including several fire pit globes. We are on top of the world feeling like this year was finally going to be the one that allowed Ernie to get done his job and work BigBear full-time. We are talking to people about designs, we have finally found a company that can keep up with our demand for ends to make our globes in a timely manor without breaking the bank to do so. This company has also allowed us to keep up-cycling the ends instead of them going to the landfill which is a huge plus for us... but more on that in a different blog.

Friday March 13th everyone around the world starts buzzing and ultimately things shut down for everything except essential workers. Kati is not essential so she's home where as Ernie is still considered essential. See the irony in that.. the main worker or at least the one that can lift the heavier stuff is still working full time. Anyhow, Ernie's schedule changed to where he was working three days a week 12 hours a day. We embraced the changes as it was allowing us to do our business together four full days a week. Something we'd never had before. We were able to focus on single projects for long time periods and pieces were being finished in almost half the time they normally were. Working normal business hours, what a new concept for us.

By the middle of April we were finishing up Fite Pit Globes (like the photo to the left) and sending them off to their forever homes. We have so many designs going and communications with people happening it is keeping us from feeling the total effect of Covid. We don't want to boast but our business is thriving during this first month of everyone, except essential workers, being home. Financially BigBear is doing the best it has every done this time of year. We are starting to hear from shows we have booked for later in the Spring and early Summer. They are not going to happen. The idea of no summer shows is taking a mental tole on us. We market our business big time by meeting people in person. Might be time to rethink how that happens, but not fully. There are still late summer and fall shows to come and honestly that's our busy season anyways. For now we are going to continue to fill those orders that we got during our fantastic February show. If you ever want to visit us there you can find more information about it at Connecticut Flower and Garden Show (ctflowershow.com).

May and June are pretty busy for us. We work on finishing up a few order that we have received after our Spring show, but things are definitely starting to slow down. We are having a mental hard time because in 2019 we decided that for Ernie's birthday (which is in June) he would be working for BigBear full-time not knowing that Covid would be here. But here it is and Ernie has to stay where he is because this crazy virus has made plans for everyone change and become delayed.

Pushing forward to complete orders, we are blessed with orders to fill in our blank period. We built a few hand railings (pictures under our gallery) as well as lots of small wall hangings and a few fire pits.

Have we mentioned how blessed we feel to be more than half way through the year and still be in business. Not only just in business surviving but growing. There were plenty of times we wanted to become upset that things hadn't opened back up or that life wasn't "normal" again but when we stopped to think about all we had at the moment life wasn't that bad after all.

With clear sites set on Ernie leaving his place of employment after 25 years at the beginning of September we have a new goal to accomplish. That goal is, how are we going to build business and keep orders coming in now that all the shows for 2020 are shut down? Not only are they for 2020 but we have heard shows are starting to cancel for the 2021 season. Things are looking pretty dark on the front of us being able to meet new people and have in person sales. We have never had to be a business that sells 100% of our products online and we aren't really thinking a pandemic is the time to learn how.

Quitters we are not, so off we go learning how to connect with people in other ways. Using a vast majority of the social media platforms we start to make our presence more known to the world. While we navigate the online world of social medias Ernie's last day of works comes closer and orders start to pick up again in a large way. We all of the sudden have Globe orders, a pit order along with lots and lots of small wall hanging items that need to be designed and cut. We are reassured by the sudden influx of orders that we have in fact made the right decision, even in the middle of the pandemic.

September is finally here and Ernie is officially 100% self employed. The day we have dreamed about for so many years. We will be honest it was a little harder transition than anyone thought. We went from working 80 hours a week between two jobs to working just one job and not having to commit to nights and weekends. Ernie was now set with the task of how to fill his days not feeling rushed with every project, and being able to take his time to focus on his dream was a new concept to us all!

We have spent the last 6 month navigating Ernie being home, with a pandemic still in place. We have always been committed to making our clients come first and that commitment is still just as strong today as it was a year ago. We have designed orders for our clients, met with them as they have felt comfortable and delivered every finished product to their homes just like we would have if Covid had never been part of our lives. We focus on keeping ourselves healthy so we can keep our clients healthy should be meet with them in person.

We have learned through the last 12 months that we haven't been in business for the last 21 years by giving up easily. We have built a client basis that has allowed us to thrive through the hardest period of our entire lives. We are here to stay, for everyone whom we have ever met and said they needed to save up for their customized Fire pit Globe, keep saving because we aren't going anywhere. We have always told you that when you are ready we will be here to make it for you and we meant it!


Ernie & Kati

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  • Kati Samson

Lets talk about our Fire Pit Globes. In this blog I'm going to talk about the most popular questions we get regarding our globes. Ernie and I attend several craft fairs every years and we hear the same questions from our viewers and customers at every show. What better time to answer some of those questions than right now!

1. How do you make them round? #firepitglobe

We are a business that prides ourselves with being American own and run. We use 100% American Made products and upcycle old unwanted pieces. We keep as much out of our landfills as possible. We start our globe making process with finding old tanks headed to the land fill and cutting the ends off them. Some tanks have a round end on each end (like the picture to the right) and some only have one so we have to find a second round end to mate with it.

2. Weld the halves together.

Once we have found two halves that fit together we make the circle and weld them together. We do not weld them solid as we cut a good majority of the middle out. Once we have the circle its time to design.

3. Are they drawn and cut on a computer?


Everything done on our fire pit globes is hand done. Ernie and I work equally on the globes. We hand draw each of our globes, making them all one of a kind. Even if we try and draw the exact same animal it will be a bit different every time. The process of designing starts with talking to our customer about what they want on the globe. We then do a sketch on paper. Once we have a confirmed idea and design we hand draw the design on the globe. (Like the picture above) We make any and all design changes during this drawing process. This is when the customer gets their first glance as to what their fire pit globe is going to look like. No changes can be made once we start cutting so this is an important part of the process.

4. How long do they take to make?

From the time we start designing the globe to the time it is complete and ready for delivery it takes approximately 100 hours.

5. Who cuts them? or How does he cut them?

If I had a complaint it would be this question, and sometime in the future I'll write about being a female in the male dominate world of metal. Both Ernie and I cut our fire pit globes. We both do the entire process, there isn't one area I could say just Ernie does or just I do. We are 100% teammates in our business. I will be the first to say Ernie has a better artist vision than I do. He grew up with his father owning an auto body shop so he has always been around metal of some sort his whole life, meaning he also has a better understanding of metal than I do. That being said we both fully know and understand our business and what it takes to make and delivery every product that leaves our shop.

6. Do you delivery?

Yes we delivery free of charge up to 100 miles from our shop in Massachusetts. If you are over 100 miles we would have a small delivery fee or ship them. There is no reason for someone not to have one of our globes. We can and will get it to you!

I hope this helps explain the process of our Fire Pit Globes. Please post any questions you make have in the comment section. Make sure to sign up for notifications of new publishing's. Also follow us on Facebook and Instagram, we are there almost daily posting current happenings.

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