A Bear of a Project

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Renee Fraticelli and LeRoy Jepson with Honey the Bear, made almost entirely of recycled cardboard.

Honey the Bear is no ordinary bruin. He took more than 350 hours to construct and is made up almost entirely of recycled cardboard.

Honey is the work of LeRoy Jepson and Renee Fraticelli, two non-traditional art students at Flathead Valley Community College. Honey currently sits on the stairwell at the school’s Arts and Technology Building.

Initially the pair were going to just make a bear head, but then they found a picture of a bear they both really liked, and in order to make it really look the way they wanted, they scaled it up 13 times the original size.

And then went to work building a frame from cardboard, then a skin of cardboard and then individual hairs, all of cardboard.

All told, Jepson figured it was about 75,000 cuts. The only parts that aren’t cardboard are the nose, the eyes, the exterior of the claws and the soles of the bear’s feet.

The life-sized Honey is so big, that they had to build it outside in the hall of professor Charity Flowers’ 3D Foundations class. Jepson, 65, is no stranger to constructing things. He worked in the solar panel industry in Oregon, lost his job when the business went bust and decided to come back to Montana where he has family in Polson. A native of Hamilton, he got some retraining funding when he lost the job with the solar company, so he decided to study graphic design as a second career. He’s always enjoyed art.

“I’m going back to what I wanted to do out of high school,” he said.

Fraticelli, 40, of Kalispell also is pursuing a second life interest — she went to college after high school, but then she had a family. Now she’s back at again, a couple decades later. She recently got a business management degree from FVCC and now is working toward a graphic design degree as well. She hopes to mold the two disciplines into an event and wedding planning business as well as logo design work.

Honey has proven very popular with the public and peers. When they were building it, people would stop them in the hall and ask questions. It was fun to get the attention, but also made it difficult to focus on work at times.

The work was incredibly time consuming. They even worked on weekends in order to have the project done for the school’s annual art show.

Now that the bear is finished, they’d like to find a permanent home for it at the college.

“We’d like the school to have it on display and encourage other artists,” Jepson said.

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