• Val Bertoia
    Bertoia Studio
    644 Main Street
    Bally, PA 19503


  • TriCounty Chamber of Commerce
    Dale Mahle
    High Street
    Pottstown, PA 19464
    FAX 610-970-9705

TriCounty Chamber of Commerce—Hal Bear-toia
Jane Stahl

Hal-Bear-toia, originally sponsored by TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce, is now owned by National Penn Bank.

First things first: Bear Fever offers a giant bear hug for Dale Mahle, president of the TriCounty Chamber of Commerce.

Dale’s support for the Bear Fever project was immediate and profound. Not only did she secure funds to sponsor two bears, but the 2004 Boyertown Progress Dinner became the “kick off” event for Bear Fever.

Two “raw” bear forms were the featured decorations at the event; Boyertown’s school colors—red and black—appeared everywhere: napkins, ice cream toppings, outfits. Excitement and enthusiasm for Bear Fever spread rapidly from Dale’s leadership and efforts.

And so, when Dale heard that Val Bertoia of Bertoia’s Studio, Bally, had agreed to do a bear for the project and requested that Bertoia Studio be assigned the Chamber bear, the Bear Fever Committee couldn’t say “no.”

Dale knows success when she sees it and doesn’t “mess around” waiting to be asked. Decisive, results-oriented, and savvy are words to describe Dale and are reflected in today’s market value of the bear she requested belong to her beloved TriCounty Chamber.

The Chamber website provides information and the Chamber’s mission: “The TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce is a member based business advocacy organization whose mission is : To proactively impact the business climate and quality of life in the Tri-County region by providing leadership through economic, educational, civic, cultural and legislative initiatives.”

About “Hal Beartoia” and the artists:

A chance encounter with Val Bertoia was one of Bear Fever’s luckiest moments. Aisha McNeill, one of my students in my Leadership 101 class, and I were visiting assorted businesses in Bally to try to inspire a Bally Shared Bear.

As we walked the street, I noticed the Bertoia Studio sign. I knew of Bertoia’s work, but I really didn’t know the studio existed in Bally. So Aisha and I walked in, hollered a bit for attention; and when we were not able to rouse any human form, I called the studio’s phone number on my cell phone, heard the phone ring downstairs and someone answer.

When it became known we were upstairs, we were soon joined by Melissa Strawser and Val Bertoia. Aisha and I explained the Bear Fever project, and Val was excited to be asked to join the project—not as a sponsor but an artist. We were ecstatic! And it wasn’t long before Melissa also expressed interest in doing a bear, volunteered her mother Barbara’s Strawser’s efforts, as well as Val’s sister Lesta. Bear Fever could now claim four Bertoia-related artists for Bear Fever! What luck!

Melissa created the Zuber Realty Bear, “Zoobear”; Lesta Bertoia is the artist for the Custom Construction Bear “White Bear.”

An additional bear was added when one of Barbara’s clients expressed interest in buying Barbara’s bear. Because Barbara’s bear belonged to Herb Real Estate, Val bought another bear—the Bertoia Bear--so that Barbara could create a second bear to sell to her client. (See Herb Real Estate Bear for further information and photos of Barbara’s work for Herb Real Estate. The Bertoia Bear is a work-in-progress at this writing.)

“Hal Beartoia,” features a checkerboard pattern of welded brass and copper sculpted in the walking Bear Fever form. Val, along with Dave Plum, sought to combine their assorted talents and to honor and commemorate Harry, Val’s father, the creator of the Bertoia Chair. Harry is known as a noted sculptor, architectural designer, graphics artist, jewelry maker, and innovative, highly-respected 20 th century artist. And so, inside “Hal” is a chair in the Bertoia design, that Harry developed for Knoll Associates in 1952.

Harry himself wrote about his famous chair design in a U.S. Steel Advertisement: “In furniture, as in sculpture, I am concerned primarily with space, form and the characteristics of metal. In the chairs which I had designed for Hans and Florence Knoll many functional problems had to be satisfied first. I wanted the chairs to fit as comfortably as a good coat. For flexibility in the basket construction, I used steel for strength and unified the design with nickel-chrome plating for beauty, giving the chair durability and lightness in appearance.”

Harry notes his sympathy with the Japanese idea of interior design: “the best furniture is no furniture at all. But if you will look at these chairs, you will find that they are mostly made of air, just like the sculpture. Spaces pass right through them….Besides, we don’t have the Japanese tradition in the West. We need more comfort. The human form can’t be redesigned, and chairs that really fit the human form are going to look a little sculptural.”

Willenbecher Thesis comments on the design in l958: “Actually the two problems are best solved simultaneously: The ultimate design of the mesh basket in the diamond chair is one that would seem to follow naturally from his particular way of thinking. He took a simple geometric figure (a small parallelogram created by the intermeshed wires) and repeated and reproduced it until the cumulative shape of the whole was identical with that of the original unit. This method is close to the chemical process of a crystal or a cell formation. The connection, then, between the sculpture and the chair is less in the direct application of similar visual forms as it is in the bearing of one man’s vision to two separate problems.”

Bear Fever is proud and honored that this family of artists, their associates and family members have so generously…and happily…volunteered their efforts toward the TriCounty community. What gifts for us all to enjoy! And what generosity in spirit they exemplify!

Information for this essay quoted from The World of Bertoia by Nancy N. Schiffer and Val O. Bertoia, Schiffer Publishing Ltd. Atglen, PA, 2003.