Monday, January 6, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Lucy & Co. Grins And Bears Popularity


Lucy Rigg, an artist and businesswoman, made a quiet, nearly invisible step into the art world 21 years ago.

With no formal training, Rigg created and then sold her first original dough people at the University Street Fair in 1970. The figures, called Rigglets, along with Rigg, herself, became fixtures at both indoor and outdoor fairs throughout the area.

Today, Rigg's figurines and other novelty items, marketed under the logo Lucy & Co., are actively sought by Lucy-Bear Collectors Clubs sprinkled throughout the nation. Club members collect as many of the bears as they can and meet to discuss their latest finds. Since September, Rigg has made about 40 personal appearances across the country, including a stop at Disneyland, she says. And some club members have visited her home.

Most of Rigg's knickknacks are anthropomorphized bears dressed in cute little outfits.

Rigg makes most of her money from royalties, collected on her mass-produced products, which have an annual sales volume of about $10 million. She would not say what percentage of the total went to her.

In addition to collecting royalties, Rigg's Edmonds-based company, also called Lucy & Co., markets her creations. Lucy & Co., which has annual sales of about $1 million, employs about 10 people, including Rigg's assistant and 22-year-old daughter, Noelle. Rigg does most of her creative work out of her 29-room mansion in Lake Forest Park.

Rigg, now divorced, was both a wife and new mother, when she began selling her work, in 1970, with a friend as a partner. Street fairs offered an outlet for Rigg's creativity while still offering the flexibility to put family first, she says. After a fair, Rigg stashed her earnings in a shoe box and stuck the box away in the corner. When the pile of money grew large enough, Rigg and her friend naively donated some of their "profits" to charity.

They learned an important business lesson. After taxes and other expenses, the two friends discovered they had donated more to charity than they had earned.

Despite Rigg's lack of financial savvy, she realized she needed to cut the time she spent on each piece. The dough people, which she initially sold for $1.25 and gradually bumped to $2.50, were too detailed to be very profitable. So Rigg designed a less complex bear figure.

These bears eventually made Rigg famous.

Frederick & Nelson, Meier & Frank in Portland and other retailers began carrying them. In 1978, Rigg's bear designs began mass production as Rigglets. In 1980, the logo was changed to Lucy & Me and eventually to Lucy & Co.

Rigg's bears endured, and more products were created. Rigg designed a baby book, introduced in 1986, which has sold more than 1 million copies.

Rigg also created and still markets several novelty items, including sweat shirts, books and cards based on the bear design. Rigg's latest project is baby quilts, which will feature her bear designs and other patterns.

Rigg says she thinks the bears' popularity has endured, because they look so innocent and, because they are affordable.

"I think they're recession-proof, because (the novelty items) are not extravagant as long as you don't overindulge," Rigg says.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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