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For the past few weeks, I have had my bears in progress sitting on my bed. Two of them always seem to end up in what looks like a conspiratorial pose, or one in which they are having a long chat or are looking lovingly into each others’ eyes…I always smile when I see them. I thought I would share a snapshot of them with you, even though they are not finished–a sneak peek at my sweet little chums in progress–and tell you what I think they might be discussing.

Quiet Conversations

“Goodness, when do you think she will finally finish us?”

“I don’t know, but it’s been years in my case.”

“Mine, too!”

“Did you know that she is a proofreader during the day, and she’s a wife and mother, and she works on us in between everything else?”

“Oh! What’s a proofreader?”

“She makes sure that the written word sounds good, looks good…that kind of thing.”

“But why has it taken her so many years to make us?”

“She and her husband adopted their two teenage daughters last year. That took a long time.”

“I’m sure it did!”

“But you know, I’m really very glad she has come out of her bear-making hibernation so we can be loved and adopted one day, too!”

“Me, too!”

“By the way, though it has taken a few years for her to make you, she is going to ‘age’ you some more. Your fur is what they call ‘vintage’ upholstery mohair, and she has already given you some worn spots on your ear, forehead, and muzzle. Her mom collected antique dolls for many years, and so she became a fan of antique teddy bears. She has made one other ‘aged’ bear; he looked well loved. And that’s what she wants for you.”

“Oh! It must be a good thing to be loved.”

“I think it must be.”

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Herr Grünhosen

Herr Grünhosen

The fur has been flying here in the New Avenue Crew studio! The four very patient bears I have in the works are finally seeing quite a bit of progress. (I would even venture to say that they’re excited that they all might be finished soon.)

The last two days I’ve been sewing feet, jointing limbs to bodies, trimming and shading a face, stuffing a foot–and removing a head from a body, cutting the body apart, redesigning said body’s pattern…like I said, the fur’s been flying around here.

Why did I part a head from its body? Well, many years ago, in a fit of creative energy, I modified one of my head patterns and drew up a body to go with it. I cut the pieces out of a lovely curly batik mohair and sewed them up, then worked on the bear’s head. I was on a roll! I wanted this to be a bigger bear, but, well, I got a little carried away with the size of the body. This poor bear, patient soul, has been waiting for me to rework his body these many years. So yesterday, said parting of head and body occurred. Today I hope to finish redesigning the body, do some arms and legs to go with it, cut them out and sew them up, and joint this sweet bear. Of course, the other three bears may call to me during this time, and I may get sidetracked and work on one of them…things like this have been known to happen here in the studio.

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Welcome to Fun Fur Fact Friday! Our first installment in the Fun Fur Fact files is about collecting and caring for these precious friends we call teddy bears.

When you are bitten by the bear bug, there is only one remedy: adopt a teddy bear! As you hunt for that perfect new companion, keep the following tips in mind.

Buying Bears

  • Buy what you like.

    Emmett by Debora Hoffmann

    Emmett

  • Avoid buying for investment, unless it’s a confirmed antique and you can have it appraised or a bear by a well-known artist.
  • Look at the quality of construction.
  • The stitches should be neat, tidy, and nearly invisible.
  • All the bear’s joints should turn with the same ease.
  • There should not be lots of fur trapped in the seams.
  • The eyes should be firmly attached and evenly set.
  • The ears should also be evenly attached.
  • The nose stitches should be pulled with the same tension so there are no bumps or loops.
  • Any added color should not rub off on your hands.
  • Be sure the bear doesn’t reek of smoke or moth balls.

Where to Find Them

  • Shows
  • Teddy bear shows are a great way to find that special teddy and connect with like-minded “bear” people.
  • Some collectors like to know the artist behind the bear; some won’t buy the bear if they don’t like the artist!
  • Stores
  • Artist bears
  • Some stores hold artist signing events
  • Artist-designed manufactured bears
  • Manufactured bears
  • Internet
  • Teddy bear artists’ Web sites and blogs
  • Teddy bear forums
  • eBay
  • Etsy 
  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Antique stores
  • You may be able to find old and new bears at antique stores. Beware of new bears that are made to look old and are being sold at a premium price.
  • Garage sales and estate sales 

Care and Feeding

  • Keep teddy bears out of direct sunlight; their fur may fade, particularly if it has red tones.
  • Periodically check your bears for carpet beetle larvae–they will eat your bears…and they especially like red felt! Keep bears off the floor if possible.
  • Fluff and move your bears around every now and then.
  • Periodic dusting is important; perhaps use a vacuum nozzle covered with a pantyhose leg.
  • Surface clean only–never throw a teddy bear into a washing machine or dryer. Use only suds on the fur (not the backing), and dab with clean water to remove. Towel off with a clean cloth.
  • Old bears and manufactured bears (such as Steiff) are more desirable if their tags are intact. Try to keep all original ribbons, clothes, tags, and so on that come with any bear you purchase, old or new.
  • Hugs are great for a bear’s well-being, not to mention a person’s!
  • Be sure to keep a close eye on your teddy bears when they’re around honey or scones with jam.

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Bears in progress

Two little bears in progress

About two weeks ago, I was bitten by the bear bug. Again. (And I am so glad about it. Creating my Crew members brings me a lot of happiness.) I have made the trek to the basement numerous times since being bitten again to feel the mohair, see what (or should I say who?) I might have in progress, haul supplies upstairs, and otherwise immerse myself in the bears again. Last week while assessing the situation, I found that I have three bears with faces (who like to look at me with their big eyes and plead with me to finish them), one stuffed head, and at least two more bears-in-a-bag, cut out and waiting for me to start them officially.

Remember this bear in progress? In the post called Have Stuffing Stick, Will Stuff, I chronicled the saga of actually inserting stuffing into the head of the bear shown here. Since that post (which was written almost two years ago, but I’m sure no one will notice that), I have finished stuffing the head! This is quite a feat, dear reader. And…drum roll, please…I embroidered the bear’s nose and mouth! As if that wasn’t enough for me, I also needle sculpted the face a bit, trimmed the muzzle (almost finished with that), and trimmed and readied the ears for attaching to the head. This sweet little eyeless face is looking up at me from a dainty old teacup on my desk as I type.

Please stay tuned as I attempt to grab enough time in the next week or so to finish this little bear who has been waiting so long. And then I need to turn my attention to the other three with the pleading eyes who have been waiting just as long, just as patiently.

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Bears on the Brain

Lately I have been finding that I have bears on the brain. I’ve heard it described as an addiction, as a fever, as being bitten by the bear bug, but I don’t think it’s that bad. Yet. My bear brain is a bit different from others’ in that I want to create teddy bears instead of collect them (though there are some gorgeous artist bears out there who would really love to come home and live with me someday, I just know it!).

I want to go down to the basement and open the big plastic bins of fur and lay them out on the carpet, run my hands through them, segment them into colors and fur lengths, take a photo of some of them in lovely combinations of color… Maybe it’s fur fever.

I’ve been looking at some of the teddy bear magazines I managed to hang onto during our weeding-out-and-throwing-away-anything-that-might-weigh-a-lot phase when we were moving from Seattle to Colorado. They inspire me with their pages of bears of the antique, traditional, character, anime, tiny, large, fluffy, and barely-covered-in-fur ilk. I have design ideas running around in my brain: a bigger bear with a nice plumpness to his body and a broad face with full cheeks, a little miss in pink with gingham check frills and kind eyes… Maybe it’s design derangement.

I’ve been wanting to dive in and write all about bears, home, cooking, creating–in short, I want to tell you, dear reader, all that goes on in the Crew studio… Maybe it’s writing weakness.

I am hampered still by the time factor: there seems to be no time in my days right now to make bears. I’m hoping it’ll happen when I can organize a space for my supplies. I’m hoping it’ll happen when my husband’s job calms down a bit. I’m hoping it’ll happen when I get more organized in my life outside my full-time job, including laundry, cooking, cleaning, the usual. My ideas need to come out in some way, and hopefully it’ll be soon… Maybe I’m suffering from creative consumption.

Fueling the fire has been my by-now-frequent trips to Teddy Talk. I dropped out of the TT world for a while because I wasn’t making bears and was needing to focus on other things; life has a way of intervening. And that’s not to say that life intervening was bad, not at all! But I’m hopeful that I can get back to art, to creativity. We’ll see.

So I thought I would share a bear with you. This is Phineas, one of my very early bears (circa 1998). He is named after P.T. Barnum, hence the circus theme. Some bits of trivia: my husband painted his stand (it’s a terra cotta flower pot!). I plucked each piece of blue mohair out of Phineas’s face so the yellow fabric backing would show. Oh, and he has a tail!

Phineas

And thank you for listening to my fevered ramblings!

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