Monday, May 31, 2010

On Seeing Clearly

My eyes and I get along just fine most of the time. I can proofread all day on the computer, fix dinner, go for a walk, read a story in a magazine, and so on without much trouble. But come time to do something that's truly close up, something I really like to do, like drawing or making teddy bears, and my eyes and I don't get along so well.

I first noticed that I had a big problem in 2001 when I was making Ha Lee (the Christmas panda pictured in the sidebar). My eyes had a lot of trouble staying focused on the close-up work I was doing on her. I had to look up a lot and got quite frustrated because I was working against a deadline for sending a picture of her to Teddy Bear and Friends magazine for their Christmas bears feature. (Happily, I was able to finish Ha Lee, and she was chosen to travel to the TB&F offices for a photo session. That was the first time one of my bears appeared in a full-color teddy bear magazine--what a thrill!)

A few times since then, I have put my bear making on hold because of my eyes and other life events, such as adopting our girls from Ukraine. But a few months ago, I was bitten by the bear bug--hard, suddenly, and out of the blue--and found I had to make my bears again. I missed being creative! I missed all the fur and fluff! I missed the sweet little faces looking up at me! And I missed the friends I had made, both artists and collectors, in real life and on the internet.

Now that I am a few years older, my eye problems haven't disappeared, but a few weeks ago, I got new glasses. (There I am, at left, in my new glasses. Like them? And with me is my little bear friend, the first bear I've completed in nearly four years. I'm out of hibernation now!) To my delight, my new glasses have helped a lot in my close-up work. And another great tool I've discovered is the sun: when I can sit in a sunny window or outside and sew a seam closed or shade a bear's face or perform some other close-up work, I find I can see it ever so much better in the sunlight than under all the indoor light I can shine on the subject.

This weekend, I have been creative, worked on my bears, played in the fur and fluff, enjoyed the little faces looking up at me, and made some new friends. These new friends are teddy bear artists who live right here in Colorado. Thank you to Michelle Lamb of One and Only Bears and Stephanie Sarsfield of Sassy Bears and Fabrics for putting on an event called a BearBee (reminds me of a quilting bee).

It was such a treat to meet teddy bear artists Michelle Lamb, Tami Lahey, Beth HutchisonKelly Dauterman, and Stephanie Sarsfield. (There was another lady there for a short time whose name I didn't catch--shame on me!*) I didn't get a picture until the very end, so not everyone is pictured, but here we are: Beth, Debora, Michelle, Stephanie.

We had a great time talking, eating, shopping, working on our bears, and sharing our creations with each other. Because there are no bear shows in this area, and the last one I exhibited at was in 2002, I haven't seen another artist's work in person in about eight years. I was delighted to hold these special bears, some so tiny, some so large, some very teddy, some very realistic complete with claws, and some award nominees/winners.

Thank you, Stephanie and Michelle, for the BearBee.

Thank you, dear eye doctor, for helping me see more clearly.

And a huge thank you to those who have sacrificed so our country remains free. God bless America this Memorial Day and every day.

*Update: Her name is Kim Klintz! Thank you, Kim, for leaving a comment so I know your name. It was lovely meeting you--I want to see your bears next time!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teddy Bear Tidbit Tuesday

Welcome to Teddy Bear Tidbit Tuesday, wherein I share with you a tidbit from teddy bear lore. On New Avenue Crew's previous blog, I shared a teddy bear tidbit about the origins of our beloved teddy bears. Today, because many of you may be new to the bear world, I would like to share with you just what a handcrafted or "artist" teddy bear is.

I am not sure if there is a true definition of artist bear floating around out there somewhere, but this is how I define it: a teddy bear that is designed and handmade by one person, from preliminary sketch to pattern to final primping. There are bears out there that are manufactured by a company, and certainly someone is the designer, and most assuredly, someone works on that bear by hand at some stage, but the process is not the same, the uniqueness and intimacy of having one creator are not present.

Bravely appearing on the Crew's blog at right is J. Cub, one of my early bears (made in 1997), named by my sister. He still lives with me because I couldn't bear to part with him. After I made him, I started changing his pattern with each bear I made, and I subsequently abandoned that pattern for new designs. But he has a special place in my heart. A second J. Cub (who bore only a family resemblance to the first one) was adopted and went to live in Japan. That was a thrill for me!

There are so many teddy bear artists at work today all over the world. Some of their blogs are listed at the bottom of the sidebar at right--go on and have a visit. I have been so amazed by the artistry that has been on display lately. A great place to visit in addition to bear artists' blogs is Teddy Talk and its Teddy Bears and Other Friends section. Please let me know if you visit the blogs and Teddy Talk and what you find. I love to hear from you, dear reader!

I have many other tidbits about artist bears I would like to share with you, such as what they are made from, what the bear making process entails, and so on, but those tidbits will be the subjects of further installments of Teddy Bear Tidbit Tuesday. If you have any questions about artist bears, ask away; there's no need to be shy. We're friendly here in the Crew's den, especially J. Cub; he fancies himself something of an expert. It might be due to his "advanced" age and status in the studio.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Inspiring Finds

Lately, I have been inspired in my bear making and other artsy pursuits by so many things I've found here and there. One of my inspirations is the work of other artists, whether they make teddy bears or dolls or other fiber arts, or even paintings. I am also inspired by things that are antique, vintage, or just plain old. My mom always had old things on display in her house; she inherited a lot of it from her Aunt Lily. I remember hearing, "That was Aunt Lily's" or "Remember when we went to Aunt Lily's house to go through her things after she passed away?" And though I was very young, I do vaguely remember us (Mom, Grandma, and I) going through Aunt Lily's things at her big old house...though I probably played more than I helped!

The premier issue of the magazine Prims is one place where I've found a treasure trove of inspiration. The layout of the pages, the little details in the photographs, the artists' inspiration and imagination, their techniques and supplies--it all comes to life in this volume, which is more like a keepsake than a magazine. It is printed on high-quality paper that feels thick in my hands, and it is priced higher to indicate the quality and encourage the reader to keep it.

Though I am not "into" dolls, the dolls in this magazine are inspiring in their details. A few of the artists use antique fabrics to adorn their work, though they say they have a very hard time cutting such materials. I understand that: it was hard for me to cut into my first piece of mohair because it was such expensive fabric. And now that I've jumped back into bear making, I have noticed that the prices for my favorite mohairs are about $100 more per yard!

Two artists featured in Prims really appeal to me, and I am finding that I'm having more ideas for unconventional (for me) and "aged" pieces: Karen Brady Hammontree of Brady Bears and Susan Pilotto of Crowsnest Pass Primitive Folk Art. (Both are listed in my sidebar of bear artists and other creative sorts.) Be sure to visit their blogs to see their creations.

With the little "aged" bear I'm making, I know I need to be brave as I age him. Honestly, it is not easy to rough up a sweet little thing who looks up at you so innocently. I tell myself that the bears don't feel anything while I'm making them, though! I'm the sort who had trouble as a child putting anything with a face up into the attic for storage. Are any of you like me? And one day, I understood my angst a bit better, when Mom and I were going through a trunk in my Great-Aunt Milly's attic: I discovered an antique electric eye teddy bear! Of course, I though about his feelings being in the trunk so many years...and now, I wonder how he'll feel when Mom plucks him from my childhood bedroom and sends him to me in the mail. There must be a story in there somewhere waiting to be written.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to my very beautiful mom! You shaped me during my formative years on New Avenue and loved me always, whether I was lovable or not. You shared your love of sewing, antique dolls and other antiques, crafts, music, and laughter. Thank you for everything--I love you!

And Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there! Today is my very first Mother's Day as a mother. Though being a mom is not quite what I thought it would be, I thank the Lord for His blessings and His patience with me.

Blessings and bear hugs to you today!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's Moving Day! Welcome to Our New Blog Home!

The big day has finally arrived. The "old" blog has been packed up and moved here to the Crew's new home on Blogger, which I've been decorating to make it more homey. I'm sure I will be making adjustments every now and then; a home is never truly finished, is it? Hang a picture here, move the couch there...

You may have noticed that there are navigation elements under the top photo; they will take you to other pages of the blog, just like a regular website. I know I will add more of them! You may have also noticed that there are some fun gadgets in the sidebar, such as a place where you can follow the Crew's blog with a simple click of the Follow button, a Facebook badge that lets you "like" my new page on Facebook, Twitter for reading my tweets, the Guild of Master Bearcrafters, and more.

Gosh, this has been fun! Maybe someday I will be able to decorate my studio. Right now, my studio is all over the house, wherever I happen to be. Sometimes I'm sitting on the floor; sometimes I'm at one of the computer tables, cutting, trimming, trying to keep fur away from the electronics; and sometimes I might be at the dining room table. But I'm glad to have these spaces to work in.

And you, dear reader, have had a hand in making our new blog home more homey. I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you for peeking in on us here and for writing such lovely comments. You have been so encouraging to me, and, as my sweet grandma used to say, I thank you! I thank you! I thank you!

And now, without further ado, I am taking the rest of the day to work hard on my patient little bears. Proofreader by day, bear maker by weekend, illustrator in between, exhausted by night. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sprucing Up the Place

Would that painting and wallpapering one's home were so easy! Some of you may have noticed that I have been trying out different blog backgrounds recently as I've been decorating the Crew's new blog may have even popped in while I was in the middle of the process. I am happy to report that I found some lovely free blog themes out there! Should you be curious and wish to give your own blog a face-lift, I am happy to share the three sites whose backgrounds I enjoyed trying out on my blog:
(You don't have a blog yet? Simply visit and follow the prompts.)

And now to the job of packing up my old blog in anticipation of moving day. Can't wait to hang pictures!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

On Looking Old and Loved

Aging doesn't come naturally to me. I am hesitant. I am far from brave. A dash of color here, a trim there, some sandpaper...

Dear readers, please don't be alarmed. I am talking about aging the little bear who's pictured in the post below (on the left) and having a quiet conversation on my other blog. When I'm facing a little bear with scissors, some form of stain, and fine-grain sandpaper, it sometimes seems that I should apologize to the little soul before I begin, during the process, and even afterward. And, not being the brave sort, I hesitate to go too far, because, gulp, the fur doesn't grow back!

Last night before bed, my daughter entered the room where I was working on aging the little bear. She said, "Oh, he's cute!" and asked to hold him. When she saw him up close, she exclaimed, "He looks old!" I just smiled and told her that's what I was aiming for. I only hope I can get the "loved" part in there, too.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In the Beginning...

...I made a blog for New Avenue Crew on WordPress. Well, let me back up a bit.

In 1996, I designed my first teddy bear pattern and made a bear from synthetic plush from the fabric store. I then moved to using mostly mohair because it was so much easier to work with and gave such a beautiful finished look. Many bears emerged from the studio on New Avenue and found adoptive parents. (In 1999, I got married and moved away from New Avenue, but the love and legacy of my happy childhood is passed along through each of my Crew members. To find out a little more about me and New Avenue Crew, click the About the Crew tab above.)

A few years into my bear making, I set up a website on Geocities, and then at, my very own domain and home on the web. I really enjoyed meeting collectors and bear artists and sharing my creations and Fun Fur Facts with others. A few years in, because money was tight, I naively took down the site, losing my URL in the process. (I still regret that decision, and I don’t have the nearly $3,000 it would take to buy back my domain.) And then, Geocities ceased operation in late 2009. I know that many people figured I had disappeared, never to appear again!

Enter blogging. I started a WordPress blog in November 2006 and didn't do much with it at first. But then, as the bear bug bit me again, I started writing and sharing photos and bits of my life. I really enjoy writing and creating and making friends, and blogging is a great forum for doing so. But I've found that WordPress is not so easy to use and is not very customizable...

All this is to say that I'm planning to move my blog from WordPress here to Blogger soon. There are things to be worked out here, like a blog theme/design and such, but I'm excited about the possibilities. I hope you'll join me here and consider following my musings from the New Avenue Crew studio (there's a place to become a follower in the sidebar at right). And when there's a bear or other creation available for adoption, you'll find out about it here on the blog--or join my mailing list to be one of the very first to know!

In fact, here's a sneak peek at two little bears in the works. Visit my other blog to hear their quiet conversation.