Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wunderbar! A Feature Article about the Crew!

Last June, I was thrilled to have an article about me and New Avenue Crew appear in the German-language digital magazine Kuscheltier News (translation: Soft Animal News). Andrea, the editor, was so kind to approach me for an interview. The resulting article made me so happy when I saw it, and I hope many people enjoyed reading it.

You don't read German? Fear not! I have translated the article into English with the help of an online translator so you can read it, too! (As always, click on the photos to see them larger.)

Cover featuring Herr Grünhosen

Table of contents with Herr Grünhosen

Beginning of article featuring me with Sebring
and J. Cub in the background on the mantel

Sebring and Cinnamon (upper left)
and Herr Grünhosen (lower right)

[Translation of the article text]

Debora Hoffmann came into the world near the Pacific coast in Southern California, and she grew up in a house with many antiques. As a child, she played with her mother's toys from the 1940 and '50s, including a big teddy bear that had presumably belonged to one of her uncles. Because her mother sewed many clothes and made various other things by hand, Debora grew up with an interest in creating. To connect her memories of her wonderful childhood with her later work as a teddy bear artist, she chose to name her bears for the street where she had grown up: New Avenue.

Debora's bears come in various shapes and sizes, depending on which ideas the artist has in her head at the time. Although most of her bears are in the traditional style (with inspiration from the Steiff and Bing teddy bears of the early 20th century), Debora has also designed and created some whimsical bears, some pandas, a few cats, and even a pig. For fur, her favorite to use is mohair, and she uses Ultrasuede for paw pads because she likes that it is so soft. She also puts alpaca, wool felt, and glass or shoe button eyes on the top of her materials list. New Avenue Crew bears should invite hugs and cuddles whether they are big or small. The bears’ appearance should provide the impression to their potential new owners that they could become their best and closest friends if they are chosen for adoption. In the course of being made, most of Debora’s bears turn out to be boys, but girls are also present every now and then.

As a 13-year-old, Debora had her first experience making teddy bears when she sewed two teddies with movable arms and legs: one from golden-brown felt, and the second from reddish-brown velour. They both originated without a pattern from her own design, and Debora would be glad to still have her first works today, but she did not keep them. Then in the middle of the '90s, she sewed three or four bears from synthetic plush using patterns from a book. At that time, the material's backing was thick and stretched in all directions when stuffed. And also, Debora couldn't achieve the results she wished using these patterns. She was frustrated with her bear making at first, until summer 1996 when she took part in a course taught by Claudia Wagner.

This took place during a teddy bear convention in Southern California. Every participant got a presewn mohair bear that they needed to finish. Debora says, “I finished this small bear and loved him. And during the work, I discovered my preference for mohair. I went home and began to sketch my first pattern. And in August of the same year, New Avenue Crew was born.

Borealis (lower left), Logan and Ben (upper right),
and Mullins and Sprout (lower right)

Ideas for new bears come to Debora at odd times, for example, in the bathtub or as she tries to fall asleep. That's why she has a notepad and pencil always in reach, and over the course of the years, countless sketches and ideas have been gathered. Only finding the time for making these ideas is difficult. Working full time and being a mother leaves too little time for her bears. Today, she lives with her husband and their adoptive daughters in wonderful Colorado. Unfortunately, no teddy bear shows take place nearby, at most, smaller meetings of teddy bear friends. Only at great distances for Debora is it possible to travel to far-away shows or take part as a seller. Maybe her bears will be seen, instead, at another online show, because the artist enjoys using the advantages of the Internet to present her creations and to be in contact with teddy bear fans. With Facebook and in the various blogs, she has already gotten to know many nice people.

The artist especially enjoys working on her bears' faces to work out their personalities bit by bit. Although the embroidering of the noses is not easy, it is one of her favorite parts of the work. But the nicest and best part of bear making is the moment at which somebody falls in love with one of her bears and decides to give him a home.

Though New Avenue Crew bears have come as small as 6 inches (15.24 cm) tall, Debora works mainly in the range of 10 to 14 inches (25.4 to 35.5 cm). With very small bears, her eyes and hands don't seem to cooperate. Debora sews the single parts with the sewing machine, the nose is embroidered by hand, and also the stuffing and the last working steps are done by hand. The artist works on the bears personally, without exception: from the initial idea up to tying the bow around the neck of the finished bear.

Malinka and Mullins (top left)
and me with seven Crew members (bottom) 

It is not simple for Debora to name a favorite bear from all her creations, because so many of them have a special place in her heart. Often it is difficult for her to prepare a bear to be sent in the mail. And some of them mean so much to her that she cannot separate from them at all: "Recently, I could not force myself to sell a bear called Sebring that I had made in 2010 because I love him too much (he is now the studio manager). Sebring is one of three bears that I have kept over the course of the years. Except for him, I have kept the first bear I made from my own pattern in 1996 and then one more of my favorite bears from 1997."

During the next months, Debora would like to create new patterns for her ideas: "For example, a small rabbit is hopping around in my mind, and a plumper, smaller bear is waiting to finally be born. I would also like to play around a little bit with stuffing materials to reach an even more realistic feeling when my bears are held, and I would still like to make a more slouchy, old-style bear, too. I do not know which of these ideas I can realize this year, but I will have joy in trying."

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  1. Congrats to the article! Wonderful!
    Greetings, Conni

    1. Thank you so much, Conni! Viele baerige Gruesse!

  2. Thank you for translating, Debora! It's a wonderful article. Congrats! xoxo, Janice

    1. So happy to hear that you enjoyed it, Janice! It took a while to type it into the translator...and I was hoping someone would like reading it. :o) Thanks for the congrats, too!

  3. Debora that's WONDERFUL! Look at all those beautiful creations! Wow you're so talented, I wish I could make bears like that. I do have a sewing machine and a few skills lol. But not anywhere near as good as you. Congratulations on your article :) hope it gets you even MORE fans!

    1. Aww, thank you for your lovely comments, Paige! You are so sweet. I love meeting more teddy bear lovers. Feel free to share with anyone you like. I think you could make a bear if you were set on it and just took your time. I could help with tips. Don't you live nearby? ;o) Who knows--he or she could be so darling. You have inspired me to draw more because I love your illustrations. Keep up the fantastic work!

  4. Hi Debora
    Thanks for visiting over at my place ;-) - it´s been too long since I´ve visited here too. Congrats on being publiced - the article looks great. It´s so good for you. You and your bears looks wonderful on the photos.
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Hugs, Tina

    1. Thank you so much, Tina! I am so glad you visited my blog and that you like the article and photos. Happy weekend to you, and hugs from me and the Crew!

  5. A beautiful article Deborah!!
    Congrats to you!


    1. Thank you very much, Lori Ann! I am glad you liked the article.

  6. Wonderful creations!!!

    Greeting Simone

    1. Vielen Dank, Simone! Es freut mich, dass du meine Baerchen moegen. I have been looking at your website--your bears are darling! So happy to meet you! Viele baerige Gruesse von Kolorado


We love getting comments here in the Crew studio. Thank you for taking a peek at New Avenue Crew and leaving us your calling card. Blessings and bear hugs to you!