Saturday, April 6, 2013

Vielen Dank! A Feature about the Crew!

I am thrilled and honored to be the featured international teddy bear artist portrait this month on the Kuscheltier News website! The article is in German, but I have added an English translation below for you. (Speaking of translations, I've also added a translation function in the right-hand sidebar of this site. Hope it helps!)

Kuscheltier News (which means Soft Animal News) also published a full-length article about me and New Avenue Crew in its June 2011 PDF magazine issue. Vielen Dank für beide Artikel (many thanks for both articles)!

Here is the international teddy bear artist portrait about me and New Avenue Crew. You can click on the pictures to see them larger.

[Translation of the article text by an online translator]

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."

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.

More about New Avenue Crew on the internet:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Crew's Chief Bearcrafter (Me), Then and Now

The other day, my husband scanned a slide into his computer and sent me a JPEG of a photo I had never seen before:

Yes, it is a picture of me making a bear! I was thrilled that he had this photo. It was taken way back in 2000 when we were newlyweds. We had a second-floor apartment overlooking the Santa Ana River in Anaheim, California, the town we grew up in. The next picture below is a non-silhouetted version of my bear-making session. You can see Trudi in the foreground. I was working on Gunnison, a black-and-gold bear.

It occurred to me today that this coming weekend marks 12 years since I did my first (and only) major in-person teddy bear show, the three-day Teddy Bear Convention in historic Nevada City, California, in April 2001. Here I am with my table full of bears (and a kitty):

We had just moved from Southern California to the Seattle area to our new apartment, quite a long drive, and then got back on the road to drive south for the show. I still don't know how I managed to have a whopping 14 bears ready for that show when I struggle to find any time for bear making these days!

I do miss in-person shows, and I also enjoy participating in online shows. I have met so many lovely people in the bear world, both in person and online, particularly on Facebook, through the Guild of Master Bearcrafters, and on Teddy Talk. I'm eager to get busy again as New Avenue Crew's chief bearcrafter.

And here is a picture of me two weeks ago. Notice that I have a faux fur collar, even though I haven't been making bears lately. I am drawn to texture. In fact, maybe I should go paw through my stash of mohair again soon...