Friday, June 25, 2010

Fun Fur Facts Friday

Today is Friday, so I thought I would share a fun fur fact or two with you.

I love to watch polar bears and their antics at the zoo, playing in the water and with their huge rubber balls. It would be fascinating to see them in the wild, but I have a hard time being in such cold weather. Polar bears are so strikingly beautiful because they have such lovely white fur. Or do they?

Polar bear fur has long guard hairs that protect the dense insulating undercoat. These guard hairs are hollow and transparent, not white. The undercoat hairs are not hollow, but they are also colorless. The white appearance of the fur is from the air spaces in each hair scattering light of all colors, much like what happens with ice and snow. Our eyes see white when something reflects back to us all colors of the visible wavelengths of light instead of absorbing some of the wavelengths.

Ah, the fascinating polar bear. Did you know that a polar bear's skin is black?

Yes, it's true. You can see from the feet of the bear at right that their skin is black. Underneath, there is a layer of fat, or blubber, that can be 4.5 inches (11.5 centimeters) thick. This and their dense fur prevent polar bears from losing heat. In fact, adult males can quickly overheat when they run.

I think I will go spend some more time on the Polar Bears International site. I just love polar bears! I am making a little ivory/white bear right now (he's pictured in the Bears in the Works photo in the right sidebar), and though he's not technically a polar bear, I enjoy working with the lovely soft white alpaca fur.

[Sources: Library of Congress, Everyday Mysteries and Polar Bears International, Bear Essentials, Polar Style]

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Just a quick post to say Happy Father's Day to three great gentlemen: my dad, my husband, and my father-in-law. I love you all!

This is Garth's second Father's Day (he celebrated the first one in Ukraine last year when we were adopting the girls), and I have to tell you that he is a wonderful father. He is patient and kind and seeks to do the right thing, even if the girls are being disrespectful.

So, no photos right at the moment (I need to head off to bed!), but lots of love to Roger, Garth, and Richard!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's a Blog Party: Where Bloggers Create II

The time has come for a blog party...a very big blog party! Welcome to Where Bloggers Create II, hosted by Karen Valentine of My Desert Cottage. (Note: There is now a blog that archives all the party participants' blog posts so you can visit them whenever you like: Where Bloggers Create.)

I am so glad you dropped in for a visit. Come on in, and I'll show you where I create! But first, let me tell you just what it is that I create.

I design and hand make original soft sculpture teddy bears and other works in my home studio. Though they are not meant for children because of the small parts, I hope the members of New Avenue Crew remind you of the joyful parts of your childhood and help you remain a kid at heart. (Pictured above is Herr Grünhosen, one of my favorites, who was adopted by a lovely lady.)

And now, on to our tour!

Out here in the Wild, Wild West of Colorado, there are wide open spaces for wide open thinking. I enjoy this bright, sunny room and its mostly empty floor space for thinking about new designs, occasional sewing, stuffing bears, oh, and...

...spreading out.

Here you can see many of my pieces of mohair and alpaca, which is the "fur" I use for my bears. These fabrics feel so lush and soft.

Sometimes ideas come just from seeing and feeling a piece of mohair and its texture, color, and finish. (Mohair fabric is made from the hair of the angora goat. The goat is shorn, and the hair is cleaned and carded much like wool would be. Then it is spun and woven into a cotton backing before being treated to a dye bath and texturing techniques.)

I have had this particular piece of mohair for many years. Holding it makes me think I would like to make a sweet, traditional-styled bear from it.

And then there are the bold colors. This orangy one makes me think: clown bear.

Most of the time, my mohair stash is kept neatly folded in boxes. But it is fun to spread out on occasion!

Come on in to the family room and my favorite chair.

Here, I can draw out my ideas and sketch and doodle away. Drawing is a lifelong pastime for me. You'll often see me here accompanied by a cup of tea and a bear or two. I've even been known to stuff bears here, and you can occasionally find me sitting on the floor surrounded by bags of stuffing, plastic pellets, and excelsior (wood wool), bear and stuffing tools at hand.

Let's climb the stairs now. I understand if you're a little winded at the top; we live at approximately 6,700 feet above sea level!

This is the loft, where many ideas become reality. I work on my sketches here, draw out pattern pieces, cut the pieces from fur, and write my blog. (I also work here full-time as a proofreader for a fabulous advertising firm, Garrigan Lyman.) Of course, my desk isn't always so neat and tidy.

It usually looks a little more like this when I'm in the middle of an idea session. You should see it when the fur's flying!

The loft is also a favorite place to get down on the floor with fabrics and stuffing materials and to be inspired by the old playthings that belonged first to my uncle (the big bear) and my mother before I played with them as a child. I remember taking Uncle Bill's bear out to the sandbox with me. Such a patient bear! Yes, the Steiff truck is new--from the '80s?--as is the little brown bear, but they belong together. And the coat? I believe my mom made it when she was a girl. My dollies wore it when I was young.

Let's wander down the hall to what's officially known around our house as "the studio." I share this space with my sweet husband, who likes to paint landscape paintings when he has the chance. (You can see one of his paintings above my favorite chair, above.)

Here, armed with my trusty Pfaff Hobby sewing machine, I sew my bears' parts. (A bit of trivia for you: a basic traditionally styled teddy bear typically has 21 pieces that need to be sewn together.) After a few frustrating years of using hand-me-down sewing machines that liked to create huge thread balls on the back of my mohair, my wonderful husband bought me this Pfaff shortly after we were married. Bless his heart!

Teddy bears need a lot of hand sewing, too: embroidering the nose, attaching the ears, closing the body and limbs after stuffing, and more. You can find me in any of these spots around the house doing handwork if there's enough light. And sometimes, I'll sew outside in the sunshine.

Back in the loft with sweet Logan the bear is where we'll part--for now. Very soon, I'll share Logan's special story with you here on the blog. And, I'm excited to say, I'll also be offering a few of my bears for adoption very soon. Three of them have made appearances in this blog post. They just couldn't pass up such a fun party.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to New Avenue Crew's studio. We sure enjoyed having you! Please feel free to make yourself comfortable and stay for a while. (Here is the link to the full New Avenue Crew blog. We hope you'll become a follower and come back to visit often!) And be sure to visit the archived party blog so you can see more places where bloggers create. Thank you, Karen, for putting together such a fun event!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Party Preparations

I've enjoyed arranging and rearranging things for my photos for the Where Bloggers Create II party. And I admit to a little cleaning for your benefit; one must clean when one will be having guests! The work table still appears a little fuzzy and fluffy, but I know you'll forgive that because it's all a part of making bears.

I hope you'll drop in here on Saturday to visit the New Avenue Crew studio. The bears and I are eager to show you around. And be sure to visit the blog link above for the other party participants. This will be such fun! I hear there will be an archive blog after the event, so you won't miss the festivities if you're away this weekend.

See you Saturday!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Inspiring Finds

I've been thinking a lot about inspiration lately as I've been drawing out new ideas and working on new designs. What inspires me to create? I am inspired quite often simply by the beauty of the world God has created. I see some of the rugged Rocky Mountains out my window--a real treat. A friend is adopting two kittens soon and sent me pictures; little furries are always inspiring. I love to see "the real thing" and take that as inspiration in my own designs. Recently, I've been looking at pictures of a particular animal so I can design my be revealed all in good time. Only when it's just right will it be a Crew member!

Color and texture, fabric and thread, posture and shape, design and detail are also inspiring for me of late. I am eager to jump into new areas with color and fabric and texture and shape and detail this year. There are two artists who have been inspiring me lately that I would like to introduce to you. You may already know them; I have been familiar with their work for years, but only recently have I gotten to know them online. These two sweet ladies have been very encouraging to me.

Earlier in the spring of this year, I stumbled upon Lori Ann Corelis's blog, the Spotted Hare. Lori Ann is a treasure trove of inspiration! What she does with wool felt and mohair and thread is fantastic. Her use of color and pattern and texture is helping me think in new directions. Hop on over to her blog to see her darling creations, her fabrics and trims, her outings, her finds, and even the rabbits in her kitchen garden.

Another new find is Donna Griffin's blog, Donna and the Bears. Donna is not afraid to use bold color in her creations, and she is making bears on a small scale these days. Her 4-inch butterfly bear Allistar is the cover boy on the latest issue of Teddy Bear Review, and it contains a feature article about Donna, to boot. Though I won't be making smaller bears (my eyes and hands just don't cooperate in such an endeavor), I would like to incorporate some more color in my work.

Both of these ladies are so lovely, and it's been a pleasure meeting them. Thank you for the inspiration and for your encouragement, Lori Ann and Donna!

Speaking of inspiration, there are so many creative bloggers out there. Whether they make bears or rabbits or dolls, collect antiques, decorate their homes, take photos, or write stories, their creativity is inspiring. I've found that I enjoy seeing their blogs, particulary when they share where they create, and I know that others do, too. There's a party coming up that celebrates where bloggers create:

I have taken the plunge and signed up to be part of the festivities on June 19, 2010. (Click the image above to go to the host blog and find out more.) So now I need to get out the camera and have a little fun. Hope you'll drop in on the party on the 19th to see where I and more than 399 others create.