Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time (or as my uncle Lyle would say: "Once a-punce a time"), I had a website for New Avenue Crew. I started it on Geocities, and then I made a full-fledged website at my own domain: Neither site was fancy, but I created them in HTML all by myself.

After a few years, I found that it was hard to afford the monthly fee for my domain and the web hosting, so I had to let them lapse. Unbeknownst to me, the domain was then quickly snatched and a high price set for anyone who dared try to buy it. (I told the story before, and a little more, on the first post on this blog.) I was so sad when I discovered I would not be able to get back, and I still regret it. And then, a couple of years ago, Geocities ceased operation. My sites were gone for good.

But then I did a search for Debora Hoffmann on Google today,* and I found this:

New Avenue Crew's Geocities site

It is my old New Avenue Crew Geocities site, recovered by Reocities!

I had no idea that Reocities was working to recover Geocities sites, but I am thrilled that they are and that I found my site so I can share it with you. It looks like I last worked on the site in 2008. I am unable to make any changes to it now, so it is a marker in New Avenue Crew's history.

I hope you will visit and enjoy looking around. Please let me know what you think. It was fun for me to take a walk down memory lane and see what my bears and I were doing once a-punce a time.

*My search was prompted by my curiosity after reading this blog post by Tami Eveslage, an artist whose work (in many media) I admire.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sharing Saturday: Wildlife

"You're lost? What's your mom's phone number?"

I just had to share this with you today, dear readers. It surely made me smile. I don't know who took the photo. Perhaps it's from a movie with a trained cub. I just love the bear's posture; he's so cute.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fun Fur Facts Friday

Welcome to Fun Fur Facts Friday! A good way to celebrate Friday here in the Crew studio is to talk some more about fur. Most of the Crew members have it, so they are quite fond of it!

(Ah. Some of you with a keen eye noticed that I said that most of the Crew members have fur. I created a bear recently who has no fur. I hope to introduce him to you soon.)

Now where was I? Ah, yes. You would like to hear a fur fact. I have been noticing lately all the different kinds of fur fabrics the bears of today are sporting. Recently, I received a piece of synthetic Belgian plush made by a company called Tyber from a fellow bear artist. It is of very high quality and is very dense and so soft. I look forward to making a small bear from it; I know it will be very different than working with my beloved mohair. So I thought I should tell you about teddy bear fur, since the Crew members and I love it so much.

Me with some of my fur fabrics, mohair and alpaca, spread out in my living room

Here are a few of the commonly used fur fabrics of today:
  • Mohair (my favorite!)
  • Alpaca (my other favorite)
  • Synthetic plush
  • Viscose and viscose-mohair blends
  • Silk and silk-mohair blends
  • Wool
  • Rayon
  • Cotton
  • Rayon upholstery velvet
I have used four of the fur fabrics on the list for my bears: mohair, alpaca, synthetic, and wool. Let me show you some pictures. These are older Crew members from 10 or more years ago!

Liam (1999) and Trua (2000)

The bear on the left in the photo above (Liam) was made from wool fur fabric in 1999. I still have a little piece of it left, but not enough for a full bear. It is not as silky feeling as mohair, but it has an antique feel to it. The bear on the right (Trua) was made from mohair in 2000. I don't have a photo of the bear I made from some silky plush back in 2000 or so, but I do have a photo of the first bear I designed and made with knit-back synthetic (it was hard to work with!):

Madeleine (1996)

Madeleine still lives with me here at Crew headquarters. She is pictured above on the mantel in my childhood home on New Avenue. I don't like her fur, but it is a lower quality synthetic. There are some very nice ones available today that look nice much longer than this kind. But Maddie is still special to me.

Longfellow (2001) and Levi (2002)

Longfellow, the big bear above, is made from alpaca. I loved this alpaca fur; it was a dark chocolate brown with silvery blue flecks in it. Because Longfellow was a large bear, I had to use all of the fur to make him. His little red and blue friend is Levi. Levi's fur is sparse matted mohair in rusty red with a blue backing, and I used some denim from a pair of my husband's old Levi's jeans for his muzzle and paw pads. Though I don't have a picture, I also made him a backpack with the coin pocket and the belt loops from the jeans.

So why is mohair so popular to make teddy bears from? The very first teddy bears, starting back in 1902, were made from it. Mohair is durable and has a nice sheen, and it lends itself to cuddly bears. Yes, it can be worn away with years of loving, but then that's a badge of honor, being loved.

An antique bear from our family whose fur has been mostly loved away

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."

News about New Avenue Crew on the Internet:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scavenger Hunt: Update

Yes, I did make a few updates to my blog recently. You've been so kind to say that you like my blog, but I'm not sure if you were able to find what I changed. That's OK: I'll tell you what I changed!

First, I shortened the names of the page tabs up at the top of the blog under the header banner so I could add a new page. Which page is new? The new page is called Published. I wanted to share with you the magazines (both printed and digital) and websites where New Avenue Crew has appeared. I am so honored that a few magazines have chosen to include me and the Crew. Because two of the articles about the Crew appear in online format, you can read them by clicking on their names.

The other changes were to the right-hand sidebar. I moved some of the pictures around so you can find the mailing list signup and the following feature faster. I have other ideas, too, but they will have to wait. I am a busy bear maker, though I'm not always busy with bear making!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Scavenger Hunt

OK, not really a scavenger hunt, but I just made a few changes to my blog. Can you tell what I did?