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JanetB Posts: 110

Hello everyone

I  have now made 3 bears and 1 rabbit for my hug.  I am learning a great deal with each one that I make, gaining confidence and have completed one workshop led by a professional. At what point did other members feel that their bears took on that professional look?

Cheers
Jan
So many bears to make, so little time.

dangerbears Dangerbears
Wisconsin
Posts: 5,986
Website

Hi Jan.

I've now made almost 40 bears (and 1 rabbit), but I'm definitely a novice compared with some of the pros on this forum!

For me, each bear brings me closer to an ideal that's in my mind. I might love the arms on one bear, and the nice, even nose embroidery on the next. (Despite imperfections, however, I've been delighted with every bear, from the beginning. bear_original )

Becky

Lovethosebears Yorkshire
Posts: 1,899

mmmmmmmmmm thats a hard question Jan  bear_ermm   I've made about 16 bears etc and although I work to my best ability (learning as I go) I wouldn't be happy to sell any yet.  I think the day I look at one and I'm 100% happy with it, I might consider it has a professional look  bear_grin  You will probably get a better answer from someone who's had more experience!

All Bear All Bear by Paula
Kent
Posts: 5,159
Website

I was making bears as a hobby regularly for about two years before taking the plunge and offering them for sale.  Looking back all these years later, another year or so in terms of apprenticeship probably wouldn't have been a bad thing!

eteddys eTeddys
Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 880
Website

I made bears for a couple of years then decided I was ready for a show.  BOY, was I wrong!  I struggled in the first years until  I became more known with collectors and I developed my own look.  My business has definitely grown over the years along with my skills.  AND, I'm still improving, trying different things and learning as I go.  I don't think that the experimenting and learning process will ever end. 

Hugs,
Alison

Dawn J Hugs Unlimited
West Yorkshire
Posts: 310
Website
JanetB wrote:

Hello everyone

I  have now made 3 bears and 1 rabbit for my hug.  I am learning a great deal with each one that I make, gaining confidence and have completed one workshop led by a professional. At what point did other members feel that their bears took on that professional look?

Cheers
Jan
So many bears to make, so little time.

Next year, it will be 25 years since I started Hugs Unlimited, and selling my bears. I was making a good few years before that. It is now, over ten years that I have worked at making bears full time.

I can honestly say that in all that time I have never made what I consider to be 'a perfect bear' I can always find something that I think could have been done better.

The strange thing is, that when I make a bear I can always see imperfections. However, if I leave them for a while and come back to them, or they just sit around for a while, then I see them in a totally different light.

Somewhere along the line they cease to be a 'project' and spring to life - at that point, the imperfections are completely irrelevant because I am looking at the bear as a 'whole'. 

If someone sees one of your bears and your bear gives them that 'take me home look' then, in my opinion, you are ready to sell.

Like most things in life, I like to think that I am learning something new all the time. The day that I feel I know everything there is to know about making bears and put out what I consider perfect bears time after time, is probably the day I will give up!

bear_smile  bear_smile  bear_smile

desertmountainbear desertmountainbear
Bloomsburg, PA
Posts: 5,399
Website

When I began selling bears in the 80's, I sold at large juried craft shows.   I was already doing these shows selling Santas and the bears started coming along for the ride.  I started bringing them from the beginning. I started with mostly faux fur, that way the prices were not so high.  But I always brought a couple of mohair so people could see the difference.   This was at the start of 'artist bears' so there was nothing to really compare them to and often I was the only one with bears.  The bears began to sell better than the Santas. 

If there are craft shows in your area I think it is a great place to start.  People can see the bears in person, you can see their reaction, and nothing gives you more confidence than someone admiring your work.

Joanne

rowarrior The Littlest Thistle
Glasgow
Posts: 6,212

I made them as a hobby for about 7 years, making maybe 15 bears in that time, and when I was at my mum and dad's a couple of weeks ago I cringed at some of my earlier attempts!  They were from other artists' patterns, but there are so many things I've learned along the way that I didn't know at the beginning.  Bless them, my parents love them (they were the main recipients, other than a few I kept for myself!).

I'm still learning now I've started selling ones I've designed myself.  I'm more confident when designing the patterns, and think I've found a couple of things that are now 'my thing', but there are so many things I'm sure I could do better!  I hope that they come out looking professional now, but hey, maybe next year I'll be cringing at them!  I'd really love to sort out a few fur pile issues, but I think I'm mastering them, and no-one else can apparently see them (but I can damnit  bear_laugh )

SueAnn Past Time Bears
Double Oak, Texas
Posts: 19,912

SueAnn Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

I think, in the strictest sense of the word, you become 'professional' once you get paid for what you do.  Artistically, each of us bear artists may have different requirements for ourselves before we think we are professionals.  Maybe some of us need to make a certain number of bears, or be in the business for a certain number of years, or take a few learning classes, etc., before we think we can claim to be a professional artist.

Years ago, while participating in a show, I heard an artist bemoaning the fact that a very new/upcoming artist was getting lots of attention and already winning awards.  Her words were, "She hasn't been around long enough or worked her way up like the rest of us have."  As if one needed to gain years of experience in the industry, hard knocks and all, to qualify as a pro.  I don't know . . . to make it easy on myself, I just prefer the simple definition, a professional is one who gets paid for his/her work.

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568
Website

I agree with Sue Ann on all counts.  bear_original

amber Honey Valley Bears
Toronto
Posts: 210

I agree with Sue Ann as well.  Somethings just come to people naturally, you shouldn't be defined as a professional for how long you've been making bears, but the quality of your bears.  If you can sell them then you are a professional.  It may take a while to build yourself up to what you would consider, a real business.  I remember the first bear I sold, it wasn't my favourite, infact about half of the bears I've sold haven't been what I would consider to be my best work.  I took them to shows because I was short on bears, and suprise they were the bears that people fell in love with.  If I went by my own standards, I would have sold no bears in the beginning.  I sell a few, now and then, but it is only my third year and fourth show so all things considered I don't feel I'm doing too badly. I've sold a couple outside of shows as well.  So I would consider myself a professional, but an actuall artist?  I'm a novice at best.  It takes years to learn the skills, and it is always a learning thing.  I work as a graphic designer, and with over 500 projects under my belt and only one client that I just couldn't seem to make happy, I feel I have a long way to go in order to consider myself a Real Teddy Bear artist.  When I can go to a show and sell most of my bears and the sales support making new ones completely, then I will start looking at things differently.  But I think as soon as you sell your first bear you are offically a Teddy Bear Professional.

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568
Website

I've gone back to reread the questions which was when "do the bears take on that professional look"? That's different than when does the ARTIST become a professional I think, sort of. bear_happy

The answer is still similar... everyone learns at a different pace, everyone's abilities vary greatly and everyone has a different opinion of what is "professional looking". I've seen some bears by artists who have been selling for a while and they did NOT look professional at all while others were finding fault with thier work which was very well done. I've been a fiber arts juror for the oldest craftsmen's league in the US... the standards are high... there are specifics to look for in design, construction, execution of techniques as well as over all appearance.

In most cases 4 bears and a class do not make you a professional but it's a start.  bear_thumb  Most though not all "professional" artists do indeed spend years working to get where they are today. Don't expect to be an overnight success... don't think you're going to make money doing this.... just pour your heart into what you do, enjoy it and keep learning and practicing. The more you make the better you will likely get at it. You may be surprised where your bear making adventure takes you! bear_grin

edie Bears by Edie
Southern Alberta
Posts: 2,068

Well, Jan, they do say "practice makes perfect" so I think one just has to keep plugging along and likely each bear you make will become a little more "finished" or "professional" looking. Some people achieve this much more quickly than others depending on their background and previous sewing/crafting experience. I think taking classes to learn some of the techniques can also speed this along.
I think quality of workmanship and attention to detail are the main things that give a bear a "professional" look. Always do the best work you can and it will show in your bears.

Interestingly, the other day I happened to glance at a couple of bears I made recently that were sitting on a shelf by themselves and the thought popped into my head - "wow - these look kind of good!" (as in that "finished", "professional" look) and I think that is the first time that I have actually "thought" that after 20 some years of bear making and almost 5,000 bears! (although I am sure MOST people achieve it much sooner!  bear_grin

JanetB Posts: 110

Hello Everyone

I didn't expect to see so many very interesting replies to my post.  Hopefully when I finally get to retire from full time work I'll be able to make even more teddies. I think after reading your replies I might do a few more workshops.  bear_original

amber Honey Valley Bears
Toronto
Posts: 210

Janet

Ask other artists for tips, you'll find most are more than will to share.  Workshops are a good starting point, but it is hard to make a bear your own when you are working with others to create a bear or critter from the same pattern and following someone elses directions. Come up with something you want to add to your bears ask around about how to achieve it.  Then it may take a few tries to get there but you'll come up with something that is your style of doing it.  And along the way you may make some new discoveries to share with others.  It's amazing what you can learn just from hear alone, new ideas, and people that are willing to help you get the results that you want to get.  You won't always succeed, but it's a good place to start.  Some things are just beyond our personal skill sets, some always be something that we have problems with.  But you'll find a way to achieve a result you are happy with.

Amber

Karon Posts: 751

Hi

I have been making bears for over twenty years (two of them when the bears where my only source of income).

A few years ago i was given back one of my early bears - he is a very acceptable mohair bear, but his eyes are safety one and his joints plastic (not really on for a collectable bear!).

Even after all those years I love courses as it is great to learn new techniques.  Although the bear you make on the course my look similar to the others made, that is really not the point of it.  The point of courses is to go home and incorporate that technique into your own work. 

Getting back to the question in point - I feel my bears changed to professional looking when they changed from good but rather bland to the sort of bears that I would choose to collect.

Go on courses, practice the techniques learnt and most of all enjoy doing the bears you create.

Karon

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568
Website

Workshops are invaluable throughout anyone's career as a teddy bear maker! I've taught beginners and experienced bear makers alike and everyone takes home new knowledge... be it a different way of putting eyes in or embroidering noses or they learn of a new kind of stuffing or thread to try. In workshops you're learning TECHNIQUES and tips and tricks and resources to then apply to your own work. The finished bear is not what you're there to make... it's the HOW TOs!!! I've been making bears for nearly 10 years and I still take workshops, ask questions and try new things until I find what works for me! An artist's work must evolve through out their career to stay fresh and appealing to collectors... it can't evolve without learning new things! Enjoy those workshops!!!
bear_grin

amber Honey Valley Bears
Toronto
Posts: 210

I should have worded my earlier statements more carefully.  All workshops are great stepping stones to building your skills up.  I started off only do needle felted bears, self taught.  I looked up how to do it online, bought the supplies and went at it. But being an artist already with drawing and sculpting I found this very easy and came up with a bear I loved in the first couple of tries, I found it wasn't so much technique, but the quality of the wool that made the bear professional.  I kept my first bear that I consider professional.  However when I wanted to start to look into sewing bears, I didn't know where to start.  I was okay with the sewing the pieces together idea I thought I could figure out that.  It was how do I make the bear look like a bear after he sewn and stuffed.  How do I give him character.  Needle scuplting was something I just couldn't wrap my brain around.  The Bear Guys pointed me in the direction of Needle felt the features, use the skill that I already had.  It just so happened that Sue McKay was having a workshop on puppies and what do you know I learned needle scuplting.  Totally worth it.

Geralye Belper, Derbyshire
Posts: 110

Doesn't it also depend on what you consider to be a 'professional look'?

I must have made some 20 odd bears (and some of them are very odd!), I do not consider any of mine to have a 'professional' look, although other bear makers have been complementary about them.  My mum and sister think they are brilliant, but I would question their objectivity!

On the other hand, I have seen bears from some bear makers who sell their work, where I have thought that perhaps they need to work some more on developing a particular style or look.

I would suggest that the point at which you feel your bears look professional is when you would feel comfortable asking someone to part with their hard-earned cash to pay for one.

cheers,
Geraldine

gugu"s teddies gugu;s teddies
durban
Posts: 203

Hi Ladies i never think my bears are good enough  i would though like to start to make my own patterns can any one help giveing me a leg up here  dont know where to start Go WEell from Sunny Durban

dangerbears Dangerbears
Wisconsin
Posts: 5,986
Website
gugu's teddies wrote:

i would though like to start to make my own patterns can any one help

I'd suggest posting a new topic. You might ask about books and online tutorials and courses that have helped people here in developing good designs. You could also check the topic "patterns" in the library or do some keyword searches to find older posts/threads on the topic.

Becky

2catkiss LALand Bears
Oregon
Posts: 448

Maybe it's that "lack of perfection", the slightly crooked smile, or floppy ear that make artist bears so endearing.

I take being a "professional" as meaning you can consistently create a bear of good quality that has your signature look.  They will always be slightly different, but as a professional, your work is recognizable?

I do know that I am still learning and picking up tips that make construction easier....and I wish I hadn't sold some of those early creations.... :redface: But then again, the collector saw something that appealed to them.

Lee Ann

SillySu Susie's Bears
California
Posts: 153
Website

As for making your bears look professional...well, it takes time.  Years ago, we didn't have all the wonderful fabrics, eyes, and other things that are now available.  I now work mainly in fur and even after many years, I never think they are perfect.  My husband often takes them out of my hand and says "enough already!" because I just keep trimming and tweaking.  The bear I think is the one that won't sell is sometimes first off the table.  I have old bears that I've made almost 20 years ago to keep me humble!  Trust me, I'm shocked that anyone ever bought those earlier bears.  I only do this part time so it's taking me longer to do good work.

Classes are great becauses you learn fabulous techniques that the artist teaching them can show you.  You aren't there to make YOUR own bear, you are there to learn something new like Daphne said.  I've only taken a few classes but they were fun.  Keep plugging away.  Never be satisfied and you will keep learning.   Look at them in the mirror, you see the things you need to fix much better that way.  But, make it fun most of all.

I have to add something.  I remember the first time I saw Armella Dana at a show, and it was her very first bear show.  She used to work in porcelain and make dolls.  Her workmanship was and still is wonderful.  To this day I have never seen a person do that type of work that well first time out.  I've been going to bear shows for almost 30 years as a collector and that still sticks in my mind.  Styles change with artists but the basic workmanship is what fascinates me.  That being said, I've seen artists work who have been in the business longer than me and I don't like the finished product.  Sloppy seams, crooked eyes, etc.  Years in the business don't always mean great workmanship.  I still have a long way to go before I make the perfect bear but I'm still trying!

les ours d'isabelle LES OURS D'ISABELLE
ST JULIEN LES ROSIERS
Posts: 1,538
Website

its the same question im asking that under the way im a rage worker i dont sell so many bears and on tt its hard to make one place to be !! it how the older one wouldnt talk to me!!! and dont understand why the sells dont goes with............ bear_cry  bear_cry  bear_cry  bear_cry  does someone could say?

SillySu Susie's Bears
California
Posts: 153
Website

I think part of it is the economy.  Sales are slow everywhere.  Does anyone else have any help here?  This is an old post but it's a good one!! bear_original

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