I made them and hid them and gave them to my kids and parents and sister, while apologizing for how unsophisticated and imperfect they were. There was one, Peaches, that I gave to my son Toby (a.k.a. "Peaches" for his soft cheeks), whose leg fell off. Unexpectedly. This was in the very early stages when I didn't even have hardboard disks yet, but had read about jointing in books, and didn't want to wait for my supplies to arrive! I was using waaaaaay too small metal washers from the hardware store. Whoops! Not a good way to attach limbs.
Peaches' head was wildly loose and spinny and wouldn't stay forward. It kept turning backward. We referred to Peaches either as, "Peaches, the seizure bear" for all its wild flopping about, or with Exorcist references. It's in a box somewhere. My only early bear still on display was my first ever, huge one, made from plush felt. It's a reminder of how far I've come. I've still never given it a name, or even decided if it's a boy or girl. It sits on my guest room bed, right beside one of Sue Ann's bears, which makes it look SO MUCH better!
After about six months and around 15 "practice" bears I approached Bear Paths with some huge photos of my work -- I didn't even know how to resize photos in Photoshop at that point -- and they really honored me by accepting my work for representation. After those first two sales during one of their Plum Club Monday preview nights, I went straight to eBay, and it's been a wonderful ride since then.
I've not sold on eBay in FOREVER but generally my strategy is to set a reserve that represents what I'd be willing to accept, and a starting price that's high enough ($20, $30, $40, $50, depending on the bear, and where I am in my career path, and the market) that people know this won't be a cheapie auction.
That's the short story of my own beginnings and associated business plan. Hope this helps!
Wow, I think I started making bears (I don't count the ones I made as a kid) professionally in November 1997. I was really afraid to try mohair so I made them out of plush. The first bears are all crammed in a foot locker in my basement somewhere. Then, I took a class from Garth and Lin Davies in May 1998 and they showed me how to joint with fender washers, etc. After that I showed my bears to some ladies in my doll club. One lady had a shop in downtown Summerville, SC. She asked me to put some bears in her store and that's how I got started really selling them. She's also the one who convinced me to start doing shows. My first show was a doll and bear show in Myrtle Beach, SC. I was so encouraged that I signed up to do the Timonium, MD show the next spring (when it was still a D.L. Harrison production). Anyway, so that's where I started...
Hmmm..... I kept the first 10 or so..... to save myself some embarrassment! Then I started giving them as gifts... starting with Mom. I gave them to others as well before deciding to put a few on commission in a local shop. I'd been making them for almost a year by then. Well, they sold... to acquaintances I think, who wanted to support me so in my mind those sales didn't count but some how it did boost my confidence.
I started a website next and joined an online chat room. THEN I did my first show. I'd been making bears for about 2 years by then. Didn't sell a single bear but boy did I learn a lot! Its a humbling experience to be at a show with well known, experienced artists. You discover (or I did) that my bears were very 'beginner' looking. After some design changes and self-taught finishing techniques I was doing another show and actually sold some! Then I did another show and another. In between there I tried eBay but decided that wasn't a good indication of how my work is received by collectors (aka I didn't sell many!) so went back to the shop, put more on consigment and kept doing shows. All of this and I was teaching bear making workshops by the end of my second year of making bears.
Now I wish I had time to make bears! :crackup:
I made large bears and dolls YEARS ago, and sold them at craft fairs. I continued to sell many different things through craft shows for almost 25 years, so when I made my first miniature bear, it was with the intention of selling it (I almost never keep anything I make). ABC hosted a US/Canadian bear show in Toronto that year soon after I started and I exhibited and sold quite a few, and that led to participating in lots of US shows, until I switched to Ebay and have been there ever since.
Jennifer, I started making bears in 1986 when I took a one-day class. I made quite a few bears over the years and gave them as gifts and kept them. I still have a few of them around. I didn't start selling them until January of this year. I quit my full time job in 2003 when we built a home in the Sierra foothills. Once the house was finished and I was finished with decorating the house, my attention went back to the bears and eventually I decided to start the business of selling them. I've sold them on bid4bears and Bear Artists Online and did my first show in April. I haven't tried E-bay yet but I'm thinking about it.
I made my first bear in September 2002...I made about 1 a week until May 9th of the following year when I did a fair taking 11 bears with me. It was a very little fair but I sold every bear that day and came home with a skip in my step and a new determination that I could make it work. I still have about 10 of those first bears which chart my early progress. I never looked back and still love it passionately.