I have been thinking about what Shantell said in another post about wanting to know how ones workmanship rates and how good some hands on feedback would be.
I have been fortunate in that here in Australia we have hands on judging in comps and the feedback I have received from judges constructive critisism has taken my workmanship from being okay to being excellent. When you don't KNOW how something should be to be deemed excellent quality, it's hard to set your standard.
My joints were originally over tight...but how does one know what is too tight unless a more experienced artist brings this to your attention?? My first crit sheet had many suggestions for improvement....over time, these have got less and the last sheet I had I got a near perfect score with no suggestion. I was thrilled!
On another list I am on but a while back a similar discussion was had. The end result was that some of the more well known and established artists, offered to critique (constructively of course!) some of the newer artists bears and offered suggestions for improvement. Those participating were told not to join in if they didn't really want to know or if they didn't have a tough skin It IS hard to hear critisism aboout our bears...we feel so passionate about them...but in the long run, constructive critisim is most helpful.
There were a few girls who joined in and felt it was most worth while.
I wondered whether there may be artists in TT who may be willing to critique someones bear for them? Of course there would be postage costs etc on the behalf of the person wanting the critique done, but I reckon the pros would far outweigh the cons.
It doesn't have to be a public thing or anything.....just pick an established artist in the same country or pref in the same state and ask if they would mind....what do you have to lose?
Just a suggestion.
That's an interesting idea, Hayley. I actually was reading Doll Crafter & Costuming at our local Barnes & Noble just last night and they had an article on just that; critiquing. For a fee, attendees of certain shows can have NIADA artists critique their work. Most doll artists who are "serious" hope to get into NIADA -- I think it stands for National Institute of American Doll Artists, or something close to that -- so the critique would be invaluable to them for that purpose. It's a very prestigious organization, and something I wish we had in parallel in the teddy bear world.
I'm not experienced enough to offer judging or critique, but I'd be interested in having one done myself.
Thanks for bringing it up!
You know, I think this is a great (if a little scary) idea! It is SO hard to judge your own bears, especially if you're like me and don't get to shows very often (I've only been to one). I try to seek out bear shops whenever I can and browse the artist bears for 'feel' but really I've had quite a small amount of exposure to other artist's bears. I don't think I'm the only one???
The one thing I do rely on is the feedback I get from my buyers, who I assume have collected other artist's bears too. However I guess they might not always tell-it-like-it-is because they might not want to offend (despite paying out good money for a creation).
Hmm, would I be brave enough to participate in something like this??!
This is exactly the point I was making a while back about competitions...where it would be a useful tool to have a transparent scoring system and judging panel who could offer constructive criticism of entries and, if you don't win why you didn't, so that you know that the fact of losing proves as constructive as winning does.
Quite who would do this type of critique is a difficult one as there are all sorts of implications that might arise, but in much the same way that antiques dealers have an eye for quality I feel sure that there are respected authorities on teddy bears who could offer an unbiased opinion on artists work without causing obvious problems.
I think it is something that would be a useful piece of information which taken in the right context would help us to see our work as others see it, then again , ultimately it's our own belief that creates the bears we make so perhaps we already know all we need to know......
On balance though it would be good to have an appraisal of the workmanship side of things ...to confirm what we know to be good or bad about our work and learn from it
Great topic and great ideas! Is there anything equivalent to a 'judging form' that we could get hold of and post?
It really helped me to attend a local bear show. This was the first time I'd had a chance to see artist bears in the fur, and to handle a few. Very few, since I wasn't there as a buyer, but as a semi-guilty student of the art!
I think that what impressed me most in some of the bears I saw/felt, beyond the invisibility of stiches and seams, and some to-die-for sweet faces, was the overall harmony of facial expression and body proportion.
I know that some are drawn to bears almost exclusively by face-appeal, but I love (or don't love) the whole package. Sometimes there's a curve to the spine or tummy, or a head/body profile, or a proportion of limbs to body that makes the whole bear come alive and just about breaks my heart with coveting.
I guess I'm wondering if judges look at this too.
Oh Hayley you are very fortunate indeed!
I can see how hard it would be for the judges to do this too! I mean, some people do prefer a more firmly stuffed bear... but some prefer a squishy bear. Some prefer stiff joints, some loose, etc...
Attending a bear show is an excellent way to get a better idea of how others put their "kids" together. Collecting artist bears helps tremendously too!
A year and a half ago I went through a rigurious judging process to get into the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen..... a prestigious group of artisans judged to be the best in their medium in the state of NH and bordering states. This league is the oldest craftsmen's league in our country and has an outstanding reputation. Anyway, they were TOUGH!!! Brutal, actually. Although I went through it with ease, others in my medium had their work critiqued unmercifully. One woman left in tears! By the final judging process many had commented on how much they'd learned and improvements were visible in their work! This whole process lasted 2 months with 2 workshops and then the judging. It was an interesting process. I'm now a jury member with a little more sensitivity than some!!
So..... I have experience with critiquing and offering feedback and direction, from both sides of the table! It's something to be handled carefully yet honestly and objectively. The idea of 'judging' someone's work is to help them improve their talents, see their strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to flourish with their creative endeavors. It can be a wonderful tool in acheiving the success a talented artist deserves. And of course it's a great learning process.
In order to properly judge/critique the work of a teddy bear artist a list of items to judge (joints, seams, thread, porportions, eyes...........) would need to be made and in fairness, given to the artist a head of time. Many times this list can prompt an artist to evaluate their own work and fine tune their techniques before sending their work for formal critiquing. A fee would be charged for the judge's time and expertise to do the review and write up feedback. Personally, I don't feel the fee should be anything huge. And the aritst would be responsible for all shipping fees.
Now, an alternative..... especially for those new to bear making, would be to take a piece or two of their work to a show and approach an arist or two about taking a look at their bear and telling what they think. Doing this in the afternoon when most shows slow down is a good idea. Don't put the artist on the spot. Most will probably feel great that you've asked their opinion but some may be uncomfortable and that's ok.
Great topic, Hayley!
Honest feedback is so important and although here on TT we can give our feedback based on appearance there is so much more to consider in the craftsmenship of a bear than the look.
Hayley, I think your idea is wonderful, especially for new artists. I would definitely love to be critiqued. I'm quite sure there would be things there that I wouldn't love to hear, but if used constructively, as intended, it would help so much with future bears.
I'm also alone in this bear-making venture. I'm learning from books and of course from everyone here. But I don't have anyone in the "real" world I can physically show my work to that knows anything about bears. Of course, my mom is going to tell me it's beautiful and she loves it, but she doesn't have any idea if I did something wrong or what I can do to make it better.
So, again, a brilliant idea. Now we just need some takers on being a critic!
I think it would difficult to critique someones work if you know beforehand who made a particluar bear. I myself could be more honest about a bear if it were presented to me by a third person. I am not an expert but I do know what I like in a bear. Not only the over all appearance but it has to feel right. Just the right amount and type of stuffing for a cuddly bear and more firm for a realistic bear.
In the comeptions, the judges only have photos to judge the entries. Having the bear in person to hold and examine up close would be a truer form of judging...like the Golden Goerge Contest. If you are nominated you must send your bear to the judges to be examined up close and from every angle. . Scarey...but the most accurate of judging, especially with all the photo editing available.
Also remember when someone is critiqueing a bear, many of their own personal likes and dislikes will influence thier opinions. Having a group of artists critique may be the best way. BUT...this is easier said than done.
I like all the posts here though... :hug:
Judi's right in that it can be harder to judge a bear if you know who's made it but a fair and honest judge must put personal preferences aside and be objective.
For example, you aren't judging whether the bear is firmly or loosley stuffed but whether it's lumpy or smooth, if bolts/cotter pins can be felt, if the toes and fingertips have stuffing in them or can you feel where the ball of stuffing is. A squishy bear or a rock solid bear is a preference and may be part of the bear's look so can not be judged.
Hayley, if I'm right, you were talking more about constructive feedback..... not a formal, nail biting judging but an objective review of your work, comments, suggestions, etc. I think this is a great idea!!!!!!!!
What a strange subject - i have never thought of having bears 'critiqued'. I'm not being funny here it's just that it sounds so odd.
Bear artists work varies sooo much and like someone has already said the 'examiner' will always be swayed by personal preferences - some artists hard stuff their bears whilst others understuff, some loosely joint limbs and some joint their bears really stiffly. How can you judge styles that are so different by the same standards?
I can understand the seams and stitching of faces etc being judged because that is general needleworking skills - but i just don't 'get' a general 'critique' of bears full stop.
I have some lovely bears in my collection and some of them are'nt the best bears in the world but i love 'em and they give me lots of pleasure - having said that, they are'nt about to have a leg drop off or the stuffing pop out - they just are'nt tip top quality.
Are'nt bears supposed to be a bit wonky sometimes like the old well loved bears?
I dunno girls, i reckon any bear artist would know if their work was crap don't you? And i don't always think that you would get an honest opinion simply because your bear might not be to the judges taste.
I tell you what, here's something to judge your own bears by.....
if you throw it at the wall and nothing drops off then you know your sewing skills are good
if you show it to a highly strung kid and it does'nt scream then you know your bears are'nt ugly
if you use eBay and your bears sell then you know they are good enough
big Hugs, Penny
Penny, I know what you mean ...because like I said you know in your own mind if what you did is good or not really....the thing is there is no blue-print for the perfect bear...unlike say a cake baking thing where we all bake the same recipe and it's judged against a 'perfect' one.
I think it would be good though to get feedback from other people than those who are always going to say every bear is wonderful...like my Mom....
Then again, if someone said ,for example, 'the nose is wonky' I'd probably just do what I normally do when my husband or sister says it and go in a big sulk and tell them they know nothing 'so keep out of it'
Penny and Jenny (no I am not starting a rhyme here)...I just have to say, you both gave me a laugh today!
I have to say I have a hard time with one person telling another person "I am the expert here and know how it is supposed to be done"
I am not saying that there are not true experts in every field but there are an awful lot of soi-disant judges out there too. As Daphne said, I have seen many vituperate judges too and I personally feel that is uncalled for.
There are famous artists (lets just use Van Gogh, for instance)...I am here to tell you, that his work would never pass a judge's critique (none of the juried shows that my paintings have been in anyway) and YET...look at what his work is worth. Look at the collectors!!! and what they pay. I can't help but wonder what Van Gogh would say to the judge...perhaps..."How much do your paintings sell for and how many collectors do you have?"
I mean, what is perfection, who is an expert anyway? Can you argue with success even if the item is not 'perfect'.
I know there are certain rules or guidelines to make something look correct...like perspective in a painting.
In order to have the pictures depth look correct, there is a linear way of doing it....but look at Charles Wysocki, he certainly doesn't follow the rules but look at his popularity. He has a playful spontaneity to his work and scr-- the rules. It works for him.
If you are not happy with your bears and they don't sell, then certainly...seek out the opinions of others!!! You will learn alot and it could turn out to be your panacea. The gathering of knowledge from knowledgeable people is alway a GREAT THING!
But please don't feel that because you are not making your bear or creations according to 'the rules' for judging, that your work is not as good as...that to me is just a pile of pucky!
I have been involved in so many juried, invitationals and competition events and seen so much 'political nonsense'...and so many talented, talented people made to feel insecure about their work because a judge has a friend of her sister who has entered a piece of work...well, I have seen a lot and it truly breaks my heart to see talent, many times put aside, for a different agenda.
That is not to say this happens all the time...but it happens alot.
Look at the judges who got into trouble with the last Olympics, it is even there.
I even hesitate to enter the Toby from all that I have seen in my years...but I know that the buying public is swayed by if you have a Toby or not... and I would like to see what my work does in another arena besides ebay. Will I be heartbroken if I don't get a Toby or even a nomination? Absolutley NOT...will I be heartbroken if a bunch of collectors would write me and tell me my work is crap...Absolutely!!!
Getting down off the podium now...and like Shelli always does: (disclaimer: this has just been my opinion based on life experiences and I certainly do not mean to execrate the whole idea of judging and competion...that can be a very healthy experience if done properly...if not, it can be very destructive)
I think I would like constructive criticism… I am ALSO a very very sensitive person. I think if it is explained nicely what things can be improved … like your joints might be better if they were tighter and this is how you do it… I like the idea of being pointed out things that can be improved and HOW to improve them. I think it all comes down to HOW constructive criticism is presented to you I am also afraid to have my bear criticized… I mean I want to know how I can improve but I don’t want to be told my bears are “crap” or be criticized so much that I don’t want to create anymore… ya know what I mean? LOL… I have always gotten positive feedback and my mom LOVES all the bears I do LMAO she isn’t biased or anything LOL
And, by the way, Penn Penn -I could throw my bear against the wall and it would probably make a hole! (the ones that I put weight in) HA!!!
I dont have a fear that my bear will fall apart, just that my joints arent tight enough... I guess it is becuase I am soo picky... I like stiffer joints... I dont like when a bears legs spin completely around if you wiggle the bear in the air
This is a hard one .I had to sit in front of a panel to get a small grant to make bears full time nine years ago.The grant was from Edinburgh council and was for £40 a week.They had to decide if my bears were an art form or a craft.They had to be an art form to qualify.It was a weird experience.They maintained the artistic properties were more important than my sewing skills.I think you need both to be a good bear maker.I make traditional vintage looking bears so they don't have tight joints and even stuffing .I agree with Jenny and Penny on this subject.My cat often steals a bear and road tests it for me!!!
I often see bears on ebay with squeegeee eyes which baffles me.I look at mine in the mirror then my daughter sits and stares at them for a while.Other than that they just get sat on the mantelshelf for a day and I look at them off and on.That night they are either passed or given a new face the next day.
I forgot to say I passed the test as a "bear artiste" and got the grant.That week I had to sign legal papers for a friend and put occupation.I think the lawyer thought I was a bt dodgy and perhaps posed nude(scary thought) when he saw what I wrote!!!
Hi girls...I thought I was going to pop in briefly before work to see if anyone had replied to my post....wow...you all have so much to say while I'm asleep over here. I read the first few posts but have to rush off to work now. Keep brainstorming and offering those wonderful opinions.
When I get home, I'll scan a critique sheet from a comp and you can have a geezer at that.
Just remember...we aren't talking about critisising people's style here...we are talking more about the basics of good workmanship...not being able to see stitches...eyes and ears even...neatly stitched nose, central gussett seam and joints EVENLY tightened the same etc, etc
I even hesitate to enter the Toby from all that I have seen in my years...but I know that the buying public is swayed by if you have a Toby or not...
Ah, Nancy...you answered the question I was just about to ask! That is, how much attention do collectors pay to 'awards'? The only reason I (personally) would enter a competition would be for the fun! I imagine it being very exciting, and a real buzz if there's a chance of being nominated. Other than that, I'm not sure what my motivation would be :/
I like Penny's criteria for a good bear :lol:. When I first responded to this thread I wasn't thinking along the lines of a really serious critique...more a little constructive criticism of the friendly kind. You know...someone else to tug at the ears and say whether or not they are fixed firmly enough (eek!)...that kind of thing. But at the end of the day it's all pretty subjective isn't it? Just looking at the bears on eBay for example, I can see differences in workmanship (and I'm by no means an expert!). But it doesn't always seem to correlate with how well the bears sell. Bears that are more naively made can sometimes sell better than ones that obviously crafted to a very high standard. It's the desirability that's hard to factor in.
Not sure what point I'm trying to make, but I know there's one in there somewhere!
This is the perfect thread to offer my opinion on a subject that crops up now and then. On occasion, some people suggest that the goal of an artist is to strive to design the "perfect bear". In my mind, there is absolutely no such thing as a perfect bear. What is appealing and wonderful to one may not be another's cup of tea. That's why so many artists with their strikingly different looking bears have their own set of collectors who adore their work. I think judging artist bears would be extremely difficult . . . although the criteria for one of the competitions is stated as "overall aesthetic appeal; excellence in concept, design, and execution; and quality of material and workmanship". I'm not sure I could judge a bear on all these standards by just looking at a couple of photos. As far as critiquing someone's bear, the same principle applies . . . who am I to say somebody's bear is inferior if I don't happen to like the style?? Another critic might love the things that I don't especially care for and declare the bear as wonderful. And that critic's opinion has JUST AS MUCH credibility as mine . . . so I would be very hesitant to be called on to judge or critique. Signed . . . the wimp.
Some people love Picasso, some can't stand him. Some love Ansel Adams, some think hes a hack. Some love the Dutch Masters, others say 'take a picture',
While it is easy to crtique the construction, the durability, the quality of materials, is it possible to critique the artistry?
Some people like clowns, some are scared to death of them (me )
In being judged by our peers we need to keep this in mind, I may love a certain style, but the judge might think its horrid.'
So who can say? You pay our money you take your chance......
and 'God bless us everyone'........
Helena...I like your term desirability....I think that is the key word!
It is fun to enter a competition as long as it is fair competition. I have heard the credibility of the Toby is pretty top notch....so I do look forward to the challenge.
Since I do not work outside the home...my 'friends' are my source of income. Therefore, I not only enjoy doing what I do, but I tend to treat it like a business.
I need to take my little business, to the next level...and for me that means to attend some shows and get involved in some good healthy competition.
When competition is fair, a person can not only derive invaluable knowledge but inspiration as well.
I love to study the work of artists that I feel are better than me (and there is a whole world of them out there, I could be up til midnight for a whole year)...I learn so much.
I think all of us whole truly take our craft seriously and enjoy it, want to continue to learn and strive to get better and better.
Then there are those few rare artists who don't offer critique but offer help (yes, Shelli..I am talking about you).
For a long time, I felt like my work was missing a certain something and could never put my finger on it...then Shel, generously offered her technique for eyelids to all of us.
I tried it and I think that was just the zing I needed...what I was looking for but didn't actually know it. It gave me the ability to incorporate the personalities I wanted for my bears and friends. I see eyelids on so many artists work now and each one is so very different.
I think it would be a lot of fun to ship one of my bears to each and everyone of you ladies and ask for your honest opinion/ critique.
Sue Ann, you little 'whimp'...you would probably be one of the first ones, I would send it to .
But seriously, wouldn't you love to hear what Michelle Lamb, (I don't know this ladies name, but have heard some of you speak of her work...Pergala, Pergalli?) and other artist you admire, would say about your bears and offer advice as to how you could improve? I think that would be so much fun and would be thrilled to have the critique...I would be at the front line!
I bet by the time my little bear got back to me, I would have the corner on the market for THE PERFECT BEAR !! :dance:
While it is easy to crtique the construction, the durability, the quality of materials, is it possible to critique the artistry?
I'm only quoting you, Dilu because you got it all in one sentance perfectly!
I think Hayley was referring to the 'workmanship' meaning 'construction' of her bears. NOT artistry.
That is exactly why this can not be done by picture alone. And why Teddy Bear contests like TOBY etc. are judging originality, overall aesthetic appeal; excellence in concept, design, and execution. They don't have the bear in front of them. Is a photo enough to judge a bear? Sure. Tons of eBayers do that every day and not just with bears. Are they all happy with what they got when the item arrives? We'll never know. And unless they are really, really completely unhappy are they going to tell the seller for fear of insulting their work if it's art they bid on?
However, there are indeed some areas of workmanship that can be praised, critiqued, improved upon etc. And some artists want or need that direction. These areas aren't going to effect the LOOK of the bear so much as providing the artist with guidelines to constructing a bear that will last generations. A review as Hayley has talked about might help the artist learn easier ways to construct certain parts of their bear or more secure ways to sew ears on and got those edges tucked in. I have seen bears for sale where the fur wasn't removed from the seams and with fluffy fur and those seams all bunchy I can't imagine it was part of the LOOK but the artist either over-looked or didn't know to remove the fur. It's attention to details like this that can separate the 'professional' aritst from the hobbyists or simply beginners.
If one wants to be all they can be as an artist I think that seeking the input, constructive criticism and suggestions from other artists can be invaluable!
Critiquing or 'reviewing' (a term I prefer) one's bear should be an educational experience for the artist. Not a session of criticism and attack.
I don't hear any of us claiming to be experts in bear making. There is always something to learn. Something to improve upon. There is always someone with more experience, more knowedge than another too, though. I don't know about you guys but I'm always happy to listen to those more wise than I! It's up to me to take what I can use and leave the rest and try really darn hard not to be too sensitive and emotional to what is said..... I'm one of the sensitive ones so know I'd take everything someone said about my work to heart. But I'd also learn from it all in the end!
That's what we're forever doing as bear artists.... learning.
Thank you Hayley for bring my question forward from another post. I've been reading and pondering everyones comments. I really wish that I had a bear mentor...someone who could physically look at my bears from start to finish and just give me pointers on how I could do things easier, better, etc.
I've mentioned a time or two that I love to quilt...but it was with the extreme pressure of a friend that I started. She kept dragging me to quilt shops right and left until finally I decided to make a baby quilt for another friends first baby...more to shut up my friend who was dragging all over the country. I was hooked after that. BUT...I learned a bunch of techniques from her that I just plain had to be shown to understand. I was constantly running up to her house (she was my neighbor) and asking her stupid questions. Thank god she loved answer them as much as I loved answering them.
I wish I had that here...as much as I love Teddy Talk there have been times when I just plain could not figure out what was being described...no matter how hard I tried. I just needed to see it being done.
I love all you gals; you always have such wise and interesting and important things to say. Yeah, you're talking about bearmaking here, and the concept of a "critique" or in-person assessment of bears as a way to improve on them. But don't you think this stuff has application to so many areas of life?
Anyway... some of my thoughts.
Nancy... thank you for the kindnesses. You might just be my biggest fan.
Sue Ann... you're not a wimp. Period. End of story.
Daphne... I'd welcome your critique of my workmanship! I'm somewhat isolated and not able to get to shows readily, both because I'm raising kids who need me weekends, and because I work very slowly and don't ever have enough stock to exhibit at one. So a "review" would be most welcome someday, because I can neither easily examine the work of others (to compare mine against, for educational purposes), nor can I easily access the opinion of other artists, whose work I admire and respect.
And bravo to your for the (I think perfectly-phrased) statement:
Critiquing or 'reviewing' (a term I prefer) one's bear should be an educational experience for the artist. Not a session of criticism and attack.
Also, I think you were fairminded in stating that, to be fair, not only judges, but also artists, should be provided with the rubric for "grading" artist pieces BEFORE the competition or assessment. If one artist thinks short arms are the cat's meow, but the judging criteria specify "arms longer than legs," well, that artist -- just because of individual vision -- loses out, is "downgraded," etc. VERY good point!
Everyone else: Really great points on the value of critique, the idea that art can't be critiqued, and the idea that we can really help one another if the spirit of learning and growth is present.