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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Handmade Teddy Bears Spotlight Artisan: Vicki of Custom Teddies

I want to welcome Vicki of Custom Teddies to our Handmade Teddy Bears Artisan Spotlight.

Do you have a favorite style of teddy bear?
My favorite teddy bears are old, I mean really old, antique style teddy bears. My favorite teddy bear was an old Steiff Clown Bear that was worn out and raggedy. I restored this bear for a friend of mine, and absolutely fell in love with him. I think the real old bears have a character and personality that cannot be duplicated. Maybe it's about age, or maybe it is about the love and care that it took to create such an item.

Do you have a favorite medium/texture/plush you like working with?

I love going to the Salvation Army and other second hand stores to find jackets and other items that look like they would make good bears. I absolutely love working with mohair, but sometimes the bears made from mohair turn out rather predictable. Working with materials that aren't necessarily made for teddy bear construction can result in a finished product that is unusual and has a certain character that I can't seem to duplicate with mohair. Maybe it's that "old" thing. I also love making bears out of items that people have loved... like my granddaughter's little nubby jacket that she wore until she grew out of it... I made her a teddy for her birthday, and it was very special.

Is there anything you eventually want to get into and master - whether dealing with teddy bears or any other artistic endeavor?

Hum.... I guess my main focus for this time in my life is to perfect the art of teddy bear making. I keep trying to get better and better and try new things. In the past year I have stopped (at least for the most part) embroidering the noses on my bears and have instead opted for my own nose creations out of polymer clay. I love the new clay noses and they seem to add so much more personality to my bears.

What kinds of other artistic projects do you like to work on?

The world is so full of opportunities and I get so excited about doing new things, I sometimes just simply overwhelm myself with ideas. I love to crochet, embroider, needlepoint, cross stitch, make clothing, sew (any kind of sewing), redecorate, garden like crazy, and funny as it may seem, I love to write; it seems like I need to be doing something creative most of the time. At this time I have dedicated most of my creative abilities and desires to the making of teddy bears. I have a tendency to have too many "irons in the fire" so to speak. I overwhelm myself and then I can't seem to get anything done. Staying focused is one of my biggest challenges.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you're not creating art?

I love gardening, working around my house, and I do cook a little. I spend a lot of time with my aging Mother, and that is a rare gift I have been blessed with. It's like getting to know myself through spending time with my Mom as we are both getting older. It is an amazing experience.

How long have you been making bears?

I made my first bear from a kit in say around 1984. I started making them from patterns a few years later.... and began my own designs in the early 90's. It has been an obsession ever since.

When did you first start selling your handmade bears? What inspired you to do so?

I started a little shop here in Juneau called Custom Teddys in 1988. The inspiration for doing that came from the dread I had of going to work five days a week at a State job I hated. I took a giant leap, quit my job and started my teddy bear career.

What style do you decorate your home in?

Um...... lace, earth tones, rugged (slightly), doilies everywhere, teddy bears (of course). I don't know what to call it. It is definitely not contemporary. Somewhere between old fashioned grandma style and a few modern amenities (to keep my husband happy).

Were you artistic as a child?

I loved to draw when I was a little girl. And I concentrated mostly on drawing horses. I don't remember being encouraged as an artist. I think in those days little girls dreamed about having kids and getting married....

Did you like teddy bears as a child? If not, when did your love for teddy bears begin?

I don't even remember having a teddy bear as a child. I had a stuffed dog that I liked, but no teddy bears. The first time I remember seeing teddy bears and feeling my heart open was when I walked into a new friend's house. She had teddy bears everywhere. Her house seemed so loving and friendly, I fell completely in love. It seems like I had a dream months later (and it was literally a dream), where I saw my sewing machine in a corner on my little apartment. The next day I set up a little sewing corner in my apartment, bought another teddy bear kit... then bought some teddy bear patterns.. and I was on my way to experiencing this roller coaster ride I would call being a teddy bear artist.

Did anyone inspire you as a child or when you were starting to become artistic?

I just don't remember being encouraged in this direction as a child. I think it was more important to "follow" the crowd... although I cringe at that thought now.

Was there a point when you realized "Wow, I'm an artist/artisan!

I don't think so..... I'm not really sure I think of myself as an artist. I call myself an artist.... but I don't really know if I believe that in my heart of hearts. It's like "I'm a teddy bear maker"... but I'm not sure I can say artist, yet. I'll have to ponder that...

What does your craft room/studio really look like? Is it organized?

OK..... when I am working.... my work room looks like a tornado hit it. Fur, tools, thread.. patterns..... they are everywhere. It is just a mess. But when I am done for the day... I almost always clean it up. Because it is my relaxing room, too. I have a little TV in here and I like to watch movies and relax in here. So it is a multi-purpose room. I do have a closet that I stuff things into. The closet is "somewhat" organized. I find that I can't get the creative juices flowing if things are a mess. It's like I need to make sure everything is neat before I begin to mess it up. I am inspired by neatness.... then I make the mess!

Please list the sites that you have:
Custom Teddys
Custom Teddys Blog

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