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Meet Daphne Blau of Back Road BearsMeet our February Artist: Daphne Blau Bears. Each month, we'll bring you an interview with someone in the bear world. Enjoy!
When did you start making bears and what inspired you to design your own?
I began making bears in late 2000 after attending my first handmade teddy bear show. I used Jennifer Laing patterns for the first few months but because I get bored quickly and don't like to make what someone else has already done, I began 'tweaking' the pattern here and there and learned the effects each tweak had on the finished bear. It wasn't long before I was sitting down with a blank piece of paper and creating my own bears.
Describe your style of bears and/or animals you make.
Hmmm.... a few years ago I would have told you they were all pretty traditional bears as the industry standard goes. Then they began to be more contemporary..... colorful, big noses and feet and the bears as a whole were bigger... I moved up to the 14-20 inch size where I'd stuck with the 10-12 inch size the first couple of years. Now with a new year I've been experimenting with smaller bears.... well, 7 inches is small in my book! And not just bears now. I've created an elephant and a lion thus far which was fun.
Where do you live and where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in New Hampshire, lived in Massachusetts for a while then came back to New Hampshire. I'm a mountain girl.... love the views, ever changing foliage and landscape and all the wildlife.
What inspires you?
My two dogs... wheaten terriers... many say my bears have their faces. Also just digging through my mohair stash, my quilting fabric stash or even a drawer full of accessories can inspire visions of bears made with those goodies!
What is your favorite part of bear making?
Hmm... well, I can honestly say that the only parts I've never griped about are tracing and cutting. The sewing, trying to get the ears, eyes and nose right, the limbs jointed on in the right place, stuffing w/o lumps.... it can all be trying at one time or another. Thus my favorite part is tying on the bow or accessories and meeting my newest completed bear! Don't get me wrong, I do find the whole process to be exciting - I wouldn't be doing it otherwise!
How did you choose your business name?
I lived on an old back road in the mountains.. still do but on a different road in a different town, different mountains... anyway.. the name of the road we lived on was Bear Hill Road. Back Road Bears just sort of came to me and seemed most fitting.
Do you have any other hobbies besides bear making?
Needlefelting, punch needle embroidery, quilting, gardening, antiquing and eating chocolate. :o) Well, I'd rather call that a hobby than an addiction, wouldn't you??!!
Do you have any pets and/or children?
As mentioned, we have two wheaten terriers. Don't need kids with those two around! They are needy, time consuming and costly all on their own! Course, they won't be able to take care of me when I'm old or inherit my bears when I die but they keep my blood pressure down and keep me company, laughing and loved... who could ask for more?
What are you most proud of?
Professionally speaking: the teddy bear shows I produce here in New England. I organized my first show 3 years ago in Maine. I'd been attending bear shows for a number of years and making note of things I liked and disliked, knowing one day I wanted to put together my own show. When the opportunity presented itself I seized the moment and jumped in head first, wanting to offer a show that would make the artists happy and feel appreciated and collectors excited. It's harder than it sounds but feedback says I accomplished that my first time out! The right setting is important to me... something unique... bright and cheerful. And quality in craftsmanship and variety is important too - annual shows can get stale. The biggest challenge most any promoter faces is getting people in the door. It's harder today than it was 5-10 years ago. (I won't get into the whys - economy and the internet have a great deal to do with it though.) Now promoters must think outside the box and introduce new people to the industry. We can't count on current collectors always supporting us, we always have to work at attracting new folks. The saying "Build it and they will come" may apply to baseball stadiums but not teddy bear shows. So, as a new promoter I am learning what works, what doesn't and just how costly advertising is (more incentive to think outside the box!). Artists and collectors alike have commented on the quality of my shows and the fact that they are growing in artist and collector participation each year says a lot. This year I have artists traveling from Canada and the other side of the US to participate. That means a lot to me that they'd go the extra mile, literally, for one of my shows! I produce two shows a year now - The New England Spring Teddy Bear Show in NH and The Maine Teddy Bear & Soft-Sculpture Show in ME. To learn more about my shows, read reviews and see photos or get an application please visit www.backroadevents.net
Where do you sell your bears?
I sell my bears mainly at teddy bear shows. I also sell from my site and by word of mouth. Once in a blue moon I'll put a bear on eBay but I really don't have time to make enough bears to spread myself out that much. I have all I can do to keep up with orders! Due to tendon problems in my hands I can't sew as much as I'd like to which limits my productivity somewhat. If my orthopedic surgeon had it his way I wouldn't be making bears at all. This way I figure he has job security! Producing shows and being a mohair supplier ( www.backroadbears.com/supplyshop.htm ) as well as teaching workshops take up quite a bit of time also.
I Love Teddies Note: Daphne did not mention this in her interview, but she made the bunny in the movie “The Last Mimzy,” which came out in theaters in 2007. Tonner Doll made some versions of Mimzy. Contact Daphne for more information.
Back Road Bears
Back Road Bears
Back Road Bears on Teddy-Bears.org
Back Road Events
Back Road Events Upcoming Shows for 2008:
March 29 - New England Spring Teddy Bear Show
July 26 - Maine Teddy Bear & Soft-Sculpture Show