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Meet Debora Hoffmann of New Avenue Crew

Interview #21 for Bear Buzz.

Meet our April/May Artist: Debora Hoffmann of New Avenue Crew. Every other 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?

Nearly 15 years ago, in August of 1996, I created the first teddy bear from my own pattern design, and New Avenue Crew was born.

Growing up on New Avenue, I could always be found making art of some sort. I delighted in spending hours drawing pictures and even creating jointed, movable animals with paper and brads. My mom sewed many clothes for us, and though I didn’t inherit her love for sewing, I did make a few pillows and a couple of teddy bears of my own design in my early years. (I sure wish I still had those bears!) In my 20s, I fell in love with antique teddy bears and then with artist-created bears. I struggled to create a few bears from fabric-store, knit-back synthetic plush and a pattern book–it’s a wonder I made more than one! And then, at a teddy bear convention, I took a class to make a mohair bear. The mohair fabric was so wonderful to work with that I went right home and started designing my first patterns. The Crew marched merrily forth from there!

Describe your style of bears and/or animals you make.

The traditional, classic style of the teddy bears from the early 1900s is my favorite, so I create the majority of my bears in this style, but with a little New Avenue Crew twist. You’ll also see some character bears and cats emerging from the studio, and one year I designed and created a little pig. My mind always seems to be designing the next bear; I have two designs in the works now, and I’m also creating my first rabbit. With every bear or animal I make, I strive to create an endearing face and a sweet, lovable character.

Where do you live and where are you originally from?

My husband Garth and I have lived in beautiful Colorado for six years. We both grew up in Southern California, and before moving to Colorado, we lived in the Seattle area for four years. Though we love Colorado and being near some of our family, we also miss the California coast and the Puget Sound area.

What inspires you?

So very many things inspire me to create: my wonderful childhood; God’s majestic creation, including the wide variety of colors, shapes, and textures; travel; cultures; food; real bears; cats; toys; books and stories; paintings; music–the list could go on and on.

What is your favorite part of bear making?

My favorite part of bear making is working on a bear’s face and seeing its personality emerge. What fun to watch a little one come to “life”! And I am so touched and honored when someone falls in love with a Crew member and adopts it. My bears have allowed me to meet many collectors and other teddy bear artists through the years, both in person and online, which is a wonderful highlight for me.

How did you choose your business name?

Because I wanted my bears to convey the warmth and joy I experienced growing up on New Avenue, I chose the name New Avenue Crew. And even now, nearly 15 years later, I am continually inspired by memories of my happy childhood and the people and playthings that were part of it.

Do you have any other hobbies besides bear making?

I love to draw and sketch, and that led me to earn a degree in graphic design. I don’t work as a designer any longer (I’ve been a proofreader for about 15 years), so I wear my designer hat for New Avenue Crew and my illustrations, which I hope to work more on this year. I once dreamed of being a greeting card designer or a children’s book author and illustrator! Learning about healthful eating and cooking is another hobby, and I also love being outdoors with my husband enjoying God’s handiwork.

Do you have any children and/or pets?

We had some very memorable cats in my growing-up years; I might just have to create some Crew members with their names someday.

In the summer of 2009, my husband and I adopted two teenage girls from Ukraine. The elder, Lienna, is now 16, and the younger, Larisa, is 15. Because the girls’ first language is Russian, I was inspired to give two of my most recent bears Russian names: Kalinka and Malinka.

What are you most proud of?

I am so glad that I was determined to persevere through the trials of learning to sew bear parts on cantankerous sewing machines and embroider nice noses on bears who didn’t want to cooperate. I truly enjoy making my sweet Crew members! It has been an honor to have my bears pictured in magazines and profiled in a recent online article–I am also thrilled that you wanted to interview me; thank you so very much.

Where do you sell your bears?

I sell my bears directly from my website (http://newavenuecrew.blogspot.com), though I wish I could invite everyone into my home for tea and to meet the bears in the fur. I have participated in two online teddy bear shows recently, which were a lot of fun, and I hope to do more of them as well as some in-person bear shows again in the future. In-person shows, in particular, are such a delight: I can meet other bear-loving people and see and hold cuddly teddy bears of all shapes and sizes.

New Avenue Crew

New Avenue Crew

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