Artist Spotlight: Jane Blowes
By Anita SperoBear making, as almost any bear artist comes to realize, is something that can very quickly become addicting. Jane Blowes, a talented new artist, testifies to this aspect of bear making!
Living in Alberta, Canada with her family for 24 years, Jane says that she stumbled upon bear-making when some of her friends goaded her into taking a bear-making class. Having never sewn a stitch in her life, Jane notes that after twelve hours of bear-making, she was completely hooked!
Working full time prohibits Jane from pursuing her bears as much as she would like, but she does make time for sewing evenings and weekends. A devoted grandmother, Janes only other hobby includes playing with her grandchildren, Nikki and Hunter. Besides tending to her family, Jane also runs a teddy supply shop, which she says keeps her very busy!
The story behind Janes chosen business name, MoBear designs, is credited to her two grandchildren. As for the name Mo Bear Designs. When Nikki was born as a joke Steve started calling me Mo and the name stuck. So now the grandkids call me Mo instead of Grandma - I actually like Mo better than Grandma. So there grew Mo Bear Designs!
Janes devoted family is fully supportive of her efforts. Her grandchildren, however, are credited with being her biggest fans. They like to hug and kiss each bear before it is adopted! Surprised as her family was by Janes newfound talent, her family is indeed very proud of where she has taken her hobby. And well they should be! Jane now designs all of her own patterns, and now uses those patterns for classes that I teach.
Jane had no idea that her hobby would have evolved into such a creative outlet, one in which she is inspired by many things. Jane finds inspiration in looking at new and established artists bears, as well as the fabric itself. She notes that looking at a particular piece of mohair will often inspire a new creation!
Jane loves working with mohair, but also has a lot of real fur in my stash. You will be seeing some of those bears in the near future!
When asked to describe her style of bears, Jane says that she is constantly evolving as an artist, and does not have a distinctive style as yet. However, looking at her bears, there are similarities among them. Her mastery of noses is quite apparent! Jane says that she loves making bears of all sizes, but finds that making bears between five and ten inches tall suits her best.
Jane offers some wonderful advice to emerging artists, saying You can create bears even if you have no prior sewing ability, so dont let that stop you. Just jump right in, and you will find that you can swim! Jane also offers that new artists, as well as established artists, should consider joining the myriad online forums that exist specifically for teddy bears. She says that most of the artists are very friendly and willing to share lots of techniques. Its like a big family with lots of support!
Jane says that she doesnt know what the future holds for her as a bear artist, but right now she is content making and selling bears to collectors around the world. We certainly look forward to seeing what this talented artist creates next!
You can find Janes bears at: www.mobeardesigns.com
Edinburgh Imports Interview:
Lisa: Tell us a little bit about yourself Jane. When did you start making bears? Did your bear making start as a hobby? When did you start selling your bears and how did you choose the name Mo Beary as your business name?
Jane: I live in Redcliff, Alberta Canada with my hubby Steve. We have one daughter Tara who with her hubby Mark and 2 children Nikki and Hunter (2 of my biggest fans!!), live across the street from us. I took a class in 2001 with 8 girlfriends and we all made a bear in 1 day!!! Yes I did say 1 day it was a 12-hour marathon of cutting, sewing, of course laughing and just having a great time. I was the only one who had never sewn a stitch before so by the end of the day I was proud as punch to have made a bear but also mentally exhausted so much to remember!! My hubby was shocked and wanted to know who I paid to make the bear for me!! After this I didnt make another bear for about 2 years although most of my friends continued. One day our local bear supply shop was having an open house so I went with the girls and decided to try again and the bear making addiction has continued ever since. Bear making started out as a hobby only making bears for family and friends. I started selling bears about 1-½ years ago on E-bay and Bid 4 Bears. My name is a bit of a story. There are 3 of us girls who worked together and played together so my hubby used to call us the 3 Stooges. He referred to my as Mo and he taught our granddaughter Nikki to call me Mo instead of Grandma. So the name has stuck and Mo Bear Designs was created.
Lisa: Now tell me a little about your other business Paws-2-Sew. I love the slogan Think of the Paw-sew-bilities! When and how did the business of selling supplies and giving classes come about?
Jane: Paws 2 Sew is a small home based Teddy Bear Supply store. The business is located in my partner Sharon Kirvans (one of the Stooges) home in Redcliff. We decided to open the store when our local supplier closed. So in January 2005 we opened in an upstairs bedroom, which was a little small. My hubby then did some renovations to the 3rd level of Sharons home and that is where our shop is today. We have a wide variety of mohair and synthetic fabrics as well as all the other required supplies for teddy bear making. We also teach classes and offer bear making classes where 5 6 friends make one bear for a special someone i.e. a new baby. Each person sews a piece of the bear and you all have a hand in stuffing, jointing and giving the bear personality. Of course with everyone having a hand making a bear it is a very special gift. The class includes lots of laughs with refreshments and snacks and pictures of the progress.
Lisa: I was visiting your website and noticed that you make bears of recycled fur which I consider challenging. When did you start making your fur bears? What fabric did you use for your first bears?
Jane: I have made a few bears out of recycled fur and I do really enjoy the challenge. The first recycled fur bear I made was for a friend. She was cleaning out her garage and found her Muskrat fur coat from years ago, which had been in the garage in a garbage bag for a while. She was about to throw it out when she thought about me and wondered if I would have any use for it. So I decided to make her a bear and she loved it. The next fur coat that I worked with was my Aunt's mother, which she estimated to be approximately 72 years old. As I wasn't good at identifying fur a fellow bear maker thought it was Seal, which I think was actually Sheared Beaver. I cant express how nervous I was to cut into such an heirloom. Cutting up my friends coat that was already in the garbage was a lot easier! I ended up making my Aunt 3 bears from the coat and she treasures them. She has 3 daughters who would really like to have them now but she isnt giving them up while she is still around to enjoy them. I have now bought a number of coats to make bears and Im slowly getting to them as they do take up more time than making a mohair bear.
Lisa: You mentioned on your website that you are part of the Bid4Bears Artists Campaign. Has it been a challenge coming up with something new every week?
Jane: I love Bid 4 Bears and signed up as soon as Nancy announced the Campaign. I started creating bears for the Campaign in February so that I wouldn't be to stressed in April and May. I then went on to sell Honeysuckle before the Campaign started and sent 2 bears (Dudley and Lyza) to a Julie at Bears-Strike-A-Paw to be photographed as the January Bears in a 2008 Bear Calendar. These 2 bears will be back mid May and will then be listed for sale on Bid 4 Bears. So starting early really helped and as the creative juices were flowing good I have been able to meet my commitment without to much stress.
Lisa: I noticed that you offer Memory Bears on your website which I think is wonderful. How did you begin making Memory Bears? Do people approach you with an idea?
Jane: I guess really you could say the first Memory Bears were made from the 2 recycled fur coats however the Memory Bears which I have on my website were made for my cousin. Her husband passed away suddenly and I offered to make her a bear out of his clothing as a keepsake. She loved the idea and I made 5 bears for her. They are a little challenging as the fabrics like the Terry Cloth Robe and Flannel Shirts etc have to be treated in much the same manner as recycled fur. Another challenge is making them so that the loved one is happy with the final bear. I have been approached to make a few more bears for people but haven't made a complete commitment as yet.
Lisa: How does belonging to a forum such as this one help you grow as an artist? Are you a member of any other organization and how has the exposure through a group such as that been beneficial for your career?
Jane I love the forums although they do tend to cut into my bear making time! I have learnt so much from other Artists who are willing to share their knowledge and techniques. I have talked with Artists who I admire and will probably never meet in person but feel that I have a connection because of the forums. I have made a lot of good friends and even met a few ladies in person. Every new up and coming bear maker should be part of the forums as it is such a good way to meet people with the same interests.
Lisa: When did you start designing and selling your patterns? What difficulty level are your patterns? Have you ever thought about selling them as kits?
Jane: I started designing my own patterns about 1 1/2 years ago when I started selling bears. I have 3 patterns in our shop that I sell and one of the patterns is usually what we use for teaching classes. The difficulty levels are easy to intermediate. I had not even thought about selling kits however you have just given Sharon an idea to keep bugging me about!!! Se is my motivator and she is good for my ego! However, she also tells me if she doesn't like something, which of course is the sign of a true friend. Keep in touch because I'm sure kits will be coming soon ha ha!!
Lisa: What is the most gratifying part about making bears?
Jane: I really love everything about making bears. I have to say the most gratifying part is when someone loves them just as much as I do. I have a tendency not to like my bears as I'm making them but once they are finished. I'm usually very happy with the outcome.
Lisa: Besides your website, where can collectors find your bears for sale? I also sell my bears on Bid 4 Bears and E-Bay. I will be attending my first Bear Show in Calgary, Alberta in August 2007. I'm really excited about the show and I'm now starting to get some bears ready. You can also see my bears on display at Paws 2 Sew.
Lisa: What inspires you as an artist?
Jane: As an Artist I'm inspired by others. I love looking at new bears and trying new techniques. Of course I love mohair and sometimes just a color or texture will inspire me to make a new bear.
Lisa: Thank you, thank you Jane!!!!
Jane: Lisa I would like to thank you for asking me to do this interview and I would also like to thank Edinburgh for giving all Artists the opportunity to learn through the forum. Its so funny that just a few years ago I had never sewn a stitch and now I have been asked to do this interview. I can tell you that my friends and family are very inspiring to me and they are all proud of where I have taken this hobby. Thanks.