Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meet the Mods, Debbie Nicholas, Group Founder

Note: This article was written by Bobbie, but she asked me to add info about the pictures...-deBBie
We are changing the focus of our Artist of the Month feature over September and October, with a new selection called Meet Your Mods.
We know that you've seen our names and some of the work that we do behind the scenes to keep Thread Animals humming smoothly along. We're going to give you a little bit larger peek into our lives and our work here in Thread Animals.
The natural First Choice is the person whose vision brought all of us together, Debbie Nicholas.

Along the way, with past and present members numbering around 2000 individuals and countless projects finished (we won't even think about those UFOs tucked away in drawers!!) friendships made that bridge difficulties and oceans—Debbie is the person whose vision began it all.
And, she almost fell into this by accident! Of course crocheting and knitting were two hand art skills she'd learned much earlier in life and at different times in our lives, we all envision these talents as possible outlets for bringing in possible extra income.
In surfing the internet, Debbie also browsed eBay® and found impossibly tiny, beautiful, miniaturized crocheted bears, made from threads and extremely fine yarns by Berta and a handful of other artists.
The first ThReAdTeD I ever held, made by Berta from my pattern.

She watched the auctions for months as she tried to figure out how these were designed.
At that point Debbie designed her first pattern, sold it on eBay and the buyer aided her in setting up the yahoo® group which is our present Thread Animals!

My first pattern sold on ebay.

It didn't always flow this easily however, not just like A, B and C. Debbie once made a bear out of 'Granny Squares & Triangles', sewn together.

As proof that it CAN be done. And being self-taught, the first few thread bears she designed were by adapting knitted instructions for a jointed bear into crochet, which turned out looking like a rat according to Debbie, a not-too-uncommon occurrence for bear makers working in all mediums! The bear labeled the 'Rat' bear, was modified and the pattern published but (Debbie feels fortunate that) the image of her original version wasn't photographed, as she felt it looked like like a 'rat'.

My first published pattern. I added a removable sweater.
The jointing was also troubling to understand on her own so she took a chance (on being rebuffed!) and wrote to Berta Hesen-Minten for help. Berta was most helpful and friendly, even though Debbie was not a client at that time. Once she actually held some artist miniature bears and possessed professionally produced patterns and the unique, only book of its kind: ThReAdTeDs: Secrets & Patterns"© 2004 Berta Hesen-Minten, many of the techniques fell into place in her mind.
In the beginning Debbie felt lost without step-by-step instructions to follow. "I couldn’t make a bear without a pattern, and whenever I did something new I felt compelled to write it down. But I finally let go of that and just created bears."

First step toward "letting go" a modified Humphrey Pattern (from my patterns)

Dimitri my first "Just let it go Bear" Friend Ben bear. Went to a friend who had lost a brother.
About 6 years Debbie's small bears began to take on personalities when the eyes went into place, looking back at her as if to say "Hello, there!" with a big personality to match. From that time she has never looked back. However, she is again working on new type of crochet bear design.
Initial design to completion depends on how busy her 8 children are. Yes, 8, from the 2½ year old Samantha to senior year in high school oldest daughter. Debbie feels as if she's never home... always driving someone, somewhere.
(Editor's comment: In looking back, those years now seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. Enjoy them. The times in the car are some of the best opportunities for talking and finding out who your children really are!)
But 5 or 6 hours is about average for each creation - IF she had that many uninterrupted hours! For very firmly crocheted smaller work Debbie would add on several hours. She can tell the difference between her standard work right now compared to someone like Berta's and she aspires to that level, which will come with practice. Right now she focuses on just one design or bear at a time, from start to finish, being inspired by Life around her. Sometimes newly purchased Fiber itself dictates what type of creation it should be.
Debbie thinks of her bears as 'thoughtful, childlike, squishy'. They aren't really small nor are they large: as husband Earl calls Debbie's work “They can be seen from across the room.” We're going to take that as a very High Compliment, Earl!
One of Debbie's most favorite bears is a bear that was destined to go to her Mom: it was put on auction for her Mom to purchase, with the monies to be donated toward the trademark issues, and in the end another bidder won Jodi. All Debbie has of her favorite bear is the image of her sweet face.
Jodi, my favorite bear
Another Jodi Pattern. (from ThReAdTeDs (R)
As to the bear scene in general, it would be ideal if these small warm fuzzies could project their qualities onto the hearts of all of us, erasing all of our negativity. One of the many wonderful international groups and projects around the world that are attempting to do this, which Debbie supports, is Good Bears Of The World.
Still on Debbie's agenda of creative wishes are:
~ an anime bear with a tiny body and HUGE head that will stand up on its own,
~ I have only made one mohair bear. I would like to get better at that.

My first Mohair Bear

Debbie Nicholas has a website of her own,

and chronicles her own adventures here..

As to the bears in Debbie's Album, I'll let her add her comments on their names and how they came about.

I also added notes in small type under the pictures here as well.
Thanks Debbie Nicholas, for giving us all this MOST Comfortable place to gather and share our Fiber Fantasies as well as allowing us this peek into your world!!!

FitzWitz, currently residing in my daughters room. She wouldn't let me sell him.

Link for the Thread Animals Group.

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