Recently, in my search for innovation and additional ways of expressing my art through the teddy bears, I’ve combined needle felting with mohair bears and introduced the idea at the Toy Fair in New York in Feb 2003. My needle felting and this innovation were featured in Teddy Bear Review in Dec 2003 and Teddy Bear & Friends in Feb 2004. There are examples of both in the new creations and the needle felting sections of this website.
Like many of you I was drawn into the teddy bear world by some special bears in my life. Some of these special bears were definitely more than I could afford as they were made of mohair. As with many of my crafts and interests, I decided to try and make my own teddy bear to help me “get over” my desire. I made a jointed bear out of some plush I found, and discovered that instead of the bears getting out of my system they had found their way in. I had found a new passion ….creating teddy bears. So it began in 1986, I designed my own patterns and went out and purchased that wonderful mohair I loved , and began making teddies for the friends and acquaintances that had asked. Before I knew it I had created a monster - I had no time for my “full time” job and no time for my part time job at night as a self defense instructor. After doing some doll and teddy bear collectible shows I found myself producing and creating mohair teddies for the Toy Fair in Manhattan at the Javits Center. This was the beginning of Irene Heckel Originals (originally known as “Grin & Bear It”. Since then I have been one of the first artists to do an angled joint for the head ( I still use this today) (Teddy Bear Review May/June 1995), introduce the use of the air brush on teddy bears (Teddy Bear & Friends Feb 1999 and Teddy Bear Scene July/Aug 1999 in England).
Over the past few years I have been very grateful to have been nominated and won a number of awards for several of my “friends” including nominations in the 1999/2000 and the 2003/2004 TED Worldwide competition that is produced by the Bar Report (Bear Report) magazine in Germany. In 2003 I was fortunate to win a first place award for my Cheshire cat and in 2004 two 1st and 2nd place for several needle felted pieces in Rhinebeck, NY at the Sheep and Wool Festival. 2005 brought a first place for my “Spirit” elf at the Patchogue, NY Doll Fanciers Show in January and a second place at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May .
Currently, I am putting the finishing touches on my needle felting book and expanding my horizons in the fiber art arena. By exhibiting at more teddy bear shows I am able to meet with and speak directly to the collectors, which is something that I treasure, since it is only with the support of these wonderful people that I can continue the work that is a large part of my life.
Hope to see you at a show or needle felting workshop soon!