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Artist of the Month

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The featured artist for the month of May is Lana Rickabaugh of the US!

Lana Rickabaugh, a bear artist from Northwest Missouri, started making large bears in 1992 after purchasing a pattern. She enjoyed the process, but wasn't completely happy with the finished bear. Soon she started designing patterns that were all her own. It wasn't long until "Warm Fuzzies" was born.

But something was missing, she hadn't had alot of luck with big bears .... they didn't have "the look", they didn't speak to her customers, so in turn, sales were not that good.

In 1994, at a bear show that was not going well, the artist next to Rickabaugh talked her into buying a miniature kit. Up to that point she loathed making anything under 12" and was hesitant that it was really going to happen. She went home that night and started on the kit right away, and finished it about midnight.

Even though the stitching wasn't just right, or the jointing was all wrong, that bear had more character than any big bear she'd ever created. Lana was in love with this new art medium. She quit making full sized bears, and within a week, she was wholesaling miniatures to shops across the country. She had found her calling.

Over the years since, Lana has perfected her style of bears. Her bears and other pieces are fun comedic faced, reminisicent of cartoons, which matches Lana's personality perfectly. "I have a wicked sense of humor", says Lana, "and I can't stop it from coming through in my bears".

"I get so much enjoyment when people stop at my table at shows and bust out laughing." she says "I feel like if I can make someone laugh, they'll fall in love and buy." And that's exactly what has been working for her.

A few years ago, when sales were slow, Lana did some soul searching and sat down to design some traditional style teddies. "I was hating it... I was getting depressed.

I got a bear about three-quarters done," she says, "He looked great! I didn't finish him! I decided that rather than 'selling out' I would work harder to find those customers who wanted wild fabrics, bright colors and cartoon faces."

"I still have that bear," Lana adds, "I keep him to remind me of what not to do. I never gave him legs either, I just find that kinda humorous."

That ephiphany paid off for Lana. Since then she has won several awards at shows, won the Glass City Award for her "Primary Colors" set, and nominated for the same award with her "Edward" piece. She was also nominated for a Golden Teddy in 1999. "That was the pay off for me, that's when I realized I'd made the right decision to trudge on with what I really wanted."

Most days you will find her busily designing new creations such as bugs, giraffes, pandas, elephants, puppets, monkeys, frogs or whatever else may spur her imagination that day. "I find it near impossible to do anything else, no matter how important it is, if I have a bear in my head that I'm dying to design." says Lana "It really is just best for me to design it, then I can get my work done."

Lana finds inspiration in many places. Maybe she sees a photograph that touches her, or an unusual piece of fabric that will spark an idea that she has to run off and create immediately. Sometimes she'll hear a story that makes her laugh and she wants to make it into a bear for others to enjoy.

She also find inspiration in friends, family and her community, all who very suportive of what she's doing to further her bear making career... and who are also very helpful with ideas.

Lately Lana has been finding alot of inspiration from antique boxes and tins which have spawned pieces such as her "Teddy Beargar" (a bear in a cigar box) and "Teddy Sampler" which are bear faces and bears along with candies in antique candy boxes.

Lana has also gone back to her roots recently and made a few bigger bears. "Don't expect me to give up minis," says Lana "I was in desperate need of a break from minis, so I made a few big bears." These bears looked alot like her minis only in a more huggable size with those same comedic faces.

Lana makes approximately 300 bears a year, and you can find some of her work at shows all over the country including Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Ohio and California. You can also see her bears at www.warm-fuzzies.com.

"I have a dream job," says Lana, "what more could any grown up ask for, but to wake up each day and make toys that bring absolute joy to collectors young and old alike."

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