Creator of bear collectibles brings her work to Big Sandy


An artist who markets her miniature stuffed animals around the world is coming to little Big Sandy to sign her work. The trip is in conjunction with the unveiling of an exclusive piece, the first of three she is making for a Big Sandy store.

Deb Canham will be at Raven Crest Mercantile in Big Sandy on Oct. 11. The store, the only outlet for Deb Canham Artistic Designs Inc. products in Montana, will have the first of three exclusive pieces in honor of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial, said Raven Crest owner Christina Kidd. This year's piece is modeled after Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who guided the Corps of Discovery.

Next year, Canham will make bears modeled after Lewis and Clark, Kidd said.

People have already placed orders with Raven Crest for all three from as far away as England and Germany, she said. She has orders for 30 of the sets. Only 100 of each bear will be made and they are being sold separately or as a group.

"Everybody has ordered all three from the set," she added. "And we haven't even gotten them yet."

During a telephone interview from Venice, Fla., where she lives and works, Canham said she usually makes more of her handmade products than 100, but all of her creations are limited and numbered.

All of her 100-piece creations have sold out, she said, as well as some of the pieces with larger production numbers.

"Everything sells out eventually," Canham added.

The collectibles sell for up to $100 on the retail market. The limited number pushes the price up when they're resold to other collectors, with pieces often going for $200 to $400 or higher, she said.

Canham was a police officer in London when she began making miniature bears as a hobby in 1986. Her hobby has come a long way.

"I would be at my kitchen table sewing away. It just kept on growing," she said.

Now Deb Canham creations are sold in 250 to 300 stores across the United States, and in stores in other countries, including England, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden, she said.

Her company doesn't sell any bears or other animals directly to the public, and distributes them through collectible shops instead.

Many of Canham's creations are 3 nches tall. Others are smaller, and others are larger, with some of her BiGger Bear line close to 2 feet tall.

Some of her designs are limited to only nine made, with others having as many as 5,000.

Every one of her creations, which include dragons and other animals, comes with a tag giving the creation's name and number from its edition and the name of the collection it belongs to.

Canham said she only uses German mohair cloth, woven from cotton and goat hair, to make her creations. Mohair is what all teddy bears were made from before nylon became commonly used, she added.

"Basically, it's the finest thing you can get to make teddy bears," Canham said. "I choose to stick with it, one, because it's so nice and, two, it's stayed the test of time. It's such a high-quality fabric."

Only three mohair factories exist in the world, she added, two in Germany and one in England. It typically costs $100 a square yard, and can cost $300 a square yard or more, she said.

Canham started designing miniatures for Akira Little Gem Co. in 1993. In 1996, she moved to the United States to form Deb Canham Artist Designs.

The larger U.S. market, as well as economic uncertainty caused by the formation of the European Union and the implementation of the euro as the unit of currency, prompted the move, Canham said.

Kidd is a former Floridian. She said that after touring the country with a friend, she fell in love with Butte, and moved there from Fort Myers, Fla., in 1990.

She married David Kidd in 1994 and moved to Big Sandy, and opened Raven Crest Mercantile about six years ago. Christina Kidd also owns the Raven Crest Bed and Breakfast in Big Sandy.

The retail store carries a variety of high-quality collectibles, gift items and merchandise for home use, "things you can't find at Kmart and Wal-Mart," she said.

She said she started carrying Deb Canham items about a year ago. She contacted Canham after seeing her advertisement in a trade magazine.

Not many people know she carries Deb Canham pieces yet, she said, but she is working to change that. She shares an ad in a teddy bear periodical with Canham, and is creating a Web site for the store that will help advertise the products.

"(Canham) picking our store for the signing should generate interest," Kidd added.

Canham said she travels all over the United States and to other countries to do signings. Usually, she just flies in, does the signing, and flies back, but she's taking some extra time to see some Montana sights, she added.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Montana. I've never been out there," Canham said.

On the Net: Deb Canham Artist Designs:

Raven Crest Mercantile:


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