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What is furry art exactly and what’s the hype about? Here’s everything you need to know

What is furry art?

Furry art has been around a long time, but in recent years, it has taken on a life of its own on the internet. It’s more than a life really, it’s a whole world. On the community’s very own Wikipedia-style website, Wikifur, furry art is defined as a “term used to describe artwork depicting anthropomorphic (humanoid or feral) animal characters, fursonas, avatars or personas.” It sometimes goes beyond innocent little drawings. Within the furry art community, there is a subsection of—you guessed it—furry porn; this is otherwise known as yiff.

The term ‘yiffing’ apparently originally refers to the mating sound that foxes make. A definition via Urban Dictionary suggests that it’s “generally harmless and completely unrelated to zoophilia.” Some believe that their community is completely misunderstood and thus, stigmatised. It is because of the sometimes negative or sexual connotations of the term ‘furry’ that some artists like to refer to by a different name—’anthro art’. Its definition within the subculture continues to be a polarising issue.

What does furry art look like?

Furry art is a wide-ranging subculture; within it there is a multitude of variations (some of which are listed above). The most known and common expression of furry art is typically referred to as ‘humanoid’ artwork. Wikifur defines a humanoid furry as “a character with basically a human body […] [they] are upright-walking characters with animal heads, fur, tails, and sometimes paws or claws.”

Some in the community argue that this is a requirement for a character to be referred to as a furry. Examples I found that would fall under this category are characters like Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Lola Bunny (from Space Jam) and more recently, Judy Hopps from the 2016 Disney film Zootopia

Art that doesn’t depict humanoid bodies—for example, characters that have animal bodies and walk on all fours—are often described as ‘non-anthro.’ Examples would include characters in films like The Lion King, Ratatouille, Bambi and more. The parameters behind these definitions are still debated among the furry community. Many would disagree about the examples I have given myself. Wikifur writes, “Others favour a more exclusive definition, arguing that only those images and media created by individuals who operate within the social boundaries of the furry fandom and whose output is distributed primarily inside of the fandom’s channels should be considered to be furry art.” Mainstream movie versions may not count. These furries really care about their definitions but who are they?

What are furries?

A furry (or plural furries) is a term that is used to describe the fandom behind furry art. In an article about the furry community, Vox writes that the term “encompasses a wide spectrum from people who are simply fans of TV shows and video games featuring anthropomorphic animal characters (like Sonic the Hedgehog or Pokémon), to people who develop a highly specific furry character (‘fursona’) they identify with, to ‘otherkin’ who see themselves as not fully human on a spiritual or mental level.” Furries’ love for their artwork goes beyond being two-dimensional; a minority participate in dressing up in ‘anthro’ animal costumes—with some places having their own conventions.

Let’s have a look at the other types of furries Vox mentions. A fursona, I have discovered, is a combination of the words ‘furry’ and ‘persona’; it refers to an avatar, alter-ego furry character (usually a fictitious or mythical animal) that a furry may use as their online identity. A VICE article goes into more detail about ‘otherkins’ and their own community, “Otherkins are people who identify as partially or entirely nonhuman. A dragon, a lion, a fox—you name it—there is probably someone out there who feels like they are more these things than they are human. [They] can be found lurking on Reddit […] and other online forums.” As you can see even within furries themselves lies a multitude of various subcultures. It is an extremely passionate and diverse community.

Is furry art sexual?

This is a very debated question and there still doesn’t appear to be a straight answer. There are a number of sites that are dedicated to more ‘adult’ versions of furry art but also ones that are simply for art. Courtney “Nuka” Plante, PhD, a professor of psychology and co-founder of Furscience conducted a study where he found that “Furries were also most likely to report an interest in sex (e.g. pornographic content) as a motivator of fandom participation relative to other groups.”

Furries however seem sick of being cast as sexual deviants. Plante also notes however that it is not their primary motivator to participate in such a community and isn’t unlike any other fandoms that sexualise their characters. Perhaps furry art itself is not inherently sexual but simply can’t escape the internet’s pornification of everything. I mean, have we forgotten about hentai?

What is a long Furby? Four Etsy sellers explain the internet’s obsession with the quirky trend

If you were active on Tumblr back in 2018, you’d probably remember scrolling through a parallel universe of ‘confession Tumblr’—where users admitted their deepest desires for others to either cringe or relate to. While most confessions helped normalise furry art, sexual attraction to the clown from It and even eating Tide pods for breakfast, there was a niche community on the rise obsessed with ‘oddbody Furbies’: a series of customised Furbies given different bodies than the original (and iconic) model.

One of the most coveted oddbody Furbies on Tumblr back then was the long Furby. Four years later, with hundreds of fan accounts on Instagram, more than 806 pages on its official Wiki fandom and its own meme format, the love for long Furbies is evident. But what makes them so appealing? Is it possible to break down the demand for these bizarre handmade creations so that the rest of the internet can understand their charm? Maybe all of the aesthetic and subculture enthusiasts out there can pick something up from this to help spur another element of their own identity.

In a bid to reach this haven, SCREENSHOT spoke to four of the top long Furby sellers on Etsy. From chaotically-wholesome commissions to a diverse range of uses, here’s all the love and insights they had to share for their DIY furry friends.

What is a long Furby?

Often referred to as ‘Long Boi’, a long Furby is characterised by its elongated body. Varying in length typically ranging between three to five feet, the popular oddbody ‘species’ can be broadly categorised into two: the ‘traditional long Furby’ with two small feet at the bottom and the ‘limbed long Furby’ featuring full-fledged arms and legs.

Now, there are various ways a long Furby can be made. Creators can either acquire original Furby models on sites like eBay to later gut and partly replace them with a long and flexible plushy body, or alternatively, skin the models to elongate the fur while leaving the toy fully functional. Customised orders are also made from scratch depending on a customer’s preference.

“The toys that I wanted often didn’t exist,” Sara Tobias, owner of PlushieCouture on Etsy, told SCREENSHOT. “So, inspired by my parents who are incredibly creative, I would try making them instead.” Although Tobias initially acquired cursed Furbies to prank others, the creator later wanted to put them to good use and thereby started creating the oddbodies. “When I shared these with my family and friends, everyone loved them, and PlushieCouture was born!” Tobias added.

As for Alison Lord and her Etsy shop AlisonMakes, the creator tried her hand at making a long Furby years ago after spotting it on her social media feed—but ended up failing at the initial attempt. “Then I sort of forgot about it until the first lockdown hit when I created the Furby version of Joe Exotic (a big cultural icon at the time) and set up an Instagram account for fun.” Lord later kicked off AlisonMakes by creating baby Joes, presently regarding her first Joe Exotic draft as a “long Furby sacrilege.”

On the other hand, Evelyn Surman and Melody Ding (masterminds behind LongFurbyShop and DinnerIsServed respectively) came across the DIY creations via YouTuber StrangeAeons who did a deep dive on the self-proclaimed ‘cult’ on Tumblr. Inspired by a certain video where the YouTuber made her own long Furby offspring named ‘Thursday Plurbonym-Boyporridge’, Ding—a 14-year-old creator—was inspired to embark on the adventure herself.

“It was a mess. Me and my friend knew nothing about Furbies at the time and even bought the wrong materials,” Ding said, currently at a total of 136 sales on Etsy. As for Surman, the idea of a long Furby was “absolutely hilarious, if somewhat cursed. I knew I had to make my own, so in June 2020 I made my first long Furby named ‘Rabies’ as a birthday present to myself—who now serves as the template for all of my designs.”

A socially distanced tale of bestsellers

Before we break down the appeal for long Furbies, let’s analyse the present demand for these creations on Etsy. For Lord, her bestselling Furbies are the long Furblings. “These mini baby long bois fly out of the shop as soon as I list them,” Lord mentioned. The longest Furby the creator has made to date is a Furby owl with a sculpted and feathery face. “He was about five and a half feet long and had a series of claws down the length of his body and was a real work of art.”

The owl was made by Lord following a sudden urge, later staying in her house and periodically scaring members of her family until a customer bought him. “He is now in New York, so this has now become a global thing,” Lord added.

As for Surman, the creator’s bestsellers are both the black fur with blue corduroy and black fur with yellow plaids—which admittedly resembles YouTuber StrangeAeons’ own Furby named ‘Thursday’. “The longest Furby I’ve made was five feet long, which was almost as tall as me! And that one was so much fun to make as the customer wanted me to recreate a Furby as an inside joke within his friend group,” Surman recalled. “It’s so rewarding creating pieces which mean a lot to people.”

No business can be left out in the whirlwind without analysing the impact the pandemic has had on its operations. In the world of long Furbies, the rollercoaster has only gone up, my friend! “The demand for long Furbies has skyrocketed over the past 12 months,” Lord said. “I think at this time, more than ever, people want to buy nice things that make them feel happy and long Furbies are fun.”

Although both Lord and Surman started their respective Etsy shops over the pandemic, the demand for their creations has remained steady over the period. “In the last year, we have seen more and more Furby-specific social media and shops come online,” Tobias admitted. “We love seeing more people discover Furbies and hope they’ve been a comfort in this horrible/crazy year.”

The A-Z drive behind purchases

Now it’s time to address the elephant in the room: what makes long Furbies so appealing to its fandom, which is a self-proclaimed ‘cult’ on the internet today? Let’s start by analysing the objective behind these creations.

The best thing about long Furbies is that you can create your own purpose,” said Lord. “It can either live in your room and keep you company at night, or you can take it out and about and photograph it engaged in everyday activities.” Running a dedicated ‘long Furby-making club’ at the high school she works at, Lord mentioned how members are keen on hosting Furby picnics in the park when they are done. In a way, the DIY creations harbour the same attachment as virtual pets in cyberspace like Tamagotchi or Nintendogs.

Although the customers that Melody deals with usually buy oddbodies as a gift, long Furbies in particular, are often bought for themselves. “A lot of people who want a long Furby companion but don’t want to make one themselves come on Etsy,” the seller admitted.

Surman added to these claims by describing long Furbies as “a companion with which to rule the world.” However, the creator also credited their charms to “the sheer ridiculousness” of the entire concept. “The fact that they don’t have a specific purpose, I think, is part of their appeal,” she said. Ding further backed this up by explaining, “The novelty appeal in them is because they are so weird—it’s kind of endearing.”

According to Tobias, the purpose backing the demand for long Furbies is either the search for a “fun cuddly friend” or a “fun creepy gift.” “We’ve seen people adopt them for the unboxing experience or because they’re great conversation starters. A few offices have even adopted them as a sort of mascot. I love showing them to people for the first time. Their reaction says it allthese aren’t something anyone can look away from.”

Tobias and Lord further touched upon the wholesome fandom in question. “The long Furby community is one of the nicest online groups. The people are so diverse, of all ages and creative abilities, and I have never felt so welcome in any online community before,” Lord summed up.

Decoding the psychological appeal of long Furbies

A quick scroll through ‘Furblr’—a parallel Tumblr dedicated to the long Furby fandom—will leave you scratching your head as you proceed to spot full-fledged names popping up along with the images. This is because Furby lovers often name their furry buddies. Remember how we talked about the ‘companion’ status they have achieved? This is also the reason why the Furby fandom refuses to be labelled as ‘collectors’. You don’t collect family now, do you?

I love it when a customer names their Furby and gets them a necklace made with their names,” Lord admitted. The creator also highlighted how some people in the community treat them like their own children, “For a lot of people who have long Furbies, it’s a reconnection with their childhood and a safe place for them to be who they really feel they are.”

While explaining the ‘familial’ status of long Furbies, all four Etsy sellers admitted to being dedicated Furby lovers themselves—at times creating a long Furby they find hard to let go of. “My long Furby ‘Rabies’ is very much part of the family and my siblings have pretty much accepted him as an adopted brother!” exclaimed Surman. Tobias, on the other hand, admitted to giving all of the Furbies created by PlushieCouture a personality and backstory “with the hope they’ll be adopted into a loving home.”

“I thought Furbies were extremely creepy at first,” said 14-year-old Ding as she then proceeded to explain how Furbies have grown on her over time. “I’m too young to feel any nostalgia but I find they have a cursed charm to them.” The seller further admitted her attachment to her own long Furbies, Orange Juice and Richard. “They spend their days on the couch with other Furby oddbodies staring at us.”

When asked about the demand for long Furbies among Ding’s demographic, the creator admitted how she was lucky to find friends who share the same interest as her. “I’m pretty sure most people view long Furbies as cursed abominations but the people I interact with love them.”

For the most part, all four sellers admitted to witnessing an influx of positive comments to their posts on both Instagram and Etsy to date. “Most people are so kind and excited by the pieces I’ve made, and that feedback is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of creating,” Surman said, while Ding and Tobias also highlighted the amazing support they have received from the community themselves.

I have been making artsy stuff since I was a child (I’m 47 now) and I am amazed that this particular hobby has taken off in such a big way for me,” Lord admitted, adding how she has gotten all 5-star reviews on Etsy, now aiming to produce the Furbies of everyone’s dreams.

But what about the rest of the internet? In the past, Furbies have been the centrepiece of ‘National Security Threat’ memes and even ‘gag gifting’. “Sometimes I get comments from very confused people who don’t have a clue why they’ve come across pictures of such cursed Furbies. But these comments are definitely more out of confusion than negativity,” Surman said. By replacing the word ‘negativity’ with mere ‘confusion’, the seller efficiently dropped the mic regarding the controversial topic.

How to make a long Furby

Now that I hope most of you are slowly falling down the rabbit hole with me, how can we—as the audience—try our own hands at making a long Furby? Is there a list of materials we should look out for on our next trip to Hobby Lobby? “The process varies piece to piece depending on what the customer wants in terms of length, style and extra accessories,” said Surman. At the same time, however, the seller outlined the typical design process that goes behind the creation of the wonderful species.

First up is commissioning, where sellers usually receive customised design orders via a written description or a picture from their customers. The creators then sketch out the design—including the materials and extra customisation requests. A pattern based on the size and style is later rounded up before materials like the fabric and spine are ordered. The design is then cut and sewn to make the long Furby.

“From start to end, the process usually takes around 12 hours to finish,” Surman explained. However, this time frame ultimately depends on the complication of the design. “I love a challenge. So the added difficulty makes it all the more fun!”

As for Tobias, the creator finds inspiration in the materials themselves. Highlighting the absence of planning, Tobias uses an analogy to describe her design process. “If you’ve seen the movie Apollo 13, the engineers pour a box of materials onto a table and then find a way to turn these seemingly random items into a solution. My process often feels like that.” Working with reclaimed raw materials, Tobias further admitted to the uncertainty of the same fabrics being available to the creator during the process. “But it’s always exciting to see what it becomes!”

The role of experimentation and inspiration becomes apparent as Lord also admitted to kick-starting her projects with vague ideas for the species. “I recently made some based on fire and water because I had a new material I wanted to experiment with. I have made two Gremlins which stemmed from my background in ceramics. I also get inspired by films and television to create custom orders for individual specifications.”

Striking a balance between quality and length, Lord’s most recent order is that of a custom black and white striped long Furbywho is now headed off to Australia to live with his new family.

The tidal wave forward

In the next five years, most of the Etsy sellers interviewed by SCREENSHOT have their eyes set on expanding their business—a surefire motive given the surge in demand for the coveted creations. “Looking back, I can see how much my ability and ideas have evolved from my first creations to where I am now. I hope to continue to grow as an artist, from the Furbies themselves to Instagram and my photography skills and beyond,” Tobias stated.

As for Surman, the creator will be starting her studies at university next year. “I definitely want to continue creating pieces alongside my schoolwork,” she said, adding how her customers can expect new designs and materials this summer—possibly even expanding into the category of ‘limbed long Furbies’.

Admitting to having tremendous fun, Lord feels like she is currently “riding a tidal wave of a cultural phenomenon.” “I am not sure how long it will last for but I do hope it lasts though!” she mentioned. As for Ding, the creator has a more practical approach. “I plan on continuing to sell Furbies as long as there is demand for it and I still enjoy it,” the creator said. Viewing her business as “something casual and an extension of a hobby,” Ding admitted to liking the scene as it is. “I just wanted to supply people with Furbies.”

As for all of the ‘merely confused’ people out there on the internet who are still having a hard time decoding long Furbies, here’s what we (yes, you can see my own listing on Etsy soon) have to tell you. Cringe culture is dead and let’s be honest here, we bet you secretly want one too!