You’ve either loved a Furby, loathed a Furby, or just now learned the word Furby. For local artist Bobby Diddle, the infamous late-’90s animatronic owl has been a lifelong love. “When I was a kid I was obsessed with them,” Diddle says. “I had a baby blue one, I had a cheetah one, a graduation one, an angel one. I had all of them.”
She wasn’t alone: Tens of millions of Furbies sold in just their first years on the market, largely because the creatures were programmed with their own kind of artificial intelligence—a then-novel technology, especially in toys. Out of the box, they would twitch their ears and beaks and speak their own cheeky “Furbish” language, and then, in an uncanny twist, would “learn” the language spoken around them. Pairs would “talk” to each other. People with Furbies viewed them with simultaneous awe and alarm, and toys were never the same. “It’s kind of a cult object,” Diddle says. “It’s like having a piece of history.”
Nineties nostalgia is indeed a whole scene on the internet, attracting collectors and enthusiasts alike. Diddle, took her interest and made it her art with Longfurbs, her collection of Furbies, which she converts to have long necks and bodies, and then shares their images on Instagram. “It’s a very niche group with a very deep connection to them,” she says. That niche group, at least on Instagram, is up to 27,700 followers (and counting!), part of a loyal web audience that breathlessly awaits the next Longfurbs release; they currently go for hundreds of dollars each on eBay.
Diddle’s process to create Longfurbs is more complicated than it looks: The School of Creative and Performing Arts grad starts with a theme, and looks for a personality that fits the Furby. “I completely scrap it, remove the skin, take the faceplate off, and then hand-sew everything. It takes around three days,” she says. “I connect the body, which is just a sock with stuffing.” Diddle dresses them, usually in Build-a-Bear clothes (“They fit perfectly”). Finally, part of the fun of making—and presumably owning—Longfurbs is posing them in lifelike environments, drinking a cocktail or eating fried chicken. Since September 2018, Diddle has sold some two dozen Longfurbs, and isn’t stopping any time soon, as it perfectly blends her vocation and avocation. “I’ve always been a huge fan of birds and creepiness and the ’90s,” she says. “It’s an amalgamation of all those things.”