Sunday, 19 April 2015

Heart and Soul

Recently, I happened to spot a Tweet about this lovely book written by Jennifer Laing, published way back in 1996, so never one to pass an opportunity to add to my bear making bookshelves, I decided to track down a copy ...

I began my own bear making career in the early 90's, so flicking through this book was a real trip along memory lane for me.  I didn't know all of the antipodean bear makers featured by Jennifer, but did recognise quite a few familiar faces, so it's good to know that although some may no longer be making, others are still busy creating teddy bears 'Down Under'.

'The complete book of teddy bear artists in Australia and New Zealand' sums up that era in bear-making perfectly and also reflects our UK teddy bear industry of the day; it was a passionate period for creating teddy bears!  Back then, the internet was still inaccessible to most teddy bear artists, so the craft of bear making was an isolated process, slowly gleaned and polished through trial and error.  New techniques were cautiously guarded and naturally less advanced than the 'bells and whistles' of today ... but believe me, those simple, heartfelt teddy bears excited collectors and were very quickly adopted.

Sometimes I feel we bear makers may be in danger of losing our way with the pressure to be innovative, not to mention competitive.  As much as I admire the breathtaking artistry of many modern teddy bear makers, I truly hope the soul and passion those early bear artists brought to our craft back in the 80's (US) and 90's (rest of us!) will always remain at the heart of artist designed teddy bears.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Going back to my roots ..

It's been a while since I made a really big bear and I'm feeling the urge to go back to my roots and make some proper BIG 'UNS again ... starting with this lovely fella!

He's my work-in-progress this week, but as you can see, he is progressing well.

And in case you ever wondered exactly how a teddy nose should be sewn, here's a 'nowhere to hide' close-up of my work ... I believe a perfectly stitched nose is an essential ingredient in any top quality artist designed teddy bear.

Well, that's enough chatting, time now to stuff my bear's limbs and assemble him.  I'm not sure exactly how big he will be yet (maybe 22"ish?) but I am sure he'll take more than his fair share of stuffing!

Monday, 13 April 2015

My Birthday Boy!

Thirty years ago today, I gave birth to a beautiful 9lb baby boy - which surprised me somewhat, as I had it in mind I was expecting a girl.  I was completely thrilled, but totally unprepared for my son's arrival!

Boys are rare in our family, so Anthony held 'only boy' status until the birth of his own son six months ago ...

Watching my son become a father himself, has been an absolute joy and seeing him share his 30th birthday celebrations with his own son for the first time yesterday, was priceless.

Ants has always been the very best kind of son and when life was tough for us in the past, never failed to be strong for me and his sister.  

I am immensely proud of the man my son has become and because the things that truly matter sometimes don't get said, I'd just like to say ...

 Happy Birthday Boy and thank you for the hugs when I have needed them most.

My love to you always,
Your very proud Muva xxx

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Teddy bear making, the process

When I recall my days of making and selling a minimum of three bears each and every week, I realise I must have been driven to work many more hours in my single parent days! These days I prefer to work at a more gentle pace, particularly as my poor hands don't cope so well with long hours any more ... bear making takes its toll on finger joints over time, unfortunately.  Anyway, we should all make a little extra time to smell the roses now and again ... it's good for the soul!

Even a fairly straightforward classic teddy bear takes about twelve solid hours to create - from drawing and cutting out the pattern, trimming the mohair edges by hand to give a professional finish, then pinning the pieces together ready for sewing, setting in paws, stuffing, making the head, assembling, jointing and finishing.  Yes, making a traditional teddy is a very involved process.

So I'd share my latest bear's work-in-progress photos to show the process. The picture above shows a stuffed head with muzzle closely trimmed on top.

I usually pin the ears roughly in place at this point and use a couple of black pins to give me an idea of where to place the eyes. Then I start to scissor sculpt the rest of the muzzle.

I always work on the head first and when I'm happy with the muzzle, move on to nose embroidery.

Once the nose and mouth are sewn, I think the bear really starts to take on his personality!

But as you can see, it's only when the eyes (vintage boot buttons in this case) are inserted, he comes to life ...

When both eyes are in place and he can look straight at me, my teddy bear is ready to be assembled.

After I have jointed the head to the body, I half stuff his limbs and measure where I want to fix them.

When making a traditional bear, the traditional method of jointing limbs and head is to use two hardboard discs, one inside the body cavity and the other in the limb, then make a crown joint using a cotter pin and washers to secure.

When teddy has been assembled, it's time to stuff him, add his growler and close all seams by hand.

Lastly, there are claws to be stitched and ears to be sewn on; again by hand.

To finish teddy, I like to give him a thorough brush with a teasel brush to remove any fur trapped in the seams and generally spruce him up before deciding how to accessorize.  As this is a traditional teddy, I opted for a smart satin bow.

Before teddy can be offered for adoption, I like him to have studio photographs taken for my website as it's important to represent the colour of his mohair as accurately as possible and the Iphone pics snapped in my workshop aren't really suitable ... and of course, a beautiful photograph taken on a decent camera is hopefully worth a thousand words!

So that's the tale of how one of my traditional teddy bears is made.  I may not make quite as many teddies as I once did, but I guarantee each bear I do create is made with as much love and attention to detail as ever his predecessors were.  They are, as always, special teddy bears for special people.

Oh and if you were wondering - yes!  The bear in this post is now available for adoption from my website. His name is 'Elliot'!
Thank you so much for your kind interest :-)

Friday, 27 March 2015

May dreams come true ..

We celebrated my daughter's first birthday in her new home last weekend and yes, of course Polly was invited to be part of this special family visit.

Although we miss Fay very much, it really is lovely to see her settled into her beautiful flat and after years of being a complete domestic disaster area, I must say, I am taking a great deal of satisfaction from seeing my hopelessly messy daughter, master the fine art of keeping a tidy home at last!  In fact, I am truly delighted to see her so proud of the comfortable home she and Neil are creating together.

As is traditional, there were cards, gifts, birthday cake, candles to be puffed and a special wish to be made ...

And as her mum, I think it's only fair that I too claim a birthday wish for my daughter ... one of dreams coming true with her lovely partner Neil and a long, happy life ahead together.

By the way, the baby in the picture is Fay's nephew, my gorgeous Grandson!

As for a gift, I knew exactly what I wanted ... what else could be more appropriate for my newly independent daughter than her very first sewing machine!

My first camelia bloom of the year was a birthday gift too. Dad gave me the plant for my own birthday many years ago and I carefully transplanted it into our new garden when we moved home just over eight years ago. Surprise, surprise, this year Dad's camelia bloomed its very first flower on his eldest Granddaughter's birthday!

Happiest of Birthdays to you Fay. 
You make me so proud each and every day.
All my love to you always,
Mum xxx

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Finishing Touches

After spending two unsuccessful afternoons knitting in the vain hope a jacket, or cardigan, might suit this bear, yesterday I finally abandoned my knitting needles in a bit of a sulk!

I prefer my bears to be uncluttered, but this particular bear was an awkward sort, seemingly refusing to wear anything at all!  Then I remembered a cute little homespun bib collar I made a while ago and after hunting through the depths of my workroom cupboard, my problem was solved ...  I found the bib collar and it was the perfect finishing touch for 'Bailey' bear!

Happily Bailey was adopted in next-to-no time too!

Friday, 20 March 2015

In the Spotlight

As I was updating the Guild of Master Bearcrafters' blog earlier this week ( it dawned on me that in my eagerness to showcase Guild members' talents, I hadn't actually added my own 'member profile' since I first started writing the Guild blog!  I found myself scratching my head and frowning as I pondered  my long bear making career, but eventually, did manage to make sense of it all!

So, if you have ever wondered why I have continued to design and make teddy bears for two long decades, I hope this blog post answers your question ...

A word from PAULA CARTER
creator of
Bearcrafter since 1995


Paula Carter

My bear making career evolved from a love of vintage English teddy bears since I was a little girl, particularly the wonderful Hugmee bears created by the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company between 1908 and 1967.  I have a small collection of these dignified teddy bears and even now they never fail to inspire my creativity.

Some of my Chiltern Hugmee teddies:  C1930's to 50's

It hardly seems possible it has been twenty years since I designed my first teddy bear; the time has flown by!  Since then I have become immersed in the world of teddy bear artistry and am passionate about helping to steer our beloved teddy safely into his future.


It is never easy to describe one's own work, but if pushed to do so, I think I would say I tend to create in a fairly traditional vein.  Now and again I veer gently towards contemporary with my laughing bears, but mostly my bears hark back towards those gentle Chiltern Hugmee teddies, with their solid proportions and no nonsense charm.


For me, a teddy bear should spark a sense of nostalgia and security in his owner, he must be soulful, comforting and honest in his design. My creations honour the teddy bears of my childhood and are protective of his heritage.

Beau was a 2015 Excellence in Bear Artistry award winner

I have been fortunate enough to achieve a collection of international teddy bear crafting and design awards throughout the past two decades and have had my work published many times in specialist publications around the world.  It is of course, always lovely to receive such accolades, but the very best rewards are the smiles and kind words I receive from collectors when they adopt one of my bears ... those smiles are at the heart of my bear making.

A trio of my careworn style teds

As part of my commitment to the future of the teddy bear, I established 'The Guild of Master Bearcrafters' back in 2009.  At the time I had a vague concept of providing a forum which could unite teddy bear makers from around the world, but had no idea it would quickly grow to almost eight hundred international bear crafting members.  I am immensely proud of our members' dedication to creating bears of outstanding creativity and am certain that in their safe hands, the beloved teddy bear will be ensured of a long and happy future.

With hugs and smiles,
Paula xxx

To discover more about Paula's work, please visit her website and blog:

I'd love you to spare a few moments to visit The Guild of Master Bearcrafters' Blog.  I began writing it back in 2013 to showcase incredible bear crafting talent from Guild members.  As you will see, outstanding artist bears are being created all around the world!

You might also like:

Monday, 16 March 2015

Mothering on Sunday

It was Mothering Sunday here in the UK yesterday and my sister Fiona and I were delighted to spend the afternoon celebrating with our families.

Mother's Day at Doddington with our families

A big thank you to this lovely bunch for caring enough to travel from their respective homes on a freezing cold afternoon to share Mother's Day with us at Doddington Place Gardens.  We loved having you all together in these beautiful gardens and were especially delighted to celebrate our special day with Leah and Hannah, our two newest mummies.

Mother's Day selfie with my kids, their partners and if you look carefully, 
you'll spy my little grandson!

I think it's only when your kids finally leave home for good, you really discover the true essence of the work you have done raising them. Watching them fly your nest is tougher than any mum can ever foresee, but helping them leave to build their own families, knowing they will be confidently independent, is the best reward of all for the years of hard work as a mum.

My sister with her daughters and granddaughter

Mother's Day may be heavily commercial these days, but that really doesn't matter.  I don't believe the heart of this special day is purely for children to show mums they love them, it is also the perfect opportunity for we mums to let our kids know that no matter how old, or independent they are, we will always be there for them.

So to our kids and their lovely 'other halves', we wish you a very Happy Mother's Day. Thank you all so much for taking time out to show us how much you care.  
We couldn't be more proud of you all ...
With our love always.
Your Mums.

Friday, 13 March 2015

In the pink!

Between walking Polly each day and pondering what I will do with my newly enforced freedom, I've been sat in my conservatory, enjoying the Spring sunshine through the windows, whilst knitting this vintage style jacket for my sweet centre-seam teddy girl ...

I am very happy to say, 'Betsy Rose' found a lovely new home after I shared a few 'work in progress' pics on Twitter ... all hail the power of the Tweet!

I often post quick snaps of what I'm up to on my Twitter, so if you'd like to see more, you are very welcome to join me by clicking the link below:

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


I was a little too busy to blog last week as my daughter finally flew the nest into a new independent life.  I couldn't be happier for her ... beautiful flat, lovely man, an exciting future ahead.


I won't pretend it wasn't a wrench; after thirty two years living together and taking care of her, living apart will be very different.  I will miss the simple daily things we've always shared at home, like sitting in dressing gowns, girly chatting over a cuppa whilst wearing no make-up and saying goodnight before bedtime.  As she's diabetic, I guess now it's time to learn not to worry about her quite so much too, but that will be easier said than done.  No doubt we'll work it out all out in time ...

Fun with my kids

So with both my kids now grown and flown, that's me pretty much redundant.  I've been an at-home mum for so many years I've no idea how to fill the gap yet, but it's early days, so hopefully I'll get the hang of things in time ...

Anthony, Hannah and Toby (and Polly!)

It may have been thirty two years, but my goodness, they flew so fast!  I have loved my time at home as mum and can't quite believe it's over so soon.  I wish Fay and Neil everything and more for their life together and know that just like Anthony, Hannah and now little Toby too, they will make a happy, secure future together.

My son

So kids, stay safe, be kind to each other and have heaps of fun in your new lives ... and never forget, I will always love you more than anything in the whole wide world ... and back again.

My daughter

Right, now that's off my chest, I think it's time to order wallpaper, pretty bed linen, new pillows and replacement furniture, so we can begin to re-decorate Fay's room and turn it into a comfortable guest room ... once she's returned to clear out the final bits and pieces of her lifetime of clutter that is ... some things never change!

Monday, 23 February 2015

A big name for a little bear

Hey, it's a double blog post day!

 Thought I'd add this little teddy before I go to bed.  
I just finished him this afternoon ...

I named him 'Maximus' - a big name for a little bear!

He is a shade over 8 inches and happy to sit neatly in the palm of your hand.  He really is a sweetie!

I'll pop him on my website now ( then it'll be up the wooden hill to bed for me.  

Sweet dreams everyone!


So this is George

I snapped a few Iphone pics from my desk as I worked last week ...

Stitched and ready to stuff.

Nose embroidered so now it's time to insert the glass eyes.

Painting melted wax onto this fellow's nose ...

Using a hairdryer to melt the wax deep into the embroidery thread.

Buffing the first layer with brown paper.

Another coat of wax, more melting and more buffing and this bear's nose is now complete.

End of day workroom pic - hey, hello bear!

And finally, a posh studio photograph session! 

So this is George. 



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