Monday, 31 December 2007

First footings ...

I thought you might enjoy this picture ... at just five months old, Puddle Kitten absolutely loved her first Christmas morn! You'll have to look carefully to spot her, she's the little black monster diving deep into the wrapping paper!

The feet? Oh, they belong to my son and daughter ... needless to say my daughter is the one wearing the daft Penguin slipper socks!

And this picture is just to prove I'm not back in my workroom yet. Okay, I know it's a cheat to be working on the living room rug instead, but I have plans for a New Year project and I can't wait to get started on them! Yesterday I sourced some very exciting vintage fabric which is now on its way to me. So I'm working on some smaller designs in the hope they will be suitable for the fabric when it arrives ... watch this space for further developments!

I am really looking forward to bringing you more special teddy bears direct from the All Bear workroom in 2008 and in the meantime, on this last day of 2007, I wish you all a safe and happy New Year's Eve, wherever you are x

Friday, 28 December 2007

For the sake of auld lang syne ...

After the traditional festive family hustle and bustle, the time has come for Christmas to slip into memory and for us to look towards the New Year. At the moment, the biggest event on my family's horizon is the imminent arrival of my youngest sister's baby, so we are waiting with baited breath for that all important call to tell us things are underway. What a wonderful symbol of hope for the start of our New Year!

Naturally, such a special event requires a special keepsake for the new baby, so just before Christmas Eve I tucked myself away in my sewing room for an afternoon and set to work creating a little woollen elephant with a tale to tell ...

Ellie Elephant 1960's

After many years living in my previous house, I finally plucked up the courage to sell and move to a new place in February of 2007. Just before Christmas, I decided to delve through the trunks I had moved from my last loft, to my new loft, so that I could decorate in readinness for our first Christmas in our new home.


Everything was hickledy pickledy and I wasn't sure which trunk to search through first, so I heaved boxes aside and unclicked the first trunk I came across. There was no Christmas sparkle inside, but tucked carefully away within layers of old tablecloths, I found one of my childhood toys ...'Ellie the Elephant' had been made for me by my uncle when I was nought but a wee baby, way back in the early 1960's.


A train line ran across the back of Gran's garden and my mother's youngest brother had quite literally taken his life in his hands one day, by playing on the track. By some miracle he survived when the train inevitably rattled over him. He spent a long time in hospital and when he was sufficiently healed to work on his co-ordination, he was given the materials to make a 7" elephant ... my little Ellie.

Ellie was one of my much loved softies and over the years, her felt eyes and floppy ears were completely loved away, but I've never quite been able to bring myself to part with her. Which leads me to part two of my tale! As soon as I saw my worn out little elephant, I knew exactly what the perfect keepsake for the new baby would be!

Ellie Elephant 2007

I had the ideal piece of wool fabric tucked away in the bottom of my fabric box and using my memory to help me, created new ears, lined with beige velvet. Rather than the felt eyes of my original elephant, I used tiny glass eyes, because this little elephant is to be given as a keepsake, rather than a toy and I prefer the look of the traditional glass eyes; my fumblings with felt looked way too clumsy, even for a softie!

To achieve the simple look of this design was a little more tricky than I initially anticipated - we live and learn don't we?! Despite my teddy bear designing skills, I confess it took me several attempts to work out the body gusset pattern so that my wee elephant could sit comfortably, maintaining the body shape of the 1960's original.

This project has been a welcome distraction from the bears for me and I am delighted with the result, which I think holds all the naive charm of the original. When I was a child it wasn't unusual for special gifts to be handmade and now, several decades later, I am delighted to be able to continue this tradition for my sister and her new baby!


And for those of you who aren't familiar with 'Auld Lang Syne' by Robert Burns, here is the English translation ...

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne ?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine (dinner time)
But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
CHORUS

Here's to a peaceful and prosperous New Year for us all ... Cheers!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

... and finally.

On this chilly December afternoon, I would like to share my '... and finally' bear with you. With only a few days until Christmas, I think it's time now to quietly close my workroom door for 2007 and hang up my stuffing tool until the New Year.

'Phineas Bear' seems a fitting bear to end the year with. He is a bear whose design pays respect to his fabulous 1930's forebears, yet introduces a thoroughly modern twinkle. Definitely the ideal bear with which to celebrate the old and welcome the new!

Before I am swept along with the festive tide, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have shared my dream this year. Without your enthusiasm, I really couldn't make a success of my work, so please accept my heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation x

Happy Christmas everyone!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Pouting and pining ...

What a nightmare day! I was suppposed to have a new gas fire fitted today, but when the fitters arrived they decided they couldn't do the job, so I have been frozen all morning (no heating because the gas had to be turned off) and I still don't have a new fire. Such is life! On a slightly more positive note, they did manage to install the new hob and oven before they shrugged their shoulders and left, so at least I should be able to cook our Christmas turkey without cursing too much. I inherited the old oven when I moved in earlier this year and it's strange attitude towards temperature control has driven me barmy ever since.


Don't you just hate it when things don't go to plan? I'm feeling pretty grouchy right now (can you tell?!) Today has been such a waste of a day and it's put me behind with the bear I'm working on, which is guaranteed to make me grumpy. Grrrrr!


To elimate my grrrrrr, I've taken a deep breath, turned the heating back on and made myself a mug of hot chocolate. I think I'm starting to thaw a little now! My daughter decorated our Christmas tree yesterday evening and the smell of pine is wafting right through the house; it's very therapeutic! I think before I start work on my sewing, I'm going to take my mug of chocolate, snuggle in an armchair and just inhale a little Christmas tree magic for a few minutes ... *sighs*

Oh, I almost forgot! The Blog Land taggers nabbed me! Jenny Johnson of Three O'Clock Bears (please pop over to her blog ... I've just listed it in my blog links .. you'll love her work!) has invited me to play, so I have to reveal five little known facts about myself before I go ... okay, let me think ... I'll keep them bear related ...

1. Lovely Frank Webster (Charnwood Bears) once told me, many years ago, to pay careful attention to my noses ... excellent advice and one of the keys to my bear making progression!

2. Dear Sue Schoen of Bocs Teganau fame (sadly no longer making bears) once accidentally threw a large glass of red wine over my cream trouser suit at an awards event, I made the mistake of trying to wash the wine out and promptly shrank my trousers. A week later a parcel arrived at my house - inside was an adorable little bear made by Sue, aptly named 'Oops, sorry I shrank your trousers!'


3. Years ago, Pam Howells (designer for the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company) made a fabulous 'Chiltern Memory' for me, to add to my collection of vintage Chiltern bears. These days he watches over the proceedings in the All Bear workroom from the top of on the cupboard.
 
4. The first bear I was bought as an adult was called 'Sebastian' a handsome black limited edition teddy bear, created by the 'Little Folk' company, based in Devon. I found Sebastian in a magical little shop in Saint Ives, whilst on holiday in Cornwall with my family about fifteen years ago. These days Sebastian stands proudly next to Pam's 'Barty', my Chiltern Memory, making sure I work hard!
5. If I had to choose a completely new style of bear to work on as a challenge, I'd have to try either a little bear, or an old looking, shabby kind of bear (or even a little shabby looking bear!) I don't feel confident with either of those styles and would love to conquer them one day!

Right, time to think about who to tag next ... !

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Once Upon a Design ...

Paula and 'Big Ted' 1964

With only a few more days to spare before the All Bear workshop closes it's doors for 2007, I'm so pleased I have managed to completed Cognac! I even put off a shopping trip today so that I could take advantage of the clear, dry day to photograph this bear as soon as he was finished. Photographing bears outdoors at this time of year is very frustrating and fraught with hindrances, rain and low sunshine, being the worst them!


'Cognac' designed by Paula, December 2008


It's such a treat to work with this straight dense pile Schulte mohair, it really is beautiful. The quality of this fabric is second to none and is absolutely perfect for this style of bear. My design leans towards the style of early English bears, stout gentle bears with wise faces; Cognac's hand painted eyes are my only concession to a little contemporary sparkle!


1930's/1940's English Chiltern Hugmees 'Bobby Bear'

and 'Baby Bear'

I love the early English bears, particularly those made by the Chiltern Toy Company. My own childhood bear was a Chiltern and of course, I still have him. I also now own several other wonderful examples of this manufacturer's work and for me, these old fellas surpass all other bears.



1930's English Chiltern Hugmee 'Samson'

Chiltern bears are reknowned for the quality of their mohair which truly can stand the test of time and I love the mystique of their apparent simplicity of design, which in reality, disguises a complicated truth: to achieve such wisdom of expression and bearing over time, the design relies on perfectly balanced posture created not only by the original pattern design, but also as a result of a wonderful blend of fabric choice, proportion and critically, of stuffing materials, used in harmony with classic bear making techniques.



1930's/40's English Chiltern Hugmee 'Biggest Bear'

The Chiltern Hugmee range is for me, the ultimate in teddy bear design. Those overly large heads, resting heavily on stout bodies, are just so endearing ... surpassing modern day contrivances, I think they say absolutely everything a bear needs to say about comfort, security and dependability.



1930's English Chiltern Hugmees 'Rochester' and 'Stockport'

Whilst we bear 'artists' as we like to call ourselves, strive for the next great discovery in design, tweaking and embellishing our work along the way, I think we could take a lesson from the golden oldies because in my humble opinion, they really understood exactly what bear design should be all about!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Family Fun

Christmas came early for our family yesterday with a grand gathering of the clan. Three of my sisters, their 'other halves' and an assortment of grandchildren ranging in age from six (nearly seven!) through to twenty two, descended on Mum's house to squeeze into sofas, share mince pies, guzzle drinks, munch on nibbles and do what we all do best ... natter!
'Auntie Paula'
A peek into our gathering of the clan 2007

Mum's house was like Santa's grotto, twinkling with festivity and challenging the National Grid's manful attempt to maintain the country's electricity supply, which must be groaning under the weight of seasonal sparkle right now!

Christmas Pazazz!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Christmas card creating

Official 2008 'All Bear' Christmas Card

There's so much to do at this time of year isn't there? One of the festive tasks I've been working on lately is designing the official 'All Bear' Christmas card. Thank heavens for online printing facilities!

www.vistaprint.co.uk is a very useful site for creating cards and stationery of all descriptions. Those of you who collect my bears, or have visited me at shows over the past couple of years, will probably have hangtags and postcards I have created using this facility.

This year I have selected a wonderful photograph of 'Gorgeous George' and with a helping hand from Vistaprint, have personalised my official 'All Bear' Christmas card. I'm delighted with the results and will be posting the cards very soon!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Gran's pud

It's official! My Christmas preparations are well and truly underway. Yes, I know it's only December 4th, but even so, I am determined to introduce a little festive sparkle to my world! For me, Christmas is all about warmth and family and this year especially, I want our first Christmas in our new home to hug us all tightly together.

My office/dining Christmas tree

This weekend has been the perfect time to hunt out my fairy lights, purchase a tiny tree for my workroom, hide away gifts in preparation for wrapping and for the twenty fourth year in a row, mix my Gran's Christmas pudding recipe! Next weekend I plan to hunt down a real pine tree for the living room and decorate that room too!
The All Bear workroom's teeny tiny Christmas tree! Yes, it really is purple and pink!
On Saturday, I spent a lovely day shopping for Christmas presents with my mother and my daughter. A triple generational Christmas gift hunt! We shopped 'til we dropped, Fay and I squirted perfume samples until we couldn't remember which was which and then took Mum to our favourite shops. We spent ages choosing goodies in 'The Pier', a shop bursting with beautiful bits n' bobs and as my youngest sister has a new baby arriving in the New Year, we also had the perfect excuse to visit baby departments and coo over teeny tiny baby clothes.

When our tiddler arrives, there will be almost a quarter of a century between the oldest and youngest grandchildren in our family, Fay, my daughter, being the oldest. In the New Year there will be ten grandchildren in all! The big question is, will Laura have a boy or a girl? To-date we only have one boy in the family, my son Anthony, so the family is in a guessing game spin!

Later this week as many of us as possible (I have four sisters!) will wend our way to Mum's for a mince pie evening. Mum has been busy setting up her Christmas lights in readinness for her grandchildren and this year, has even added a nodding reindeer to her grotto! With family spread far and wide these days, this is an important time for us all.
Gran's Christmas pud

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I've mixed my Christmas pudding, steamed it for the required eight hours and it is now ready for a further three hours steaming on Christmas morning. The recipe for this pud has been handed down through my family and even now I can clearly remember the wonderful spicey aroma wafting through my parent's house on Christmas morning when I was child. I've always used this receipe for my own family Christmasses, with a slight adaption so that Fay, who is diabetic, can enjoy it with us. If you would you like to share our Christmas pudding, here is our receipe ... enjoy!

TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS PUDDING

Cooking time: 6-8 hours
Preparation: 45 minutes
Utensils: One 2 pint basin. Saucepan. Steamer. Foil or greaseproof paper.

Ingredients:

4 oz flour (use wholemeal for diabetic option)
2 oz breadcrumbs (use wholemeal for diabetic option)
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
1 level teaspoon nutmeg
4 oz shredded suet (use vegetable suet for diabetic option)
40z brown sugar (20z for diabetic option)
4 oz grated apple
1 small grated carrot
4 oz crystallised peel (no peel for diabetic option)
2 eggs
4 oz currants
4 oz sultanas
8 oz raisins
2 oz chopped prunes or dried apricots
4 oz chopped blanched almonds
grated rind 1/2 lemon
1 tsp black treacle (don't use for diabetic option)
1/4 pint guinness (or stout/beer/milk if preferred)

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients together.
2. Leave overnight.
3. Stir again.
4. Put into greased 2 pint basin.
5. Cover with foil or greaseproof paper. Grease inside of paper to keep pudding dry.
6. Steam for 6-8 hours.
7. Remove wet covers as soon as pudding is cooked.
8. Put on dry greased covers and re-steam for 2/3 hours on Christmas morning.

To Serve:

Turn pudding out of bowl, bring to table, slosh a spoonful of brandy over and for dramatic effect, flambe! (Carefully!)

Serve with brandy butter made by creaming 4oz butter, 6oz icing sugar and 2 tablespoons of brandy. (Not recommended for diabetics!)

Or, (my personal favourite!) serve with clotted cream.

Or, serve with double cream, ice-cream, brandy or cointreau flavoured cream ... oh yum ... let your imagination and your tastebuds go wild!
'Angelica'

Finally, I would like to share my latest 'Santa's Sack' bear with you. She is pictured sitting on my dining room table, did you spot her? 'Angelica' is the little peach panda cub I was thinking about in an earlier posting ... I hope you like her!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Black and white chic


It's been a while since I last made a panda bear, so when I was asked to make one in time for Christmas recently, I jumped at the chance. This is 'Coco', a 15" panda cub, finished yesterday. I couldn't resist naming her in tribute to Coco Chanel and her fabulously stylish black and white haute couture. My little panda wears a simple sparkly flower necklace which looks perfect against her dense black mohair.

Making this little panda has set me thinking about another panda cub, but this time I want to work with very subtle colours ... peach and white should make a pretty Christmas panda, don't you think? Well, we'll see! I'll let you know how things progress in a day or two ...

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Pin-up boy

My 'phone didn't stop ringing yesterday. It's odd, but since the introduction of email there are some weeks I can go from one end of the week to the other without so much as a single telephone call and then there are days when I might as well be attached to the 'phone by a piece of elastic! It's as though people suddenly feel a need to share real conversation, just in case, heaven forbid, the internet steals away the personal touch completely!

Two of the calls I received yesterday were from UK magazine advertising departments asking me if I would like to advertise with them ... I wonder if the new year is a tough time for raking in advertising revenue by any chance?! H
owever, I did give the possibility of advertising some serious thought and decided it wouldn't hurt to have my bases covered over the next couple of months, so promptly accepted the opportunity to book my usual small ad in Teddy Bear Scene magazine and the offer of a full page 'Pawtrait' in Teddy Bear Club International's gallery pages. I'm quite excited about the full page pin-up as you can imagine!

'Pawtrait Gallery' Teddy Bear Club International Gallery January 2008 issue

I spent ages choosing photos for both ads this morning and selected two beautiful pics of 'Gorgeous George' taken by Tina at our last photo shoot. Perfect pin-up material! I then settled down with a mug of coffee to battle the mysteries of 'Photoshop' so that I could create the smaller ad all by myself. It's a bit like learning a new language and every time I leave the programme, I think I've learned a tiny bit more through sheer frustrated determination but I'm far from confident with this software and could really do with some proper lessons to put it to more effective use; that way perhaps it wouldn't always take me quite so long to produce everything!

'Pawprints' ad Teddy Bear Scene magazine February 2008 issue

Anyhow, battling aside, I'm relieved to tell you I have finished the graphic work and this morning emailed the relevant files through to the magazines' advertising departments. All I have to do now is sit back and wait for publication! How exciting!

If you would like to purchase either of these specialist magazines, my full page ad will be published in the January issue of Teddy Bear Club International (on sale December 17th) and my little 'pawprints' ad will be found in the February issue of Teddy Bear Scene magazine, which will be on sale in January 2008. Both magazines can usually be found in WH Smiths, or alternatively can be purchased online by visiting the publishers' websites ... www.teddybearscene.co.uk and www.teddybeartimes.com

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Noel, Noel!

My goodness, no sooner did I pop 'Noel' in Santa's Sack, than he found his special someone and announced he was moving to France. Oooh la la, this must rate as the fastest ALL BEAR adoption yet!


Still, I did promise to share the outcome of that fabulous piece of Schulte mohair with you as soon as I had finished working on it and a promise is a promise, so here it is, in all its glory. I hope you like it! I used the green twinkly eyes too ... they suit him well, don't you think? By the way, that super velvet bow tie is a genuine vintage find from the 1970's ... very Starksy and Hutch! Suave, sophisticated, it is the perfect dressing for Noel!

Changing the subject somewhat, I must ask, do you ever get frustrated with your computer? I certainly did today! I couldn't for the life of me work out why the text on my screen had shrunk to such a miniscule size, my poor ol' lady eyes could no longer read it. I fiddled with this setting and that and eventually had to shamefacedly ask for help. Luckily for me, several helpful folk soon rushed to my aid and helped me reinstate my text size.

And the moral of the story is? Well, the moral of this story is: 'don't let your kitten press buttons on the keyboard while you are trying to work'! Puddle is such a helpful soul and by lazily reaching out a black furry paw to press the 'control' button while I was trying to scroll, she successfully reduced my text sizing to almost invisible! Kitties eh?!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

A little bit of this and a little bit of that ...


The weather has been miserable so far this week, so it has been no hardship to tuck myself away in my workroom. Yesterday I had a 'bits n' pieces' kind of day, painting glass eyes, cutting out that fabulous piece of Schulte mohair I told you about and playing around with some beaded snowflakes. I took some pics too, which gave me the opportunity to try out the macro setting on my new camera (see glass eye pics) ... I was really pleased with the outcome.

Painting glass eyes for the bears is a great way of bringing their expression to life. It really personalises them. It's a very relaxing job too. Mind you, it's not too good for the nails! This bear-maker's hands will never be ladylike and today, just to prove the point, I have the most unflattering black enamelled fingernails.




After the success of my bronze, blue and silvery eyes, I've been dying to paint some green eyes. Finding the perfect shade hasn't been easy, but eventually I came across what I needed, did a little colour blending and hey presto, this is the result. Pretty eh? I can't wait to put them to use!

The Christmas beadwork book I bought last week has been calling to me ever since. The pictures in it are pure eye candy and I've been absolutely itching to make something beaded and pretty, so yesterday started to work on some snowflakes. I may use them to decorate my Christmas tree, or even as an accessory for a Santa's Sack bear, but as is always the case, I need a few more beads to really get going with this project. Needless to say, one thing has led to another and now I'm waiting for the delivery of those 'few more beads'. I have a feeling this bead compulsion could take hold!

I remember taking a class in Indian beadwork when I was at school (many, many moons ago) and I think that must have been what gave me a taste to relearn a few beading skills. I love the idea of using beadwork for embroidered embellishments and accessories for example, so who knows, maybe I'll even treat myself to a little beading loom to play with soon!

Before I fill my favourite mug with steaming hot coffee and take it up to my workroom, I must just show you the beautiful swirly, Schulte mohair I was telling you about. This picture really doesn't do the dense, silky soft pile sufficient justice, but it does at least give a taste of what's to come! Since taking this picture, I've marked out my pattern, cut it out, trimmed each of the individual pieces and started sewing ... I'm planning a 23" ish bear from this fabric and today, I'm going to begin work on his head ... I'll be back with photos to show you as soon he is completed and the rain has stopped!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Brandysnap!

Yesterday I promised I'd share my latest 'Santa's Sack' bear cub with you, so here he is! This is 'Brandysnap', one of my new 18" bears, but this time with a growler. I have used a wonderful mohair for this bear, the colours are absolutely fabulous; the shades range randomly from palest peach through to rich cinnamon. Warm velvet paws in a complementary shade of cinnamon work perfectly with this mohair and I've used the same soft velvet for his inner ears, which are a little bigger than usual and I think they really suit him.

I didn't want to over clutter this bear because the mohair really needs to speak for itself, so I have kept his overall design traditional, utilising plain black glass eyes and a neatly hand embroidered black nose. Do you recognise the ribbon? Yes, it's in the picture I posted yesterday, one of my festive findings from my local haberdashery! It's a beautiful shade of burnt orange and it is embossed with glittery holly leaves ... just perfect for my Brandysnap bear!

Next week I'm going to start work on the fabulous piece of Schulte mohair I told you about, it's definitely time I made another big bear! I have a panda cub to make for a collector too, so all in all, I think I can look forward to a most enjoyable week's bear creating!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Festive findings

Well that was quick! Snowdrop was snapped up from Santa's Sack within no time at all yesterday, so today I packaged her carefully in preparation for her long journey, destination 'Downunder'!

Naturally, with all things festive filling my head this week, I couldn't resist popping to my favourite haberdashery after I'd visited the Post Office. I spent a very pleasant half hour browsing and came home with an assortment of pretty bits 'n pieces for my planned Santa's Sack bears. It's times like this when I wouldn't swap my job for all the tea in China!


I made my final decision this week. Here is the evidence. My 'TOBY Awards' entry is now duly submitted and on its way across the Atlantic as I type. There's no turning back now; please wish me luck!

A very special email landed in my inbox earlier today. I was thrilled to be asked to submit work to one of the UK magazines for a special double page showcase. Such a generous offer! I'm determined to do it justice by making some really special bears, after all, this will be the perfect excuse for me to indulge myself in some sumptuous fabrics and create some of my big 'uns ... I can't wait to get stuck in! I'll let you know nearer the time which magazine and when it will be published.

Thank heaven's Susan at Bear Basics in the UK is now stocking a fabulous range of luxurious Schulte mohair; I'll be like a kid in a candy store selecting my special fabrics for this project. Which reminds me, I've just received the most lush piece of mohair from them, and I am simply dying to start work on it ... watch this space!

Before I forget, I must tell you, I have another new bear for Santa's Sack tomorrow. I can't show you pics just yet though, because I've only just sewn his ears on and it's too dark to take pics now, but I promise I'll share him with you tomorrow. His name? Oh go on then! He's called 'Brandysnap' ... I hope you have time to pop back tomorrow to take a peek!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Santa's Sack

I checked my calendar this morning and couldn't believe my eyes! Less than six weeks until Christmas! How does that happen? One minute I'm gaily taking photographs of Autumn leaves and then poof! All of a sudden the leaves are on the ground, there's a real chill in the air and the town is sparkling with tinsel!

So, I've decided to go with the flow and start my festive preparations today, without delay! I've given my website a makeover ... snow, bells, angel, the works ... and I've opened 'Santa's Sack' too. It will give me a lovely focus for my bear designs for the coming weeks, after all, what could be more special than making Christmas presents for people?!



I decided to introduce a new size of bear to my range recently and have utilised my new pattern as the basis for 'Snowdrop', the first of my Santa's Sack bears. She is 18", which is a wee bit bigger than the Half Pints, yet still much smaller in proportion than my armful of 20"+ bears, so the perfect size for folk who love bears, but are perhaps struggling for space!

When I first set out to create Snowdrop, I wasn't sure which direction to take, so I simply let the bear evolve. Sometimes that's they way it is with bear design. Snowdrop's face was pretty without the tiny eyelids, but a little voice in the back of my head told me to try them and hey presto, she burst into life! Fundamentally, Snowdrop is a classically styled teddy bear, but with a smidgeon of contemporary wizardry, she has become a totally modern Miss!

I will be working on more bears for Santa's Sack over the coming weeks and I'll be back to share them with you, as they come to life!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Serious Stanley's significant seam.

Serious Stanley 23" 2007 centre seam teddy bear

Weary as I am on this Friday afternoon, I couldn't let today pass without telling you 'Serious Stanley' sold within no time at all yesterday and is now flying over the Atlantic Ocean to meet his new owner in the US!

I didn't really have time to tell you much about him yesterday before he was whisked away did I? So now for a mini history lesson! Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin ... (don't worry, I promise I'll be very brief!)

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, Stanley was designed with my centre-seam head pattern. I like this pattern for two reasons, firstly it gives a distinctive rounded 'appley' shape to the bear's head and secondly, it gives the bear a cute centre parting in his mohair. Very stylish!


1908 centre seam Steiff teddy bear

Needless to say, centre-seam bears are not a new concept in the art of teddy bear making. They have been around for as long as teddy bears have been being created. In fact, the original centre seam Steiff bears were created with economy in mind, using a split gusset pattern to maximise use of the fabric, so only one in seven bears on the production line was created with a centre-seam head. Those fabulous vintage centre-seam Steiff bears are now extremely sought after and usually sell for thousands of pounds.

Now wouldn't it be wonderful if that were the case with dear Stanley in a hundred year's time?!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Getting stuffed.


This poor fellow had to wait a whole twenty four hours before he could sit up straight ... I ran very low on bear filler yesterday but fortunately my supplier is great at getting deliveries to me really fast, so today 'Serious Stanley' was stuffed and could finally sit up, rather than slump in an undignified heap on my work table. He's a big 'un at 23" and made in my traditional style simply because that's what was calling to me this week. I like to follow my own instincts with new designs, rather than follow whatever the current trends are and this week, 'completely classic' just kept whispering to me.



'Serious Stanley' is made from truly beautiful mohair. It's a Schulte fabric and is incredibly soft and silky to the touch. There's no doubt about it, that factory really knows how to produce fabulous fabrics, perfect for classy designer bears. 'Rustic wheat' captures the colour perfectly, and to complement it, I've used velvet for Stanley's paw pads and inner ears. It's been a good many years since I last used cotton velvet, seduced as I was for so long by Ultra Suede, but for my range of 'Timeless Teds' it makes perfect sense to return to it - I just love the nostalgic flavour it offers my classic teddies.


'Serious Stanley' 23"

So what's next on my bear making horizon? Right now I have several bears dancing around in my head crying out to be made. I'm dying to get back to my laughing bears, after all, I've had quite a long break from them and I have an absolutely stunning piece of silver leopard faux fur which would make the perfect laughing bear ... then there's a pink and white panda begging to be made and after that .... well, maybe you'll have to wait and see!
One thing's for sure, the bears still keep begging to be created!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Posting Day.

You'd think a sellout show would mean I could have a rest afterwards wouldn't you? A chance to put my feet up for a day or two, catch up on some Zzzz's after all the long hours of preparation for the show and the lack of sleep on show day, but no such luck! Sunday was spent catching up on housework I had let slide the week before the show and yesterday was of course, posting day!



Preparing the bears to post to new owners is a fairly major operation. Firstly, all they all have to have special 'All Bear' swing tags sewn into their backs followed by a final brush to ensure they settle into their poly bags looking their best.

Needless to say, no sold bear can be boxed without having his sales details dutifully recorded on various spreadsheets, so my Monday morning was spent trying to keep my wits about me, as I entered all sales figures into a tax tracker spreadsheet, planned my cash flow for the coming month and updated my accounts accordingly.

Once all the head scratching and pen chewing was finished, I had to complete the relevant customs documents for all the bears due to travel overseas and postal documents for the inland bears, making doubly certain each bear was destined to reach his correct owner. (Confessions of a bear maker: only once have I ever switched bears and sent them to the wrong owners ... oh the shame of it!)

Next I had to find the parcel tape before delving into the garage and hauling out bubble wrap and boxes, whilst holding the door open with one foot so my kitten didn't get squashed in the heavy self-closing internal door as she battled through my ankles to try to beat me into the garage. No mean feat!



By the time I'd parcelled my furry travellers into their boxes, stuck 'fragile' tape all around in a hope that the delivery services would be gentle with them and addressed each box, I was starting to fanticise about a shoulder massage ... no time for such luxury though, the thought was reluctantly dismissed while I stacked the boxes in the hall and made do with a bowl of soup for sustenance instead.

Revitalised, it was time to squeeze the precious cargo into my very small car and drive across town to my favourite postmaster. He's such a gent, no matter what the queue, he always opens his security door to allow me to stack boxes in his office as soon as I arrive. I've often been asked why I don't have a collection service for the bears, but I believe in old-fashioned service and this little Post Office has been faithfully taking care of my bears en route to their destinations for many years. I am always welcomed in and courteously 'processed' and that is precisely why I take the trouble to heave my boxes across town.

Many local Post Offices are facing closure in the UK and it makes my blood boil. The Post Offices work hard to support local communities, offering us an invaluable service; to lose them would be wrong, plain and simple, so I try to do my bit to support my local Post Office, even if it isn't necessarily the most convenient option for me. After all, this Post Office has supported me and my work for many years and for that I am grateful.

The upshot of my Monday was that by tea-time most of the Winter Warmer bears were on their way by land and air, so, if you bought one of my show bears, I am very pleased to tell you he will be with you soon!

Time now for this bearmaker to return to the business of making bears. More bears? Yes, of course! Christmas is coming! Time for me to start planning new bears for the 'All Bear' website ...

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Oh what a show!

Gorgeous George 22" ... destination USA!

They did it! They all found new homes! Gorgeous George, Duffy, Hocus Pocus and Barney were sold with a few seconds of the 'Winter Warmer' show opening ... I was astounded by the frantic pace of my inbox so early in the show!


Hocus Pocus 18" ... destination USA!

Benny's new owner was frantically trying to contact me from Australia through the night, but unfortunately this weary bearmaker had nodded off at 2am GMT and was in a deep sleep far away in the Land of Nod, on the other side of the world, when the flurry of 'Benny' emails dropped into her inbox! Luckily all was put to rights at breakfast time this morning, which was also the time Toddy's new owner claimed her special Winter Warmer bear! So, before I had even found time to eat my bowl of fruit 'n fibre, all six show bears had been snapped up by eager collectors.


Duffy 17" ... destination United Kingdom!

My day has been spent organising admin for each of the sales, updating my website and drinking copious cups of coffee in an effort to stay awake. I think I'm due an early night tonight; this ol' lady doesn't cope well with late nights these days and her head is all a-blur!


Benny 20" ... destination Australia!

The show is currently live as I write and I've just taken a peek at the participating artist's booths ... sales are progressing well it appears! I think the international flavour of this show has a special appeal for both collectors and exhibitors. Penny, the organiser, provided us with a forum so that we could chat and keep in touch throughout the show and that has been a wonderful bonus! It has cemented a truly friendly atmosphere among exhibitors spread right around the globe, creating that elusive magical showtime 'buzz'.


Barney 20" ... destination United Kingdom!

I need a rest right now, but be assured, I will be eager to prepare for our next BAO online show as soon as it is announced in 2008, because I really enjoy this way of exhibiting my work to collectors. It's friendly, fun and very exciting!


Toddy 20" ... destination United Kingdom!

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