Thursday, 30 August 2007

All things bright and beautiful.

It's been an up and down couple of weeks. Firstly, a funeral for a close friend of Stuart's: a beautiful service for a man who had what many of us have failed to achieve, a long-standing marriage full of warmth and love and a family life filled with happinness and generosity. A timely gift to those of us attending, a reminder to cherish our own families and nurture our relationships.
Then a couple of days ago a new arrival to welcome to our family. 'Puddle' has proved to be somewhat of a distraction! Full of mischief and cuddles, this tiny bundle has us all smiling again!

Friday, 17 August 2007

No time, it's showtime!


I'm bashing this post out frantically, while I wait for my latest waxed nose to set, stealing a few moments to say hello and to let you know I'm hard at work getting ready for the big day, Sunday 2nd September.
Showtime is always frantic, there's so much to do! I'm immersed in my work and will no doubt emerge from my workroom right at the very last minute; after all, without beautiful new bears, there's no show!


The Hugglets shows are my favourites and I've been exhibiting at them for many years. I love the showtime buzz and the fact that this particular show really does showcase the cream of our UK crop. The Autumn show is particularly exciting because everyone is inspired by the changing season, so vibrant colour bursts from each corner of the show; it's a time when most designers are in my opinion, at their most creative!


Incidentally, I received my copy of Kathy Martin's teddy bear book today and am bursting with pride! It's such a compliment to have my work referenced in this beautiful book, I can't quite believe it's me in there! I was also thrilled to find Kathy has included some of my personal collection of Chiltern Hugmee teddy bears in there too. It really is a super book and it's a very welcome addition to my collection of reference books. If you're at all interested in teddy bears, I highly recommend it!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Life is a rollercoaster.

Up one minute, down the next! Well, not quite, but it just goes to show a teddy bear maker has to keep her feet firmly on the ground. There's no room in this business for airs and graces, after all, prima donnas don't cut the mustard!
As you know, this week Billy Buttons was nominated in the 'Readers' Choice Awards', which was such a thrill for me and then today, I learned my poor Crocus has been overlooked in the URSA nominations. The odd thing is, I received so many lovely messages of support for Crocus, but not enough votes to push her through to the final.

The messages from collectors touched my heart, each one making me beam with pride and gratitude as I read. Although I can't pretend an URSA nomination wouldn't have been a huge compliment, I am just so proud to have such strong support from all over the world. If you're reading my thoughts now, warmest hugs to you and thank you all so very much!

I need to start work on my Hugglets show bears right now! It's going to be a nose to the grindstone few weeks; I just hope I can finish enough special bears in time for the big day. I spent yesterday afternoon battling an embroidered nose ... why does that always chose to happen when I have a tight deadline I wonder? Ah well, deep breath, a calming mug of coffee and hopefully I'll win that particular challenge today!

It's no good, I can't keep it quiet any longer, I'm dying to tell you that I'm just about to send off for my copy of lovely Kathy Martin's book, 'Teddy Bears, a collectible history of the teddy bear'. (See pic) Yet another rollercoaster moment! I was so proud when she asked if she could reference my work in her book, I couldn't quite believe it! That was some time ago and the book has only just been published ... as you can imagine, I'm bursting with excitment and can't wait to hold my very own copy! If you would like to purchase a copy, please check out the details in the September issue of Teddy Bear Scene magazine:
It's on sale now!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Jack of all trades.

When I think back to the moment I decided to make my first bear, I have to smile at my naivety. My mission was simple, or so I thought ... create a lovely teddy bear and thus warm the cockles of my heart. Little did I forsee where that would lead!
Since then, not only have I immersed myself for over twelve years in the finest details necessary for developing my craft, I also stumbled over the necessity to evolve into an administrative 'Jack of all trades' very early on. Word of warning, anyone who thinks selling their own product for a living is an idyllic escape from the world of employment, think again! Whilst designing and making teddy bears may be an absolute joy most of the time (I stress 'most'!) finding time to master cash flow projections, maintain financial records and prepare effective accounting systems may not be your forte, contemplating marketing strategies may make your brain scream in pain and even something as simple as designing your own promotional materials may send you boggle eyed with frustration.

My new promotional postcard!

In this day and age even a product as gentle as the teddy bear demands an internet presence, so marketing him requires a degree of computer competence, research skills, financial planning and marketing magic, second to none. Selling artist bears is no longer consigned to an occasional specialist collectors' show, these days online competition is fierce and if you can't promote yourself effectively on the internet, to be honest, you don't stand much hope of longevity in the marketplace. So, you'll probably need to add webmaster to your list of essential skills!

I was lucky enough to have been taught to touch type whilst taking my A Levels and over the years have reached the conclusion, this skill has been worth far more to me than my academic qualifications. It drew me to the computer and after teaching myself how to master that, I came into the bear industry with a couple of solid basic skills under my belt, which have been invaluable to my progression as a bear designer, accounts clerk, PR manager, business manager, secretary and so forth ... and that was before I ever worked out what to do with a sewing needle!

Nowadays, I begin every year with a review of my business strategies, dismissing anything that hasn't worked well for me, or is perhaps jaded and developing into new areas I believe may offer potential for progression, making sure I keep a close eye on the industry as a whole, rather than focus too intently on my own tiny niche. One thing I have learned, is that there is always something new to learn whether in the design process, the marketing process, or the administrative process. There's no time for complacency, that's for sure. Sometimes it makes me wonder how on earth I find time to actually make the bears!

So, please, if you are a bear maker working hard to sell your own designs, next time someone gives you a dismissive pat on the head because you work from home, away from the cut and thrust of the 'real' business world, why not take a moment to remind yourself of exactly what you've achieved and what has been involved in the process. I think you'll find you have developed much more expertise than you are usually given credit for!

Monday, 6 August 2007

Nominated!

How exciting!

Do you remember me telling you I was going to try to take part in some competitions this year? Well, I took the bull by the horns and quietly entered my new clown design 'Billy Buttons' in the 'Teddy Bear Scene' magazine's 'Readers' Choice Awards' and then held my breath until ... ta da! I have just learned that BB has received a nomination in the 'Bare Bears' category!

I can't tell you how chuffed I am!



All the nominees, five in each category, are currently featured in the September issue of the TBS magazine www.teddybearscene.co.uk and voting for the overall winners is by public vote, so if you would like to place your vote, please purchase a copy of the September TBS!

We will find out each category winner in a month or two. In the meantime, I'm on cloud nine!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Postcard from Woody Bay.


We left Kent with a severe weather warning ringing in our ears ... not an ideal start to a UK holiday, but we intrepid Brits don't allow a tiny thing like adverse weather to daunt our plans! The journey should have taken about five hours, but after nearly nine hours of hard slog along flooded motorways we finally arrived, tired and hungry. Our apartment was perched on the side of a cliff and was remote, to say the least. To reach it involved a treacherous drive along a steeply winding cliff road, but it was worth it ... what a beautiful place! Not a soul to be seen for miles and miles, heaven!






My week has been spent hiking up hill and down dale and I've loved the freedom. To be out in wide open spaces, gazing at magnificent scenery has been an absolute privilege. I hope you enjoy sharing a few of my holiday snaps!











With my next show looming on the horizon, I must now pull my head back from the Devonshire clouds and knuckle down to some serious bear-making ... but it won't be easy!

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