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!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Warming up.

Well, I think I'm about ready ... let me see: the bears are finished, groomed and ready for their big day, I've spent the entire morning building my full Winter Warmer website show preview, sent show details out by email to my mailing list, revealed the WW bears at the TeddyTalk Forum, oh and taken a quick snap of the bears in my workroom so that you can have a rough idea of their general sizing while they wait patiently on the shelves.

On Sunday I drove the bears all the way to Hampshire so they could have official photographs taken, courtesy of our official 'All Bear' photographer, none other than my lovely sister Tina! (Incidentally, please excuse little 'Farthing's' presence in the centre of this official 'Winter Warmers' photograph ... he was caught up in the pre-show excitement and couldn't resist making up the numbers for the photographer! The official photographs will be used for promotional purposes throughout the coming months and as usual, Tina has excelled herself on our behalf! I'll share more of them with you at a later date.)

Now all that's left for me to do is make sure I'm still awake when the show goes live at
http://www.bear-artists-online.com/wwintro.html at midnight tonight (GMT)!

I'm hopeless at staying up late, so don't doubt it will be a struggle. I think my best bet will be to set my computer volume high, so that when email lands I'm audibly 'nudged' by the AOL 'you've got mail' lady!

Judging from our online chat, we participating bear artists are now all buzzing with excitement. This show has a wonderful international flavour and thanks to the miracle that is internet, we will all be able to 'chat' on the BAO forum while our show takes place. Penny, our multi-talented show organiser, will be popping in every so often to let us know how things are progressing overall, which will make for a genuinely interactive show, despite it being online. In fact, if last June's hugely successful online show was anything to go by, there will be every bit as much atmosphere as there usually is at our more traditional 'in the fur' shows!

Right, that's my lot for now! I'm going to pamper myself at the hairdresser's this afternoon; a treat well earned!

Incidentally, if you would like to see more of my clever sister's photography, please take a moment to visit http://www.tinaallinghamphotography.co.uk/

I do hope you enjoy sharing our Winter Warmer Show tomorrow and most of all, I hope the show brings you the bear of your dreams x

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Ringing the changes.

The 'UK Teddy Bear Guide 2008' has just been published. Mine dropped through the letterbox this morning and I've been flicking through eagerly ever since! It's a really useful book, full to bursting with contacts and gorgeous pics, so if you haven't already ordered a copy, why not pop along to www.hugglets.co.uk and order yours today?!

Each year I receive the Teddy Bear Guide, it makes me realise just how many of my own years have been spent creating teddy bears. It's somewhere in the region of thirteen so far, so as you can guess, I've seen many comings and goings over that time.

This year I am saddened to flick through the current list of bear artists only to find that some of our most esteemed UK makers are no longer advertising their work, presumably because they have moved on to pastures new after so many long years creating their beautiful bears, as in the case of Janet Clark whose unique work I was talking about with you, in an earlier post.

'Morpheus' by Sandra Wickenden (smaller bear by Mac Pholen)
In particular this year, I noticed Frank Webster, Sandra Wickenden and Sue Schoen have quietly withdrawn from the Guide. So, I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the inspiration and generous support, including freely given hugs, shared with me throughout my own years as a bear maker.
On a more uplifting note, it is a pleasure to see many more recently established bear artists advertising wonderful bears and a relief to find Pam Howells in those hallowed pages, just where she should be, after so many decades of sharing her delightful bear craft. In fact, if ever there was to be a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' created for our UK bear industry, it would surely have to be Pam's by undisputable right.

One thing's for sure, it's always worth purchasing a copy of the 'UK Teddy Bear Guide' to keep bang up to-date with the latest goings on in the bear world! Thanks for another great Guide Hugglets!

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