Monday, 1 September 2008

Auntie Bears, a click down Memory Lane

The 'Auntie Bears' stand

Did I ever mention that I first started work as a teddy bear maker with my sister Fiona? No? Well, perhaps I should have done! It's such an integral part of my life and work as a bear maker. Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I'll begin!

Unfortunately I can't remember this chap's name at the moment, but I do remember it was me who made him. Together with 'Frankie' below, he was a shop exclusive for 'House of Bruin' ... my very first pair of shop exclusive bears!

Way back in the early 90's, Fiona and I were having so much fun creating our first teddy bears together. We spent most of our time talking bears and of course, discussing the business of bears. Initially our goal was simply to make teddy bears for the sheer pleasure of knowing we could, selling didn't enter our thoughts, but as time and our confidence pressed on, we noticed many of our creations heading out the door in the eager grasp of family and friends, at which point the business of bears began to intrigue us.

'Tosh' by Fiona Smith of Auntie Bears

One daft day while I was out of the house, Fiona bear-napped a small selection of my bears, bundled them into her car and drove them to the 'Rochester Bear Shop' for evaluation. Those kind ladies (does anyone remember Carol and Michelle?) sang our bears' praises and invited the bears not only into their shop, but also into their very own teddy bear show, 'The Rochester Bear Fair', which in those days, exhibited a heady list of quality bear artists. Naturally I was utterly shocked when Fiona finally 'fessed up to her dastardly deed, but to her credit, she was responsible for making me recognise our apprenticeship had come to an end and the time had come for us to take up the mantle as fully fledged teddy bear artists.

That was then and of course, this is now. Times have changed beyond recognition over the past fifteen years or so, not only for the two of us, but also for the bear world in general. Regrettably for me, Fiona's career as a bear artist drew to a natural conclusion as life events took over, redirecting her focus some time ago. So I have since continued alone in my life as a creator of teddy bears, waving a wistful farewall to shared sewing days, lovely cake and coffee lunches and to the many bear related plans and projects in which we jointly invested our hearts and souls. Do I miss those days? Oh yes, of course I do. They were a whole heap of fun and who better to share them with than my own sister?!

Fo, what was this bear's name? My memory has let me down again!

'Aston Martin' by Auntie Bears, a great big growly bear created by me as a special order for an enthusiastic collector.

We created so many bears between us in the early days that I'd go so far as to say we were prolific! Show days were fast and furious, we accepted invitations to make personal appearances in teddy bear shops, our bears were regularly featured in magazines and our telephones didn't stop ringing. Auntie Bears travelled far and wide beyond the UK ... America, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the list went on and on and ...

'Godfrey' by Fiona Smith of Auntie Bears

... but with the arrival of the internet in recent years, I have noticed how much quieter my telephone has become and somehow an inbox full of email just doesn't quite have the same pulsatingly urgent ring to it; in fact, I swear some days I don't even hear my own voice from morn 'til teatime!

'Frankie' (named after Frank Webster of Charnwood Bears, owner of 'The House of Bruin')by Paula Carter of Auntie Bears

An original, hand scribed 'Auntie Bears' hang tag

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not the type of person to be forever harking back to the past, far from it in fact, but late last week, I was stopped in my tracks and hauled back to our 'Auntie Bears' days, by a single listing on 'Google,' stumbled across whilst surfing the web. One thing clicked quickly through to another and in seconds there I was, walking right back down Memory Lane! As my research became more focused, these dear old Auntie Bears began to greet me like long lost friends. Tosh, Edwin, Godfrey, Frankie, Aston Martin, there they all were, rehomed and reassigned, (one or two wearing the wrong hangtags and claiming each other's identity, but hey, that's life in the bear world and I've learned my lesson, these days I stitch the hangtags to my bears!) Angus however, was still patiently waiting; waiting I am absolutely convinced, for destiny to reach out and claim him back ...

'Angus' by Fiona Smith of Auntie Bears

So, I'll let you know when he arrives later this week ... sentimental? Moi? As if.


  1. Oh how lovely for him to come "back home" Paula ! Bet you're excited :0)
    What a really lovely story ....
    Huggies , Ruth

  2. What a fantastic story Paula and I'm glad Angus is coming home. It would be fabulous to have a sister at all, but one to create with? that sounds like heaven!(With three brothers, and two brothers-in-law, I have gained some fanastic sisters-in-law, and one of them (Beth) and I made two beautiful large Santa dolls and it was heaven!)

  3. hahahhahah... you old softie, you!

    Lucky to have a sister to do things with...especially creating.

    Mine lives 7 hours away by car... and has no time or energy for any fun stuff...

    went to TT to see all the pandas.... what a lovely bunch .....

  4. Such a lovely story Paula and I enjoyed reading how your bear making began.

    Isn't it great to go down Memory Lane
    once in a while!


  5. You got it in one Vee! 'Old softie' ... this will ruin my reputation as a hard headed business woman! LOL!!!

    It's lovely to hear you all enjoyed the read, sometimes it's good to remember eh? Thinking back over the years has given me a reallift this week and it's been my pleasure to share it with you.


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