Friday, 29 February 2008

There are ups and then of course, downs ...

Oh bum! Apologies for the mild cursing, but along with the other members of Bear Artists Online, I received an email from Penny, the BAO website and show organiser, earlier today. Sadly, due to personal pressures, Penny is having to cancel the BAO shows and will also be closing the BAO website at the beginning of May. It's such a shame! Whilst I completely understand and sympathise with Penny's reasons, I am totally gutted that this innovative creation of Penny's will cease to be. If only we could come up with a rescue plan ... any suggestions anyone? *Scratches head and frowns*

Bear Artists Online Spring Bearfest Show cancelled!

On a somewhat more positive note, I was delighted to receive an invitation to participate in the 'Teddy Bear Artists Event of 2008' which will take place in Stratford-Upon-Avon on 8th June and in view of the cancellation of BAO's online Spring show, I will now be able to accept my invitation and exhibit. Samantha, the organiser, has gone to great lengths to create a fresh format for this brand new 'artists only' show and I am very excited to be able to support her work.

Naturally, I do understand that a UK based show added to the All Bear calendar, can't quite make up for a cancelled online show which would have reached many of you across the seas, so please bear with me, while I give the matter some significant pondering to see what I can come up with ... hmmn ...

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Winter Bearfest!

It promised to be a great day on Sunday as we drove to Kensington and for the first time ever, failed to get lost en route ... definitely a good omen! My little SatNav worked dilligently to keep us on track and as we drove along the Embankment, the sun sparkled over the River Thames. Perfect!

All Bear stand before opening

Outside Kensington Town Hall, a queue of eager collectors snaked down to the High Street and beyond, filling exhibitors with a lively sense of anticipation. The 'All Bear' stand had been relocated at my request and this year, my table was positioned in a comfortable, spacious spot in Hall 2, ideal for chatting to everyone - and boy did I chat! After a sense of enforced hibernation throughout the winter months, this show offers we bearmakers the opportunity to catch up with friends in person, rather than through our usual email contact, so just before opening, there is quite a hubbub, as you can imagine! I had a lovely time chatting and it was such fun to share in the excitement of everyone's latest creations as they were gently brushed and carefully positioned.

The doors opened at 11am and by five past the hour, both 'Delilah' and 'Raffles' had been scooped from my table by their new owners - serious collectors don't hang about about shows, they know they need to act fast to secure their special bears! With collectors thronging through the aisles, the hall became very warm, very quickly and bears seemed to be flying here there and everywhere. The atmosphere was most definitely busy and extremely buzzy, just as I'd hoped it would be. By lunchtime, I hadn't had a spare second to draw breath and 'Smartie', 'Peregrine', 'Grigio' and 'White Diamond' had also been whisked away to new kind new homes.


A quick snap across taken across the aisle - I didn't have time for many pics I'm afraid!

I had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people at this show, collectors with an immense passion for bear art. One special lady travelled in all the way from the States and it was only when I accepted her credit card, I realised we had been in email contact for several years and she already owned several of my bears! Another gentleman took the trouble to visit the show to purchase a special bear as a gift for his lovely wife who is currently on the other side of the world. Each bear found their perfect person and it was a true privilege for me to meet those lovely people up close and personal.

Bluebell and Florrie waiting hopefully!

At the close of day, I had just two bears still waiting anxiously to meet their perfect people. Despite being flattered and admired throughout the day, 'Bluebell' and 'Florrie' returned home with me. Not for long though! Neither of their 'special someone's' were able to visit the show on Sunday, but nevertheless, they were waiting hopefully in the wings. Both bears were snapped up straight after the show and will soon be travelling to their new homes.


En route to the mohair supplier!

Now of course, once again I have no bears available and will have to return to work! As you can imagine, I'm pretty tired after all the excitement, travelling, creating and general running around of late, so this afternoon I'm simply going to take out my knitting needles and wool, put on a film and 'chill' for a couple of hours. Tomorrow, after driving little Florrie to the Post Office for her big trip to the States, I will be back in my workroom. Needless to say, I couldn't leave the show on Sunday without a few gorgeous fabrics in my bag, could I?!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Thanks Sis xxx

Tina hard at work, editing my photographs yesterday!
I went to visit my sister Tina yesterday. Now I know that sounds like a simple thing to do, but to understand the full import of that sentence, you would need to know I only passed my driving test three years ago, Tina lives in Hampshire, over two hours' drive and several motorways away and I have never driven that far on my own before! So, as you will now understand, this was a pretty significant challenge for me. The drive itself was fine, (if you discount the slight detour to Gatwick airport - ahem!) and by some very esteem boosting miracle, I arrived safely in time for lunch with a boot full of Winter Bearfest bears, ready for their studio session.

Winter Bearfest 2008
We spent the afternoon coaxing the bears into position and I am delighted to say, Tina has excelled herself as always, with some absolutely beautiful photographs. As a treat, I will share a couple here with you today, starting with 'Peregrine' ... (yes! I did it! I actually worked that amazing piece of antique German mohair into a lovely teddy bear in time for the show. I am so pleased with this bear, it will be hard to let him go!)
Peregrine 16"
Peregrine's vintage jet glitter buttons

Tina even succeeded in making me relax in front of her lens (a very tall order!) so now I have some super promotional pics taken with Raffles, as well as my other gorgeous bear pics and a wonderful group shot which I am looking forward to having printed on canvas to hang in pride of place on my workroom wall.



Once again I am enormously indebted to my sister. It is never easy to put into words just how grateful I am for Tina's generosity, hard work and support, so this is a totally inadquate, yet completely heartfelt ...

Thanks Sis, you're an absolute star. xxx

If you would like to find out more about Tina's work as a professional photographer, please take a moment to visit
www.tinaallinghamphotography.co.uk

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So far, so good - well behaved bears, waiting for their Bearfest!

I'm grabbing a few moments to munch an egg and tomato sandwich and gulp down a mug of strong coffee, so while I do that (please excuse the crumbs!) I thought you might like a peek into my 'pre-show' workroom.

With the show only two and a half days away and a trip to my sister's in Hampshire planned for one of those days, I'm feeling pretty 'eek' at the moment because as always, I was hoping to have 'just one more' bear (or maybe two!) for the big day. I thought I was on track when of course, it all went horribly wrong ...

Problematic Panda!

After a long day's bear making yesterday, I finally gave up working at seven in the evening, one very disillusioned bear maker. The lovely chocolate and white panda bear I had spent so much time working on, had to be discarded because I didn't like his face ... I can't quite put my finger on it, but something just isn't working for this poor chap. If I'd had enough spare white fabric to hand I would have still had enough time to make him a new head, then he would have been able to come to the show, but unfortunately his head fabric is on the other side of the Atlantic! Isn't that always the way when a deadline looms? All is not completely lost though, he will after all, make a beautiful panda bear eventually, but sadly not for Sunday's show.

So to plan B! Do you remember my earlier posting about some vintage fabric I purchased a while ago?


Vintage fabrics

Well, this morning I took a deep breath and made firm eye contact with it. This fabric has been tormenting me because it is about a hundred years old, which makes it very special indeed. The colours are muted yet rich and definitely 'antiquey', so quite tricky to put with other fabrics, also the pile is much shorter than I usually work with. I really wanted to be certain I could do this fabric justice and as there was so little available, I knew my bear design would have to fit the piece perfectly .. there would be no margin for error and no sending for 'extra' supplies!

Plan B!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say, so today I have planned my design, created his head in a complementary modern fabric and set determinedly to work; there's no turning back now! With luck I will have this unique bear ready for the Hugglets show on Sunday. So far, so good ... I'm keeping everything crossed for a successful outcome ... gulp!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

My, My, My Delilah!

When it comes to designing teddy bears, there are primarily two schools of thought, the traditional school of thought which dictates a bear should be dignified in design, subtle of colour, respectful of boundaries and then of course, there is the contemporary school of thought ...

Needless to say, I prefer to keep my options entirely open because I can have far more fun that way!

Delilah will be making her furry debut at the Winter Bearfest in Kensington Town Hall next Sunday ... don't forget your shades if you'd like to get up close and personal with this gal, you may well need them!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Bloomin' Liberty

I wasn't sure if these two colours would work together initially, but decided to give them a go anyway and now that she is finished I am so pleased I did because I absolutely love how the dusty grey works with the pale blueberry! I am delighted with her contrasting silk cotton velvet paw pads too ... this peach fabric, ordered in from the States, is so pretty!

'Bluebell' 20" traditional clown bear

I hunted through my hat boxes to trim 'Bluebell' and found a beautiful piece of ribbon left over from a lovely shopping trip to Liberty's of Regent's street many years ago. Isn't it strange how a pretty piece of ribbon can wait for so long for exactly the right bear?

I remember that trip to London so well; the store has an amazing history and the architecture is absolutely stunning. If you would like to learn a little more, please take a moment to visit: http://www.liberty.co.uk/what_s_in_store/the_liberty_story and even better, if you're planning a shopping trip to London, why not treat yourself to a mooch through this precious treasure trove - you'll love it! Oh, and don't forget to use the lift between floors ... it really is very special!

Here in the UK, it won't be long before the bluebells carpet our woodland and I for one, can't wait to ramble through the woods to enjoy them; this is one of my favourite Springtime walks.
By the way, if you would like to meet my 'Bluebell', she will be coming with me to the 'Winter Bearfest' show on Sunday 24th February!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Online organisation

Last year Tina, my photographer sister, introduced me to the wonders of online printing services and subsequently I produced two beautiful portfolio books for display at the shows I attend. I was so pleased with the outcome, I have now decided to create a new portfolio of work two or three times each year. This a great way for me to keep tabs on my design progress and it's also very satisfying for me to be able to take a peek at my adopted bears, back through the mists of time.

My latest portfolio arrived in the post yester,day and I'm delighted with it.
If you are able to visit the Winter Bearfest in Kensington Town Hall on the 24th February, please do spare a moment to flick through the pages of my new portfolio - I'd love you to see it!


Paula's porfolio 2007/08

As you can imagine, with a show on the horizon, I've not had much spare time to get out and about lately, but needless to say, I've still had to make purchases, so thank heavens for the internet - I rely on it heavily these days! Recently I even managed to have wallpaper samples sent to me, so that I could choose my wallpaper for the living room and then buy it online, simply because I just haven't had time time to visit any DIY stores to hunt for nice wallpaper. We haven't decorated the living room since moving into our new house a year ago, so I am really looking forward to putting our 'stamp' on it and if I want to have the living room decorated over the Easter break as Stuart has promised me, I really need to get the materials organised. After all, I don't want to give him any opportunity to delay work now that he's offered, do I?!

I think I like this one best - pretty eh?


The internet is always invaluable to me for bear making supplies and Susan at Bear Basics has been a great help in this respect; in fact she has just sent me these sample cards of the beautiful new Schulte fabrics which will debut at the show next week ... I couldn't resist putting in an early order for one of these fabulous fabrics, in the hope that I can squeeze enough time to work on 'just one more,' in time for the show. I wonder if you can you guess which I've chosen?


Susan's Schulte sample cards

And for when life quietens down, (if it ever does!) I have purchased an intriguing new book, 'Wire Knits'. I'm keen to give this unusual knitting a try, the dainty wire and bead projects look so pretty.

'Wire Knits' by Heather Kingsley-Heath

I just need to find a few more hours in every day and then with luck, maybe I'll be able to dedicate a few hours to finding out a bit more about this technique ... mind you, I think I'll have to make an appointment to see the optician too, I noticed the author of this book makes reference to health tips for close work in the closing pages and in my case, she definitely has a point!

Note to self: Stop squinting and get that optician's appointment made Paula Jean!


Thursday, 14 February 2008

Just enough time ...

... to share this little lady with you. Do you remember I mentioned a few days ago that as well as working on my show bears, I have also been busy creating a special clown bear? Well, here she is at last! This is 'Rosebud', created especially for an overseas collector. Annoyingly, my camera has turned the gold part of her collar more orange than gold and I'm not clever enough to alter the photograph, but aside from my camera's foibles, I'm very happy with this pretty girl.

Rosebud 20" - destination Canada!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The jitter bug

It doesn't seem possible that the 'Winter Bearfest' is only a week and a half away. Wasn't it only five minutes ago I was telling you about my preparations for last year's show?!

The pressure is starting to bite now, that's for sure. I think I should just about manage to have all my bears finished in time, so long as they all behave themselves and don't cause me any last minute troubles while I'm making them ... I just want to be able to exhibit work I'm really proud of and of course, this is always the time when the collywobbles start to set in and I look at what I'm doing and try my hardest not to feel inadequate. There is always such a wealth of talent exhibiting at this show, it can be quite overwhelming - yes, even for an old timer like me!

Anyway, enough of my pre-show jitters! Here are the bears I do have ready to share with you; hopefully with a little good luck and the wind in the right direction, there may be a few more I can add next week.

Florrie 14"

Raffles 23"

White Diamond 22"

Smartie 13"

Grigio 20"

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Paws for Applause!

Teddy Bear Scene magazine Issue 127, March 2008
On sale 14th February!

I'm buzzing today! My subscription copy of Teddy Bear Scene magazine just dropped through the letterbox and inside, is a fabulous double page spread featuring my teddy bears. I haven't been able to resist leaving it spread open on the dining room table, so that I catch a glimpse every time I walk past ... too vain eh?! I know, shame on me! But even after all these years, I still get such a zing from seeing my bears in print and that thrill never diminishes! By the way, this may sound completely daft, but I was so tickled to see my garden pebbles used for the page background!

Paws for Applause to:
Penny (www.bear-artists-online.com)
Samantha (www.teddybearartistevent.co.uk/)
and Susan (www.bearbasics.co.uk)

I was also absolutely delighted to turn a few pages and discover the editor, lovely Kathy Martin, has published my comments about three very special people who I believe have really put themselves out to help promote bear art recently. Penny, Samantha and Susan, I do hope you enjoy your 'Paws for Applause' bright shiny moment this month (thank you Aleta for that perfect turn of phrase!) You've truly earned your moment ladies!

Well done you!

xxx

Monday, 11 February 2008

Budding Inspiration

My shy tulip

With our first major show on the UK calendar only two short weeks away, I have been beavering away in my workroom with determined focus! Thankfully I do now have several show bears completed and so today will be taking a slight break to finish a pretty girlie clown for an overseas customer, before I tackle my remaining 'Winter Bearfest' bears.
My first daffs

As soon as there's the slightest hint of Spring in the garden, I can't wait to get started on the new season's bears and the 'Winter Bearfest' is the ideal showcase for them. My daffodils are now in bud, a few tulips are shyly poking through the earth and I even found an early hyacinth proudly blooming this morning, brightening my little corner of England; naturally, my creative self is being irrisistibly drawn towards a fresh spring palette! There was a sharp frost on the lawn earlier, but the sun is beaming already, so I predict a perfect bear-making day!
My first hyacinth!

I am hoping to share a preview of several of my show bears on the website early next week ... so please pop back when you can! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these early Spring photographs, snapped in my garden on this beautiful morning, only half an hour ago.

Even my fuschias are in bud!
 I'm so pleased my beautiful pink camelia (a gift many years ago from my Dad) survived our house move and is now budding!

My little Spring Puddle! This is Puddle's very first Spring and she's having a lovely time diving and pouncing in the sunshine!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Another year wiser ...

I am now 'another year wiser' according to my sister Fiona - I do hope she's right! Wouldn't that be the perfect compensation for the onset of my mid life 'laughter lines'?! It was my 45th birthday yesterday and I had a steady stream of family visitors from lunchtime right through to dinner time, so the whole day went by in a whirl of coffee mugs, chat, beautifully wrapped gifts and birthday cards.
My birthday cards!

My youngest sister Laura brought her two gorgeous daughters to visit me in the afternoon; seven year old Sian is so proud of her new baby sister! I had lots of lovely newborn cuddles with little Erin - there's nothing quite like that special baby warmth huddled against your skin is there? She's growing already and is very alert too. A real cutie! I also had visits from my Dad, my Mum and then later my other sister Fiona, her partner Simon and my lovely sixteen year old niece Lauren arrived. My sister Tina phoned from Hampshire for a long natter in the morning too! Phew! It really was a great big family 'catch up' from one end of the day, 'til the other!



I was absolutely delighted in the morning when the 'phone rang. It was my son unexpectedly ringing from work to wish his Mum a 'Happy Birthday'! Then in the evening my daughter came home from work with a delicious chocolate birthday cake to surprise me and yes, even if you are 45, apparently you do still have to have 'Happy Birthday' sung in raucous unison and a 'huff and a puff' blowing out session! Thank heavens she only put a token number of candles on the cake!

Birthday cards on the fireplace (thought I'd sneak in a pic of my new fire!)


My pretty birthday jewellery box

Along with many pretty cards (and of course, a couple of cheeky ones !) I also received some super pressies: a delicate hand embroidered jewllery box, a Piers Morgan book I'd had my eye on for quite a while, a DVD I'd hinted at so that I can tuck myself away upstairs one afternoon to watch it as I sew, boxes of yummy chocolates, a bird feeder for my garden, a rose scented candle, stylish black and white flower patterned 'useful things' for my holiday .. passport holder, luggage tag, sunglasses case, cosmetics bag and last but definitely not least, my very own SatNav for my little car! This gift is supposed to help me gain the confidence to branch out into the big wide world. I only passed my driving test three years ago and am still lacking sufficient confidence to drive away from the familiar roads of my home town on my own - this SatNav system will hopefully give me exactly the shove I need to enable me to visit my two sisters and their daughters in Hampshire, on my own!


Well, with such a lovely fuss being made of me yesterday, of course I didn't have any time to work on my show bears, so this afternoon, that's exactly what I will be doing. I have a very handsome ivory white bear still waiting on my work table for his legs to be attached!


This morning I've been trying to sort out some advertisements for a couple of magazines; I have finished the one for Teddy Bear Scene (sorry I can't share it with you just yet, but it features one of my newest show bears and he's still 'under wraps'!) I'm struggling a bit with the one for the US Teddy Bear and Friends magazine, so I'm going to 'phone my sister this afternoon and see if she can help me sort it out - she has a much better understanding of the editing programme Photoshop than I do. These things are so time consuming to organise that sometimes I find it very frustrating I can't quite get them to work the way I want them too. Hopefully I will have the second ad ready to show you very soon.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Next stop, Hugglets!

After thoroughly revelling in my fifteen minutes of fame this week, I did what every dedicated maker of bears should do and returned to my workroom, but this time, with a noticeable spring in my step!

I am of course, now knuckling down to my special 'Winter Bearfest' designs, in readinness for the prestigious Hugglets show on the 24th February, which is our first significant UK show for 2008. My faithful postie has been delivering parcels of components and fabrics almost daily, so I am now stocked up with materials and firing fully on all my bear making cylinders.

I don't want to reveal too much just yet, but I don't mind whispering in your ear, that already I have two magnificent show bears sitting on my shelves and with three working weeks still available to me, rest assured, I am entirely confident I will be able to complete the other designs currently dancing in my head!

My workroom is looking a bit like Aladdin's cave this week, with a rainbow of mohair bursting from my containers, I can't wait to get cutting! This bear-making magpie is delighting in snippets of ribbon, pretty buttons, fabulous fabrics and the like! Every so often, a fleeting thought will have me downing tools and scrabbling excitedly for materials and trims, to see how a particular colourway might work ... I love this job! I'm just like the proverbial kid in a candy shop!

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