Saturday, 29 November 2008

Feeling the festive self-employed pressure ...

Did I ever mention how hard it is to be taken seriously if you have chosen to create teddy bears for your living? Particularly, it seems to me, if you work from home. No matter how many long hours of blood, sweat and occasional tears I put into my business in terms of design work, admin, marketing and so forth, I am still hopeless at saying 'no' to family when it seems they assume my 'hobby' (!) can easily be laid to one side for seasonal visits and the like.

During the year, this usually amounts to no more than the occasional hiccup in my work schedule and of course, I do want to make time for my family and I enjoy catching up with them very much; but despite that, I must admit, when the slippery slope towards December looms on this bearmaker's horizon, she can't help but worry how to make time not only for Christmas (believe me, that's the easy part of the equation!) but also for the many family birthdays and pre-Christmas visits forming a significant element of her (very large) family's December/January calendar.

Unlike those of salaried status, I can't conveniently lay claim to paid holiday leave and a nice cosy office to tuck myself away in during daylight working hours - somehow, even to my ears, it would sound so much more credible to be able say 'oh dear, I'll be at work that day,' rather than 'sorry I'll be busy making a teddy bear that day'! As you know, my workroom is at home, with very much an 'open door policy'! Unfortunately, I don't have a team of helpful elves at my disposal, so credibility issues aside, if my Christmas bears are to be ready for Santa's Sack, I need to work right up until the last possible minute before Christmas Eve, to ensure the smooth running of my bear business during this, my busiest time of year.

So yesterday I decided it might help to plan my personal calendar for December by using a spreadsheet detailing all commitments ... once I'd entered all relevant data, I was shocked to see that in the coming four weeks, there are only ten working days, yes TEN DAYS, available to me to complete my 2008 bear work! Not to mention the fact that I still have my Tax Return to complete and file during that time too! (I promised myself it would be filed before Christmas, so filed it must be!)

So my question is this: please tell me, what is the magic formula for a bear artist trying to balance her December act without offending anyone? All suggestions gratefully received. By the way, I'd be truly grateful if you could work a little sleep each night into my schedule too! Sherry anyone?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Beary Merry Christmas from 1908!

Like many of you I'm sure, there are occasional times when the house is quiet, that my mind will wander, as will my fingers tips, clicking away here and there to see where in this online world of ours, I can transport myself. A week or so ago, I was enjoying an idle moment scrolling through bear related ephemera on a well known auction site, (you know the one, purveyor of all things curious and enticing) and as I casually clicked through lists of unnecessaries, a tiny picture enticed me and I heard myself whispering, 'oh go on Paula, why not?' So I did.

My charming 1908 Teddy Bear Postcard

Signed and franked December 25th 1908, from 'Grandma Berry' and sent from New York to Nashville, Tennessee.

To be honest, I'd completely forgotten my momentary stray from the straight and narrow by the time the postman arrived with a buff coloured, airmail envelope this morning. So what a lovely surprise to tear it open and find this little treasure inside! Wouldn't it make a super Christmas card design for next year?!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Focusing on Frostina

'Frostina'

This snowy little cub has been so tricky to photograph today! I'm impossibly impatient when it comes to taking bear pics, I want them done and I want them done as soon as the last teddy bear stitch has been sewn, so I can show my latest bear off! Unfortunately little Frostina wasn't ready for her photo session until late this afternoon and of course it's November, so the days here in the UK are short and dismally dark. By the time we were ready to shoot, the light was fading fast and twiddle hopefully as I might for white balance, shutter speed and flash, I still wasn't entirely satisfied with the outcome. I'll have another try a bit earlier in the day tomorrow ... fingers crossed for a more photo friendly weather day!

16" Frostina, an alpaca snow cub

One of these days I really must organise myself so I can take my bear photographs indoors, but at the moment I'm still fighting shy of constructing a mock studio until I have Tina firmly planted by my side to guide me through the lighting set up!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Snowy Sunday Sprinklings

Sunday Snow Scene!

A pretty dusting of snow greeted me when I pulled the curtains this morning, so I took a swift snap for posterity (and also to prove to Stuart who is currently on business in China, that I was right, the weather forecasters DID say 'snow in the South East on Sunday'!' Ha! Sadly though, as fast as I type, my pretty snow scene is melting away, leaving me with heavily laden rain clouds, so it looks as though this dark day will best spent warm and toasty indoors. Brrrrrr!

A frosty work in progress!

Never mind, I have a few ideas for whiling away my dark Sunday, all of which involve unfinished craft projects. With any luck, after a few hours' spent in my workroom today, my disjointed snowy bear will be ready to hop into Santa's Sack and the knitted Jean Greenhowe dolly I'm busy making as a gift (Sssshhh!!!! That's a secret!) will soon look just like the one in the picture below (fingers crossed!) By the way, these Jean Greenhowe knitted toys make perfect gifts for kiddies (actually my son's 24 year old girlfriend just asked could she have one of the dollies for Christmas too!) They make great use of all your odds 'n ends of knitting wool and in these gloomy credit crunch days, what could possibly make a better Christmas or birthday gift for your special little person than a hand crafted toy? Knitting my current dolly gift has transported me down memory lane, back to when I first made one of the Jean Greenhowe dollies many, many years ago when my own kids were little!

My knitted dolly gift will wear a lilac dress and white sparkly knickerbockers.

'Miss Emily', a lovely traditional knitted dolly by Jean Greenhowe

Jean Greenhowe, a super collection of special toys to knit

Finally, a picture of my latest bag of sparkly magpie goodies ... aren't those fantasy films, fibres and threads pretty?! Just for now, I'll leave it to your imagine to guess what I plan to do with them!

New craft materials for me to play with!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Santa's International Shipping System

This is proving to be a particularly busy week! Once the Ho Ho Show finished (did I mention I completely messed up my international time zones and missed the Sunday half of the show?! Oops ... insert scarlet face right here please ... there I was, perched on my swivel chair in dressing gown and slippers at 10pm, mug of coffee to hand, wondering where everyone had gone and why on earth the showroom was firmly closed to my frantic mouse clicks, when I had a lightbulb moment, checked the start times and realised I was eight hours late for my own show! Ooh the humiliation!) anyway, as I was saying, once the show had finished and I'd given myself a sound telling off, ("oh Paula, you DO make me cross at times ... de da, de da, de da ...!") I decided to sit up late on Sunday night and open Santa's Sack on my website, as penance for my sins.

Well, as you can imagine, all the festive twinkly sparkle soon had this little magpie completely losing track of time and my head eventually caught up with my pillow at about 1am. I mustn't whinge about lost beauty sleep though (even if at my age, I really can't afford to take liberties with it!) because Santa's Sack is always a popular feature and this week, all four of the Christmas bears tucked inside, found lovely new owners and are now busy making their travel bookings for Santa's International Sleigh Service!

I have one or two more Christmas treats in store for Santa's Sack over the coming weeks and to say I am absolutely drooling in anticipation over the stunning pale pink and pearl alpaca fabrics which arrived here yesterday, would be an understatement! I also have an adorable winter white alpaca bear with frosty silver paws, underway in my workroom ... so, as you see, bear making is still very much a priority on the run up to Christmas; in fact, I also have a special clown bear on commission for a customer too and I'm really looking forward to starting work on him in the next few days.

Ho, Ho, Ho ... Visting Father Christmas in 1974

Well, as I don't have any new bears to share with you today, instead I'm going to close with this nostalgic picture from my family album ... taken back in 1974, it features Dad (he's the clean shaven chap on the right, not the bearded gent on the left!) with my two youngest sisters, on a special trip to visit Father Christmas. One, two, three, altogether now ... aaah!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

A wee Sprig ...

The Ho Ho Show is now over, I can hear Christmas tunes being played on the television and the shops are bursting with festive twinkle, so I have decided, all things considered, now would be a great time to open 'Santa's Sack' on the All Bear website! My apologies if you are still resisting the festivities because December is not yet quite upon us, but with global posting dates to consider, this bear maker must ensure her bears are ready to hop into Santa's international shipping system at a moment's notice!

13" Sprig

If you would like to visit Santa's Sack to see the treats I have tucked inside for you, please pop over to www.allbear.co.uk where I have now hung up a few festive decorations in preparation for our season of goodwill. Also, my first little Christmas sprite is now ready to reveal to you! Introducing 'Sprig', a dear little fellow of just 13" and my smallest bear to-date!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Here we go!

Way hey! The Ho Ho show has started! We're up and running!

'Figgy Pud' was first to sell!

I'm writing this post in my robe and slippers, all scrubbed and ready for bed because it's way past my usual bedtime, but I can't give in to tiredness yet, after all this truly is a global show and I need to be on hand to chat! Whilst the Sandman is currently competing with my caffeine intake here in the UK, those good folks 'Downunder' are only just begin to raise a bleary eyelid after a good night's kip!

Pretty Ruby is still hopeful ...

... and so is 20" Izzy Wizzy, my tribute to Sooty!

Two of my show bears sold in the first few moments of opening and sadly, I have already had to disappoint a couple of collectors who would have liked to own those very same bears, but were just a wee bit late off the starting blocks ... I guess that's just the way some shows go.

24" Jolly is taking it all in his stride with a cheeky chuckle!

Anyway, it dawned on me just now that I haven't yet revealed my show bears to you here in Blog Land and since the show is now underway, it's about time I did!

And 22" 'Oakley' is preparing to fly to the US next week!

Well, as you see, at the time of writing (it's almost the witching hour here in the UK!) three of my bears are still hopeful they will find kind new owners either later tonight, or tomorrow (Sunday) when the show reopens. I'll let you know how they get on.

In the meantime, if you would like to visit the show for yourself and see all the wonderful artist bears created for the Ho Ho Oh Bearz online show, why not pop over to http://www.northcountryteddybears.com/OhBearZ/index.htm to join in the fun!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Your invitation to the Ho Ho Show Tomorrow!

I would like to take this opportunity to personally invite you to the Fifth Anniversary
'Ho Ho Oh BearZ Online Teddy Bear Show'!


Ruby, one of my special Ho Ho show bears!

It all happens on November 15 & 16.
Show hours are from November 15th 5-10 pm and November 16th 10 -5 pm (Eastern Standard Time)

It is happening at:
http://www.northcountryteddybears.com/OhBearZ/index.htm

SO WHAT IS AN ONLINE SHOW?

This show is just like a traditional teddy bear show, full of wonderful artist bears, created especially for you; the only difference is that at this show you can view the showroom from your home computer.

Choose an Artist’s booth from the main showroom and click to visit the booth. You will then be taken to a page showing a photographic listing of the bears by your chosen artist.You will also be provided with detailed information about each bear in the show.

Take a moment to click on any bear picture to view a lovely larger image. Then, use your browser's back button to return to the information page.
Show pages will be constantly updated throughout the show, so you'll need to refresh your browser (using the F5 key or 'refresh' button) to view the latest updates to all pages to see which bears have been sold.

This event also features door prizes, a hospitality chat room, a ‘Know Your Artist’ quiz and voting for 'Best of Show'! You will also be able to chat with our special guest in our hospitality forum! It promises to be tons of fun!

Please visit http://www.northcountryteddybears.com/OhBearZ/index.htm for all the details and to familiarise yourself with the show website before the showroom opens for business tomorrow. Don't forget to make a note of the correct start time for your country! There is a handy list of global opening times on the show website.

An online show has specific times for viewing and purchasing a group of bears just like an 'in-person' show. So you might want to set your alarm! This special event only happens once a year and the bears sell quickly, so please, please, please, visit early to join in the fun!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

New shop exclusives for Edwina's Friends

20" Dolores, exclusive to Edwina's Friends

Pretty Dolores (20") and her handsome pal Berrin (23") are just about to hop into their box to travel to Kathy, the proprietor of Edwina's Friends. I created this lovely pair of big 'uns especially for the shop and am delighted to say, they will debut at
www.edwinasfriends.co.uk in the next few days!

23" Berrin, exclusive to Edwina's Friends

Monday, 10 November 2008

All Bear Down Under!

Hooray! It came! 'Australian Bear Creations' magazine (November issue) dropped through my letterbox a couple of days ago, featuring my very first 'All Bear in Oz' advertisement! Quarter of a page of glorious technicolour, what more could a teddy bear designer ask for?!

Australian Bear Creations Vol.14 No.4

I couldn't be more pleased, the ad looks great and the magazine is a real treat; heaps of interesting craft projects (I absolutely love the elf doll!) plenty of fascinating articles to read, a useful 'recommended reads' section and would you believe there is even an article on childhood toys and yes, Sooty is featured! (In case you are still wondering, my own tribute to Sooty will be revealed next weekend at the Ho Ho Oh Bearz online show).

All Bear's first Australian Bear Creations ad features 'Cornelius'

I ordered my subscription for 'Bear Creations' through
www.isubscribe.com but I believe you can also order an international subscription direct from http://www.woodlandspublishing.com.au/abc/ ... go on, why not treat yourself, I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Finding Flickr

I intended to tell you about Flickr a few days ago, but somehow it slipped my memory. I was introduced to this handy photo sharing facility by a friend (thanks Shel!) and now I'd like to share it with you ... please check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/allbear/ to find out more. There's a handy comments facility, so if you'd like to say anything, do feel free! Oh and there's an RSS Feed (whatever that means!) which keeps you up-to-date whenever new pics are introduced to the photostream ... it's all clever stuff!

Peaches, Bedazzled and Hickory - 2006

I am currently using my shiny new Flickr account to showcase my favourite 'All Bear' shots, taken by Tina, my professional photographer sister. When I find some time, I may extend the photographs to include some of my other bears and maybe even a few of my own photographic attempts - we'll see! If you scroll down the left hand column of my blog, you'll find a cute little flash Flickr badge featuring some of the photographs on my photostream ... nifty isn't it?!

By the way, Tina has been writing a blog lately and it's a fun read! If you would you like to find out more about life behind the scenes for a jobbing photographer, please pop over to http://www.tinas-viewfinder.blogspot.com/

After hunting through my dusty old photographs to find a picture of my sister for you, I've reached the conclusion she is extremely elusive, preferring as she does to be on the wrong side of the camera lens! However, this is one of my favourites, snapped twenty-three years ago when Tina came to visit her new nephew, my son Anthony. As you can see, she certainly arrived in style! Never one for convention, the motorbike was the big love of my sister's life back in the mid 80's!

Tina and Anthony, 1985

While I'm chatting, I should perhaps mention (in case you haven't already noticed!) I've been fiddling with my blog colours; the new colourway seems far more appropriate for the November greys of the UK. I have also changed my border photos to freshen things up ... I do hope you like the new ones!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A mini break

After working on such a big bear for Edwina's Friends last week, I felt an urge to take a brief respite from my big 'uns yesterday and set to work creating my smallest bear to-date; at 13", he's still not quite as small as I'm eventually aiming for, but even so, he's pretty tiddly by my standards. One day I'll break my psychological 10 inch barrier I'm sure - I seem to be tackling it an inch at a time!

My 13" mini-break teddy bear

This little chap is not quite finished, so please pardon his rudey nudey shot - as you can see, he's waiting patiently in my armchair while I knit a winter woolly to cover his decency!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Hey, who stole Autumn?!

Would you believe it's only 11am and already I have the lounge lamps on? It is so dark today and the rain is hammering down outside - definitely a 'pull up the drawbridge' Saturday! In fact, I may even pull the curtains early and light a few scented candles later. I love cosy candlelit November evenings, don't you?

Now that the Ho Ho Oh Bearz show specials are sat patiently on my shelves waiting for their big day, it's time to complete one or two outstanding projects before I turn my thoughts back to the website and inevitably, to the prospect of Christmas! I can hardly believe there are less than eight weeks to go ... for goodness sakes, I still need to find time to mix my Christmas cake and pud - own up, who stole Autumn?!

'Berrin', 23" shop exclusive for 'Edwina's Friends'

I have been working on a gorgeous ivory mohair shop exclusive bear this week and I am delighted to tell you, he will soon be making his way to Edwina's Friends. At 23" this bear is a real statement piece! I also have a 20" bear in the pipeline, so please check out www.edwinasfriends.co.uk in a week or two, to see both bears featured in their full glory and available for pre-Christmas delivery. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this preview of 'Berrin', a fine figure of a bear, even if I do say so myself!

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