Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Looks like we made it!

Well, it looks like we made it! Here we are, the very last day of 2008. I wonder how you will spend your day? I'm not the retrospective type generally speaking, preferring instead to plan ahead. That said, a beary brief summary of 2008 wouldn't hurt anyone eh?

Planning ahead ...

Once again, the UK Hugglets Guide was a great key to reading many of the changes in the UK teddy bear world. If you think between the advertisements from one year to the next, it's fairly straightforward to draw conclusions about new bear artists entering the industry, established artists working hard to move things forward and bear artists who have opted for a complete change of direction. The guide is also a reasonably reliable indicator to which specialist shows are still going strong, which have fallen by the wayside, which shops are thriving, which have ceased trading in artist bears and so on. There have been many changes throughout 2008, but I believe some of that change has been long overdue and although it has challenged everyone involved in keeping the bear world alive, the upside is that challenge motivates wonderful creativity!

UK Teddy Bear Guide 2009

Despite the economic gloom and doom spouted on almost every news bulletin around the world over past months, I am pleased to report each and every All Bear created in 2008 quickly found a new owner and for that, I am extremely grateful to my collectors without whom I could not continue my chosen work. My bears have introduced me to some truly wonderful people in 2008 and I have loved the contact with both new friends and old!

2008 TOBY Industry's Choice Award (right)

On a creative level, I am confident the work I am now achieving is of my best and my 2008 TOBY Industry's Choice Award, has certainly endorsed all that I continually strive for; a fabulous accolade and one I shall always treasure. I am already in the throes of planning new designs for 2009 and after my Christmas break, feel fired up and raring to get back into my workroom. My first show of 2009 will be the Hugglets' 'Winter Bearfest' in Kensington; this is always my favourite show of any new year because everyone is bursting with such creativity at the start of the New Year!

Winter Bearfest 2009

In my ongoing quest for inspirational events at which to offer my bears to collectors in person, I exhibited at several specialist shows last year and for these opportunities, I would like to thank the organisers for their dedication to the promotion of our most special teddy bears. I am looking forward to taking part in the ever popular Hugglets' shows in 2009, but have decided not to rebook the 'Teddy Bear Artist Event' at Stratford Upon Avon, because, despite the wonderful attention to detail and innovative displays, on a practical level it really is too far for me to travel. The online shows I have participated in have been full of fun and I would like to extend these events next year, perhaps to include one or two online gallery shows of my own ... I know how much you all enjoyed 'Santa's Sack' and that has set me thinking! I also have a collaborative venture in the pipeline, but for now, that's top secret - I'll let you know when it comes together; suffice it to say, this has the potential to be a very exciting project!

Hugglets 'Teddies 2008' show in Kensington, London

2008 saw the sad demise of my favourite UK teddy bear mag, the 'Teddy Bear Scene' and so I am praying that editorial publishing opportunities for teddy bear artists and bear related businesses continue to be well supported throughout 2009. I have secured several advertising opportunities for All Bear with magazines in both Australia and America and will continue to keep my eyes and ears alert for further invitations, in an effort to help promote the artist teddy bear world and of course, to continue to share my All Bears with as international a market as possible! I really do believe it is vitally important for everyone involved to play an active part in keeping our bear industry vibrant by taking a global view - talking about, thinking about and of course acting to expand horizons wherever appropriate. In my view, this is the only way to ensure the industry's evolution and secure its future for generations to come.

All Bear advertisement for Teddy Bear and Friends magazine
January 2009 issue

And on that note, I am delighted to report the success of the British Bears on the Net forum -what a project that has been! UK bear artists are at last reaping the benefits of an online central resource established to provide information, support and friendship. Learning how to build the forum was a challenge, but one I enjoyed and I am so pleased the BBN membership is now finding the forum useful. Long may it continue!

British Bears on the Net forum

So what will 2009 bring? The New Year is always a good time for review, so I will shortly be thinking through my plans for 2009 in an effort to recognise what worked well for All Bear in 2008 and what did not. These thoughts will encompass all aspects of running my little business, from how I cope with admin and financial planning, through to the design of my bears and where I would like to take that design process next; marketing/promotional opportunities will naturally come to the fore and alongside editorial coverage, website maintenance, blog development, show planning and so forth. This review will also encompass my competitive work, because I believe the major international competitions offer a terrific focus for the teddy bear as art and wherever possible, should be supported by serious bear artists.

TOBY Industry's Choice Awards

All in all, I can honestly say I am content with the way 2008 panned out for All Bear and I am looking forward to the challenges of 2009. In the meantime though, it's time for me to thank you all for sharing the ramblings of this bear maker's blog throughout 2008 and to wish you all,

A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Christmas 2008, in a nutshell

After all the festive plans and preparations, I thought you might enjoy a peek into my 2008 Christmas family album ...

Firstly, a photograph of my very own Christmas Elf ...

Yes, this is my daft daughter dressed in her best Elf outfit, all ready for the Christmas Eve celebrations!

We had over twenty guests on Christmas Eve, but guess who forgot to use her camera?! Doh! Ah well, this is Christmas morn instead, taken just after the big Xmas Eve clean up and just before the next big clean up - unwrapping the gifts Father Christmas brought to our house!

My son, still a big kid at heart!

Stuart opening his pressies

Lunchtime - flamin' the Christmas pud with brandy! Yikes!

Boxing Day was soooooo cold, but very beautiful ...

The Christmas Elf donned zebra wellies and snuggly hat to come walking with us ...

Cute eh?

We tramped round the muddy lake ...


But even 'Elf and Safety' couldn't prevent the Zebra wellies being plastered in green goo by the time we returned to the car!


Urgh!


Elf food

Elfin' around with Stuart
 
Watching the ducks ...

Which is something this little elf has been enjoying since she was a baby - an entire quarter of a century ago!

Well you didn't think I'd be sitting doing nothing did you? Snapped by my son on Boxing Day evening ... knitting a little birthday surprise for a special someone ...

Last but by no means least, we shared my lovely niece Leah's birthday. Leah turned 21 the day after Boxing Day ... pictured here looking very embarrassed as seventeen of her nearest and dearest sing 'Happy Birthday' in the restaurant, raucously!

My two tucking into the Chinese food (not to mention the beer!) at their cousin Leah's birthday bash

Proud mum Fo enjoying Leah's birthday pics

Enjoying Leah's birthday celebrations with my Dad, (Leah's Grandad) ... thanks go to my son's super girlfriend Hannah for taking this rare pic!

I SAW THREE SHIPS

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And to close my 2008 Christmas celebrations, a Victorian Christmas carol I first learned many years ago, as a little girl in primary school ...
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day in the morning.
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day in the morning.
And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.
And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the souls on earth shall sing,On Christmas Day in the morning.

Then let us all rejoice again,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Then let us all rejoice again,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Slipping and sliding t'wards 2009

Where did the year go?! 2008 has whizzed past at breakneck speed and we're being hurtled towards 2009 in the blink of an eyelid it seems! Christmas came and went in a flurry of family visits, rich food and gift exchanges and I must admit, I am relishing a few peaceful moments to myself this afternoon - not that it hasn't been wonderful to see everyone, but the time has definitely come for some well-earned rest and relaxation.

For those of you still curious to know, my Christmas cake was iced just in the nick of time and no, the icing didn't set, instead it slipped casually from the cake to the stand for several infuriating hours. It did eventually adhere but sadly, without the pretty snowy peaks I had planned. Undeterred, I popped into the garden in my slippers late in the evening and snipped our holly bush to utilise the leaves as camouflage. There's no accounting for taste and strangely enough this hotch potch of a cake received many an enthusiastic compliment at our family get together on Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Marzipan mayhem!

Marzipan mayhem!

Talk about leave it to the last minute, I'm wondering if the marzipan I have just rolled over my Christmas cake, will have time to dry before I ice the cake this evening ... somehow I doubt it. And will the icing have time to set before our guests arrive tomorrow afternoon? That I also doubt! Ah well, such is the joy of Christmas!

Leaving it late ... icing tonight! (Very simply, I might add!)

With all these Christmas preparations dominating my time, I almost left it too late tell you about Ellen's special Christmas parade - now that would have been a crying shame! Ellen kindly invited her bear and doll artist friends to join her Christmas parade by sharing a picture of one of their favourite creations. If you would like to watch the parade, please visit Ellen's blog today by clicking the logo below:

Monday, 22 December 2008

Do you believe in fairies?

It was time for a sprinkling of fairy dust on Sunday afternoon ...

'Peter Pan' by JM Barrie ... one of my all time favourite story books.

I remember first reading 'Peter Pan' to my children one Christmas afternoon, many years ago. My elderly mother-in-law was fast asleep in the armchair and for once, my children were as quiet as mice, not wishing to miss a single word of their story, nor disturb their Nana's sleep. We quietly slipped into Neverland on a puff of fairy dust and several magical chapters later, closed our book, leaving Tinkerbell to her fairy mischiefs, Peter Pan to rescue Tiger Lily and Wendy to mother those poor Lost Boys. As I whispered a promise we would return to Neverland before bedtime, a croaky voice rose from the depths of the armchair cushions, "Oh don't stop now Paula, I was enjoying that!'


'Peter flew in'

I think three may well be the perfect age for a first Christmas pantomime, so as a special treat, I booked tickets to take Stuart's little grandson to see 'Peter Pan' at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon, yesterday afternoon. We weren't sure how Calvin would react to live theatre in this age of high tech entertainment, but we needn't have worried, Christmas magic always sparkles if you allow it to and that little boy was totally entranced - just like the generations who have loved 'Peter Pan' before him!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Ghost of Tax Returns Unfiled

After spending the day collating receipts and boggling my poor head with spreadsheets, I am drained of festive spirit today. I loathe doing my Tax Return and delay the inevitable every year, but this year I have truly excelled myself with tardinness - never before have I left it quite so late! That horrible form really is designed to suck the pleasure right out of self-employment. Ah well, I'm almost done, thank heavens - I really didn't want the 'Ghost of Tax Returns Unfiled' looming over me during my Yuletide!

1908 Christmas postcards ... my most recent acquisition is the top one.

Speaking of which, (Christmas that is), on a much brighter note, I can at least share my new (well, actually very old) postcard with you. As you may have guessed, the collecting bug bit me after finding my earlier treasure and I couldn't believe my luck when this one featuring the self-same bear, this time at the helm of a sleigh, turned up at auction recently; that bear really knew how to enjoy his Christmas! It amazes me that here I am in 2008, holding something as simple as a little card designed to spread Christmas cheer an entire century ago ... isn't that something special!

If you look closely, you can just make out the date, handwritten 'Dec, 25th 1908'

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Holding my breath.

I've come to the conclusion the best way for me to learn how to use my camera more effectively, is to press buttons randomly until I achieve a picture I'm happy with - there's no point sitting me down with a booklet, I simply don't seem able to process information that way ... maybe it's my age (or dare I say it, a girl thing?!) Tina has given me some great pointers along the way, but even those snippets of valuable professional advice somehow manage to slip my grasp when she's not by my side to keep me focused!

Not sure if my ambient light is too yellow or not ... looks warm and cosy though!

This morning after breakfast, I decided to indulge myself in a quiet ten minutes while the house was quiet, to play with my favourite toy. This time of year is great for indoor photography and I thought my frosty Christmas tree baubles might make a good subject ... well, a girl needs pretty things to focus on eh?

I'm quite pleased with this one - nice blurry background, baubles in focus!

Definitely should have used a tripod ...

This one's in better focus ... I love the bubble shaped reflection!

Anyway, this is what I've put together thus far - I don't doubt there are a zillion more things I need to learn to improve my photography, but so far so good - at least I've progressed from the series of blackout pictures I began with! One thing I did learn, I can't hold my breath long enough to keep the camera steady on a slow shutter speed, so whether I like it or not, I'll have to drag down the loft ladder and hunt out my little tripod before I play again!

I found a monochrome setting on my camera, so naturally, I had to press the button! Haven't a clue what this should look like in technical terms - although I do think the fir tree should probably be in focus in front of the bauble - that said, I like the fact the camera caught the delicate frosting on my glass bauble so well! Isn't black and white photography romantic!

Monday, 15 December 2008

She's a lady!

She's a lady!

The weather was absolutely foul on Saturday, so naturally, that was the day we opted to shop for our Christmas tree. Goes without saying eh? We battled against driving rain and an ear piercingly cold wind, to hunt down our tree and here she is! Dried out and dressed in all her tinselled glory! I say 'she' because this surely has to be a lady tree - just look at those womanly curves!

I have reached the conclusion that for the unitiated, good Christmas tree pics are tricky things to achieve ... I tweaked and twiddled all my camera settings in an attempt to capture ambient light and went from this ...

... to these pics below, with a heap of variations in between. I knew I should have paid more attention in class when my sister was patiently explaining my camera settings to me a few weeks ago - now I need a refresher course!

These photographs looks as though the photographer may have had one too many sherries before she pressed the (hic!) button - suffice it so say, the tree isn't actually leaning and the floor doesn't slope ...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Last one for Santa's Sack?

20" 'Tiddly Pom'

'Tiddly Pom', may well be my last bear for Santa's Sack this year ... I'm not sure I have enough time, (or energy!) for a 'just one more' bear this side of Christmas. I still have my tax return to file (groan ... I really should have taken my own advice and completed it when it was issued in April!) and my workroom to organise (the term 'bomb site' doesn't even come close) so that I can work more comfortably in the New Year; then of course, there will also be the inevitable Christmas shopping scrum - I've done what I can online, but there's no escaping the fact I am going to have to visit the shops sooner or later; face facts Paula, it's time to hunt out those hobnailed boots and muster enough determination for a serious retail onslaught!

Tiddly Pom is now ready to hop into Santa's Sack at a moment's notice! For full details please visit www.allbear.co.uk

Whether I do manage to finish one last festive bear in time or not, Santa's Sack will definitely be closing its doors on the 19th December for yet another year. Much as I have loved making my Santa's Sack bears, I confess I am more than ready to put away my stuffing stick and gently wind down towards some special family time.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Clever Catherine's Christmas Cards!

I do hope Catherine won't mind me sharing these with you on 'Bearing All', but as they are such lovely Christmas cards, I would like to spread the word! These quality cards and also some wonderful art prints, are the work of talented teddy bear artist Catherine Young of Bumpkin Bears.

Original illustrations by Catherine Young of Bumpkin Bears

Catherine has only recently ventured into selling her original art work and as soon as I saw the Christmas card designs, I couldn't resist sending in an order! My cards arrived a few days ago, beautifully packaged. My favourite is the picture of the bears gazing at the stars through the window, but to be honest, you'd be hard pressed to choose a favourite, they are all so gorgeous!

Catherine's lovely business card

There's still time to order for Christmas if you're quick, so if you would like some special Christmas cards for the special people in your life, please visit Catherine's website to find out more:
http://www.bumpkinbears.com/

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