Thursday, 29 January 2009

Keeping an open mind

Although I absolutely love creating traditional teddy bears, I can't lay claim to being a complete traditionalist because I do love to blend colour, rather than restrict my creative outlook by relying on classic gold based teddy bear colours and typical black noses. Currently I'm working on two 20" bears for 'The Winter Bearfest' show, to be held at Kensington Town Hall on 22nd February, both of which will be of classic teddy proportion, but they will also indulge in a little contemporary colourway to satisfy my need to create contemporary classics. The black and off-white alpaca I received recently could have been perfect for a classic panda bear, but I wanted a Paula panda twist, something stylish and striking for my show table; so rather than restrain this bear with reality, my panda bear will incorporate a few spicy red highlights!

My spicy panda twist for 2009!

That said, I certainly don't want to leave tradition behind, because I really do love making traditional bears! So my other bear, whilst classically centre-seamed and of typical English teddy bear proportion, will incorporate my contemporary 'appley' head shaping and a modern palette of soft blues and greys to give him freshness of appeal, whilst retaining a respectful nod to tradition.

Crafting a modern palette of soft blues and greys ...

Artist designed teddy bears are created across a broad spectrum; at one end they take inspiration from a classical history and at the other from wildly creative imagination. There are bears for all tastes and all seasons, each with a rightful place in the artist bear portfolio. If you are new to collecting teddy bears you may be searching for a traditional teddy bear, to remind you of the nostalgia of childhood, but please, keep an open mind and take time to view as many bear artists' catalogues as possible, because only then will you begin to see the creative potential a modern day teddy bear offers. Who knows, you may even surprise yourself by falling in love with a style of bear hitherto unconsidered!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Coffee Table Creations Downunder!

I almost forgot to mention that my January copy of Australian Bear Creations arrived in the UK last week and is now sitting on our coffee table. It features my first advertisement of 2009 on page 51 and my ad looks great, even if I do say so myself! The front cover of this magazine is a treat, Sandra (the editor) always presents her artists' work with such wonderful attention to detail.

January 2009 issue - Australian Bear Creations magazine, perfect for the coffee table!

This month's issue (it is published bi-monthly) is packed with goodies, so if you would like to treat yourself to a subscription, why not visit http://www.woodlandspublishing.com.au/abc/ Or you could do what I did and place an overseas order through www.isubscribe.com

Remember 'Jolly'? Well, here he is again, this time featured in my first quarter page 'Australian Bear Creations' advertisement for 2009!

Monday, 26 January 2009

You say the nicest things!

Ruth, Amanda, Ellen, Lyn and Sue, shame on you, you've made me blush! Thank you for your kindness in awarding the 'Proximidade' blog award to me; it is lovely to be thought of by my fellow bear artists with such generous spirit.

The 'Proximidade' Award
 
The creators of this award say the following:

"The blogs who receive this award are exceedingly charming. This blog invests in proximity in space, time and relationships. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandisement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these awards are cut, even more friendships will be propagated. Please give your kind attention to these writers!"

High praise indeed! As I understand it, my duty as recipient of this award is to ensure it's safe delivery to eight further bloggers who should then choose eight recipients of their own. We must all include the text "I'm feeling very honoured to have been chosen," which of course, we are! So, without further ado, these are the eight blog writers I would like to pass on the award to, in the spirit in which it was intended. Please pay them all a friendly visit!

Firstly, right back at ya Amanda! I know you've already received this award, but I'd very much like to endorse it for the kindness you have shown me recently and also for the help you have offered to 100 Best Bear Blog Artists:
http://pandypotter.blogspot.com/

Oh dear, my next choice has already been honoured too! Ah well, I'll name her anyway ... Ellen, this is for the work you did for the bear artist community with your special 'Christmas Parade': http://ellen-borggreve-design.typepad.com/

This lovely lady doesn't update her blog often, but behind the scenes, she works tirelessly to help bear artists both in the UK and overseas. Jane, we all thank you for your friendship and commitment: http://doodlebears-and-friends.blogspot.com/

Laura Lyn should also be presented with this award for the friendship, charm and assistance she so generously extends: http://teddiesbylauralynn.blogspot.com/

Am I allowed to share this with my sister too? Tina's blog gives a wealth of information helpful to anyone interested in photography and when combined with the endless help and advice she regularly sends my way, I think she should receive her first blog award: http://tinas-viewfinder.blogspot.com/

And this one for an incredibly talented lady who offers wonderful advice for doll artists on her blog, with great foresight and generosity of spirit: http://sherrygoshon.blogspot.com/


Ruth, this one's for you! I know you've already received it, but your consistent friendship, support and enthusiasm is always valued, your blog is always interesting and beautifully written and I can't possibly leave you off my list! http://www.flutter-by-bearsandfriends.blogspot.com/

Last but by no means least, I would like to share this award with Sue, a lady who has been a staunch supporter of British Bears on the Net, working above and beyond the call of duty in offering her friendship and advice. Thanks Sue! http://www.fenbearyfolk.blogspot.com/

Friday, 23 January 2009

When I am old, I shall wear purple ...

So it's Friday already and I can almost hear you asking 'but where are the bears Paula'?! Knitting, doll craft ... did they really steal away an entire week? Well no, of course they didn't ... much as that would have been a pleasure for me! Have you heard the poem 'When I am old I shall wear purple?' Well, I don't quite qualify just yet (give me another couple of weeks and I'll be hunting around in my wardrobe I'm sure!) so in the meantime, I have been working with a rather striking purple mohair which shouts out cheekily, 'cooeeeee you guys, you sure had better notice me!'

'Blackbeary' will be winging his way across the Atlantic to meet his new owner next week!

And if you're wondering what on earth I'm talking about on this Friday afternoon (believe me, you wouldn't be the first!) here's the poem:

Warning - When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
By Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin candles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Have a carefree weekend!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Birthday Girl

Yes, of course I know I have another two whole weeks until my real birthday, but I couldn't wait until then to treat myself to a little present. Not for me shoes and handbags, oh no! I craved a dolly ... now how daft is that at my age?! I've been fascinated by rag dollies for a long time and when I saw this handcrafted little lady, I knew the time had come to go ahead and indulge myself; after all, if you can't be a little daft in your forties, when on earth can you be?! Raggy Doll had a long journey from the US, but arrived safely this morning and I don't mind confessing to feeling like a kid at Christmas when postie handed over her box! Raggy Doll is now sitting on a chair in my workroom, making me smile every time I peek at her!

My birthday raggy doll

Me being me, of course I couldn't leave it at the dolly could I?! I also discovered this great book about recreating the earliest rag dolls, written by Shannon McConnnachie of Sweet Liberty Homestead and as I am fascinated by the historical development of crafting toys, I snapped it up. I was delighted when that too came in today's post! This book has only just been published, so I'm thrilled to have my very own copy and am really looking to snuggling up in my armchair later today and burying my nose in it; the photographs inside look fantastic - I really think this book is going to be a great read.

'Stitches in time' ... by Shannon McConnachie of Sweet Liberty Homestead

So rather than concern myself about becoming yet another year older in a fortnight, instead I'm having fun doing exactly as I please without feeling the need to act my age; now that's how an impending birthday should make you feel, don't you think?!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Simple pleasures

After publishing my weekend post, I received some lovely emails asking me if I could suggest a 'learning to knit' book and as it happens, I'm happy to recommend the book I bought to help my daughter master her knitting needles. It's a straightforward book, with great photographs, clear instructions and isn't too unwieldy; I found it in my local Hobbycraft store, but I'm sure Amazon or Ebay would also be able to locate it for you. The book is titled 'Beginner's guide to knitting' and it's written by Alison Dupernex, so if you fancy teaching yourself to knit, I think you'll find this a useful aid to learning the craft. Go on, be a devil! Buy a book, a pair of needles (4mm, short and bamboo would be perfect, but any needles will do to get you underway!) a ball of wool (double knit makes a great starter wool) and perhaps a row counter (to make life easy) ... before you know it I bet you'll be clacking away merrily!

Learning to knit - a few basics

Lately I've been making some very simple scarfs for my 20" bears - they'd make a perfect starter project for a new knitter, so once you've mastered cast on, garter stitch and cast off, why not make your favourite bear a scarf? This scarf should fit a 20" bear comfortably:

The finished 20" bear's scarf

Using double knit wool and a pair of 4.5mm needles, cast on 25 stitches.

Knit in garter stitch throughout and continue until your scarf measures 30 inches in length. Then cast off - hey presto, you have now completed your first knitted garment!

If you fancy taking things a little further, why not stitch a pom-pom to either end of your scarf (gather the ends of the scarf first), or add some simple tassles? I use a kiddies pom-pom making kit (see pic), but you can just as easily wind the wool tightly around two circles of reasonably thick card (the same applies for tassles only use rectangles instead of circles) and then cut carefully through the wool, between the outside edges the two pieces of card, then tie the wool tightly through the middle of the wool pieces before removing the card and attaching the pom-poms to your lovely scarf. Simple pleasures eh?!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Bear artist blogs - Top 100!

You know how it is, you sit on your swivel chair and before you know it, you've surfed a zillion craft sites and discovered an exciting new facility which you just can't resist playing with! Or is that just me?! Anyhow, I've been fiddling around with a 'Top 100' ranking service this morning because I think it could be a great tool to encourage bear artist blogging and of course, the promotion of our blogs!

100 Best Bear Artist Blogs

After hunting around for a while, I found some lovely bear graphics on sale for just a couple of dollars, so I snapped 'em up and have been playing around in Photoshop to create a couple of banners and a cute background for our shiny new '100 Best Bear Blogs' ranking service. Now all we need are some members! So, if you're a bear artist reading this and you have a bear artist blog you'd like to promote, please nip over and sign up so we can get this thing moving!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

A stitch in time

I remember first attempting to master a pair of knitting needles as a little girl in primary school ... one bright pink loopy, almost-but-not-quite square later, I arrived at the conclusion this was not a skill intended for hopelessly left-handed children. My mother, an accomplished right-handed knitter, also attempted to pass on her talent to me, but exasperation at my 'cack-handedness' soon found my knitting cast aside as I sought less troublesome activity and my mother breathed a sigh of relief. I finally taught myself to knit at the age of nineteen; I borrowed a 'how to' book from Mum, bought a pair of needles and a ball of wool and after much trial and error, eventually worked it all out in time for the birth of my daughter ...

Lesson one: how to hold the needles, a slip knot and casting on
After several false starts, the stitches at last begin to appear on the needle!

Step-by-step visual aids are handy learning tools, in this case a book by Fay's side and Mum sat next to her ready to demonstrate with her own set of needles at a moment's notice!

Hey, we're up and running with our first row of garter stitch!
Finally, after hours' of practice and several calls to help unpick mistakes, Fay is now knitting stocking stitch independently!

... the same twenty five year old daughter who asked me to teach her how to knit last week. I took a deep breath, promised some 'mum/daughter' time and donated a pair of knitting needles, a couple of balls of wool and a 'how to' book to the cause. Yesterday we cosied up on the couch and began our very first lesson. These pictures show Fay's progress so far - it's a little haphazard still, but she's advancing fast and reminding me of exactly how difficult a skill knitting is to master. I must say I'm very proud of the progress she's made - yes, she's a little scatty at remembering which side of the needles she needs to hold her wool as she works and yes, she does tend to overlook mistakes preferring instead to plough on, but she can manipulate the needles and wool quite comfortably now and has even progressed from plain ol' garter stitch, through to purl and stocking stitch. We've a long way to go, but if she remains interested, I think we'll soon begin pattern reading and then it will be time to create a something!
So the message is, pass it on! The crafting skills we mums have garnered over the years shouldn't be taken for granted, nor left to gather dust in favour of Wii games and Iphones; no, let's make time to keep them alive for future generations, ensuring we hand them on to our daughters and yes why not our sons too? Although I confess, I think it will be a rainy day in hell before I succeed in convincing my own footy playing, six foot three caveman, that the ability to knit may come in handy for him one day!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Getting into gear for the Winter Bearfest

Yes, it's almost that time of year again, showtime! I have only five weeks to prepare for the first major show of the 2009 calendar, 'The Winter Bearfest' in Kensington. As I was under par last week, I'm well aware of the need to get myself back into gear - I want to be absolutely certain I have some very special bears to take to the show with me on the 22nd Feb!

Click to visit the Hugglets website for more show details

I think there are usually about one hundred and fifty exibitors at this well established show, each hand picked by the promoters and personally invited to participate, so I've no doubt the competition will be healthily fierce. That said, it's always a friendly show, as we bear makers shake off our winter hibernation and venture out from workrooms across the UK and beyond, to meet with collectors in person and catch up with our old friends.

20" 'Cocoa' will make his debut at the 'Winter Bearfest' on 22nd February 2009

In preparation this morning I began to update the All Bear website to incorporate a show preview page, but I'll be keeping it under wraps for a wee while longer - after all, there's no harm in building a little suspense eh?! I'm relieved to say I do have my very first show bear completed, so here's a peek to whet your appetite while I set to work on his pals!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Turning to the old grey donkey.

Today was supposed to be a busy, buzzy day, but after escaping it at Christmas, a revolting snotty cold bug snuck up and climbed into bed with me last night. It's not easy to feel busy and buzzy when you've been awake half the night wondering whether to go downstairs and make a hot Lemsip to sup, or whether to lay in bed feeling sorry for yourself while you sniffle and snuffle for oxygen. The Lemsip won the toss, so at 2.30 am, I was bumbling around my kitchen in robe and fluffy slippers, trying to clear my muffly head. Needless to say, I couldn't get back to sleep. Hmph.

And despite having become a snotty slug overnight, I knew I would have a flurry of insistent 'British Bears on the Net' emails to face this frosty morning. They were inevitable after my decision to raise the question of reviewing the viability of our old BBN email chat group which has been run through Yahoo for the past ten years. On the one hand, it has been great to hear from old members long since quiet, at last pleading their case for the retention of our now flagging email voice, but on the other hand, I am left wondering what the point of a chat group can possibly be, when it patently no longer chats? It's a tricky problem! I am the sole custodian of the original British Bears on the Net group, established a decade ago to support and inform those interested in the development of the UK teddy bear world. I have worked hard over the years to keep things focused and moving forward, but I must admit, as regards the BBN email chat group, I feel as though I've been banging my head on a very lonely wall for quite a while; which is what led me to set up the new BBN forum last year - a modern format for BBN in 2008 designed to bring it bang up to-date. On the whole, the forum has been very well received and I believe in this day and age, is a far more useful resource than our old email based system ever could be; however, it sure is tough trying to convince some of the old timers change can be a positive thing; nostalgia, it appears, can prove a determined adversary!

Our new BBN forum

So instead of being a busy, buzzy kind of day, today is rather a snuffly, breathless, muffly headed kind of day - which leads me to recall a quote from one of our greatest philosophers ...

"The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about."

AA Milne/Winnie the Pooh - as pertinent today as ever!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

First offering of 2009!

'Huffy', my first new bear of 2009!

Oooh, I'm feeling a definite sense of accomplishment today! I've just completed my first new bear for 2009. Whoppee! I think the current sub zero temperatures in Kent may be subconsiously playing a part in my design process ... 'Huffy' is definitely a wintery bear, don't you think?! Perfect for warm snuggly hugs!

'Huffy' - 20" alpaca teddy bear
Now available for purchase from
www.allbear.co.uk

NEWS UPDATE: Huffy sat patiently on the website for about an hour before being invited to the US to live - he'll be flying high very soon!

Monday, 5 January 2009

No sooner said than undone!

What was I saying yesterday about putting away my snowflakes?! I woke today to 'severe weather warnings' on the breakfast news, which in the UK means we may have to tackle a centimetre or two of snow ...

The view from my window this morning ... brrrr! Apparently, if I had known how to use the manual settings on my camera properly, I could have achieved a photograph showing the snow as white rather than grey and one which captured the falling snowflakes too ... instead I'm afraid you'll have to make do with these rather uninspiring, bog standard snaps.

So of course, me being me, the first thing I wanted to try and do (after ramping up the central heating) was photograph the falling snow, but boy is that easier said than done! After quickly scanning a few helpful webpages, I came to the conclusion the snow would probably melt long before I'd progressed far enough in my self-tuition. Ah well, I supose there's always next year!

I have to venture to the Post Office today, so pretty though the snow may be, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a quick defrost before I have to jump into the car ... I'm not very brave when it comes to driving in adverse weather conditions and for me, even a light dusting of snow is a nail biting experience - pathetic eh? But bear in mind I didn't take my driving test until I was 42, a mere three years ago. I have a lifetime of bad weather driving experiences to catch up on before I earn the right to feel more confident.

'Buttons the Clown', complete with orange clown wig, waits patiently in my knitting basket for a birthday surprise ...

'Buttons the Clown' knitted doll was finished yesterday afternoon. I had a very pleasant time clacking away on my bamboo needles while watching the wonderful Dame Judi Dench in the BBC series 'Cranford'. (Stuart bought me the series on DVD for Christmas, on the strict understanding he wouldn't actually have to watch it with me; instead he went to the football muffled up to the eyebrows and almost froze to death - the lengths some men will go to, to avoid period costume drama eh?!) Incidentally, I took this clown picture with no flash; yes, I may be hopeless at catching falling snowflakes, but after all my Christmas practise, I can now take a fairly reasonable picture indoors, no longer bleaching out all the colours by relying on flash - aha, progress indeed! Now, if I could just work out how to light the subject so I don't have any shadows ...

A winter's morn in Maidstone!

Post-Post Office Update: I'm thinking my snow pictures may well be sneered at by those in colder climes, but for us here in the balmy South East of England, they at least prove it did snow. When the sun popped out a little while ago, I decided to shift my bum, don a pair of heavy tread boots and take a short morning constitutional (part of my 'get Paula moving in 2009' campaign!) I took the easy option of my 'point 'n shoot' camera, because it just about copes with be-gloved fumblings. What these pictures can't show is how breath stealingly bitter the wind is today; to this 'curl up in front the fire' bear maker, it felt positively arctic outside! These aren't the most interesting of pics, but they do show the beautiful snow capped North Downs in the distance and if nothing else, they give a fair representation of snow in residential Maidstone!

Slip sliding along ...

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Clean Slate

The All Bear website has had a spring clean for 2009! Time to put away the snowflakes and freshen backgrounds/text in readinness for the arrival of the first bears of the new season. I also asked my photographer sister Tina to help me update the site by creating a new design for the front page. Tina's Photoshop skills are far more advanced than mine and she has built a lovely warm graphic, using a soft earthy palette to welcome visitors to the site ... I do hope you approve of the change! I especially like the pebbly background Tina has chosen to set my bears against. Thanks to you as always Sis x


Alpacas, mohair ... new fabrics mean new bears for 2009!
But today is Sunday, so no bear-making for me just yet; instead I have the promise of a peaceful afternoon to myself while Stuart does that inexplicable man thing and braves the cold to join his dad watching their footy team play live. I fully intend to make the most of my 'me' time to finish the colourful little fellow below, whilst watching a suitably 'girly' film and toasting myself in front the fire ... could anything be more perfect on this icy January Sunday? Oh yes! You're absolutely right, I should include some chocolate ... first though, some piping hot soup!
 
'Buttons' clown in progress - knitting pattern by Jean Greenhowe. He's waiting for a pom pom to top off his hat and a bright orange clown wig ... then he'll be all ready for a certain special someone's birthday!

2009, not only a time for review, but also a time for renewal. Twelve more bear-making months lay before me and I am hoping they will be creatively fulfilling and of course, profitable! The best thing about a new year is with it comes a clean slate and after a family filled fortnight, I am ready to lay aside my 'Mum' head until teatime each day (when they return home from work hungry!) to claim back my daytime hours and begin work on my 2009 bears.
A tidy workroom for Jan 2009 ... note to self: those shelves need new bears to sit on them Paula!
I spent a few necessary hours tidying during the Christmas holiday and am now happy to have a well organised workroom I can move around in again - it was resembling a dumping ground before Christmas. I also have a delicious stash of new fabrics to work with and like the proverbial kid in a candy shop, I can't wait to indulge myself and start bringing these half metre beauties to life.

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