Friday, 27 February 2009

Flashy photos

I promised I'd show you a few of the studio shots Tina took for me last week, so here we go!

They are still in a raw state and will be tidied up in Photoshop when Tina has some spare time between weddings, portraiture clients and other time consuming photographic projects, but until then, here's a little peek at a few of my favourite bear portraits. There are many, many more besides; I've been very spoiled for choice!

Yes, we couldn't resist - even my Brown Betty posed for the camera!

Tina Setting up a make-do studio in my lounge

This time we played with some colourful backdrops for the bears ... as you can probably tell, my favourites were the yellow and pink, I think they set the bears off beautifully! Once again, Tina did me proud and we had a lovely day catching up.

If you have enjoyed Tina's photos and would like to see more of her work, please take a moment to visit her website at: www.tinaallinghamphotography.co.uk

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Spring has almost sprung!

Spring has very almost sprung at Edwina's Friends and so I can now share a little peek of my latest two exclusive offerings for my friend Kathy's online bear shop! Both bears will be available from www.edwinasfriends.co.uk early next week.

14" Buttercup wears a beautiful hand dyed silk bow around her chest

20" Pansy, a centre seam bear, wears a beautiful vintage crochet lace collar

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Recharging my batteries!

Sorry, but I was absolutely shattered yesterday and simply couldn't scrape the energy to tell you about Sunday's Winter Bearfest show. I also had loads of administrative jobs to deal with in the morning, so by the time I finally found my armchair in the afternoon, I was about ready to collapse!

The 'All Bear' show stand

The show pleasantly surprised me after all the negativity continually broadcast on television over the past few months ... despite the economic doom and gloom, bear collectors were out in force and there was a considerably long queue snaking around the building before the doors opened.


A glimpse into our Winter Bearfest!

Once again, the Hugglets team pulled off their side of the deal by getting bear collectors to visit and then it was over to us bear artists to do 'our thing'. My thing is always to chat - it's great to be able to catch up with friends and collectors in person after you have been tucked away in your workroom for months!

20" Misty is now available direct from my website ... fabulous photograph courtesy of Tina Allingham Photography!

As you know, this time I only took big bears, so was prepared for a little caution from the British collectors because things are definitely tougher here in the UK at present. All my bears were much admired throughout the day, which was such a pleasure for me! Several sold during the show and afterwards, but it wasn't a sellout for me this time and today pretty 'Misty' is wondering when her special someone will claim her. She had much interest on the day and prior to the show, so I have made her available on my website in the hope someone will love her enough to invite her home very soon!

My clumsy first attempt at drawing a face with watercolour pencils ... hopefully with lots more practise mine will eventually look more like Sherry's beautiful finished face, bottom right!

As for me, I've promised myself a week away from bearcrafting; I need a break to recharge my batteries and so this week, will catch up with admin and treat myself to some extra curricular activity. In fact, I can now confess to booking an online doll-making course - I can't wait to get started on this new project! I have never made a doll before and have no idea what the poor creature will look like when completed, so watch this space! I also spent a pleasant couple of hours yesterday, practising doll faces using Sherry Goshon's fantastic 'Creating Watercolour Faces' book ... I am under no illusions that I will adapt to this art and think I will need to practise for quite some time if I am to achieve anything truly worth sharing, but I'm happy to tell you I am enjoying the process of learning again. I might be able to make bears, but I'm a long way from having any artistic confidence when it comes to painting or drawing!

Misty update: I'm delighted to be able to tell you Misty found a lovely new owner today and will be moving to France to live! Ooh la la!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Flying visit

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Where are the hours disappearing to? This is a flying visit before I disappear among my mohair pieces for the final time. I have two more bears to finish before Sunday's show, only today and tomorrow to complete both AND I still need to organise the All Bear stand equipment! Panic? Me? Not quite, but very nearly!

Nose to the grindstone in preparation for Sunday's Winter Bearfest show!

I had a lovely day with my sister Tina yesterday. She drove up from Hampshire loaded to the gunnels with photographic gear and we to set up a studio in my lounge. Once again, Tina spoiled me with some fantastic bear photos, not to mention one or two of me as well! I'll share a few of the pics with you next week because as you can imagine, there's no time today! In between shots, we caught up with family gossip and had a lovely natter over a beans on toast lunch. It's such a shame we live so far apart and can't do the sister thing more often.

Phew, 20" Tommy is finished in the nick of time! A lovely schlumpy bear for Sunday's show.

Anyway, that's enough chat from me today, please come and say hello if you visit the show on Sunday (Kensington Town Hall, London W8 - opens to the public at 11am) I'd love you to show you my newest bears in person!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Postition vacant: Elves required!

Oh my goodness, is it really only six days until the 'Winter Bearfest'?! The past few weeks have flown by, forcing me to take stock and type a VSP (very short post!) to let you know that this week is of necessity, a 'works-in-progress' week. Somehow this little lot ....

Works in progress!

... must metamorphosize from a pile of pieces into four fabulous show bears before the weekend catches me out! So, if anyone has a spare team of elves at their disposal, could you please point them in the direction of my workroom!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Be Mine?

In 1903 this wonderful Valentine postcard was sent to 'Miss Mary Peck in Woodbridge, Bonn' and today, over one hundred years later, I am sending it to you, wherever you are, via the magic of our internet connection!
Happy Valentine's Day!

20" Valentino will make his debut at the Winter Bearfest show on 22nd February.

I also have a new clown bear to share with you on this most romantic of days (apparently!) I finished 'Valentino' earlier today and couldn't resist naming him accordingly!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Buttoned up my precious ...

Vintage 1960's 'aurora borealis' button

I forgot to tell you about the buttons on Clover's knitted jacket in my post yesterday ... these fabulous vintage 1960's 'aurora borealis' buttons turned up on Ebay some time ago and the magpie in me naturally honed in on them. By some miracle the other button magpies weren't scouring Ebay carefully enough that week and so I won several of these beauties! I tucked away 'my precious' (can you hear Gollom taking over now?!) stash for a while, taking it out to admire every so often before greedily hiding it away again, but when I held the last three buttons against Clover's jacket on Monday and saw how they brought it to life, I had to face facts, they were perfect ... sob!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Hubble bubble!

As I couldn't make my mind up about which colour to use for my latest show bear's paw pads, I decided to create a little hocus pocus in my kitchen ... (bear with me, this post will come clear I promise!)

My plan was to colour match the yarn planned for my newest bear's outfit, so I kept the yarn to hand, while I hunted through my cupboards for some useful equipment ... a saucepan, a couple of bowls, a sieve, a spud masher and a leftover tub of blueberries ... !

First I boiled up the blueberries in a pan of water ...

As the mixture boiled, I gently mashed the fruit to release the rich natural colour.

After leaving my mashed blueberries to simmer for a while, I strained the hot blueberry juice into a bowl.

Then added table salt to the juice bowl to help set the colour.

Next I plunged my square of white wool felt into the bowl, stirring regularly to ensure even coverage. I covered the bowl with cling film and left it to stew for about an hour.

I read somewhere that plunging naturally dyed fabric into a bowl of iced water helps set the colour when stewing is complete, so I did that too! Lastly, I rinsed the fabric to remove any little fruit particles and left it to dry flat.

And these paw pads are the finished result - a very pretty shade of blueberry lilac!

Unfortunately, when they had dried I decided the lilac blueberry paws weren't the right shade for the bear I was working on (pic below) but I'm really pleased with the outcome of my hocus pocus session and will store these paws in my felt box for use another time. Natural dyeing with fruit has been great fun and now this curious witch is keen to discover what other magical colours she can conjure up!

Oops! Nearly forgot to mention my finished bear! Here she is ... this is 'Clover,' a lovely mauve Miss!


'Clover', a centre seam bear, will make her debut (complete with velvet paw pads!) at the 'Winter Bearfest' show on in London on 22nd February. For full details, please visit www.allbear.co.uk

Friday, 6 February 2009

Never too old for cake!

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to me! Well, it was yesterday! One of the things about working from home on your birthday is you don't actually get any work done because the doorbell doesn't stop ringing from one end of the day until the other! With a family as large as mine, I knew that would be the case, so I spent an hour in the morning organising myself and just as I was putting away the floor wipes (a girl needs a clean floor - even on her birthday!) my doorbell began to ring and from that point on, the kettle didn't stop earning its keep all day. As soon as one member of my family departed, another arrived - my Dad even visited twice! (Not that I can take credit for that, my youngest sister also celebrates her birthday this week, so when Dad heard she and her baby daughter were en route to my house after he had left, he turned the car around and came back for another cup of tea to wish Laura a happy birthday in person too!)

'Brown Betty'

Fay's arty close-up shot of 'Brown Betty'

My kids were both at work during the day, but when they came home in the evening they surprised me with a completely unexpected gift and some lovely birthday cards (to be truthful, my son's card was more cheeky than lovely, but it did give me a good chuckle!) I was absolutely bowled over at how much trouble they had taken to arrange their gift, a wonderful primitive folk art doll. Fay (duly elected 'gift arranger' by her brother, who freely admits to being a little out of his depth with such items!) arranged to have 'Brown Betty' shipped from her creator in America in time for my big day - you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive this special doll giftwrapped for my birthday ... I absolutely love her!
A special chest of drawers for my vintage buttons

This dear little chest was a gift from my sister Fiona and her family, chosen especially for me to store my vintage buttons in those gorgeous ceramic drawers. As soon as I've finished this post, I will be toddling off to my workroom to begin filling those drawers with treasures!

Blowing out my candles (whilst modelling my snuggly birthday robe!)

According to my kids, you can never be too old for birthday cake!

I received so many birthday wishes both in person and through the post yesterday and received such thoughtful gifts from everyone. Fay even arranged a chocolate caterpillar birthday cake, complete with candles! Fortunately she resisted the temptation to light a candle for each of my 46 years and spared us the risk of setting off the fire alarms! Everyone made me feel very loved, so I would like to say thank you to Stuart, my family and my wonderful kids for sharing my birthday and making it so special xxx

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

A preview and a competitive ponder ...

I'm in the middle of my show work for Hugglets' Winter Bearfest' show in London at the end of the month and can at last share a few photos of my completed bears with you. There will be more to come over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, I updated my website this morning with these special show bears ... you may recognise them from some of the 'works in progress' photographs in my earlier posts!

20" Chilli

20" Cocoa

20" Honey


20" Misty - the extra ball of wool arrived yesterday, allowing me to finish her jacket last night!

I'm still muddling along with my manual camera settings, so I am not quite as content with these photographs as I would like to have been, but luckily for me Tina has offered a few more photographic pointers which should help improve my snaps and she has also promised to visit me and my bears the week before the show to take some professional photographs!

'Primrose and her Duckling'

My 2009 TOBY entry

Before I return to my sewing, I have a little disappointing news today: the TOBY 2009 Industry's Choice Award nominations have now been announced and sadly my entry wasn't on that hallowed list. One of the criteria for entries is "entries must must differ from previously issued designs, with substantial changes in size, materials, and/or costume" - a difficult challenge for any bear artist and one I tried my best to adhere to with 'Primrose and her Duckling' who couldn't possibly be construed as being anything like 'Billy Buttons' (my successful 2008 entry) in style.

23" Billy Buttons, my 2008 TOBY Award winner

It's always tough to know how best to approach competition work and as those of you 'Bearing All' regulars will know, I have agonised over this issue in the past. To sum up my feelings this year, naturally I'm a little disappointed at being overlooked for the 2009 TOBY Award because I am confident Primrose is a lovely, happy and above all, original design - definitely worthy of entering into this significant competition. So no, I'm not downcast today and I will of course take this year's result on the chin; in fact, I'll even go as far as offering my congratulations to the winners! I haven't seen those in my category yet, but I did have the pleasure of viewing several other worthy entries this morning, confirming that ours is a truly competitive and inspiring field! No, on reflection, I think I can safely say there's very little doubt I'll dust myself down in time to rise to the TOBY challenge again next year!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Odds 'n ends

It's days like today when I am more than happy to be self-employed - what a relief it is when there's no need to battle snow and ice simply to get to work. Believe me, there's a great deal to be said for being poor but happy in your work! I don't envy anyone who has to set foot outdoors in sub zero temperatures just to earn a crust, especially today when heavy snow has caused most of the UK to grind to a chilly halt.

The view from my kitchen window this morning - brrrr!

Sunday wasn't much better weatherwise; we nipped out for our usual supermarket trolley dash in the morning and by the time we were driving home, the snow was falling thick and fast around us. We spent Sunday afternoon indoors with the fire toasting us - lovely! I twiddled with my knitting, while Stuart battled the crossword and read his newspapers ... we're practising hard for full Darby and Joan status and if the weather doesn't improve soon, will qualify much earlier than anticipated!

My stash!

My plan for yesterday had been to finish the little jacket I've been knitting for a show bear, but I did a silly thing when I bought the wool in a sale and underestimated my needs, so halfway through the final sleeve, the inevitable happened and I ran out of wool. Needless to say the wool has since been discontinued and my local Hobbycraft store didn't have a handy spare ball for me. Undaunted, I put in a Google search on the computer and managed to find a matching ball in Edinburgh. I reckon if you are online you can find almost anything with a bit of determination!

Fingers crossed the extra wool I need to finish this jacket arrives from Scotland soon!

As you may already know, I've been knitting since I first worked out how to cast on almost twenty seven years ago and although I have a clearout from time to time, I always seem to have a considerable stash of odd balls. Now and again I put them to good use for knitting projects such as the knitted dollies I recently gave to my nieces for their birthdays, but even so, my stash rarely seems to diminish! I hauled it out yesterday because I wanted to twiddle with some intarsia knitting from a gorgeous book by Debbie Abrahams. (In fact I treated myself to two of her books recently, one full of lovely modern cushion designs and the other wonderful throws, which would make fabulous gifts for special occasions.) The books recommend using Rowan wool, which I agree would be perfect to work with for a special item, but pretty expensive otherwise - in fact I worked out it would cost about £100 to knit one of the throws using the specified wool, so instead of bankrupting myself this month, I decided to put my stash of spare wool to good use.

'25 Cushions to knit' and 'Blankets and throws to knit' - I love these books by Debbie Abrahams!

Practising intarsia knitting ... these three flowers took me all Sunday afternoon to complete!

I had forgotten how fiddly intarsia knitting is - I haven't knitted intarsia since I used to make picture sweaters for my children when they were toddlers; I usually prefer to knit texture, either lace, aran or other textured pattern - techniques which don't have nearly so many loose ends to deal with! I had to make a special trip to my local Hobbycraft to buy bobbins (entirely necessary to avoid creating a nasty tangly mess - the bobbins keep the colours neatly ready for use on the back of the work, so you don't need to use unruly balls of wool). After several hours' work, I had managed to knit two thirds of the first cushion panel (I need to make three more panels of four flowers if I'm to finish the front of the cushion, then bind them all together to create the overall design) and was congratulated by Stuart for managing to keep quiet all afternoon ... cheeky blighter! I'm not convinced I actually enjoy the process of intarsia work (or keeping quiet all afternoon! Ha!) so this panel may be the only one I finish. It did set me thinking though ... I do remember very much enjoying fairisle knitting years ago, so maybe I'll use my stash to play around with that next time I'm faced with a 'curl up in front of the fire' Sunday afternoon!

Wey hey, those little white blobs are real snowflakes captured on 'film' ... er, memory card!

Monday afternoon snow update: it's now early afternoon and both my kids are home from work ... Fay has updated her facebook status to advise family and friends of the 'Fay shaped bum print' that can now be found in the snow outside our house (she's going to have a cheeky bruise!) and I'm delighted to have recorded the falling snowflakes on my point n' shoot camera simply by using a little flash! Yes, I do realise I need to put in a little more effort and perhaps venture outside if I'm ever going to become any good with my camera, but in the absence of any commitment to getting cold and wet, these are my Monday afternoon snow pics!

Our road, turning whiter by the hour ...

Work abandoned for the afternoon as the neighbours come home early. It's estimated that only one in every five workers are in work in the UK today!

And finally, my Puddle cat - she couldn't resist going out to play in the snow, but only stayed out long enough to leave a trail of tiny cat prints. Here she is, pleading to come back into the warm lounge - ahhh!

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