Friday, 30 September 2011

Vanishing Act!

We're enjoying an Indian summer here in England with temperatures up in the eighties ... phew!  With so much sunshine beaming through my workroom window this week, working on Halloween pieces seemed a little topsy turvy, but I had fun anyway!


I've had my camera out this afternoon and can at last show you my finished Witchypoo Dolly Doodle ... complete with bloomers, I'm happy to say!

Polly Pumpkinwitch

I have also been working on a little black bear cub.  I called him Merlin and believe me, this little fellow was every bit as meddlesome as his namesake when I pointed my camera at him ... black bears are so tricky to photograph!

12" Merlin

Well, that's me and Halloween just about done for this year. I have a shop order to work on next and after that, it will be time for thinking Christmas thoughts.  One thing's for sure, with or without any hocus pocus, 2011 is fast doing a vanishing act!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Third Hat Trick!

Since becoming a recent convert to the joys of modern telephonic communication, I have developed a secret guilty pleasure - that of collecting my email and checking my Facebook account on my Iphone, from under my snuggly duvet each morning.  So imagine my delight this morning, when even before I had raised my head from my pillow, I spotted a link to the 2011 'Teddy Bear Artists and Friends' Award winners webpage and there listed, were three of my own entries, each of which had scooped third place in their category!

'Elwyn' - 3rd place in the 'polar bears' category

'Autumn' - third place in the 'groups' category

'Fleur' - third place in the 'creative doll' category

Thank you so much to everyone who voted for my work!
What a lovely start to this beautifully sunny Autumn day!

If you would like to see all the TBAAF Award winners, please visit:

TBAAF Award Winners

Monday, 26 September 2011

Simple Pleasures

While Dolly waits patiently for her bloomers (her knicker fabric hasn't arrived in the post yet!) I hope you will enjoy sharing a few of my favourite pics snapped yesterday afternoon, as Stuart and I strolled along the coastline at Riverside Country Park in Gillingham.


If you pop in to my blog for a regular read, you may remember we first visited this area back in May, taking a very blustery walk along the Saxon Shore Way, towards Motney Hill.


So this time, rather than turning right at the wooden signpost, we turned left towards Copperhouse Lane.


I love the strong visual contrast between natural coastline and the imposing power station on the horizon.  The path we took yesterday was rich with seasonal browns and golds ... such a treat for the soul in the warm autumnal sunshine.


As I mentioned when we were last here, there are many wrecked boats abandoned along this route and as the years pass they rust and rot, blending peacefully into the natural landscape. I can't help but wonder what tales these forgotten boats could tell!


Rather than take my handy pocket sized 'point 'n' shoot, I made sure I took my Canon SLR camera this time, to allow me the opportunity to tweak settings and capture nature in a little more detail - it was bulkier to carry, but I am glad I made the effort.


As we strolled, my eye was drawn back time and time again to the view of the power station ...


And finally, after ambling along in the sunshine for a very enjoyable couple of hours, we headed back to 'Horrid Hill', plonked ourselves on a bench to admire the view of the rusting hulk below, then drove home to put the kettle on for a well-earned cuppa!


I hope there will be a few more beautiful autumn afternoons to enjoy outdoors before the winter chills set in. Stuart and I both love to go walking ... simple pleasures are definitely the best.


If you would like to take a stroll along the Saxon Shore Way here in Kent, I can highly recommend a visit to:


A fascinating shoreline and safe, comfortable walking ... what more could anyone ask for?!

If you would like to read the blog post and see the photographs I posted in May, please click the following link: What lies beyond ...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Prim, but not quite proper!

Just to prove I can (very occasionally) do as I am told (those who know me far too well will be choking with disbelief right now!) here is yesterday's Dolly Doodle again, this time at 'Paula's Hairdressing Salon'.

Hairdo in progress!

I can't quite bring myself to give this 'Witchlett-in-waiting' a wickedly wild hairdo, so instead I'm using a lovely burnt orangey chunky yarn, plaited into into cute pigtails ...


Hmmn, I still don't think she's Witchypoo enough yet.  She is prim and almost proper (she's not wearing any bloomers yet, so really not proper at all!) but something's missing ... of course, not only does she need her knickers (!) she also needs a smart pointy hat to wear out on her big night!



Well that's it for today's Witchypoo progress report.  When this mischievous miss's undergarments and hat are finished, I'll grab my camera and take a proper pic to share with you ...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Halloween Happenings

It has been a whole year since I last made one of my 'Prim Dolly Doodles' ... I can hardly believe so much time has slipped away without a single daft dolly to share.  With Halloween only weeks away, now is the perfect time to put that to rights!


I've had a pair of pointy-toed dolly legs waiting patiently in my work basket since last year's Halloween, so yesterday I decided to see if I could remember how to make a cloth doll after my long sabbatical ...


First things first, time to hunt out paint brushes and give those pointy-toes a quick undercoat  ...


And while they were drying, I sewed the rest of my doll, stuffed her firmly and set to work on the fun stuff - creating a face with pens, paints, crayons, chalks and embroidery threads!


By tea-time yesterday, I had completely lost track of time, not even realising dusk had fallen when Stuart popped his head into my workroom after work!  My daft dolly had taken shape though, with limbs and head attached, smart blue pointy shoes on her feet and a matching Halloween frock to wear!


And now she's perched on the edge of my desk raising her eyes as if to say 'do come away from that blog and make me some hair!'

So just this once, I suppose I'd better do as I'm told!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Four Seasons

My sister Fiona and I had planned to visit a special event at Chatham Historic Dockyard yesterday to celebrate our Dad's life in lively 1940's style, but unfortunately I hurt my leg whilst jogging on the treadmill in my slippers a few days ago (!) which scuppered our 'first anniversary' plans.  So instead, Stuart and I rustled up a roast beef dinner Dad himself would have thoroughly enjoyed, put the 'Glen Miller Orchestra' on the stereo and invited Fo, Simon, my niece Lauren and my daughter Fay to eat with us and raise a glass of Chapel Down Vineyard's finest, in Dad's memory.

Stuart, Fay, Fo, Simon and Lauren

After a leisurely lunch, the six of us took a slow stroll (more of a hobble in my case!) through local woodland and across the pear orchards in glorious autumnal sunshine.

My sister Fiona

I think Fiona would agree with me when I say even now, after the passing of four full seasons, our sense of loss hasn't lessened, but the shock of losing Dad so unexpectedly a year ago, has almost imperceptibly eased into a quiet acceptance ... and for that, one year on, we are grateful.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Challenged ... part 2!

As I was about to tell you yesterday, before I started work on my challenge bear's white bits I discovered I didn't have any suitable blue paw fabric;  fortunately though, I did have a piece of white felt tucked away in a storage box, so before I could go any further with my project, I had to nip back down to the stove ....


And after a little more hubble bubble, my scrap of white felt soon became the perfect matching shade of blue!


My plan for this project was to tackle the advanced element of the Guild's 'A Teddy Bear World' challenge by creating a 1950's 'Chiltern Hugmee' style bear, in clown style.  After scouring the internet for information about the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company, I only managed to find a couple of photographs of their clown bears dating back to the 1930's, but that was enough to tell me Chiltern had once manufactured teddy bears in clown style!

1930's Chiltern clown/harlequin style bear

As my first childhood teddy was a 1950's Chiltern Hugmee and I have always had a fondness for this most English of bears, I decided to meet the Guild challenge criteria by attempting to create a 1950's Hugmee type bear in patriotic clown style ...


My mohair dye bath worked perfectly, giving me the vibrant red and blue colours of our national Union Jack flag.


And once sewn, I could begin to see my design taking shape!


As the Chiltern Toy Company used excelsior in their bears' heads, I decided I would give it a go too ... but it was such a messy job, I don't think it's something I'll be repeating in a hurry!


Chiltern Hugmee bears were stuffed with a natural fibre called kapok, so that's what I chose to use for my challenge bear.  Boy did that stuff tickle my nose ...  from now on, I will be forever grateful for my usual, non-tickly, polyester!

Something old, something new!

I have really enjoyed the opportunity this Guild challenge has given me to step away from my usual style of work and do something completely different.


 So here he is, introducing my challenge submission 'Jack' ...

I do hope you think he might have made an acceptable addition to the 1950's Chiltern Hugmee range of teddy bears!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Challenged!

As I mentioned yesterday, Friday is the final submission deadline for our Guild of Master Bearcrafters' 'A Teddy Bear World' challenge, so I need to start my project quicksmart!

Union Jack flag

Typically, my first hiccup was being unprepared.  I had no white vinegar to set the dye, so after a quick dash to the supermarket to buy some straight after lunch today, I donned a large craft apron and some rubber gloves before mixing the dye for my challenge bear.


I gathered together my research notes, white mohair and dye ingredients ...


And began by washing my white mohair so it would accept the dye readily.


The came the fun part!  The Jacquard Acid Dyes only require a small amount of powder to be mixed with water to achieve vibrant colour.


It's very easy to use these dyes.  I kept my fingers crossed that the dye wouldn't ruin my favourite stockpots, threw caution to the wind and dropped my lovely white mohair straight into the red and blue pots ... there was no time for shilly-shallying around with sample pieces first, my schedule was too tight!


Half an hour of hubble bubble later, my mohair pieces were ready for washing.  I don't think the blue is quite as dark as it should be (I bought 'brilliant blue' rather than 'navy' dye) but hey ho, it is a very nice blue and surely a bearmaker can be allowed a little artistic interpretation?!

Time to start work on my bear's white bits now ... I'll take pics as I work and share them with you when he's ready for submission.  Wish me luck with the deadline - I'm going to need it!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Me and my big mouth ...

I really enjoy running the Guild of Master Bearcrafters; it's a fascinating job and with about five hundred creative heads under one roof, it never fails to inspire, as you can imagine!


To keep creativity levels buzzing, earlier this year I thought it would be a fun idea to set up a Guild challenge group and invite members to design pieces of work to set themes ... to think a little 'outside the box'.  The challenges have been well received and our latest, 'A Teddy Bear World' challenge concludes on Friday. 

The Challenge is as follows:

As the Guild celebrates the work of teddy bear artists around the globe, I thought it would be fun to hold a challenge which celebrates our international bear-crafting community!  

Special materials required: white fabric (whatever type of fabric you would like to make your bear from) and dye!

Standard Challenge:  Your challenge is to create a teddy bear in the colours of your national flag, using white fabric and dye.  Your teddy bear may be created in any style.

Advanced Challenge:  Your challenge is to create a teddy bear in the colours of your national flag, using white fabric and dye.  Please read on further for the advanced element of this challenge!

Your bear is to be created in the traditional style of one of your national teddy bear manufacturers, from 1900's to 1960's.  

For example:
Steiff/Bing: Germany,
Chiltern Hygenic Toy Co/Merrythought: UK, 
Ideal Novelty & Toy Co: USA,
Fadap/Pintel: France,
Joy Toys: Australia ... etc. 

Needless to say, with such a high calibre of group members from around the world laying down the creative Guild gauntlet, the least I can do is join in the fun.  Trouble is, there are only three days until my own deadline .... and I haven't even started work on my submission yet.

So tomorrow I plan to be up to my eyeballs in red and blue dye - fingers crossed there are no calamities and that everything goes to plan first time!

I'll let you know how I get on!

Monday, 12 September 2011

The day after the show before ...

Yesterday's show in London passed in a giddy whirl of chat! I met bear artists and collectors from four corners of the globe and our passion for teddy bears overcame any language barriers.  Needless to say, as is my custom, I arrived slightly later than was probably good for me, so set up my stand in a fluster, with only seconds to spare before the doors opened and collectors streamed in.

20" 'Chestnut' is currently available for adoption

The highlight of my day was meeting so many 'Guild of Master Bearcrafters' members from overseas for the first time.  We were all very excited to say a personal hello, complete with friendly hug, for the very first time!  I am in awe of these brave ladies who travelled as far afield as Russia, Australia, Austria, Germany, Lithuania and Hong Kong ... particularly those who were a little shy speaking English - I doubt I could ever be so brave in a foreign country!

17" 'Hickory' has been adopted!

As far as the business of the day went, I'd say the day was pretty busy in the main, with only the occasional lull.  As always, Glen and Irene did a sterling job with the organisation and the show ran like clockwork.  I didn't have the opportunity to look around at other stands unfortunately, in fact I managed only two loo breaks (!) and other than that, was glued to my stand all day.  One of these days I'd like to visit as a collector again, I miss looking around at everyone's work!

'Rosehip' has been adopted!

On the business front the day went okay, with some of my show bears finding new homes and some travelling home with me again - which given the current economic climate, was about what I expected.  On a very pleasing note, I met up with lovely Tracy Ward of 'One More Bear' and have agreed to create a few shop exclusives in time for her Christmas launch.

'Hawthorn' has been reserved
  
With bears still hoping for adoption, I have been busy updating my website this morning and am delighted to report, interest is brisk!  So, on that positive note, I ought to sign off now and finalise some adoptions ... not to mention grab a sandwich, I'm starving!


UPDATE: 13/09/11 ... I'm delighted to say the only bear now remaining from my 'Golden Season' collection is 'Chestnut', the biggest bear!  He's a lovely bear so hopefully he will soon find someone very special to take care of him.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The 'Golden Season' Show Collection!

It has taken me all day to photograph these bears, (for some reason I struggled with lighting them properly) but finally I have pics I am happy with, so can share a quick peek at my 'Golden Season Show Collection' with you!

'The Golden Season Show Collection' will debut in
Kensington Town Hall on Sept 11th 2011

There have been ups and there have been downs during the creation of this collection, but at last my bears are ready for their big day out in London on Sunday and I can breathe a little easier for a few days!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Back in the saddle!

There are only five days until the prestigious Teddies 2011 show in London and I must admit, with all the distractions I've had of late and the sad year overall, I was starting to worry I may not live up to my show commitment this time and might fall horribly short of bears.  It's an odd fact, but I'm sure most bear artists will agree that when you take a knock or two, it can be hard to settle back into the creative saddle. 


But on a positive note, I seem to be doing okay with the show bears after all and think I will have my usual nine or so to take along ... thank goodness! 


The bear in the photograph above helped reinstate my confidence this week.  I found a rare piece of gorgeous English mohair on a well-known auction site a while ago and finally set to work on it yesterday. It was lovely to work with and made a really beautiful head for this Autumn clown bear.

If I knuckle down this afternoon, I should have another bear finished by tea-time and maybe tomorrow, the pink bear currently in pieces on my sewing table might stand half a chance of coming to life ...

Yep, with a little more grit and determination, I think I will safely be able to say that despite everything, I am almost ready!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Wide-eyed

To be frank, it hasn't been the best of weeks on the work front. I can only assume there must have been a full moon meddling.  I won't go into details, life as we all know is way too short; suffice it to say my eyes have been opened wide during the past few days and this has saddened me, after so many happy years working in the bear world.


As my Dad would have told me, it's time to move forward with my chin firmly held high and to remember that for every gossip mongering bad apple, there is a  barrel brimming with loyalty, friendship and support.


Right, now that's off my chest ... to Hugglets!  I am way behind schedule this year but doing my best to produce a few lovely bears to take to the show.  Time is against me because the show is only a week from Sunday, but with a fair wind and no distractions, hopefully I will be able to turn the basket of pieces above into three new bears in the nick of time!


First things first though, these two need their noses finished.
Snotty hooters is not a show worthy look!

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