Making and selling teddy bears might seem like a dream job and in many ways it can be, but believe me, it certainly isn't all about sewing!
When I first began making bears, I didn't even own a computer and the potential for internet exposure had never entered my consciousness. In those days, cameras used film to capture images and it was necessary to wait several days for photographs to be developed in town before I could sift through them and put them to good use. Marketing my bears relied heavily on sending pics through the post to collectors and I think it's fair to say working life definitely moved at a more gentle pace!
But times have changed. Technological advancements mean these days the internet is at our fingertips, eager to help us sell and the world of teddy bears continues to leap forward, as more and more collectors embrace the World Wide Web. Keeping up with progress has meant learning a raft of new skills throughout the past decade and like so many other bear makers and craft workers, I have had to teach myself not only to use a computer, but also to maintain a website to market my work on the internet. This in turn required a move from the film photography I was once so comfortable with, to the unfamiliar complexities of digital photography.
Needless to say, soon after I bought my first digital camera I realised I would have to learn how to create a studio for my photography and master photography software programmes to create professional images of my work. Luckily for me, my sister Tina inherited our Dad's passion for photography and as a consequence, spent several years studying to become a professional photographer. As they say, sometimes it's not what you know, but who you know! Initially I relied heavily on Tina's photographic skills to help me, but over time, she shared her knowledge, teaching me how to set up a little studio, take my own photographs and edit them for marketing.
This week I decided it was time to 'push the envelope' further by teaching myself how to use a light tent to photograph my new, smaller bears. My first port of call for advice was of course, my sister. Once we'd identified exactly which equipment I would need for this new project, I placed an order and yesterday, set the afternoon aside to play!
I soon worked out what went where and positioned my first teddy bear subject. The light tent was quite a bit larger than expected, so my first task this morning was to order a smaller one, to fit more comfortably on my dining room table!
I found mastering the manual settings on my camera for the light tent, a very different process than my usual tungsten lamp set-up; but by a process of trial and error, combined with posting photos 'real-time' on my Facebook page for Tina's running commentary, I slowly began to grasp the mysteries of 'depth of field', 'aperture', 'shutter speed' and that all-important 'white balance'!
It didn't take very long before I wanted to try things 'my way', so I stuck in a piece of card I'd saved for pattern making with masking tape, weighted it with some of my pots and started tweaking the camera settings all over again.
As you can see from the pic above, I didn't get it right straight away!
After several long hours of intense concentration and many unsatisfactory pics, I slowly began to understand what my camera was asking from me and eventually produced a few photographs I was actually quite happy with!
By tea-time yesterday, I was confident I would be able to make good use of the light tent, so decided to put my new equipment away, feeling rather pleased with myself. Silly me, I should have known better! After an afternoon of progress, the bloomin' pop up light tent finally defeated me by belligerently refusing to pop down. I battled with the wretched thing for ages, so did Stuart when he came home from work, but neither of us could beat it. Every time we thought we had it trapped into submission, it sprang back out at us. I swear those things have a life force all of their own!
I'm going to add these pics of little 'Jeremy' to my website after lunch; there's no point in learning a new skill, if it's not put into practice!