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Monday, 8 February 2021
PATTI PITTA PAT AND CHATTY CATHY
It was my birthday a few days ago, a strange one under the current restrictions, but quite fun nevertheless. It is only a couple of years until I turn sixty (my goodness, seeing that in print is odd!) so I thought this could be the perfect year to indulge my inner six year old girl by purchasing a doll from my childhood in the sixties to share with my little granddaughter, who also loves her dolls. My childhood was very traditionally filled with dollies, several precious soft toys and a big Chiltern Hugmee teddy bear, who sat on the end of my bed for many years (I also recall a box of toy cars including a Batmobile... my Dad's nod to the son he always wanted but never had I think!) I still have the softees, now rather floppity and threadbare and my Big Ted bear of course, but sadly my collection of dollies disappeared over time.
One of the dolls I particularly remember was Chatty Cathy, by Mattel. She was a rather glamorous blonde doll who wore a pink candy striped dress and smart black shoes. She spoke in short sentences when I pulled a cord on her back - that is until the day her words became more and more garbled, then completely indiscernible! Chatty Cathy was a precious Christmas gift from my Gran, sadly no longer with us... oh how I wish I had kept that special dolly to share with my own granddaughter!
The other doll I never forgot, was a large walking talking doll with short hair and a more robust, no nonsense appeal but after so many years apart, I couldn't remember her name. After a spot of frantic 'Googling' and more than fifty years later, I finally located her, or to be more accurate, her exact lookilikey. My Patti Pitta Pat 'The Electric Walking Doll', was waiting for me to claim her on Ebay! Such moments should always be born of impulse, so I threw adult caution and middle aged commonsense to the four winds and snapped her up before some other nostalgic child of the sixties did. By some miracle of sound, simple engineering, a couple of hefty D batteries and the good care of her previous owners, my Patti was soon toddling dutifully across the workroom carpet, arms outstretched, while I grinned broadly, brimful of nostalgia, much to the confusion of my husband. I can't wait to introduce Patti to my granddaughter on our next 'childcare bubble' day!
Lockdown birthday was an odd experience. Instead of the usual lounge full of family eating cake, I had time to take a private trip down Memory Lane, walk my dogs in the deep dark woods where the bauble tree grows and eat a cosy steak dinner with my husband and daughter. I met my mother in the pouring rain for a birthday walk a day earlier and received lovely messages, either in person or virtually, from my family throughout the day, so all in all, it turned out to be a not bad birthday, just a different one.
I very much hope that by next year, birthdays will be legally shared with loved ones once more but as a one-off, I don't mind telling you, this year's birthday turned out to be pretty good after all!
Friday, 7 August 2020
I was sorting through a cupboard earlier this week and came across a box of old teddy bear magazines. I had to smile when I pulled out this issue, as it was my first ever front cover, way back in October 1997. The coverstar was my 'Gently', a huge teddy bear with the most gentle expression...
So much has changed in the teddy bear world since 1997...
The arrival of 'internet for all' heralded an explosion of teddy bears online, with collectors discovering exciting new teddy bears at the click of a button. I remember the excitement I felt at taking this new direction when I created my first 'All Bear' website way back in 1999. The opportunity to showcase my work globally from my own home, seemed daunting, yet utterly thrilling too.
Teddy bear shows across the UK, previously the highlight of any bearmaking/collecting calendar, soon began to struggle under the weight of undeniable competition from the World Wide Web. More and more teddy bear artists taught themselves technological skills to sell bears through websites, online auction houses and social media outlets. Who would ever have thought our humble teddy bears would be swept along in a tide of worldwide globalisation and digital revolution?! One thing is for sure, teddy bear artists have certainly had to prove themselves versatile if they want to survive in the fast paced world of the internet!
With so many teddy bear artists offering beautiful bears for direct sale from the comfort of their homes, eventually many bricks and mortar teddy bear shops found they could no longer compete, so beloved teddy bear shops ultimately disappeared from local towns. At the same time, here in the UK we began to notice that the teddy bear magazines we once clamoured to have our work published in, also began to quietly fade away. Favourite monthly publications became bi-monthly, then eventually stopped publication altogether. Ultimately, Hugglets, Teddy Bear Scene and The Teddy Bear Club magazine all went out of print. The immediacy of the internet, featuring latest news and brand new teddy bear designs often within moments of teddy's final ear being attached, seemingly diverting eager collectors' attention.
Shows, shops and magazines have been left in the wake of the digital teddy bear revolution and the thrill of a front cover on a magazine in the UK is now an experience usually only known to six lucky bear artists a year, thanks to the last specialist UK teddy bear publication to successfully withstand the internet onslaught, our old friend of thirty years standing, 'Teddy Bear Times & Friends'.
The online teddy bear business rollercoaster has been a thrilling ride in many ways, but of course, it should be noted that in the race to compete globally, we may have lost a personal touch, not to mention the delicious sense of anticipation and cosy permanence we once took for granted, in the days before the click of an internet button made everything so emminently disposable.
Wednesday, 1 July 2020
That morning, I drove my dogs close to my grandchildren's house for their daily walk (permitted under UK Lockdown law) and while my husband got the dogs out of the car, left 'Rosie' and her smart new dolly cot, on the doorstep, then rang the doorbell, stepped back to maintain the required social distance and watched with my Nana heart in mouth, as my delighted granddaughter discovered her special birthday gift on the doorstep and her Nana at the bottom of the garden path! Strange times indeed, but the smile on Izzy's face as she cuddled her new dolly was the most precious smile of all ... and enough to keep this Nana smiling too, as she blew kisses to her two excited grandchildren ... and in line with Lockdown legislation, turned around, wiped away a rogue tear ... and walked off into the woods with the dogs.
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