Thursday, 14 July 2022

Summer Smiles

 

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'SUMMER SMILES'

This summery trio of 18" teddy bears, was recently commissioned by an overseas collector.

I was so pleased with them I couldn't resist sharing them with you here!

xxxxx

If you would like to chat about having a special teddy bear created especially for you, please drop me a line!

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Peggy

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PEGGY

I first met my Grandmother's childhood doll Peggy many years ago. She was carefully wrapped in a soft white cloth and lived in a stout cardboard box, which for many years was tucked away in the depths of one of my mum's cupboards, safely out of reach of my sisters and I. Peggy, an Armand Marseille bisque doll, was one of a few cherished belongings which passed to Mum when her own mother, my lovely Gran, sadly passed away in Autumn 1975, at the age of just 54 years.

Gran was born in 1921, so my guess is that Peggy must now be fast heading towards a hundred years old. Imagine that! Armand Marseille dolls were produced from 1885 until about 1930 and their bisque heads were created from unglazed porcelain with a matte finish, which gave a realistic, skin-like, texture. The thing that immediately resonated with me is how loved Gran's doll must have been to have survived for almost a century! In the 1920's and 1930's, these china dolls were very fragile so must have been dressed and carried with immense care ... it is a complete wonder, not to mention tribute to their careful young owners, that any survive intact today!

I have loved dolls and bears from childhood, through adulthood and don't mind admitting to adopting an occasional elderly dolly to share with my own Granddaughter ... in fact we seem to have gathered a lovely little collection of 1960's dollies over the past couple of years and they are regularly 'fed', dressed and taken for walks by their dedicated, almost-but-not-quite-four year old, custodian.

When Mum arrived at my house for a cuppa recently, I didn't notice a cardboard box tucked in her bag. We sat on the sofa, chatting about everything under the sun as usual, while we sipped mugs of hot tea (Mum) and coffee (me) ... then Mum handed me the box. At first it confused me as I instantly knew what was in the box, but wasn't sure why Mum was handing her doll to me. I carefully slipped the lid from the box and gently unwrapped Peggy from her blanket, taking care to support her china head as if she were a precious newborn baby.

I asked Mum if she would like me to dress her doll as poor Peggy was as naked as the day she had first been created by Armand Marseille (a popular doll manufacturer situated in Koppelsdorf, Germany). Somehow Peggy's original clothes had been lost through the passage of time. Mum smiled knowingly and that was when a strange thing happened, or maybe not so strange after all...

So, Peggy now lives with me and while she waits for me to finish knitting her an age appropriate dress and undies, she has borrowed a pretty cotton dress and knickers from my Tiny Tears doll, to cover her modesty. I have had a fascinating time researching vintage knitting patterns from the 1920's and 30's, so that I can knit something akin to what Gran and girls of her era may have dressed their dolls in. It has been an interesting dip into the social history of my Grandmother's day but more importantly, Peggy has given me a wonderful means of reconnecting with my Gran. Taking care of the dolly Gran cherished as a very young girl, has bridged the decades since her loss when I was only twelve years old and offered me a fresh view into my Gran's life as a young girl ... an elderly dolly always comes with a window into history, you just have to take the time to peek through the layers of dust and try to piece together the past.

I am so grateful to my Mum for passing Peggy into my care for the future and absolutely thrilled to be able to show her to my Granddaughter and tell her about how my Gran, her Great-Great-Grandmother, loved her dollies too.



Incidentally, for those of you wondering who Peggy's little teddy bear friend is ... he was made by the wonderful Pamela Ann Howells of 'Bears that are special'. Pam, a doyenne of the UK teddy bear world and on a personal note, a very lovely lady and old friend from my show days, was previously assistant designer to the famous Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company, in the 1950's.

Friday, 22 April 2022

A black and white memory

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A BLACK AND WHITE MEMORY

There is something so appealing about a panda bear don't you think?! I don't make many each year, but as a teddy bear maker, I always enjoy putting my own vision to the panda theme...

The panda bear is a member of the bear family and is called 'Da Xiong Mao' in China, meaning Giant Bear Cat. Giant Pandas mainly live in large bamboo forests in mountain areas of southwest China’s Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. The mountains are about 1200-3500 metres above sea level and covered with dense bamboo forest, which is the giant panda’s food.

One little panda bear cub called Chi-Chi, was caught in the wild in 1955 and taken to Beijin Zoo in China. She subsequently travelled from China to Russia, where she failed to mate successfully so was moved to Frankfurt Zoo, prior to being loaned to several further European Zoos. Poor Chi-Chi was shunted from pillar to post and even sold to a US zoo in Illinois (but refused entry to the US as a result of a trade embargo)... Chi-Chi eventually arrived in England and in 1958, was purchased by London Zoo for the princely sum of £12,000. There had been several pandas at London Zoo since the late 1930's, but sadly earlier panda bears had only lived short lives in captivity, so it was hoped Chi-Chi might be successfully mated to produce cubs.

Chi-Chi the panda cub was playful and cute and quickly became a much loved attraction at London Zoo, drawing visitors and media coverage from far and wide. I recall the thrill of visiting her with my parents at London Zoo's Mapin Terraces, in the mid 1960's.

As pandas were worringly rare in the wild and generally lived short lives in captivity, attempts were made to breed from Chi-Chi. It is believed they were unsuccessful because she had been raised by humans and simply didn't know how to respond to a male of her own species. Nevertheless, Chi-Chi became the inspiration behind the original 'World Wildlife Foundation' logo (a poster I proudly displayed on my bedroom wall as a young girl!) and the symbol of international wildlife conservation and hope for the future.

At age eleven years, Chi-Chi sadly died in captivity in 1972 and was mourned by the nation. Her body was preserved after her death and is now exhibited in London's Natural History Museum. It is worth noting, that in the wild, panda bears are known to live for twenty to thirty years.

The first toy panda bear toy was designed by Richard Steiff in 1938, in recognition of the first giant panda bear arriving in America, in 1937. Thanks to Chi-Chi and the other London Zoo pandas, panda bear toys became popular gifts for young children in the UK from the 1960's and were produced by British manufacturers such as Chiltern, Deans and Merrythought.  Like many other children, I was given a panda bear toy as a baby in the early 60's and have an old black and white a photograph of me, snuggled with my panda bear, as a baby. I can only assume that this gift, together with the visit to see Chi-Chi at London Zoo as a little girl, stayed with me and continues to inspire my own panda bear designs!

Sadly the panda bear, considered a national treasure in China, still has 'vulnerable' status in the wild today, a status upgraded from 'endangered' only recently. There are currently only 1,864 wild pandas recorded in existence, but thankfully, due to the work of the WWF to prevent further human encroachment onto their natural habitats, together with the recognition of the importance of the panda by the Chinese Government, numbers of these beautiful bamboo eating creatures are slowly increasing; although it should be stated that they still remain scattered, vulnerable and in need of awareness to further protect their habitat.  

After being taken from the wild as a cub, poor Chi-Chi lived out her life behind bars, at the beck and call of mankind. It is a sad tale witnessed through the eyes of an adult, yet through the eyes of a child I admit, it was a magical experience to be able to visit her in the UK.

If you would like to read more about the panda bear and support the work of the World Wildlife Foundation, please follow this link...

https://support.wwf.org.uk/adopt-a-panda 

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Lonesome Lonnie

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LONESOME LONNIE

I found myself at a loose end for a few hours over the Easter break, so decided to give Lonnie bear's nose a beautiful sheen. Waxing is a slow process, requiring patience and a steady hand, but I hope you'll agree, well worth the effort as it lends a lovely finishing touch to a traditional teddy bear.

Lonesome Lonnie is currently waiting for his special someone, so fingers crossed his smart new leather bell collar and posh new snoot help him catch someone's eye soon ... he really is far too lovely to stay sat on my workroom shelf!

Update: Lonnie has been adopted.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Thirty nine years

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THIRTY NINE YEARS..

I was just twenty years old when my baby girl was first placed in my arms, not much more than a girl myself. Thirty nine years have raced by and my baby girl has become a daughter any mum would be proud of ... independent, free thinking, compassionate, hard working and always determined to create the best in life, both for herself and for those she loves.

Happy Birthday to you Daughter, may all your days be full of the sunshine, love and laughter, you so deserve.

All my love always,
Mum xxx

Sunday, 13 March 2022

A moment to recharge

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A MOMENT TO RECHARGE

So what do teddy bear makers do in their free time? Well, Leeds Castle is not far from where I live, the perfect place to grab a camera and take a stroll in the beautiful grounds, breathe in the peace and enjoy the scenery.

This week I visited with my mum, armed with our cameras for a leisurely stroll round the lake, snapping away as we wandered through the gardens. Then we bought hot drinks, found a bench to sit on and had a natter as we watched the many birds who wander around, stopping to say an occasional hello to visitors as they busy their way around the lake. It was such a lovely way to recharge our batteries and take a moment out from the worries of the wider world.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Dolly Days

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DOLLY DAYS

I wonder if you recognise this dolly? If you do, I am guessing you were probably a child of the fifties or sixties, like myself. I stumbled across dolly by chance on Ebay recently and before I could talk myself out of it, had contacted the owner to see if I could buy her...

She reminded me very much of a slightly larger version I owned as a little girl. I think my dolly was around 19" tall, and a more substantial doll. This smaller, more manageable version, is just 15" and fits comfortably into my granddaughter's dolly pram. Izzy promptly named her 'Grumpy Dolly' and took her to the local playground for some fresh air. Grumpy Dolly (also named 'Rosemary') arrived at my house tightly sealed in a plastic bag with two other 1960's dolly friends, a little Rosebud doll and a larger Palitoy baby doll. I like to think she appreciated her new dress, hairbrush and a caring young owner to take her out in the pram for walk and a play on the swings after being stored for over half a century.

Tucked away in my knitting pattern stash, was a vintage knitting pattern featuring the 'Chiltern Babykins', so I knitted her a pink dress and matching knickers to cover her modesty. I think I will make the socks this weekend. After so many years, she was due a new outfit!

For anyone still wondering, my sweet dolly was designed by the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company, the same UK company responsible for creating our wonderful Chiltern Hugmee teddy bears. She was modelled to suck her thumb, with knees bent, just like a real baby. All Chiltern Babykins dolls had hair that looked as though a child had been left alone to hack it with a pair of scissors!

In the days of glamorous dollies, these dolls were sturdy, a more unusual style with their 'grumpy' faces but nonetheless, very endearing. In fact, I have rather a soft spot for them!

Sadly, my original Babykins doll 'disappeared' in my teens, most likely in a garage sale. As you can imagine, as one of five daughters, it wasn't always possible to keep childhood toys, so I have loved this trip down Memory Lane with my little Granddaughter, sharing dollies and making new memories together.

Friday, 25 February 2022

Weaving a gentle magic

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WEAVING A GENTLE MAGIC..

Years ago I established 'The Guild of Master Bearcrafters', celebrating the work of teddy bear artists around the globe. Our group ran successfully for many years, uniting the creative work of many international bear artist members. Some of the most outstanding and imaginative creations presented on the Guild, were designed by talented teddy bear makers from both Russia and Ukraine, teddy bear makers who seemed to weave a gentle magic through their work. I was always in awe of their skill and learned much from their inspired vision of the teddy bear.

To hear this week of the invasion by Russian military forces into Ukraine is both shocking and heartbreaking. To think of the fear now instilled into the lives of the creative people I knew as talented needlecraft and soft sculpture artists from both countries, makes no sense to me. To think of the wider issues implied by this act of aggression from one country to another, is simply too frightening to fully comprehend...

The teddy bear makers I knew from both Russia and Ukraine, worked with a passion for their craft, inspiring creativity in others as they pursued gentle, homebased businesses, creating teddy bears to share with the wider world. They were deft with their needles and generous with their knowledge.

They don't deserve this war.

No one deserves this war.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Teddy bears, a tradition

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TEDDY BEARS, A TRADITION

Not that I don't enjoy the challenge of contemporary design, I do very much, but traditional bears were my first love and they still tug at my heartstrings today ...

In fact, I remember my early classic bears as old friends.  'Becks' and 'Scrump' for example, two gold teddy bears made by my sister and I way back in the mid 1990's.  They were made from glorious kid mohair in two alternative shades of gold. As sisters, we didn't collaborate beyond choosing the mohair together over a cuppa and yet when completed, our bears looked just as though they were brothers, meant to be together!

Then there was Orwell, another early 90's bear, beautifully big and totally traditional. I think I made about ten of these bears for collectors around the world, but never kept one for myself ... now I so wish I had!  I recall being absolutely delighted with my 25" teddy bear because it was the first time I felt as though I had succeeded in creating the kind of teddy bear I would truly like to buy for myself.

Not long after Orwell, came 'Timeless', a whopping 26" growler of a teddy bear. I made him for the  final Hugglets' 'Festival of Artist Bears' show in Stratford Upon Avon, in the mid 90's.  I stood behind the exhibition table with my sister Fiona and as the doors opened, a lady flew across the room to scoop him into her arms ... we watched as she fell hook, line and sinker in love on the spot! We had a super time at that show standing among the most famous bear artists of the time ... it was a completely thrilling day for two bear-making sisters, quite new to selling their own range of handmade teddy bears!

Luckily for me, traditional bears really are timeless and a decade later they were still very much in demand.  'Gorgeous George' was another bear of whom I was immensely proud. I gave this bear a gentle nod to modernity by introducing hand painted glass eyes and subtle shading to the eye socket, which really brought him to life.

Leaping forward several years, reminds me of dear 'Bellamy,' a magnificent 23" bear commissioned by a devoted gentleman collector.  Fabulous German mohair helped me achieve this very handsome bear ... there is definitely something about kid mohair, which lends itself to creating teddy bears of distinction.

I have designed many, many traditional teddy bears over the years, some large, some smaller, but all with a special simple charm. There is no doubt in my mind, traditional teddy bears should never grow old or become outmoded. They are bears to care about, bears to cherish and most definitely bears to take with us into the future. They are where the teddy bear began and have earned their place in every collection.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Cherish

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CHERISH.. THE LOVE

A simple red heart says so much doesn't it? A teddy bear made with love, a gift given with love, a hug shared with love..

This teddy bear put me in mind of an old pop song called 'Cherish the love', by Kool & the Gang (and now playing in my head!) ... 

'Cherish the love we have, we should cherish the life we live
Cherish the love, cherish the life, cherish the love
Cherish the love we have, for as long as we both shall live
Cherish the love, cherish the life, cherish the love

Cherish the love
Cherish the life'

A verse with a positive message all those years ago (mid 80's I think)... and it occurs to me that after two years of pandemic heartache, these lyrics could easily apply to today too...

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

The green shoots of hope..

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THE GREEN SHOOTS OF HOPE

I always think there is something so fresh and hopeful about a green teddy bear and this new year, found myself drawn towards creating thi lovely apple green teddy, full of promise for the new year, as my first teddy bear of 2022.

Happily Myrtle was adopted quickly from my website and is now on her long journey to Australia, to share her message of hope for the future, with teddy bear friends 'Downunder'!

Monday, 3 January 2022

Portfolio of a Numpty

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PORTFOLIO OF A NUMPTY

Over the Christmas holiday I have been busy creating my annual portfolio of teddy bears. This is something I have done since around 2006, which would have been around the time I first became aware of the convenience of photobook software. I find photobooks a handy way to record each year's collection of teddy bear designs and it's lovely to be able to flick back through previous years' work; a great way of sparking new ideas, or developing old favourites.

I usually add a page of personal photographs taken during the year too, the idea being that they place my work within the context of my life. For me, making bears isn't a separate element of my life, it is very much part of the whole and ideas for teddy bears are often inspired from snippets of daily life.

When I finished adding last years' creations to the portfolio, I noticed colour was a dominant force throughout 2021, with lovely lilacs, pinks and soft pastels being particularly popular, pandas made a welcome return and the few festive teddy bears I made, were adopted straightaway.  Also, for the first time in a while, bigger bears were very much back in demand, leaving me little time to develop smaller ranges... in fact, I only made one 8" Tiddler Teddy this year! Regrettably, I didn't make a single Tweedy Ted in 2021 either, so there will be plenty of creative areas for me to consider working on during this coming year. I am delighted to say, all the bears I made found new homes and now reside in countries around the globe.

Happily, I started work on my first bear of 2022 yesterday. Not so happily, there was a bit of a disaster in my workroom when, for the first time in almost forty years of sewing machine ownership, I managed to sew a perfect stitch right through my fingernail and fingertip... not my finest hour and apologies to the universe for turning the air bright blue in my workroom while I extracted said throbbing digit from my faithful Pfaff. I now have firmly embedded, pale gold thread, hanging from my throbbing fingernail. Needless to say, after almost thirty years of injury free teddy bear making, I now feel rather a numpty...

As I approach the end of a year, I always ask myself if I think I will have any more teddy bears in me left to make in the coming year and so far, the answer has always been a resounding 'of course you do Paula!'  So, I hope you will be happy to hear that 2022 will be no different as I am buzzing with plans for lovely bears and can't wait to start sharing them with collectors again. I have new mohair on order, a tidy workroom and the first bear of 2022 in progress! 

Hello 2022. Here we go!

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Rudolph

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RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED TEDDY BEAR

Sometimes it is fun to incorporate a little contemporary design flair into a traditional teddy bear and Christmas is the perfect time for this!

Introducing Rudolph, my handsome red-nosed teddy bear. He was snapped up almost as soon as he arrived on my website and will shortly be flying 'Downunder', to live in Australia. So glad I found the time to finish this lovely boy before Christmas!

Monday, 13 December 2021

Where there's a will..

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WHERE THERE IS A WILL..

Here we are with less than two weeks until Christmas Day and no team of elves to weave magic in my workroom! No matter, there may not be many more teddy bears before Christmas and for that I am truly sorry, but I am so pleased I decided to go ahead and order the stunning vintage red mohair direct from the United States. It took a while to arrive but made such a wonderfully festive signature teddy bear for 2021. Yuletide is now on his way to live in Australia and fingers and toes are crossed that he arrives in time for the big day.

I have one more teddy bear to finish this week, a beautiful traditional boy with vintage red velvet paws. I think he will be a lovely, nostalgic bear and I am looking forward to sharing him with you on my website later this week.

Time is running away from me this year, no Christmas pud mixed, or Gran's fruitcake baked, no mince pies made and no tree sparkling in my window yet! The tree was purchased from our local garden centre yesterday, a wonderfully curvy girl. She is stood in a bucket of water in the garden at the moment, but when I find a quiet hour or two, I will set her in pride of place in our bow window and dress her with the ornaments I have collected over many years. Once the fairy lights are twinkling, I will raise a glass of the amber nectar to my Dad, then welcome Christmas 2021 into our home. I plan to enjoy the festivities with my family this year, come what may. 

So, this week I will finish my teddy bear and maybe cut out one more little one, then next week, I will mix a very late Christmas pudding, bake an even later Christmas cake and ... purchase some shop bought mince pies! Where there is a will, there is always a way.

I hope you are enjoying your seasonal preparations and wish you all a very Happy Christmas this year, full of warmth, love and peace.

With love,
Paula and the Bears.
xxx

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Well done Meg!

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WELL DONE MEG!

It is always a thrill to see one of my teddy bears in print, so as you can imagine, I was delighted to discover 'Meg' featured as part of the 'Autumn Bears' article in issue 245 of the Teddy Bear & Friends magazine, when it dropped onto my doormat recently.

Teddy Bear Times & Friends has featured my bears many times over the past twenty five years and for that, I will always be grateful.

Thank you so very much Teddy Bear Times & Friends!

Friday, 22 October 2021

The Big 'Uns

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THE BIG 'UNS

When I first began collecting vintage and artist designed teddy bears over thirty years ago, it was always the big traditional mohair bears who captured my heart. There was something reassurring about them, something solid and true, something that captured the very essence of childhood. It was that sentiment which inspired me to want to create my own teddy bears for grown-ups.

I believe we should all hold on to our inner child because the purity of childhood is where we all began to understand the most nurturing aspects of life, those of reassurrance, friendship and kindness towards others. Of course size isn't always important and little bears can be every bit as important as bigger bears when it comes to offering comfort ...but it should be said, there is something particularly heartwarming about a hug from a big teddy bear.

In marketing terms, it isn't always practical to concentrate on creating big bears as they require a higher price tag, extra time to make and a little extra space to display ... but I won't ever step away from making big bears because they are the heart and soul of who I am and always have been, as a creator of teddy bears.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Up close and personal!

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TEDDY BEAR TIPS

I am often asked how I create my teddy bear noses...

A teddy bear's nose is very important. I believe it should be neatly stitched, expressive and perfectly shaped to suit teddy's character and facial proportions. Embroidering a traditional teddy bear nose is an art form, honed over years of practice and in my view, is one of the most important aspects of teddy bear making as it is the bearmaker's unique signature.

Sewing a good teddy bear nose can be tricky as it relies on so much more than simply needle and thread. To embroider a good teddy bear nose, the head pattern must first be carefully designed with a perfectly symmetrical muzzle. When the pattern is transferred to mohair for cutting, it is essential to ensure it is cut accurately, as the odd couple of millimetres here or there may prove disastrous when a nose is sewn. It is imperative that the muzzle is stitched into the head precisely, ensuring it is kept central, either by hand or machine. If muzzle and chin seam are slightly 'off' centre, it will become glaringly obvious when a nose is sewn ... and is if that isn't enough to terrify the most stalwart of makers, stuffing a teddy bear head unevenly, or not firmly enough, also has the potential to cause all manner of problems when the nose is sewn!

Before I tackle the nose, I prefer to fasten in eyes and trim the muzzle prior to settling into my chair, with a long slender needle and embroidery thread. I like to be relaxed and able to take my time for this job! I sit with my bear's head firmly gripped between my knees, at a right angle, ie., his chin pointing towards my knee. Then I take my first stitch, burying a tiny knot under the mohair backing with a firm tug and bringing my needle out in the centre of the muzzle. Taking care to maintain a firm and even tension and keeping the thread central, I take my first stitch down to the chin, just under the seam, then back up to the muzzle to stitch towards the right keeping my stitches equal in length, returning to the centre to stitch an equal number of stitches towards the left. Then I repeat the process to create a second layer with slightly longer stitches across the top of my embroidery (I am left-handed, so imagine right-handers may prefer to stitch from the centre to the left first; either way is fine). A little tip: if the muzzle is cut and sewn in correctly, it should be possible to use the tiny holes in the backing as a guide for your needle ... but woe betide you if the muzzle is slightly adrift! 

To finish my teddy bear nose, I take long stitches across the top, bottom and along the sides of my nose, using a deliberate tension to create a slightly rounded shape. Using the remaining thread, I exit through the chin seam, stitch an inverted 'V' shaped mouth using glass topped pins to guide me and finally, make a couple of long stiches from the top of the mouth to the bottom of the nose, along the chin seam.

Teddy bear noses can be stitched in a variety of styles and shapes. I have become known over the years for my classic block noses, neatly embroidered in satin stitch, but have also created many waxed noses, striped noses, sparkly noses, festive noses and even careworn noses, deliberately distressed to give an impression of age. A teddy bear's nose is limited only by the imagination of his maker!

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Seaside Follies

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SEASIDE FOLLIES

I recently received an intriguing request to create this 21" commemorative teddy bear. He celebrates the life of my collector's Great Grandfather 'Jack Bellamy', a successful music hall act and Pierrot clown in the early 1900's. My collector emailed a blurry black and white photograph for me to work from and as a nod to Jack Bellamy's original Pierrot costume, included a request for pom-poms to be included in the design of his tribute teddy bear.

Pierrot troupes were a feature of almost every seaside town in the first half of the 1900's, raising funds and morale during the war years. They were obliged to be 'smart, charming and available at all times' and ready to entertain with music, dance and comedy, whatever the weather!  Many of our legendary British comedians such as Arthur Askey, Lesley Crowther and Max Miller, began their comedic careers as Pierrot Clowns, providing charming family fun at the seaside until the 1950's/60's, when overseas travel and foreign holidays became more accessible to British families and the Pierrots' heyday came to an end.

For a more detailed glimpse into the world of the 'Seaside Follies' Pierrot troupes, please visit www.seasidefollies.co.uk

Friday, 23 April 2021

Summer Love Sensation

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A SUMMER LOVE SENSATION

Remembering my own childhood 'Summer Love Sensation', on the death of lead singer Les McKeown, aged 65, yesterday...

Summer of '76. En route to Southampton's Gaumont Theatre with my two 'bezzie mates' Sharon and Kimberley. Polaroid photo taken by our chauffeur, my rather bemused Dad. When we reached the theatre, a queue of excited teens stretched for what seemed miles, so we took our place at the end and waited for hours to take our seats in 'The Circle'. As the curtain raised and the Bay City Rollers bounced onto the stage, the audience as one, leapt to their feet, a mass of waving arms and streaming tears. We could only guess the song as it was drowned in deafening white noise, fans screaming their undying love to Les, Eric, Derek, Alan and Woody. Rollermania had arrived.

The Bay City Rollers were a worldwide pop music phenomenon in the 1970's. They sold more than a million records and songs like 'Bye Bye Baby', 'Shangalang', and 'Give a little love' had us queueing outside record shops clutching our pocket money, desperate to buy 7" vinyl copies so we could listen to them over and over again in our poster plastered bedrooms. The band topped the music charts as a generation styled itself in top-to-toe tartan and stripey socks. 

The BCR's were a right of passage for many young British girls at the time ... you picked your favourite, fell hopelessly in love for the very first time and dreamed teenage girl dreams to the sound of the Bay City Rollers.

Springtime Pals

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SPRINGTIME PALS

After creating Hyacinth Bunny and Bluebell Ellie-Bear earlier this month, I decided to make a teddy bear pal for them and Buttercup Bear came into being ... then I kept looking at the trio and thinking knitted jackets in appropriate colours might be a lovely detail to bring them together as a collection ... then last week, my poor dog Betty hurt her leg on a walk so I couldn't work upstairs in my workroom (bear with me, this does all make sense in the end ...!) as the vet forbade Betty from using stairs until after surgery (Betty always sleeps by my workroom door as I work). I took the opportunity to move my new collection of bears downstairs to keep Bets company and to cut a long and rather painful story short, knitted them sweet little jackets, with Betty sleeping peacefully at my feet.

I sometimes find that bears (and their friends) need a little time to let me know exactly how they would like to present themselves. The design process isn't always clear at the start of a new project and this sweet group of friends had clear ideas about how they wanted to look. I love the soft pastels they chose for Spring; they are so pretty!

As for my sweet Betty, she continues to put on a brave face whilst waiting to see the orthopaedic specialist. She loves to run and play, so this has been a worrying time, but I am sure that with expert care and plenty of love, she will soon be on the road to recovery.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Life in the fast lane

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LIFE IN THE FAST LANE..

Betty has always been the kind of dog who loves to live life in the fast lane. She is full of joy, a true delight to watch as she races like the wind, returning at the peep of a whistle, good girl that she is.


Unfortunately, it now transpires that my sweet girl has developed cruciate ligament failure, which will most likely require invasive surgery and a long, slow recovery period. Needless to say I am heartbroken for her, although relieved that we are now on the path to specialist referral and hopefully, Betty being able to run freely again one day. For now, we are restricted to short, careful walks and plenty of tender loving care.

Thankfully, Betty is currently managing her pain well and is as always, full of smiles, nose nudges and gentle licky kisses.

Please bear with me if I am a little slower with your orders during this time; I will continue to create teddy bears, but may need a wee bit more time now and again, in view of having to manage Betty's specialist hospital visits and after care.

Thank you x

Friday, 26 March 2021

Dolly Days

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DOLLY DAYS

I wonder if you recognise this dolly? If you do, I am guessing you were probably a child of the fifties or sixties, like myself. I stumbled across dolly by chance on Ebay recently and before I could talk myself out of it, had contacted the owner to see if I could buy her...

She reminded me very much of a slightly larger version I owned as a little girl. I think my dolly was around 19" tall, and a more substantial doll. This smaller, more manageable version, is just 15" and fits comfortably into my granddaughter's dolly pram. Izzy promptly named her 'Grumpy Dolly' and took her to the local playground for some fresh air. Grumpy Dolly (also named 'Rosemary') arrived at my house tightly sealed in a plastic bag with two other 1960's dolly friends, a little Rosebud doll and a larger Palitoy baby doll. I like to think she appreciated her new dress, hairbrush and a caring young owner to take her out in the pram for walk and a play on the swings after being stored for over half a century.

Tucked away in my knitting pattern stash, was a vintage knitting pattern featuring the 'Chiltern Babykins', so I knitted her a pink dress and matching knickers to cover her modesty. I think I will make the socks this weekend. After so many years, she was due a new outfit!

For anyone still wondering, my sweet dolly was designed by the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company, the same UK company responsible for creating our wonderful Chiltern Hugmee teddy bears. She was modelled to suck her thumb, with knees bent, just like a real baby. All Chiltern Babykins dolls had hair that looked as though a child had been left alone to hack it with a pair of scissors!

In the days of glamorous dollies, these dolls were sturdy, a more unusual style with their 'grumpy' faces but nonetheless, very endearing. In fact, I have rather a soft spot for them!

Sadly, my original Babykins doll 'disappeared' in my teens, most likely in a garage sale. As you can imagine, as one of five daughters, it wasn't always possible to keep childhood toys, so I have loved this trip down Memory Lane with my little Granddaughter, sharing dollies and making new dolly memories together.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

A teddy bear legacy

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A TEDDY BEAR LEGACY

I was delighted to receive my subscription copy of 'Teddy Bear Times & Friends' this month and couldn't wait to open it to see an article celebrating my 25 years as a teddy bear artist! It is always a tremendous boost to see my bears in print and a huge honour too. Thank you so much TBT!

To have work published is always a thrill as it gives my teddy bears their place in history. Print publications validate an artist's work in the teddy bear world and share the bears long after they have settled into homes around the world. I hope that one day, when I am long gone, my grandchildren will stumble across an old magazine, or a dusty teddy bear book and be proud of their Nana and her teddy bears. Wouldn't that be lovely?!


If you would like to order a copy of Teddy Bear Times & Friends (My bears are in issue 250) copies can be purchased online. Please pop over to https://www.teddybeartimes.com/issues 

With love from me to you

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WITH LOVE FROM ME TO YOU

I wonder, what style of teddy bear do you like best? It's a tricky question, I know! There are so many wonderful teddy bears available online these days, it must be very hard to choose that one special teddy bear...

Since the start of the pandemic I have stayed home and shopped online. I learned that I don't actually need shops in my life and a good photograph will suffice in most cases when choosing what to buy. I don't miss stuffy changing rooms, queues or busy car parks and I certainly don't miss being hustled and bustled in busy stores. No, online shopping suits me just fine these days. I even managed to order a lovely new rose for my garden last week ...(although, if I'm honest, I did feel a twinge of nostalgia for mooching along rows of roses at the garden centre, umming and aahing over which would be my perfect choice).  I suppose one day I may rediscover the urge to visit a shop, but until then I am content to scroll, click and wait patiently for my deliveries.

I think in the case of teddy bears, choosing a companion bear from a photograph must be quite a trepiditious affair. Teddy bears are by nature a cuddlesome purchase so when buying online, a sense of touch is swapped for sight ... and imagination. It becomes ever more important to trust your bear maker when buying online. Thankfully, the wonder of the internet provides us with opportunities to 'chat' ...in fact probably more so now than at an actual teddy bear show where time was always so limited!

I used to love watching collectors reaching for my bears at teddy bear shows. It was always a privilege to witness those first few seconds in person, when a bear caught the eye of a collector and the collector couldn't resist picking him up for a cuddle. Nowadays of course, that precious moment happens after a teddy bear has already been purchased, packed into his box for travel to a distant horizon and safely delivered to a new owner after I have wished him a safe journey. Times have changed but fundamentally, the process of falling in love with a special bear does still happen... a teddy bear catches the eye of a collector across the internet, rather than across a crowded show room and when he (or she!) arrives at their door, I like to imagine the box being carefully opened and the same joy on the new owner's as they reach inside to hug their bear for the very first time ... 

I may not be able to share smiles and conversation in person with collectors these days, but my bears will always share them on my behalf, wherever they travel in the world ... with love, from me to you.

Monday, 8 February 2021

A child of the sixties


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

Memory Lane

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

Lockdown Grandparents

I created Rosie to celebrate my granddaughter's 2nd birthday back in May ... which of course, happened during Lockdown. Sadly, under Lockdown Law, this meant my family wasn't able to gather for a traditional party celebration, so instead, we all sang Happy Birthday into our computer screens, while little Izzy watched and wondered. 


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.

It has been so hard to be a Lockdown Nana, but I have tried my best to stay as close as possible to my grandchildren, whilst being forced apart by Lockdown. Each time restrictions eased a little, I scoured the Government website for the finer details, desperate to find a way to spend time proper time with the grandchildren I used to care for in my home each week... and each time it was clear that my life as a Nana was no longer under my own jurisdiction. The last time grandparents were legally allowed to care for grandchildren in the UK was prior to the 23rd March 2020. In more recent weeks the Government gave permission for us to spend time with our grandchildren at a social distance of two metres, which meant we were able to share walks and have some fun in the garden ... but still no hugs...

From 4th July it is my understanding we will at last be permitted to have grandchildren back into our homes ... but once again, at distance, minus hugs. I can't tell you how much these restraints hurt my heart, so goodness only knows what our precious grandchildren make of it all. 

Sadly, I don't believe our Prime Minister has given our youngest generation's feelings about being torn apart from beloved grandparents for months on end, very much consideration at all. I worry about the effect this may have on them, as they have so little voice of their own. It is for adults to consider what is best for these important little citizens and I worry that our Government has become so swamped with all things Coronavirus, that their feelings and needs have become something of an afterthought...

Maybe now that it has become economically critical for UK parents return to work, the true value of grandparents will become clearer to him.


Sending hugs and much love to all Lockdown Grandparents.
May we soon be recognised... and fully reinstated!
xxx

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Simple pleasures and the price of 'freedom'


Throughout our Lockdown days I have found the simplest things in life have given me the greatest pleasure ... long walks with my dogs, creative freedom, the warmth of sunshine on my face, the dapple of woodland shade on a hot day, a gentle breeze through long grass, clear blue skies and the beautiful bloom of Summer. These are the things I will remember with gratitude when the Lockdown restrictions finally lift. 


June the 1st was a significant day for me and many other mums and grandparents, for two reasons. The first was that after ten agonising weeks, it was as though someone had waved a magic wand; at quarter past ten in the morning, my doorbell rang, I opened the door and there, stood grinning from ear to ear on my driveway, were my two beautiful Grandchildren and their Daddy, my son. 



At last. 




The second significance on Monday, was that after a completely joyous morning exploring the local woodland together, with light heart and a spring in our step, there was an announcement made at teatime, by the Government...



It will henceforth be against the law to invite anyone into your home who doesn't live there, including your own flesh and blood. No longer a Government guideline, no longer Public Health guidance, now a Law. 

In just ten weeks, an Englishman's home is now no longer his castle. 
Freedom to be with our loved ones outdoors, has it seems, been granted at a worryingly high cost from under our own roofs.

Hopefully if we keep focused on what we can do, rather than what we can't, the rest will follow ...

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