Monday 29 October 2007

TOBY or not TOBY, that is the question.

The call for entries is ringing in my ears again. Yes, the grandest teddy bear competition of them all is looming large. The international Oscar of the bear world, the 'TOBY 2008' will no doubt rattle all bear designers' confidence, as we search our souls in angst, in an effort to decide whether or not we feel able to grasp the mantle and lay our precious work at the daunting feet of the omnipotent TOBY jury.


To win a TOBY 'Industry Choice Award' is indeed an honour and the competition to achieve this highest of accolades is fierce, reaching across continents, beyond seas. In my thirteen or so years of bear making, I have entered only twice. Neither time with a successful outcome and both times nail bitingly daunting. I'm fairly pragmatic about the outcome of these events, but in the immediate excitement of nomination announcements, it's hard not to feel the sting of failure when you know in your heart of hearts your blood, sweat and tears have been overlooked, passed by, dismissed by those 'in the know'.

GOLDEN TEDDY AWARDS 2007 - Entry 'Sunny Jim'

It's so difficult to know what a judging panel wants to see in a piece of work; quality of workmanship, creativity, originality, those are the areas I'd home in on if I was a judge, but who can read minds? Not me it seems. My biggest question is, will a burst of colourful contemporary originality tempt their tastebuds, or alternatively, will classy, stylish tradition whet their bear hungry appetite? It's an impossible call for any bear maker to pre-determine.

URSA AWARDS 2007 - Entry 'Crocus'

So, will I or won't I? Has my bruised ego healed sufficiently for me to tackle yet another competition? What a question!


In 2007, I submitted my work to four competitions - the TOBY Awards (no luck there), the Golden Teddy Awards (no luck there either) the URSA Awards (thanks to everyone who voted, but sadly, poor 'Crocus' didn't make the selection process) and finally, the 'Readers' Choice Awards' ... yay! Success at last! 'Billy Buttons' was nominated overall and awarded 'runner-up' in his category. Persistence pays off it seems and boy, does it feel good!

After all these years, I really am no wiser with regard to competition criteria and am still in two minds as to whether it's worth all the anguish on a personal level, but as always there is a bigger picture to be examined. Exciting competitions introduce new interest to our industry, showcasing some of the most creative work available in the marketplace, inspiring everyone involved to continually push personal boundaries in an effort to achieve perfection and offer truly unique work to collectors.

I think I probably will continue to submit work to the occasional quality competition because as they say, "nothing ventured, nothing gained". After all, when everything possible has been said and done, surely this bear maker's bruised ego can afford to take a little more battering in the name of industry progression?!

Saturday 27 October 2007

Fastest Farthing in the West.

There I was, all set to introduce you to this little bear on my blog after I'd built and uploaded his webpage at when he was snapped up by an eager collector within minutes of going live at the site!

'Farthing' will be taking up residence in Oz very soon and I've hardly had a moment to catch my breath since stitching on his buttons!
Now that's my kind of Saturday!

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Advertising asides.

It's advertising time in Bear Land again. The annual Hugglets 'UK Teddy Bear Guide' is due for publication very soon and after a break of some years, I feel the time is right for me to take a colour ad promoting my work, once again.

I'm always frustrated by my limited graphic design skills but needs must, so I've battled on in an attempt to create my own advertisement. This year I've decided to use 'Billy Buttons' for the guide ad. My photographer sister Tina took this fabulous pic for me and this is the end result of my fumblings ...

I love to see my little ads popping up in specialist publications; even after all these years I still get a buzz from flicking through the pages until I spot my own advertisement. The downside of course, is the cost of advertising which unfortunately limits the frequency of my ads ...

Aside from the 'UK Teddy Bear Guide 2008' ( which is published by Hugglets once a year here in the UK (please visit their website if you would like to purchase a copy) and which is a fabulous reference for anyone interested in teddy bears, I also try to take regular advertising space in my favourite UK magazine 'The Teddy Bear Scene' (; in fact, the above ad will also pop up in the December issue of TBS which goes on sale in November.

Next year I'd love to tackle the US magazines, but to do that, I'll need to plan well ahead because their ads really don't come cheap and sadly, there is only so much of this particular bear maker's advertising budget available to spread around!

So, why do I advertise? Well, apart from the obvious need to keep collectors informed and to draw new collectors' interest to my own work (after all, a girl needs to eat!) I advertise for the bigger picture. I think it's vital to keep our niche publications on newsagent's shelves, available for everyone to enjoy. If they fade away from sale in the High Street, how will we capture the eye of new collectors? The kind of collector who doesn't yet realise they are about to become a collector? How will we invite new people into our fascinating world?

Without advertisers, it's impossible for the magazines to stay with us, working on our behalf. So, above all else, that's why I advertise. A little bit of support from as many bear artists as possible, goes a mighty long way to supporting our bigger picture.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Lightbulb moments

Although the sun streams through the window of my sewing room on some afternoons, lately I have noticed my eyes straining while I work, because the days are becoming shorter and the afternoons darker.

I'd heard about daylight simulation lamps and last weekend decided the time had come to investigate the benefits of working by simulated natural light.

I'm nothing if not cautious and was initially horrified to discover the lamp I liked would cost almost one hundred pounds if ordered from the internet; the best deal I could find online was just under eighty pounds. Ouch! Deciding I'd like to see the lamp firsthand before parting with that kind of cash, I took a trip to my local Hobbycraft store and what did I find? There was my lamp priced at just under fifty pounds! What a difference! So, the moral of my story is, it really does pay to shop around for craft equipment and it isn't always cheaper on the internet.

Naturally I purchased the lamp there and then, brought it home and once assembled, found the ideal place for it on my work table. I used the lamp to work with for the first time yesterday and can report that it really does ease eye strain. The daylight bulb is comfortable to work with, keeping colours true, ensuring headache free crafting time, oh and it's perfect for thread matching! This particular lamp comes with a bendy magnifying glass attachment, ideal for my forty-something eyes which aren't quite ready for specs yet. It enabled me to stitch a beautiful nose on my latest bear yesterday, without so much as a squint. Heaven!

It's been a week for treats and last week, I couldn't resist a new craft book to add to my collection. I love craft books and found this one on Ebay for a few pounds. It's full to bursting with pretty eye candy and I will certainly be immersing myself in the pages (under my daylight lamp of course!) with a nice cup of coffee, whenever I fancy a creative dip.

I've had one more treat to myself this week too ... ssssshhhhhh!!!!
A daily splash of Cartier's 'So Pretty' perfume must help my creative process surely?

Friday 19 October 2007

Peek-a-boo? Me too!

Another peek-a-boo for you ... not long to go now until the big day!

Sorry, can't stop ... there's one more bear to finish before the 3rd November (hopefully!) ...

Monday 15 October 2007

A Sunday stroll ...

The Indian summer returned briefly yesterday, treating us to a wonderful afternoon. The sun was warm and the colours golden, perfect for a stroll around the lake in Mote Park with my camera ...

I hope you have enjoyed my photographs. Mote Park is a beautiful place, somewhere I love to visit. Luckily for me I live only a few minutes away! In fact, I've taken walks around the lake for over thirty years and never, ever tire of it. The park is beautiful in all seasons, but for me, there's something especially perfect about this last glorious flare of colour, before winter strips the landscape.

Saturday 13 October 2007

Friday 12 October 2007

New horizons

It's strange isn't it, how the things you take for granted and think will never change, inevitably do. 'Teddy Bear Scene' magazine thumped onto my doormat this morning and what did I read inside those welcome pages? News that stopped me in my tracks, that's what.

My first memories of the UK bear world are of wonderful bears, created by the talented bear artists of the early 90's. I was in awe of and inspired by these makers ... people like Sandra Wickenden, Janet Clark, Gregory Gyllenship and of course, dear Frank Webster. So the news today, that Janet is to hang up her bear making mantle in favour of fresh artistic challenges for the foreseeable future, came as a surprise, to say the least.

Janet has been inspirational in the UK and far beyond for many years, with both her bears and her fabulous dolls. I for one, don't mind admitting I will miss her unique brand of inspirational eye candy at future specialist bear shows.

And talking of fresh challenges, on a much less inspiring note, this has been mine today! In response to a forum challenge I decided to venture into my first attempt at a digital postcard. Believe me, this was a far greater challenge than it might appear! If nothing else, the process has intrigued me and now I am determined to learn more about the mysteries of 'Photoshop' editing software. Anyway, this is the result of my 'Winter Wonderland' digital challenge ... I know, 'don't give up the day job' eh?!

Thursday 11 October 2007

.. out came the sunshine.

... out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain; thank goodness!

It's a beautiful morning here today, the dew is still thick on the grass and the sun is reaching across the lawn. So much better than yesterday's gloom. I feel livelier already!

I spent yesterday sorting out my workroom after having the new carpet fitted. Now it's finished at last and is fresh, comfortable and organised, just the way I wanted it to be.

I don't suppose it will stay tidy for much longer because I have plenty to work on this week, so I've taken this snap before I get creative.

When I pointed my camera through the doorway I completely overlooked the fact that my secret Winter Warmer show bears were sitting on the shelves, so I've had to rub them out of the picture I'm afraid ... no you can't peek yet!

Here's a little clue to the next Winter Warmer bear ... this is my project for today. No more clues yet though, you'll have to use your imagination!

Finally, I thought I'd share this picture with you. It's one of my absolute favourites. It sits on the window sill of my workroom and I look at it often while I work. This is one picture that never fails to make me smile. It was taken about seventeen years ago on a very gusty day and shows me with my son and daughter perched on a little wall in front of Brighton Pier ... oh such happy days!

Tuesday 9 October 2007

Rain, rain, go away ...

Talk about 'it's raining, it's pouring' ... is it ever!

I was hoping to take my 'hot off the press' 'Winter Warmer' show bear out to the garden for photographs, but there's no chance. Rain has most definitely stopped play.

This bear will just have to sit patiently by the window and wait until there's a dry
spell. The sky has darkened and the heaven's have opened, so sadly, there's no way I can take my camera out to the garden to play. In fact, it's so dark here in my lounge, I need to put the lights on.

I doubt I'll get much work done today anyway because I must make time to empty my workroom for the new carpet I'm having laid tomorrow. At last the grotty green carpet I inherited when we moved in will be gone! Hooray! With all the decorating here of late, I've decided it's time I gave my blog a lick of paint too, I do hope you find the new peachy shade inviting and cosy!

With a bit of luck I should have my workroom ship shape and Bristol fashion by tomorrow evening and will be able to reach my sewing machine again on Thursday, so that I can post a sneaky peek of my next 'Winter Warmer' show bear early next week. All I will say at this point is that all going well, the colours will be a very pretty turquoise and black ... on that note, I'll leave the rest to your imagination for the time being!

Well, I wonder what the weather is like in your neck of the woods? This what I have to contend with today, so much for my Indian summer!

Monday 8 October 2007

Winter Warmer show looming large!


The Bear Artists Online 'Winter Warmer' show will be taking place online on Saturday 3rd November. This is a really exciting event, showcasing the work ofsome fabulous international bear artists, so I do hope you will be able to make time to enjoy this special show from the comfort of your swivel chair!

The 'doors' will be open for 24 hours, so that collectors from all four corners of the globe will have the perfect opportunity to purchase the beautiful bears created especially for the show.

I shall be hard at work finishing work on my special show bears throughout October and in the meantime would like to invite you to share a tiny preview of my progress to-date at ... more sneaky peeks to follow shortly!

Full details for the 'Winter Warmer' show can now be found at

Friday 5 October 2007

Oh what a beautiful morning.

After a soggy summer season here in the UK, it seems we are to be compensated with an Indian summer in October. It's only 9.30am as I write, but through my window I can already see the sun radiating a golden glow through trees of burnished leaves. What a great start to my day!

I think I mentioned a while ago that I will be working on my Bear Artists Online Winter Warmer show bears throughout October. So far I have two completed, which of course, won't be enough, so plenty more work to do yet! I won't be revealing too much about these bears until the big day of course, but in the meantime, I can at least share a few tiny peeks on my website to hopefully whet your appetite!

Yesterday was 'National Poetry' day, so I thought I'd close today with some of my all time favourite poems ...

So we'll go no more a roving by George Gordon, Lord Byron

So, we'll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.

The Cloths of Heaven by William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Thursday 4 October 2007

Puddle's Progress

Puddle's ruling the roost now. She has terrorised Leo and Toffee (my two boy cats) into embarrassed submission and has stolen the hearts of all who gaze into her emerald eyes. A true witch's cat! These pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago when she was just 11 weeks old ... cute eh? Don't you believe it! This really is one monstrous moggy!

Wednesday 3 October 2007

An enduring 'Sign 'o' the times' ...

"Mum, how would you feel about coming to see Prince at the O2 with me?"

That was a week ago. My forty something grin spread rapidly from ear to ear and two days later, high heeled boots thrown carelessly aside, my twenty four year old daughter and I willingly submitted to a beat I have loved her entire life.

I last had the privilege of watching the genuis who is 'Prince' play live in London twenty years ago. His performance was breathtaking then and his unique magic remains unclouded with time. Twenty thousand purple glow sticks waving in the dark to 'Purple Rain' two decades later, cast that fact in irrefutable stone.

I really can't do this amazing performance sufficient justice with my clumsy attempt at review, but this critique in 'The Independent' hits all the right notes, achieving perfect pitch ... please, read and enjoy!

Review credit: 'The Independent'
Prince, O2 Arena, London
Touched by the presence of genius
Published: 05 August 2007

"Please do allow me the prerogative to cool down at some future date and revise my opinion, but right now, Prince's opening night at the 02 Arena is – cue Sheila E drum roll – the single greatest concert I have been to in my entire life (supplanting, er... Prince, the Lovesexy tour, Wembley, 1988).
The buzz around this man in 2007 suggests that the whole ungrateful world is finally waking up, when it's almost too late, to just how extraordinary he is. The proposition behind the hype-bubble is this: Prince, the greatest musical genius of the modern age, playing a hits-packed set is, almost by definition, the most thrilling pop experience it is possible to have.
The stakes, then, are high. Oh, Prince won't die poor. His Paisley Park empire won't collapse if anything goes wrong. But in terms of legacy and enduring reputation, if this 21 Nights in London residency really is the last time he'll play his greatest hits, he needs to deliver tonight.
He knows it, too. "I couldn't sleep last night, y'all," he admits halfway through, "so forgive me if I forget anything. I'm so excited to be here! I saw every one of you in my dreams."

Does he pull it out of the bag? Oh boy, does he ever. At exactly 8.30pm the house lights fall, 20,000 voices scream with almost thermonuclear hysteria, the Symbol-shaped stage begins to glow, a plume of smoke rises from a hatch in its centre, and there he is: a miniature mannequin in a white Pacino pimp suit. He strums one reverberating chord, sings the line, "I never meant to cause you any sorrow", and so much oxygen is sucked out of the room in gasps of disbelief that breathing becomes difficult. Starting a concert with "Purple Rain", the full eight-minute epic version? Way to knock 'em dead.
A familiar smirk flickers across his face. The show has barely begun, and already he knows we are in the palm of his tiny hand. He yells, "London! I am here. Where are you?" And then, with a coy smile, adds, "Did you miss me?" Without a second's delay, his band – encamped in the loop of the Symbol – rattle into "Girls & Boys", the Franco-funk classic from Parade, Prince shakes his platform-heeled legs, drops his mic stand to one side, executes a perfect quadruple-axel spin, and re-catches the mic bang on the beat. Moments later, he tummy-slides headfirst into the point of the Symbol, loses his tambourine in a melee, but not his cool.
It's at this point, when you've temporarily suppressed the "Oh my God, that's actually Prince, in real life, over there" sensation, that you start to consider what a unique specimen he is: 49 years old, sings like an angel and dances like the devil, can play every instrument better than the people in his band (as Pharrell Williams put it), and has written a back catalogue of immortal songs running into three figures. "I got more hits," he jokes, "than Madonna's got kids."
And he doesn't hold back. There's a scattering of recent material ("Satisfied", "Musicology", "Guitar", "Black Sweat") and the odd cover version (the Beatles' "Come Together", Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"), but these are outnumbered by the stone-cold classics: "Lets Go Crazy", "U Got the Look", "I Feel For You", "Controversy", "Take Me With U", and a version of "Kiss" which gets a reaction that seems to leave even him gobsmacked.
He's nothing if not cocky. "I'm so funky I can't even sleep with myself," he grins. "I am gonna kick your tail up in the air!" He pretends to walk off, cups his ear for applause, then changes his mind. During "Cream" he breaks off midway through the couplet, "You're so cool, everything you do is success/ Make the rules, then break them all 'cos you are the best", and jokes, "I wrote this song while looking in the mirror".
There's a school of thought which says that Prince minus the dirtiness is like George Best with his feet amputated. The truth is that when he's onstage, he leaves the Biblical scholar at home, and while he might stop short of outright filth like "Head" or "Gett Off", when he squeals, "I'm gonna seek this thing like a buried treasure!" and humps the mic stand, there is not a lot of doubt as to what he's talking about.
And who needs dirt when there's a song as exquisite as "If I Was Your Girlfriend?" The uncomfortably intimate, almost stalkerish track from Sign O' The Times in which he dreams the impossible dream of being all things to his woman ("Would you run to me if somebody hurt you even if that somebody was me?"), sends genuine shivers.
Closing time; ugly lights; everybody's at the exits when something amazing happens. I'm halfway up the stairs when there's a commotion down on the floor, a turquoise-suited body flashes through the crowd backed by burly bouncers, and suddenly the ultimate showman – having already delivered a couple of encores – is back onstage, prompting a reverse-tide of humanity to rush back into the arena for an additional mini-show which includes solo renditions of "Little Red Corvette", "Raspberry Beret" and "Sometimes it Snows in April", and band-backed covers of Chic's "Le Freak" and Sheila E's "A Love Bizarre" (a Prince track in all but name).
Sometimes, you walk away from a concert feeling privileged to have been present. After a performer like Prince has played a show like this, you walk away feeling privileged to have been alive at the same time."


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