Saturday 30 August 2008

Delphinium, a panda bear challenge

One of the beauties of the internet is that by some mysterious technological magic way beyond the limits of my comprehension, bear makers have now been provided with a gateway to connect. Working away from the nine to five world as self-employed artisans can be extremely isolating wherever your work is based, but since the arrival of the internet, thankfully things have changed! These days lasting friendships evolve internationally at the simple tap of a keyboard, as bear artists come together to promote the teddy bear as art. As in our 'real' world, meeting places have formed online to accommodate groups of artists - a bit like the internet equivalent of the coffee house, famed throughout history for providing meeting places for intellectuals and artists alike. Nowadays, we make our own coffee in our favourite mugs to sip thoughtfully at our desks (often with a side order of cake or chocolate!) while we log on to meet our colleagues and friends, in bear related forums contrived to welcome those with an interest in bear crafting, from all four corners of the globe.

Teddy Talk forum

'Teddy Talk' is one such international meeting place. A highly successful forum with a membership of over 1600, it is chock full of freely shared bear crafting information, new works, support and fun. If you would like to visit Teddy Talk to join in the chat, please pop along by clicking the link above.

'Delphinium', the result of my TT forum 'pandamania' challenge!

I am currently in the process of hosting a bear-making challenge on Teddy Talk. My project is designed to encourage other bear artists, both novice and more experienced, to engage in the process of creating new works, by offering an inspirational focus to share. This particular challenge is for panda bears and after several weeks, I am delighted to say we have achieved a most edifying gallery of panda bears, truly diverse in design. If you happen to visit Teddy Talk, please take a moment to visit the 'Challenge Gallery' at the top of the page, to see the fruits of our inspiration.

17" Delphinium, will make her debut at the Teddies 2008 show in London

As I initiated the challenge, it is only fair that I 'walk the walk,' as well as 'talk the talk', so this week I have created 17" 'Delphinium', a rather whimsical, not to mention colourful, panda bear, as my contribution to the TT 'Pandamania' Challenge. Delphinium will be making her debut at the 'Teddies 2008' show in London with me on September 14th.

British Bears on the Net, community forum

If you are interested in bear craft and would like to share time with like-minded people online, you are very welcome to pour yourself a mug of coffee and join in the fun on Teddy Talk. Alternatively, if you have a particular interest in the Great British teddy bear and would feel more at home in a cosy, friendly UK meeting place, please check out the British Bears on the Net link above and stop by our virtual 'Coffee Shop' to say hello - you are assured of a warm reception, we'd love to hear from you!

Thursday 28 August 2008

Making Chiltern Memories

Most people who know me, know I have a passion for the English 'Chiltern Hugmee' teddy bear. I have written snippets about what I consider to be this Rolls Royce of English teddy bear, in previous posts, (see but what I haven't yet found time to share with you, is the result of my 2008 Chiltern 'Tribute Bear' project! Before I launch into the details, here is a potted history of the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company to give you a little background, the details of which I have sourced from

A few of my own special Chiltern Hugmee teddy bears

Chiltern Toy Works was opened by Joseph Eisenmann in 1908, in Buckinghamshire. The company took its name from the Chiltern Hills which surround the area. Initially the Chiltern toy factory produced dolls, but in 1915 they introduced their first bear, the Master Teddy. On Joseph's death in 1919 Leon Rees, inherited the Chiltern factory and in 1920 the firm relocated to larger premises at Waterside in Chesham. In 1920 Leon went into partnership with Harry Stone, formerly of J.K.Farnell and a new company H G Stone and Co. Ltd. was formed. Leon was responsible for marketing and sales and Harry for design and manufacture. In 1921 the company opened a second factory at Grove Rd Tottenham, London. The new company continued to use the established Chiltern trademark and the name Chiltern Toys was registered by the company in 1924. In 1923 a range of bears called Hugmee's were introduced, and proved so popular that they remained in in production until 1967.

My work in progress!

I have wanted to create my own 'Hugmee' style bear since first learning about their history, courtesy of Pauline Cockrill's fascinating 'The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book', way back in the early 1990's. However, I soon became aware this would not be a simple exercise for a novice bearmaker! There is something about the unique proportions of these bears, with their little arms, short legs and large, flat faced heads, which is tricky to capture accurately. By rights, those huge heads should have the bear overbalancing, falling flat into his poor old nose, but somehow, everything about this bear's unusually disproportionate shape works perfectly.

My completed 17" Chiltern Tribute Bear, 'Leon'

For many years, I happily settled for adding the occasional vintage Hugmee to my ever-growing collection of teddy bears, while I developed my bear crafting skills. Earlier this year though, my sister Fiona sadly reached the conclusion it was unlikely she would return to her own bear making and alongside many other components, gave me her stash of mohair. Joy of joys, hidden at the bottom of the pile was the perfect piece of mohair for my special tribute bear!

My 'Leon' Tribute bear (right) shown with an original Chiltern Hugmee, musical bear

I think one of the many special qualities of Chiltern Hugmee bears, is their mohair. These lovely old bears were characteristically created from dense gold English mohair. English mohair is pretty hard to come by these days, I remember Fiona originally bought this particular piece of mohair when we first began making our own bears in the 90's; in fact, back in those exciting early days, she used it to create a big bear named 'Edward', a bear with a handsome hint of Chiltern about him, ... I wonder where he is now?

A Chiltern trio ... Spot the tribute bear!

Creating the pattern for Leon was a nail-bitingly drawn out process of trial and error. I took endless measurements from my vintage Hugmees, hunted through old copies of 'Hugglets' magazine (no longer in print) for Hugmee pattern hints and scoured the pages of my early 'Christies' auction catalogues for inspiration. Gradually my pattern came together and I started to realise my tribute bear could be a real possibility! Interestingly, I soon became aware that my usual bear making techniques wouldn't suffice if this bear was to have any aura of authenticity about him ... for example, I take a pride in super-neat hand embroidered, block style noses for my own range of bears, but Leon required me to stitch a slightly less than perfect, shield shaped nose, which was very frustrating. Also, I usually ladder stitch the ears to my bears heads as the last job, after my own bears are completely finished, but oh no, Leon had to have his ears stitched into the seams of his head pieces as they were being sewn together, an altogether different technique and one I felt quite ill at ease with. Then there was his stuffing, my usual polyester and plastic pellets were far too heavy for a Chiltern Hugmee style bear, so instead I needed to use kapok and boy oh boy, is that different to work with! It flies up your nose and sticks to your clothing, it's messy and fiddly too! Muzzle trimming was a real challenge too, my modern day neatly trimmed muzzles certainly wouldn't suffice, I had to resist that temptation and leave this bear untrimmed if he was to stand shoulder to shoulder with his brother bears! Unlike the original Hugmees, I decided not to use excelsior stuffing in my bear, after all, this was intended as a tribute bear, not a replica and as such, I felt entitled to cut myself just a little slack. I did incorporate some typical amber glass eyes with black pupils though, just like the originals and of course, my bear has a voice - not the original squeaker or music box, but as close as I could get with a traditional cardboard growler.


Creating Leon has been a huge pleasure for me and one I wanted to share, so Leon now has a new owner and of course, I still have my memories!

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Learning curves

It was a Bank Holiday here in the UK, which basically means we have an extra weekend day, so no work if you're one of the lucky ones who can indulge! With the Hugglets' show drawing close, I couldn't risk taking an entire day's holiday with the rest of the great British public, so instead nipped into my workroom from time to time to finish my 'Cornelius' show bear, between family visits. He's a lovely mix of antique mohair, complemented with modern mohair head and paws. Working with the antique mohair is an education in itself and I must admit, it can get a bit scarey at times! Each bear teaches me a little more about working with such old fabric and this beautiful burnt orange and wine coloured antique mohair even seems to have lent Cornelius his venerable expression!

20" Cornelius will debut at Teddies 2008, on September 14th!

I was honoured indeed yesterday with a visit from my niece. She came to show me her latest purchase ... no, not shoes, handbags or jewellery, oh no! For the very first time ever, my seventeen year old niece drove across town to my house in her very first car, complete with 'L' (learner) plate on the bonnet and a slightly nervous mum strapped safely into the back seat. This extremely proud auntie had camera poised and at the ready, before said young miss zoomed back off down the road and out into the big wide world. Here's to your independence Lauren, stay safe Tin Ribs xxx

Hey, Lauren's on her way!

For those of you wondering whether the 'TOBY Public Choice Awards' have been announced, I can now tell you they have! As you know, my 'Billy Buttons' clown bear won his prestigious 'TOBY Industry's Choice Award' this year, such a proud moment for me. I am happy to tell you the Public Choice Award for the 'Big Bears Undressed category has been awarded to lovely Ellen Borggreve from the Netherlands, for her super bear 'Marbles' ... my warmest congratulations to you Ellen!

You can read Ellen's personal account of her success and take a peek at her lovely bear 'Marbles,' at:

And on the subject of competitions, after failing to make the first ten of the 'Taiwan Teddy Bear Association's Olympic Challenge' with my 'Victor' bear, together with several other excellent entries by talented bear artists, I have reached the conclusion I probably won't compete in such heavily themed competitions in future. Congratulations to those participating countries who were placed in the 'Olympic Challenge' top ten and well done to the team for raising funds for their chosen Moon Bear charity. No, this isn't a case of sour grapes by the way! I simply don't think themed competitions suit my style of work and I would rather focus my efforts where I feel the quality of my bears isn't likely to be undermined by a theme, because for me the true test of an artist bear has to be first and foremost, the bear itself, rather than any contrived theme. I guess that makes me somewhat of a purist eh? Well, I make no apologies for that. My instincts warned me of this potential pitfall before the 'Taiwan Teddy Bear Association Olympic Challenge' team invited me to participate and I now know I should have stayed true to that little voice in my head ... isn't hindsight a wonderful thing?!

Victor, my Olympic Challenge bear

I was originally asked to create 'Victor' by the UK's 'Teddy Bear Scene' magazine , and when the magazine ceased publication without notice recently (sadly before they could publish their 'Olympic Challenge') the 'Taiwan Teddy Bear Association' kindly stepped in to create their own online version of the competition to raise funds for the Moon Bear charity and I was asked to submit my bear to their competition, as mentioned above. At the same time, I was also asked by the editor of US 'Teddy Bear and Friends' magazine if she could publish 'Victor's' picture, alongside the original 'Teddy Bear Scene' magazine's invited 'Olympic Challenge' bears, so if you would like to, you can now see the original invited Olympic Challenge bears proudly featured in this Sept/Oct issue of 'Teddy Bear and Friends' magazine. Here is a link to the magazine's website:

I am, of course, still committed to participating in competitions offering teddy bear artists an opportunity to promote bear craft as a highly aspirational art form. So, now that I have a clearer head on the subject, I will look forward to entering a couple of carefully selected aspirational competitions next year ... thinking cap on Paula!

Saturday 23 August 2008

A little Saturday morning indulgence

Ho hum, I'm waiting for the carpet fitters to arrive. The washing machine is whirring diligently, my sheets are waving in the breeze, the kitchen floor is shining. Vacuuming, scrubbing, polishing, it's all been done and they still aren't here. I daren't mow the lawn in case the noise drowns the doorbell, so there's nothing for it I'm afraid, baking it must be! Mmmn, fresh cherry loaf ... oh dear, my waistline sure is going to suffer for those fitters!

Saturday's fresh cherry loaf!

Oh, you'd like some too would you? Well, that's no problem, grab your pinny and wooden spoon while I type out the receipe for you ...

This receipe is courtesy of the Daily Mail 'You' magazine ... it makes a good family sized cake, is lovely and moist and oh so yummy!


230g softened butter

200g fresh cherries, stoned

250 self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

2-3 drops almond essence

100g ground almonds

6 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 170C/150C fan/325F/Gas 3.

Line a 23cm X 13cm X 7cm (2lb) loaf tin and grease it using a little butter (I didn't do this, I greased and floured the tin ... easier!)

Quarter the stoned cherries, wash under cold water and pat dry. Toss them in a little flour and shake well to get rid of excess.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the beaten eggs and almond essence.

Gently fold in the flour and ground almonds.

Fold in the cherries and then the milk and spoon the thick mixture in to your prepared loaf tin.

Bake for 45-60 mins or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If you think it needs a bit longer, lightly cover with tinfoil to avoid the top burning before putting back in oven.

When baked stand tin on a wire rack until completely cooled. Then go ahead and indulge yourself!

Right, must dash ... I can hear the doorbell ringing at last!

Friday 22 August 2008

Old Timers

There are only three weeks until the 'Teddies 2008' show in Kensington and of course, I'm starting to feel the usual gnaw of pressure now. No matter how early I start my preparations, I always seem to approach bear shows with a sense of rising panic. Over the years I've learned just to accept my paranoia and do the best I can, whilst worrying the least I can! It is such a huge responsibility to create special bears guaranteed to delight show collectors - what a nightmare it would be to disappoint those eager visitors! It doesn't matter how much of an old timer I have become, each looming show has me feeling every bit of a newcomer as the one that went before.

'Ezra', an 'Old Timer' bear

I am hoping to finish show bear number 5 today. In fact, I'm looking forward to working on him because he's one of my favourite bears to make; yes, you've guessed - he's a clown bear! I've incorporated antique and modern mohair this time and so far, it's looking pretty good, even if I do say so myself!

'Ezra', 14"

Never mind that I have the London show to prepare for, the All Bear website still needs a little TLC. I wanted to use some of my antique German mohair stash to create a teddy bear for sale on the website, rather than use all the antique mohair for the show. It's a tricky balance to strike, but my website collectors are always so loyal and supportive, I like to try and share the good stuff with them whenever I can, rather than snaffle it all away for my shows. Little 'Ezra' has been waiting patiently, in pieces in the lap of a big ol' Frank Webster bear on my workroom floor, for a couple of weeks, but yesterday, I finally made the time to finish him. He's a very traditional bear, in vintage 'Old Timer' style, created from a rich honey coloured piece of antique mohair and today, he will make his debut on my website. Ezra is a dear little chap in the fur, I don't think the pics really do him justice ... there's something very special about the wonderful age of this mohair which annoyingly, the camera just doesn't quite capture.

Ezra profile

Prior to my show commitments, I also have three special bears to finish for a brand new venture. These bears will be collected at the Hugglets show in readinness for the grand launch of ... oops sorry, can't tell you just yet! I know, what a tease! Suffice it to say I have been asked to create them by a very special lady, for a very special launch. I will be able to let you know more about this mysterious new project later in September.

Before I return to my clown bear, I want to tell you about a call I received yesterday, from Eric Petit, the owner of the 'Musee du Jouet' in the South of France. I mentioned in an earlier post that thieves recently broke into Eric's museum, stealing many wonderful antique trains and dolls. Speaking with Eric on the telephone brought home the full impact of what has happened to him and his family. Seventeen years of collecting dedicated to building a wonderful history of play to share and inform, has been ripped apart by selfish greed. This callous act has undermined Eric's business, forcing him to partially close his museum and leaving him uncertain of the museum's future. Eric says he will 'keep smiling,' but it is clear his world has been rocked.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

A pretty Coral Sky ...

My nose has been firmly pressed to the grindstone today. I was determined to finish the commissioned peach bear I told you about yesterday, which was no mean feat given that she is a big 'un at 22", with bendy legs, hugging arms, inset muzzle and a laughing mouth ... not a simple bear to make by any means. Her colourway put me in mind of beautiful sunrises (not that I am much of an expert on such things, being a shamelessly irredeemable sleepy head) so I have christened her 'Coral Sky', a pretty name for a pretty bear!

'Coral Sky'

Monday 18 August 2008

Dilys, a dandelion cagoule and another disappearing weekend!

A quick post today, there's just time to share 20" 'Dilys' with you before I go back to work on a lovely peach bear with sky blue paw pads ...sorry, that bear won't be for sale as it's a special commission order for a customer, which I'm hoping to have ready to show her in the next few days.

Dilys will make her debut at the London Hugglets show on September 14th 2008

My weekend has flown by in the blink of an eyelid yet again. My sister Lynda brought her two daughters up from Basingstoke for a visit, so I popped over to catch up with them and also with our youngest sister Laura and her two girls, at Mum's in Sittingbourne. All the children are growing up so fast, which is worrying, because that means we grown-ups must be growing older fast too! I shamelessly left Stuart to his paintbrush and he did a great job. The hallway decorating is now almost finished (no thanks to me!) and I am praying the new carpet will complement the colour of the walls when it arrives; it's so hard to judge in advance - fingers crossed. We'll be without carpet on the stairs for about a week, so will no doubt suffer every single footstep as my kids go about their daily business; if that's anything like usual, it will mean early mornings and late nights ... prepare for one tired, grouchy bear maker!

I'm hoping that after a weekend under canvas at the 'V' Festival* in the pouring rain, my daughter's nocturnal activities will be significantly reduced next week. With any luck she'll be absolutely cream crackered and won't have the energy for her usual giddy social whirl. I'm expecting her, her zebra wellies, hippy chick dandelion cagoule (very cute!) soggy sleeping bag et al, home later today ... presumably once she's succeeded in digging her poor Mini out from the mud bath it's parked in. She was kind enough to send her anxious Mum a text while she was away, it read simply ... 'I'm still alive :o)' ... kids eh?!

*For the uninitiated (oh you lucky people!) the 'V' Festival is a huge music festival which takes place in deepest, darkest Essex over an entire weekend and where, from what I can gather, copious amounts of beer and other 'fun' substances are consumed (!) whilst thousands upon thousands of youngsters (and a few oldsters too ... although not this one, my festival days are long past!) bop wildly to mega decibels of what is loosely termed 'music'. Do I sound 102? Well, probably that's because I very nearly am ... or at least feel it whenever my diabetic daughter decides to participate in such gay abandon. Mind you, that said, I did catch a glimpse of Lenny Kravitz on the telly's 'V' coverage (whilst trying to play 'spot my daughter in the heaving crowd') and even I might have been tempted into a pair of spangly wellies for that performance!

18th August postscript: A wonderfully wild weekend was apparently had by all. It poured hard at night (naturally the tiny tent didn't withstand the rain and predictably the girls' lilos deflated) and the sun blazed each day. Fay survived for three days on a diet of beer and sausages. She arrived home with sunburned knees and cleavage, craving scrambled egg on toast (?!) and a hot shower ... or two ...

Thursday 14 August 2008

Raffles, 2008 URSA AWARD WINNER!

He did it! After last year's lack of fizz, I really wasn't expecting too much from the URSA Awards this year, so couldn't have been more delighted when confirmation of my 'Raffles' success arrived by email this morning! What a lovely buzzy start to my day! My heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who took the time and trouble to vote for my work.

Raffles, 2008 URSA AWARD WINNER!

This award means that Raffles has qualified to be part of the URSA MAJOR award, to determine the overall competition winner. Final voting for the URSA MAJOR award is now open and the decision will be made by public vote once again!

So, if you think Raffles should be the URSA MAJOR award winner for 2008,
could I please trouble you to take a moment to click the link below to cast your final vote?!

My warmest thanks and hugs to you, Paula x

Tuesday 12 August 2008

A bear with a past ...

'Archibald', a bear with a past!

This is 'Archibald', all ready for the Hugglets show. He had been waiting for his finishing touches for a little while, consigned to a corner of my worktable while I completed other more pressing projects. This morning I finally made time to sew on his ears, wax his nose and hunt out some suitably 'distressed' bells.

'Archibald,' 16"

Archibald's mohair is original antique German mohair, so this is definitely a bear with a past! The mohair has a wonderful sheen and has distressed naturally over the years, creating an authentic aged-looking teddy bear. It was quite tricky to make the best use of this piece of fabric, but after placing my pattern pieces carefully, I was able to use as much as possible of it and I am very satisfied with the way this 16" bear has come together. Also, I must mention how thrilled I am to have found some vintage leather boot button eyes for him - they really do enhance his aura of authenticity! He's quite a diversion from my usual style of bears, but a pleasing one, I hope you'll agree!

Monday 11 August 2008

Don't forget your pinny Paula!

I think I mentioned in my last post that I've been working on a few orders recently, well now I can show you 'Sunshine,' a pretty 20" bear who will be flying to America this week. I still have a few more orders to work on, but hopefully it won't be long before I can return to my show bears - the time is ticking on after all!

'Sunshine' 20"

 Oh do get on with it Mum!

While Stuart and I dashed around, my son and his girlfriend prepared for an old school friend's wedding on Saturday (just how to make this mum feel really old eh?!) Still, it was lovely to see them all togged up, especially as my Anthony usually slops around in tired old jeans and a tee-shirt. I took my chance while he was suited and booted (well, surely any mother would?!) and quickly snapped these pics for posterity before they could make good their escape for weekend.

My homemade blueberry muffins ... mmmn!

Banana and walnut loaf, just like Mum used to make!

Well, as you've probably already guessed, that's my contribution to the decorating about done (!) so while Stuart balanced on a chair to fiddle with light fittings and manfully stripped tired old dado from the walls yesterday afternoon, I had a lovely time in the kitchen with only my mixing bowl and wooden spoon for company - who said the 1950's were a thing of the past? Not in my kitchen! We bought a little chest freezer on Saturday with the intention of extending the storage capacity of our fridge freezer (I am so fed-up with having to fight enough food for four adults into four silly little drawers) With food prices shooting through the roof, fast heading spacewards, it seems a sound idea to go back to basics, using our chest freezer to store home made grub; healthier for us too. (Yes sisters dear, I can hear your 'don't forget your pinny 1950's housewife,' jibes from here!) The only problem I foresee, is whether my baking will survive the kids' eagle eyes and eager bellies for long enough to actually take up residence in my new freezer!
As for my weekend, it raced by in a flurry of activity. We're planning to redecorate the hall, stairs and landing next weekend, so this weekend involved the inevitable round of visits to various DIY shops. Thank heavens for those cute little sample pots of paint! I really didn't have a clue what colour the walls should be and wanted to warm the area up a bit, so after splatting many shades over the walls, finally settled for 'soft sun' to match a smart new biscuity gold coloured carpet which hopefully, should blend perfectly. Our only problem now is how on earth we bring a 3.6 metre handrail home from the shop - it certainly won't fit in the car!

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Coursing on.

I have been trying to catch up with my order book this week, which is why 'Bearing All' has been a wee bit on the introspective side (ie., quiet!) I've also been wearing my thinking cap (metaphorically speaking) because I've been feeling the urge to do something different. No, don't worry, I don't mean abandoning my bears, I'm simply going through my annual 'what can I learn,' phase ... it happens to me most years!

Paula's 2005 challenge goal - her driver's licence!

One year I took an Open University course in creative writing, another year I did the best thing I've ever done (with a heap of much needed encouragement from Stuart and my Mum) and learned to drive, at last! Last year I took a couple of handy online courses - a needlefelting course I still haven't put properly into practise but found very educational and a doll-making course I never did find time to complete ... I'll get there one day! I'm not quite sure what it is I'm craving this year, so I'll just wait for a lightbulb moment to show me the way; I'm sure everything will come clear soon!

If, like me, you are looking for a little creative challenge, you may find something to tickle your fancy at or maybe an online bear-crafting class would be more your thing? If so, why not take a look at: for some great ideas.

Happy coursing!

Saturday 2 August 2008

I love teddies, featured artist!

I was contacted by Chrissie, the owner of 'I love Teddies' recently and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed as 'featured artist' for the month of August. Never one to miss an opportunity for a little bear related promotion, I jumped at the chance and I'm delighted to tell you, the interview has just gone live! If you would like to visit the 'I love Teddies' website and read the featured artist interview, please click the link below:

Friday 1 August 2008

Summertime lullaby ...

One of my all time favourite summer songs ...

George Gershwin
from 'Porgy and Bess' 1935

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high
Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky
But till that morning
There's a'nothing can harm you
With daddy and mamma standing by

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high
Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry


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