Tuesday 30 June 2009

Just an ol' fashioned gal ...

Do you remember me reminiscing about crocheted granny squares in an earlier blog post? Knitting Bernard's waistcoat tweaked my memory, transporting me back through the mists of time to schooldays, when me and my girlfriends would plonk our bums in a chatty circle, happily crocheting granny squares as we gossipped and giggled in a far flung corner of the school field. Well, as these things are apt to do, that dusty thought process set me off on a hunt for a new craft book ... thirty plus years was way too long for my poor ol' lady head to remember the finer details of how to crochet!

After many years of knitting, I have more oddments of wool than I know what to do with, so thought it would be nice to twiddle some of them into squares for a throw (or perhaps cushion covers - undoubtedly far from trendy, but I guess that's acceptable now that I'm in my forties!) This book by Jan Eaton seems perfect for the job - it shares plenty of suggestions for creating a multitude of colourful crochet squares and as you can see, I've already mastered three of the simple ones!

For those of us who like to knit too, Jan Eaton has also published a similar book for knitted squares and needless to say, I was compelled to order that book too! So now there's no excuse for couch potato-ing in an armchair with nothing creative to do ... unless that is, I happen to have a lovely glass of chilled white wine in my hand at the time!

Monday 29 June 2009

Time to smell the roses ...

As every long standing bear maker knows, it's vitally important to take time out from the rigours of sewing and stuffing now and again, to appreciate the perfect scent of rose perfume ...

I hope my roses inspire your creativity on this beautiful summer's day!

Thursday 25 June 2009

Postcards from across the pond!

Teddy Bear Review magazine - August 09 issue

Hip hip hooray for the USA indeed! Even after all these years, I never fail to be excited when I see my bears in print and this week, I couldn't have been more delighted to have the US 'Teddy Bear Review' magazine drop through my letterbox, because they have kindly included me in their 'Postcards across the Pond' feature, including a lovely photograph of Victor! It may sound daft, but I was just as thrilled when I noticed they've used the photograph I took of the River Medway on my walk with Stuart last July, as the backdrop for the entire double page spread! If you would like to purchase a copy of the mag, please visit http://www.jonespublishing.com/ for further information.

'Collect It' magazine - September 09 issue

While we are on the subject of magazines, here's a little peek at the advertisement I've created for the September issue of 'Collect It' magazine. This issue will include a supplement written by kathy Martin especially for the forthcoming 'Teddies 2009' and a little birdy told me my bears may have a mention! For further information about 'Collect It' magazine, please visit their website at: http://www.collectors-club-of-great-britain.co.uk/magazines/default.asp?magazine=1
or if you are in the UK, why not treat yourself to a copy in your local WH Smiths!

Monday 22 June 2009

Summer Solstice, poppies, a megalith and a trip down memory lane!

Stuart, surveying the view from the top of Bluebell Hill

It was Summer Solstice yesterday and I had a fancy to take my little point 'n shoot camera out for a stroll, so we parked at the top of Bluebell Hill and went in hunt of a local megalith. After snapping a few quick pics of the fabulous view, complete with obligingly dramatic cloud formation, we headed downhill, in the direction of Stuart's childhood stomping ground.

The megalith we were hunting for, sits in a field close to the house Stuart lived in as a child, so we ambled down the hillside until we reached Kits Coty, then pushed our way through overgrown woodland tracks which looked as though they'd been untrodden for the entire three decades, since Stuart was last there!

'Kits Coty House'

It may not be awe inspiringly huge, but this monument to ancient England is intriguing. Known as 'Kits Coty House,' it is actually the remains of an early burial chamber, reportedly older than Stonehenge. There are inscriptions carved into the stone as if visitors over the centuries hoped that by leaving their memorial mark on these steadfast stones, they too might claim the right to be remembered long after departing this mortal coil. Sadly now the stones have been clumsily fenced to 'protect them' ... (although apparently this was no obstacle to at least one young boy intrigued enough to climb over and experience the stones at close quarters many years ago!)

To my delight, behind the megalith was a field of beautiful poppies, posing perfectly for the camera!

The only problem with walking downhill, is that at some point, you have to climb back up! After a lovely time photographing my pretty poppies, we trundled back through thick woodland in search of another remembered childhood track. The idea was that it would provide us with a shortcut back to the top of Bluebell Hill and yes, it certainly did that - however, as we all know, time plays tricks on the memory and Stuart had forgotten just how steep this particlar pathway was ... what this photograph fails to convey is that my heart felt as though it was about to explode from my chest!

Father's Day at the Bluebell Hill Memorial

Not only was it the Summer Solstice yesterday, it was also Father's Day. A poignant tribute of flowers and cards had been placed at the memorial of the three Air Ambulance crew who tragically lost their lives when their helicopter crashed close by, in 1998.

Friday 19 June 2009

... and this little piggy ...

If I remember back to my childhood in the 60's, I think even then I had the first stirrings of magpie instinct. I recall saving pennies in a little red suede drawstring purse simply because I liked the feel of them, then there was the old wooden box I 'borrowed' from my mother - it had a keyhole but no key and I filled it with tatty postcards and penpal letters; my windowsill was lined with souvenir dolls in national costume and of course, I never could see my way to parting with treasured soft toys, no matter how scruffy and unhygienic they became ... in fact, several of those dear tatty old friends are with me still.

Four decades later and the instinct to surround myself with the things I love, is still very much alive and kicking. I simply can't do 'minimalist', that's not me at all. From bears to books, pottery to piggy banks, I confess my collecting sins! I thought you might like to take a peek at one of my little weaknesses ... I discovered these piggies when I was on a pretty tight collecting budget and since then, have become enchanted by them!

Each piggy bank is made by the Arthur Wood pottery company, (mostly during the 1960's and 1970's) and each has been hand painted with flamboyantly pretty designs. I think they are delightful collectables and of course, are also useful for saving up pennies for my next piggy indulgence!

If you would like to learn a little more about Arthur Wood piggy banks, you can find more lovely examples at: http://www.piggybankpage.co.uk/arthur_wood.htm

By the way, did you notice the vase next to my elephant piggy? Well, therein lies another of my pottery passions ... but I'll share that one with you another day!

Thursday 18 June 2009

A knitting day ...

20" Bernard

Yesterday was a knitting day. I've been looking forward to having a reasonable excuse to spend the day on the couch in the conservatory enjoying the roses through the window, while I clack away on my bamboo needles and yesterday my time came!

Measuring Bernard for his knitted waistcoat

I whizzed up a smart little waistcoat for my new bear 'Bernard' in Rowan's extra fine merino wool, (which, by the way, knits like a dream!) whilst admiring my newly planted rose bed and watching 'Loose Women', '60 minute makeover', 'The News' and David Dickinson's 'The Real Deal' on TV ... and I make absolutely no excuses for calling this a day's work! After all, there have to be some perks to self-employment don't there?!

My wicker chair, food for creative thought ...!

My mind drifted back to my childhood while I was knitting yesterday, reminding me of the crocheted granny square throws we used to love to make as kids during lunch hour at primary school (do youngsters still do these things at school I wonder?) I have more odd balls of wool than I know what to do with and this wicker chair is crying out for a little colour ... hmmmn ...

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Raspberries and roses

Is it just me who battles to access financial life now that everything relies on number sequences? Pin this, pin that ... don't they realise that to a bearmaker, pins are very different things?! Colourful phrases enter my consciousness with ease, but numbers? No. Numbers fly in briefly, then fly straight back out again. This causes me no end of trouble and I've lost count of how many calls I've had to make to reset wretched pin numbers since their introduction to banking world.

So, today's post blows a big noisy raspberry at pin numbers and offers you the beauty of fragrant June roses instead ... enjoy!

Monday 15 June 2009

The Guild of Master Bearcrafters

Have I mentioned the Guild of Master Bearcrafters to you? I really can't remember! Perhaps I didn't yet, but that's because it's purely for professional bear artisans, somewhere private we can meet up, share our work and 'talk shop'. I set the Guild up earlier this year and already we have 149 members from all around the world ... isn't the internet an amazing introduction agency?! For example, did you know there are dedicted bearcrafters as far afield as Russia, New Zealand, throughout Europe, Australia, the US, Germany, South Africa, Thailand, Japan ... the list goes on and on and ...

Anyway, it occurred to me today, that collectors and non-bearmakers interested in teddy bear artistry, might find it interesting to know a little more of what lies behind the creation of artist bears ...

The 'Guild of Master Bearcrafters' was established as a central body for bear artisans to join together and progress their creative talents. To that end we actively support participation in international bear competitions and also offer our own quarterly Guild Challenges to help get those creative juices flowing!

The Guild works to provide support for bearcrafters striving for creative perfection and offers workshop tutorials to this end, with photo galleries which invite comment from colleagues. It also offers a a closed forum for discussing business issues and a central 'events' schedule, where bearcrafters can plan show itineraries and promote their bear related events.

Membership criteria is based upon bearcrafters professionally designing and selling their work for at least one year - applicants who don't meet the entry level are declined, to ensure the Guild continues to work as a professional body.

One thing I've learned about creating bears as a business over the years, is it can be very isolating and in time, that can prove demotivating, but with the online support of other professional bearcrafters around the world, it is now possible for those of us with a passion for creating and developing the teddy bear as soft sculpture, to work together in our effort to create original bears for posterity.

Friday 12 June 2009

Mother said there would be days like this ...

Well here we are again, Friday already. Where do the weeks go? Don't they understand a girl of my maturity requires time to, well take its time! I had my entire day planned around a trip to the hairdressers and after a busy week, was really looking forward to a little Paula pampering, with particular anticipation placed on my spell in the salon's massage chair, which can feel quite heavenly on a Friday afternoon after a week spent hunched over the sewing machine and computer!

My day started badly when I checked my company business card online - panic swept through me when I saw a couple of extra hefty charges for an item I hadn't anticipated ... fortunately, that particular heart racing moment was quickly eased when it was pointed out to me that one of the items was in fact a refund, not a debit ... ahem.

I had two large bears to box and post today too, not that there was any problem with that until a call from my lovely sister threw my timings out of the window and I realised I was going to be late for my precious appointment with the hair stylist. Poor old Tina was rapidly binned with promises to catch up again soon blah, blah, blah, as I taped the final 'do not crush' tape to the last box and raced to the bathroom, to make myself presentable ... not quite the 'at my leisure' beautifying experience I had planned for the afternoon.

Anyway, lippy in place, boxes in boot and most definitely running late, I hurled myself into the car and ...

... well, for some strange reason, because I never, ever do this, I called the salon to make sure I had the right day ...

... yes, you've guessed it, the appointment I have had regularly for the past twenty years with the same stylist hadn't been booked and no, they couldn't squeeze me in!


Oh and to cap it off, can someone tell me why the drag 'n drop facility on my blog has disappeared?????

Bring on the weekend. Please!

Thursday 11 June 2009

Bellamy aka Ol' Blue Eyes


At last, I can show you the bear I was telling you about in my previous post! Please be upstanding for Bellamy ... (aka 'Ol Blue Eyes!)

23" 'Bellamy'

Those who follow my work, will know this really is my kind
of bear - big, classic and utterly classy! Bellamy was a special commission order and I am delighted with how he has turned out. Working with such beautiful mohair has been an absolute joy; sadly though, this mohair is not always as easy to find as it once was because it's the top end of mohair luxury - it's dense, curly, has fabulous colour and wonderful sheen and needless to say, a price tag to match! However, it is so utterly glorious it's definitely worth hunting down ... I think it would be almost impossible to create a bad bear from it!

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Coming soon!

Just popping in briefly between bouts of stuffing ... I'm working on a beautiful big golden bear for a collector this week, so there's not much time to chat I'm afraid. He's nearly ready though and I know his owner is eagerly anticipating his completion, so it won't be too much longer before I can show him off!

Thursday 4 June 2009

Rag time!

I received a package of beautiful prints and homespun fabrics last week, so between bursts of busy bearmaking behaviour, I've also indulged myself with a little play time and 'Dotty Daydreams' is the result. I love the Debbie Munn print I've chosen for her dress ... I'm not sure if it shows clearly in the photo, but this fabric is loaded with dear little buttons and super cute ladybugs! To keep Dotty in the prim tradition, I soaked her calico bloomers in coffee grouts and baked them in the oven - I'm certain my mother will be horrified by those unladylike stained drawers!

'Dotty Daydreams'

At 20" Dotty is quite a bit taller than the other raggy dolls I've made this year, but she's every bit as much fun! I think she looks as though she's got her head drifting happily through the clouds, don't you?!

Tuesday 2 June 2009

With love from your Big Sis x

Birthday girl!

This little girl is having her birthday today.
She's as wise as her tongue and a little bit older than her teeth ...

Happy 42nd Birthday Sis!

Raggy work in progress!

By the way, she wasn't quite finished in time for the celebrations but four discarded heads later and your raggy is at last underway!

Have a lovely day Tina ... sending my birthday wishes to you old girl,
with lots of love from your big Sis

Monday 1 June 2009

Cue the blues ...

Summertime and the livin' is easy ....

I freely confess to being a fair weather gardener. Out comes the sunshine and I reach contentedly for my trowel and watering can. It has been beautifully warm over the weekend, with not a cloud to be seen - perfect for pottering! Did I tell you last summer that I absolutely love roses? 'Prima Ballerina', 'Peace', 'Wendy Cussons,' they all have such gloriously heady summer perfume and after years of enjoying these beautiful hybrid tea roses in my last garden, planting them againhas been like welcoming old friends to our new garden. On Saturday Stuart and I took drove out to my favourite nursery 'The Potted Garden', to find a climbing rose. After mulling over all the wonderful possibilities we found 'Warm Welcome,' a flamboyantly free flowering, bright orange rose ... I can't wait for it to begin showing off later this month!

So why cue the blues? Well, the perfect accompaniment to a summer's afternoon planting roses, has to be Albert King blasting out on the stereo! Grubbing around in the mud to the sounds of Albert King with Otis Rush, or Stevie Ray Vaughan ... hey, does life get any better than that?!

Our new roses are in bud now, almost, but not quite ready to photograph, so in the meantime, here are a few colourful snaps of my pretty patio bedding plants ... sorry I can't remember what they are called, but aren't the markings on those yellow blooms gorgeous?!


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