Tuesday 31 May 2011

Walking the walk ...

As you may or may not know, I am the person behind 'The Guild of Master Bearcrafters' (www.masterbearcrafters.ning.com) an internet group I set up a couple of years ago, to help professional bearcrafters promote and progress the concept of 'artist bear'.  With that aim in mind, I recently challenged willing members to explore new styles of bearcraft and incorporate at least one bear crafting technique hitherto alien to their work.

The results are rolling in now and I must say, I am delighted with the commitment our Guild challengees have shown to this project!  I have been a somewhat shamed by my own limited efforts after being compromised by a lack of available design time when a shop order was suddenly pulled forward, but nonetheless, I did manage to have a go at a couple of things I haven't tried before.  There's no point talking the talk, if you're not prepared to walk the walk eh?!

I haven't made a truly contemporary bear in a noticeable while, so opted to tackle a tricky open-mouthed bear with bendy legs and hugging arms; however as these elements weren't entirely new to me, I also decided to introduce eyelashes for the first time and to create pulled toes, which I nervously shaded ... one false move and I was terrified I would ruin my new bear!

Spurred on by my fellow challengees' enthusiasm for the challenge, I decided to squeeze in one last element to complete my 'Something old, something new' design, by creating a prim style rabbit companion - another first for me.

And here is my finished Guild challenge piece:  'Felicity finds her bun'!

It's hard not to be inspired by other artists' enthusiasm for a project, but I am particularly grateful to my Guild friends for this push ... they don't know this, but my laughing bears were always Dad's favourites and I haven't felt able to make one since he died last Autumn. 

Thank you all for being such an inspirational force xxx

Guild member Tami Eveslage created two fabulous bears for this challenge!  Please visit Tami's blog to read all about her approach to the challenge:  

Monday 30 May 2011

Bouncy, busy, buzzy-ness!

When we moved my workroom into my son's old bedroom after he flew the nest earlier this year, we were left with one empty bedroom and a six year old keen to 'sleepover' at Grandad's house ... cue Stuart's paintbrush!

Our new 'Grandson friendly' guestroom!

This weekend was the young man's first official houseguest visit and I am happy to report, there were absolutely no collywobbles, in fact he settled in perfectly and we all had a lovely time.

Gardening with Grandad

I must admit, now that my own children are grown-up and independent, I absolutely loved having our home noisy and full of bouncy, busy, buzzy-ness again.  Come again soon young 'un!

Thursday 26 May 2011

A Prim Dolly Doodle Dangle Bun!

I've been working on a special 'Something old, something new'
challenge project for the 'Guild of Master Bearcrafters' (www.masterbearcrafters.ning.com) recently and although I'm not quite ready to share the finished bear with you just yet (soon I promise!) I can at least show you a peek of the 'Something old' part of the challenge ...

I had so much fun making this daft little dingly dangly, prim style rabbit from an oddment of leftover mohair ... now I feel a basket of scrappy dappy buns coming on!

Monday 23 May 2011

What lies beyond ...

Driving home after a visit to the cinema at the Dockside complex in Chatham on Saturday night, I noticed a signpost to 'Riverside Country Park'.  My geography is hopeless, but even I know the 'Medway Towns' are sited along the River Medway - however, my sleepy little post 'Pirates-of-the-Carribean' head briefly pondered how an entire 'Country Park' could possibly have been squeezed into such a heavily urbanised area.  So after lunch yesterday afternoon, Stuart and I drove back along the A2 to satisfy my curiosity ...

We turned right at the 'Honourable Pilot' pub in Gillingham, then took a couple more turns and in the blink of an eye, the townscape vanished and we were pleasantly surprised to be driving past horses grazing peacefully in green pastures.  (In fact, Stuart confessed to driving to nearby Gillingham football stadium every week throughout the footie season for the past thirty years, without ever realising how different the landscape was just along the road!)

View towards Kingsnorth Power Station

Once parked, we climbed wooden steps and there before us lay the Medway Estuary with a view of the Kingsnorth Power Station contrasting dramatically against the horizon.

Across marshland, towards Motney Hill

We were buffeted by sea salty gusts along the estuary pathway towards Motney Hill and then followed the coastal path along the Saxon Shore Way.  For me, part of the charm of this walk was not only the outstanding beauty of the area, but also old boats, long since abandoned, now claimed by Mother Nature and woven into her landscape.

View from 'Horrid Hill'

Our walk along the coastal path lasted about an hour before we decided to head back to the visitor centre, by which time I was wildly windswept and very much in need of an ice-cream!  Our final stroll of the afternoon, ices in hand, led us across a causeway to 'Horrid Hill' (possibly named after French prisoners were incarcerated on large ships on the island during the Napoleonic Wars) ... definitely a place with a grim history!

Wrecked on Horrid Hill!

We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon at Riverside Country Park.  The views were interesting and the terrain not too taxing ... having said that, on an icy November's day I imagine it could be a very bleak walk!

If you would like to visit, please visit the website below for directions:

Thursday 19 May 2011

Ever wondered ... ?

Ever wondered how to embroider a stripey nose for your bear?

I make my striped noses very simply.  No templates, no glueing, no measuring.  Just plain 'ol stitching and careful tensioning!

I always start in the centre and work out to the side ... then back to the centre and out to the other side.  My noses require two layers of stitching.  To make a stripey nose I simply use two separate coloured threads and two sewing needles and stitch one, then the other.

Alternatively, multi-coloured embroidery thread gives a great effect too!

This is a fun, simple way to give your bears even greater personality - go on, give it a go, you know you want to!

Monday 16 May 2011

Another for the bear maker's bookshelf ...

I'm always on the lookout for good bear-crafting books to share with you and found this book quite by chance a couple of weeks ago.  It was first published in 1998, so you may have to hunt to find it and be warned, it can be on the pricey side ( my copy was about £30 on Amazon) but for anyone wanting a good solid teddy bear making reference book full of detailed instructions and with plenty of helpful photographs, this book really is a useful purchase.

The Complete Book of Teddy-Bear Making Techniques
by Alicia Merrett & Ann Stephens

The book covers in detail everything from how to design your own jointed teddy bear pattern, through to making a classic bear - in fact, it explains all aspects of traditional bear-making from cutting out, to sewing limbs, 
jointing, assembling fitting eyes and even sewing on those fiddly ears!  It also covers making clothes for your bear and the techniques required for making miniature bears.  As the icing on the cake, there's a lovely gallery of artist bears featured in the last chapter, giving you an opportunity to enjoy the original bear art being created back in the 1990's! 

Definitely a great book for anyone who likes to collect bear-making books and a most useful book for anyone who would like to learn how to make their very own teddy bear!

Wednesday 11 May 2011

The Shabby Summer Collection

This little collection of shabby ol' bears is on its way to 'One More Bear', a lovely teddy bear shop on the Trentham Estate in Stoke on Trent. 

12.5" Pippin, 16" Merrylegs and 15" Lavendar-Lou

My bears will debut in the shop in the next day or two, so if you happen to be passing, please pop in to meet them in the fur and say 'hi' to Tracy, the proprietor of 'One More Bear'.

The Trentham Estate offers award winning gardens to enjoy, a fabulous monkey forest, eateries and a wonderful shopping village.  It really is a super day out for everyone!

Tuesday 10 May 2011

A good talking to ...

It's unusual for me to have unadopted bears on shelves in my workroom, but at the moment I have three lonely souls, waiting patiently for their special someone. Naturally I can't help but wonder what is wrong with my work ... it's silly I know, but I'm sure most creative types suffer along similar lines of self-doubt.  We're only human after all.


Like everyone else, I listen to daily news bulletins full of economic doom and gloom and for a brief moment commonsense rationalises my thoughts, but then that nasty little devil of self-doubt perches on my shoulder slyly whispering in my ear, 'three bears Paula, that's not like you ... you must be doing something wrong!'

Well little 'Devil of self-doubt', I think it's time to tell you to hop off my shoulder and find something more constructive to do with your time.  With two major awards under my belt in 2011, two forthcoming magazine profiles and every bear bar three sold this year, perhaps those news bulletins are telling the truth, maybe our financial times really have become tougher ... and in that case, maybe my hard-earned bear crafting skills didn't vanish overnight!


Let's hope the economic climate warms up soon ... after all, our bears may be a luxury, but they certainly aren't an unnecessary one!

If you are interested in adopting any of the bears shown above, please pop over to my website for their full details:

Thank you!

16th May Update: I'm delighted to say both Bramwell and Boswell have found lovely new owners in the past week!  Henrietta is currently still available to purchase.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Catching sunbeams ...

When I heard I'd won a TOBY Industry's Choice Award back in January of this year, I was absolutely delighted, particularly because it proved to me that my 2008 TOBY win wasn't a one-hit-wonder.  I knew it would take a while for the coveted crystal award to travel all the way from America and by mid March, was eagerly waiting for postie to knock on my door. 

But when it still hadn't arrived by mid April, I became concerned and emailed the organiser of the TOBY Awards.  Fortunately my precious shipment had been sent tracked and on checking, it transpired had been sat at the delivery depot here in the UK since early March, but the courier company had carelessly failed to let me know!  Not only had they attempted delivery and not bothered to leave a 'you were out when we called' card, but they also completely failed to notify me of a customs duty charge which apparently needed paying.

Needless to say, I was pretty grumpy about having to pay customs £22.61 for the pleasure of receiving my award (!) but not half as grumpy as I am about the inadequacy of Parcelforce's administrative system - presumably if I hadn't been able to hunt my parcel down, it would have soon been returned to sender, and sent back all the way across the Atlantic!

After gritting my teeth whilst parting with my credit card details, I waited a further 48 hours until finally my 2011 TOBY Industry's Choice Award was delivered to me ... 

TOBY Industry's Choice Awards 2008 & 2011

And at long last it is now sat safely with my 2008 Award, catching sunbeams through my workroom window.  I think you'll agree, despite all the palaver, it was well worth the wait!

Tuesday 3 May 2011

An almost tragedy.

Herein lies the almost tragic story, of one greyhound, his owner and a handy big sister bearmaker.  Teddy bear devotees please be warned, this story contains graphic imagery!

This poor little artist bear almost met the most dastardly of endings, when one of my sister's foster greyhounds mistook him for a rabbit ... 

He was quickly dispatched to my workroom for urgent surgery ...

Bear created by German artist Doris Minuth

And I am happy to report, this lucky little fellow made a successful recovery and will soon be safely back home where he belongs ... 

... well out of reach of any marauding greyhounds!


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