Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A bear maker by coincidence?

'The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book' and 'The Teddy Bear encyclopedia' by Pauline Cockrill

In hindsight, I can see my life has more often than not been driven by coincidence and oddly enough, my bear-making career has been no exception. I was quietly browsing through the shelves of my local bookshop one lunchtime in the early 1990's, when I felt compelled to open a particular book ... that book happened to be 'The Ultimate Teddy Bear Encyclopedia' written by Pauline Cockrill.

I have always loved teddy bears and my own childhood bear had discreetly settled into a comfy corner of my adult life, so when I flicked through that beautiful book and saw a very familiar bear looking back at me, my jaw fell open in surprise!  I had no idea then, that my special childhood bear had officially become what was known as a 'collectible' teddy bear!

Me and 'Big Ted' in 1964

And so my love affair with the 'Chiltern Hugmee' began.  It really was as simple as that.  I was so delighted to discover my 'Big Ted' in that book, I couldn't resist checking out all the references in the back pages to see what else I could find ... and there was a hidden gem tucked away - an address for 'The Petersfield Bear Museum' (founded in 1984 by Judy Sparrow) ... only a couple of hours drive from where I was living!

My 1940's Chiltern Hugmee 'Bobby Bear', with a copy of Judy Sparrow's 1993 'Teddy Bears' book.

I was utterly enchanted by the museum - it truly was a magical place and I didn't want my visit to end.  As I reluctantly stepped down into the museum shop on my way to the exit, a wonderful 1940's Chiltern Hugmee bear met my gaze and by a stroke of pure luck, he wasn't an exhibit, he was for sale!  Well, of course, after a chat with Judy and her husband he had to come home with me.  Somehow, I seem to have collected an entire hug of Chiltern Hugmees since then!

Some of my Chiltern Hugmee collection

I have also been privileged to get to know lovely Pam Howells, chief designer for the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company between 1957 and 1967.  Pam was kind enough to make one of her special 'Chiltern Memory' bears for me, back in the early 1990's.

My 'Chiltern Memory' bear, by Pam Howells.

Sadly, the Petersfield Bear Museum closed to the public several years ago, but many of the exhibits are featured in Judy's super book titled 'Teddy Bears', which was published in 1993 by Magna Books. (By the way, there are a few copies currently available on Amazon if you would like to purchase a copy!)

Teddy Bear Times magazine, Issue 10, published Autumn 1992

So how does a passion for teddy bears, turn a bear collector into a bear-maker?  Well, once a collector, always a collector, that goes without saying, but after discovering my first teddy bear encyclopedia and reading every single reference contained therein, I learned teddy bears were also published in their very own magazines and one of those magazines was on sale at a little teddy bear shop, only half an hour's drive away!

One thing, naturally led to another. The cover of the 1992 Autumn issue of 'Teddy Bear Times' magazine featured a lovely old bear reading a book and as an added bonus there was also an article about Chilterns, so I bought a copy, read it as soon as I arrived home and was thrilled to discover that not only were there vintage teddy bears in that magazine, there was a fascinating world of artist bears for me to explore too!

One of my first visits to a Hugglets' teddy bear show, in 1993

It wasn't long before I visited my first teddy bear fair in London, which led to another ... and a mohair teddy bear kit!

'Ivor', a mohair kit bear

My first mohair bear, made from a kit purchased at the 'Rochester Teddy Bear Fair' in the early 90's, was a little lopsided, but I didn't mind at all - I was simply delighted that after all my efforts, he did actually resemble a bona fide teddy bear!

It really doesn't seem possible two decades have passed.  Since 'Ivor', I am proud to have become a real bear maker, creating many, many teddy bears, now residing in collections all around the world.

So now you know the answer - that is how a bear collector becomes a bear maker.  The rest as they say, is history!


  1. very inspiring!!! bearHUGS...

  2. yes, i had the same feeling as you, our childhood playmates, Bear, even they are produced by mass production, may consider an antique pieces after several decade or even past on from one generation to another.

  3. There are no coincidences in life. I truly believe that doors open to show you the path you are meant to be on. You followed yours, it was exactly right. Because now think about where you are in the bear world. For you it is more than making beautiful bears. You have become someone who has gathered bear makers together. It would have never happened if you didn't open that book.

  4. I have always loved teddy bears and have collected a few. Some are very small and are held by dolls in my doll collection. The two collections have always worked well blended together. I've made dolls but never tried my hand at making a bear that wasn't paper mache. Lately after seeing all of the wonderful bears being made by you and other bear makers I feel like giving it a try.

  5. It was lovely reading how you fell in love with bears. It was a lovely story.


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