Friday 31 August 2012

A Tiddly Suprise!

I just heard my little 8" Tiddler clown bear has been honoured with a 2012 'Excellence in Bear Artistry' Award, which as you can imagine, was quite a surprise for this maker of big bears!!!!

8" 'April Fool'

Aptly, this little bear is called 'April Fool' and he has certainly had his fun with me in this competition!

Those of you who read my blog regularly will recall the 'Tiddlers' were a new creative challenge for me earlier this year after many years of making large bears, so I am both amazed and delighted they have received such prestigious recognition.  It just goes to prove it is always worth trying something outside your comfort zone!

April Fool' will now be put through to the final 'Public Choice' award stage of the competiton and the fun part is that now the judges' have had their say, YOU get to vote for your favourites, so please support the wonderful world of teddy bear creation, by taking a moment to cast your votes in each category in this excellent competition: 


Thank you!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Sweet Dreams

She has been a while in the making thanks to all the wedding distractions in my life at present, but I am pleased to say, 'Sweet Dreams' finally made her debut yesterday.

19" Sweet Dreams

I mentioned in an earlier post how difficult it is becoming to source luxury mohair in beautiful colours, so when I hunted through my stash and found just enough of this pretty curly kid mohair to create my sweet-faced girl bear, I was delighted.

After putting my final touches to 'Sweet Dreams' yesterday morning and within a few minutes of photographing her, then sending her details to my mailing list, I received an email from an eager American collector with a passion for feminine teddy bears ... so already it's time to say bye bye Sweet Dreams!

Tuesday 28 August 2012

As only a sister could ...

As it happens, I have a new bear to share this week, but not just yet as she still has beeswax smeared on her nose and is in no state to pose in front of my camera lens! (I'll set up the studio this afternoon and introduce you a little later on ...)

The days have flown past so quickly of late and I know my blog posts haven't been quite as frequent as they should, so in case you've been wondering why, I have been dashing around trying to organise wedding details, having fun with family in the process and generally trying to keep a-pace with real life between times.

Last week my sister Tina drove all the way from Hampshire to spend a day with me.  Her plan was to exert 'Official Wedding Photographer' power over me by making me have a 'pre-wedding' photo shoot, to tackle the sense of discomfort I always feel whenever I need to have my pics taken, as there can be no avoiding cameras on a wedding day!

Tina telephoned the wedding venue to ask permission to visit armed with camera, tripod, light diffuser and bride-to-be and they very kindly obliged.  We then spent a fun hour or so in the grounds, discovering the prettiest spots to take wedding photographs.  Not only should this help save precious time on the big day, it also really helped me relax in front of the camera lens, which is so not something that comes naturally!

Once we'd finished at the venue, we decided to unwind for a couple of hours at beautiful Leeds Castle, which is only a ten minute drive away ...

And here we are! 

This lovely photograph was kindly snapped by a passing gentleman who told us he had been a photographer for more than thirty years - we didn't catch his name, so whoever you are Sir, thank you so much for capturing this image of two sisters who don't live close enough to share many special days each year, making days like this one, even more precious.

On a personal note, I would also like to say a heartfelt 'thank you' to my sister Tina for taking so much care to ensure our wedding day memories are captured forever ... and for making this 'more mature' bride feel at ease, as only a sister could!

If you live in the Hampshire area and would love to have your special memories photographed by my very clever sister, you are most welcome to visit TINA ALLINGHAM PHOTOGRAPHY to find out more about Tina's photographic work.

Monday 20 August 2012

Sturdy Birds!

While many of my bear artist friends are busy preparing for the Hugglets show in a few weeks time, I confess I have been enjoying a little break from my bear making of late.  With the help of my family, our wedding preparations are now in full flow and we are counting down to the big day in a haze of pva glue, string, hessian and heaven only knows what else .. we've been having plenty of creative fun outdoors, that much I do know!

And in the midst of such creative madness, I seem to have become strangely obsessed with orange and peach nail polish - not that I have much left in the way of elegant finger nails, but I'm hoping they'll grow back quickly so I won't be shamed during the exchange of wedding rings!  (By the way, who would have thought choosing the perfect nail colour could be so complicated?  There are an impossible number of shades and I just can't make up my addled bridal mind!)

Me 'n Miss Marple

After so much wedding planning, Stuart and I were both feeling the urge to clear heads and exercise legs on Sunday, so we dusted off our bikes and trundled over to Oaken Wood in Barming, which is about a ten minute ride from home.  The terrain probably wasn't best suited to my ladylike 'Miss Marple' who, quite frankly, prefers a nice smooth stretch of tarmac; nevertheless, we bounced and rattled our way along gravel pathways and woodland trails, quite happily lagging behind Stuart, who reverted to his inner child, having a lovely time sloshing his sturdy mountain bike through muddy puddles!

Urgh! That ain't no way to treat a lady!

He's off!

Every so often Sir Galahad (aka Stuart) would realise he could no longer hear the ol' lady bike clanking along behind him and would dutifully return on his trusty charger to find us ... and there we'd be, gasping for breath at the foot of a slight incline!

My Sir Galahad!

I've fast reached the conclusion, I'm not built for hills and neither is my rather heavy, steel framed, 'Dawes Duchess' cycle!


No matter though, because we sturdy birds do whizzing downhill rather well ... wheeeeeee!!!!!

Homeward bound: shake, rattle 'n roll Miss Marple, for across that field lies my kettle!

I think it's fair to say, me 'n Miss Marple are never likely to win an Olympic gold and yes, perhaps a mountain bike (cover your ears Miss Marple!) would have been the more sensible cycle selection for such woodland trailing - after all, skinny biscuit wheels don't provide quite as much security whilst cycling over tree roots, as one might perhaps prefer.  However!  When all is said and done, it simply can't be denied that 'Miss Marple' does have a comfy sprung saddle large enough to cosset the wobbliest of bottoms, not to mention her tinkly bell for muddy puddle emergencies and of course, the most sensible and handiest of baskets emminently suited to taking care of tool kits (not that I would know what to do with one - hence the bell to call Stuart back) woolly pullies, sucky sweets and ... even a lip gloss should I so require!

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Crafting a wedding!

It is virtually impossible to focus on making my teddy bears at the moment ... I have one beautiful pink and white bear in pieces in my work basket which should have been finished last week, but she's been temporarily relegated in favour of wedding preparations.  As the big day draws nearer, organising the detail dominates my every waking moment and I swear I find myself making lists from lists, even in my sleep!  Our spare bedroom is stacked with booze, balloons, glasses and even a coffee machine, my desk is hidden under piles of post it notes and bottles of bridal nail polish (trying to choose the perfect colour and failing hopelessly to make a decision) and my head is a whirl of flowers, fabrics, fun, food and of course, those all important wedding decorations!

When Stuart proposed to me two years ago, I hadn't a clue how much would be involved in making our wedding happen, beyond fretting about what on earth a second time around 'mature' bride should wear (!)  Thank heavens I have been blessed with an unerringly supportive 'Planning Committee' in Fo (my sister) and her partner Simon, together with the combined talents of our wonderful offspring.  It has been a concerted team effort to ensure our reception will be ready to take place in the beautiful Wormshill countryside in a few weeks' time and we are so grateful to our very special Committee members ... we simply couldn't have done it without them.

This is a 'second time around' marriage for us both, so Stuart and I plan to celebrate our special day in a very personalised and informal way with our families. I have declared I am far too old for traditional white frills ... so instead have been having heaps of fun with the girls getting crafty!

I'm afraid I can't share too much detail today because I want to keep a few surprises for our guests, so I promise to share more pics after the wedding ... in the meantime, here are some snaps of my 'Messy Meeting' with the girls last weekend.  Fingers crossed the weather will be just as gorgeous for our actual wedding day!

Friday 10 August 2012

Endless creativity?

There's nothing quite like parting with a hard earned advertising budget to focus your mind on the future.  I don't advertise in publications very often, so on the rare occasion I do, I might hear a little whisper in the back of my head begging the question: 'Are you sure you want to continue making your bears for another year Paula?'  I guess when you have been making bears for as long as I have (almost two decades!) it's not such a silly question all things considered ... after all, is there a never-ending source of creativity at a bearmaker's fingertips and should it be taken for granted?

This ad will appear in the next issue of 'The Teddy Bear' magazine

I don't think it hurts to question yourself from time to time and in my case, until that little voice in my head stops whispering and shouts a resoundingly clear 'it's time to hang up your stuffing stick Paula', I think it's probably safe to continue planning ahead for another year ... or two ... or ... ????  

My 'Chiltern Memory' bear, created by Pam Howells back in the 1990's

As I've mentioned before, my teddy bear heroine is the lovely, completely unassuming Pamela Howells, who first began work as a teddy bear designer at the 'Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company' way back in the mid 1950's. Pam continues to design her beautiful bears to this very day.  Over sixty years dedicated to teddy bear design is a truly inspirational record; how I'd love to learn Pam's secret to achieving such impressive creative longevity!

So, with that in mind, I've had a quiet chat with my little whisper once more and we've both decided the time has come for me ...

... to part with some of that aforementioned advertising budget again!

Wednesday 8 August 2012

An Indian Summer please!

We're already into August and yet Summer still hasn't  woken from its slumber. There were a few warm sunny days to tease us all a while back, but no sooner had they burst cheerily into our gardens, than rain clouds gathered again.  Before long Autumn will arrive and our non-existent Summer will be a distant memory - but no matter, I love Autumn days and am holding out great hopes for an Indian Summer to grace our wedding day in September!

Wedding preparations have been in full swing for quite a while now and with only a few more weeks until the big day, thankfully the number of ticks on our 'to do' list are multiplying fast.  I'm really looking forward to a 'Girly Messy Meeting' at my sister's house this weekend where, together with our daughters and my son's very 'handy' girlfriend, we will be sewing table coverings, creating garden and table decorations ...  and of course, eating cake.  Should be lots of fun!

So Paula, I hear you ask, why the knitting pic?!  Well, the plain fact is, all consuming though it may sometimes seem, our wedding is not the be all and end all in our family at the moment!  The beautiful baby I am holding in the photograph above is my lovely niece Leah and just before her twenty fifth birthday later this year, she will deliver my Great niece or nephew into the world, making me a Great Auntie for the very first time!  Also, Stuart will be made a Granddad for the second time (this time to a little girl) the week before our wedding ... so you will now understand, 2012 is a very important year for us, for several very special reasons.

To answer your question, the knitting will eventually be a little pram blanket for my niece and is my way of taking time out to relax while the wedding and baby fever mounts.  I also have a knitted teddy bear underway and will no doubt be tempted to knit some tiny matinee jackets for our precious new arrivals too ...

So here's to the warmth of an Indian Summer, bringing with it the safe arrival of our newest family members and a wonderful garden Wedding Day!

Friday 3 August 2012

Worldwide Wisteria

Finding an inspirational palette of mohair colour to work with can be challenging for a bear artist in this day and age of economically safe choices, so thank heavens for the internet!  At the click of a mouse, it is now possible to order from teddy bear suppliers all around the world, which is sometimes necessary if we want to use something a little out of the ordinary ...

20" Wisteria is now available to adopt from

When I recently felt the urge to work with non-traditional teddy colour, I searched high and low in my search to find a really special mohair for what I wanted to be, a very special teddy bear.  I was delighted to discover the perfect luxury kid mohair (such a beautiful quality!) in the prettiest shade of lilac, waiting for me 'down under' in Australia!  

When postie delivered my parcel, I couldn't wait to start work on my lovely teddy girl and now that she's finished, I think 'Wisteria' was well worth the worldwide search ... I hope you do too!

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Pride in the Park

When I first read about the 'conservation and renovation upgrades' planned for our lovely local park, I confess I shuddered.  As those of you who read regularly will know, I have enjoyed walks around the lake in Mote Park for almost forty years.  It is my favourite local haunt and like many local people, I feel very protective of it, a sense of ownership ... so reading news of change in the local paper, filled me with what I am relieved to say has proved to be, an irrational sense of doom.

Walking in Mote Park with my niece 
... almost quarter of a century ago

When Stuart and I visited a few months ago, ground work was well under way for creating new access routes throughout the park, trees had been cleared and much of the park resembled a building site.  We began to see possibilities, but couldn't help but wonder whether the rather radical ground clearance could be of benefit to the park, given the amount of tree and plant life that had suffered ...

View of the lake

We've since been back quite regularly to watch the park recover. New paths now guide the visitor gently, providing natural platforms for spectacular, long lost views.  This photograph of the lake above was taken from one such vantage point.

The Volunteers' Pavilion

The neglected circa 1800's 'Volunteers Pavilion' has been transformed, making a proud statement on the landscape once again!

Visitors to the park now soak up wonderful views from well positioned benches, one hundred fresh young trees flourish, the little 1840's waterfall, once long overgrown, has been restored and a smart new bridge ensures safe passage across the lake!

There is still work to be done of course; the icing on the cake would be new toilet facilities and I look forward to the day when scummy rubbish from the river no longer collects at the foot of the pathway where families gather to feed the ducks ... but all in all, I am happy to say my fears were unfounded, the improvements to Mote Park have been sympathetically planned and carefully executed for the benefit of those who love the park and those who have yet to discover its charms.

Boating on the lake

Here's to many more Mote Park walks for years to come!


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