I am a child of the 1960's and like many children of my generation, received special teddy bear on my first birthday. He was a magnificent 20" Chiltern Hugmee teddy bear and I am proud to say, I still have him. As many of you will already know, this bear led me into my teddy bear making career, first by introducing me to other bears through books, then visits to museums, and eventually to shows and of course, artist bears.
With my first Chiltern Hugmee - 1964
I have always found the history of childhood and especially the teddy bear, intriguing and for that reason, have been drawn to creating my own bears in homage to the traditional teddy. It is important to me to play my small part in helping him continue into the future in the way he was first conceived and to protect his rich heritage.
That said, I also believe there will always be room for artistic interpretation and I hope everyone interested in making 'teddy bears' for whatever reason, can take a little time to study the subject, as there is much to be learned from history - for one thing, it soon becomes clear very few new design ideas are actually ever completely 'new'! Many innovative designs were first explored during the last century of teddy bear making and following teddy's manufacturing hey day, it shouldn't go unmentioned that the very first American teddy bear 'artists' in the early 1970's/80's, introduced creative flair and inspirational passion to the craft of teddy bear design which in my view, paved the way for the rest of us bear makers today.
If you would like to learn more about the history of teddy bears and their design, there are some fascinating books to read. 'The Century of the Teddy Bear' written by Constance King, offers a particularly insightful and wonderfully detailed, historical understanding.
Great teddy bear reads by Leyla Maniera, Pam Hebbs, Michelle Brown & Sue Pearson
The books above were written by some of my favourite, most knowledgable teddy bear authors and feature a wealth of teddy bear facts and fabulous photographs, throughout the decades.
'The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book' by Pauline Cockrill
Pauline Cockrill's 'The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book' was the first reference book I ever read on the subject of teddy bears and the picture of 'Leon' above, was directly responsible for leading me into the wonderful world of teddy bears. I was flicking through this book in a shop one afternoon and noticed the bear in the picture was closely related to my own Chiltern Hugmee bear ... the rest as they say, is history. Pauline also wrote 'The Teddy Bear Encyclopedia', another terrific book worthy of your bookshelf!
Dee Hockenberry and Steiff
'Bing Bears and Toys' by leading expert Ken Yenke
Of course, no self respecting teddy bear bookshelf should be without at least one tribute to the all-important Steiff company. Also, for me, Dee Hockenberry's beautiful photographic books featuring both antique and artist bears, together with Ken Yenke's study of Bing bears and toys, are a 'must have' indulgence as the bears featured in their pages are stunning!
'Teddy Bears' by Kathy Martin
Finally, a mention for a very special book written by the talented Kathy Martin. This is a book of which I am immensely proud as Kathy has generously included my work. 'A Collectible History of the Teddy Bear' pays tribute to both contemporary teddy bear makers, antique bears and character bears. It's a really interesting read, particularly if you are keen to learn more about more notable teddy bear artists from more recent times.
There are many other great reference books (a collection of which also reside on my workroom bookshelf!) but these are a few of my firm favourites and I hope by sharing them with you, they trigger a yen to delve deeper into the wonderful history of our long loved teddy bear.