Wednesday 26 June 2013

The Bear Facts

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.

'The Century of the Teddy Bear' by Constance King

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.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Hearts and chewed rose blooms ..

Feeling very pleased with myself because I have managed to complete my five 'Teddy Bear & Friends Picnic' show bears a whole week ahead of schedule!  They will be unveiled on the show website on Friday 28th June and until then, I will be working on finishing an order for 'The Bear Shop' in Norwich ... the first shop exclusive big 'un is an absolute beauty (if I do say so myself)!  There will be plenty of new bears to show you in a few days' time, but in the meantime as everything else is under wraps, I hope you enjoy this Polly update instead ...

Sixteen weeks of large bouncy puppy wreaks havoc on a garden, let me tell you!  She eats my rose blooms, sits in the lavendar chasing bumble bees and even digs holes our lawn ... but I confess, one look into those beautiful soulful eyes turns me to mush!

Caught in the act!

Don't get me wrong, it's not been all hearts and chewed rose blooms, she can be also be a little monster when it suits her ... in fact, after a positive start, I was beginning to despair of ever getting her to walk nicely on the lead when she decided chewing the lead and 'hooning around' was more fun, so I bought a new lead and only then did she decide she would oblige by walking again!  During the past nine weeks, we have been chewed, nipped, sat upon and jumped at ... in fact almost every 'crime' a puppy can commit without being intentionally nasty, has been committed, (including a poo on the carpet - groan!) but when all is said and done, she has already learned so much (thankfully including how to do her business outside!) and continues to teach us how best to teach her.  I am happy to report her 'sit' 'stay' 'down' 'come' 'shake hands' and 'walking' are coming along beautifully now.  (We're still working on 'off the couch Polly'!)

She's cheeky, loving, exuberant and curious ... and we haven't laughed so much in a long while!

Oh and did I mention she's a fast learner too?  The photo above was snapped after her first spontaneous swimming lesson in the river a couple of weeks ago ... a chocolate lab dived in to fetch a stick and before we knew it, our Polly followed his example and jumped in for a doggy paddle too!

I can't tell you how happy I am this bundle of naughty puppy has come to share our lives; she has already become a very special member of our family and as a bear maker at home, I honestly haven't felt a single moment of loneliness during the day since she arrived ... and for that I will forgive her every single rose bloom in my garden if necessary!

Thursday 20 June 2013

Summers Past ...

Every time a hint of Summer breaks through the clouds here in the UK, it seems the weather changes and back to square one we go ... the big question is, will Summer ever arrive to stay?!

'Rosa' 2009

I have been looking through my portfolio of past Summer designs in search of a little 'sun-spiration' this week and thought I'd share a few with you ... I hope they brighten your day!

'Peony' 2008

'Kefalonia' 2010

'Sunshine' 2008

'Calypso' 2009

'Lavendar-Lou' 2011

'Mabel' 2009

'Raspberry Ripple' 2008

And last but by no means least, a ray of sunshine from one of my all time favourite teddy bears, the fabulous 'Sunny Jim' - created for 'Dare to Care' in aid of the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) way back in 2006.

'Sunny Jim' 2006

Would you believe it, as I type the heaven's have just opened, the skies have darkened and yes, there's a chill in the air!  So much for 'Flamin' June', hmph!

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Paws in Pink

Today I would like to draw your attention to 'Paws in Pink', a heartfelt, very personal venture, set-up by my friend Melanie Jayne, creator of 'Bear Treasures', to support the 'Breast Cancer Care' charity in memory of her dear mum.  I hope you will visit the 'Paws in Pink' blog and Facebook page and if possible, send a donation and enter the raffle to show your support. Thank you xxx

Paws in Pink on Facebook

Paws in Pink Blog

Paws in Pink - Just Giving Donation Page


'Paws in Pink' is a group of teddy bear artists who have come together to created very special artist teddybears, donated to raise money for the 'Breast Cancer Care' Charity.

Paws in Pink for Breast Cancer Care was set up in memory of Melanie Jayne's mum Susan Culshaw, who died from breast cancer at the age of 51 and also to create a very special way to celebrate what would have been her 60th birthday in June 2013.  Paws in Pink is dedicated to all people who have suffered and survived breast cancer.

The first charity event will take place in June 2013 and will run until the end of July 2013.  The five teddybear artists who have created and donated special bears for our first charity event are Melanie Jayne - Bear Treasures, Lynette Littlejohn - LJ Bears, Susan Smith - Kesseys Bears, Amanda Ferguson - Honey Pot Bears and Sandra Piper - Skye Rose Bears.

All donations taken during the June and July 2013 fundraising event are taken through Paws in Pink for Breast Cancer Care Just Giving page and all donations go directly to the charity.

Saturday 15 June 2013

Meadow, A Picnic Preview!

At last I am allowed to share a peek of one of my 'Teddy Bear & Friends Picnic' show bears!  As you can see,  I have embraced the summer picnic theme with my hippy chick entry 'Meadow' ... after a washout Spring, I think it's about time we all enjoyed some sunshine in our lives!

16" 'Meadow'

The show preview is now open and you are invited to vote for your favourite preview bears including an overall 'Best of show' entry, so please visit the link below to see all the wonderful preview creations, then take a moment to vote, thank you!

This enchanting online webshow will run from 28th June to 30th June and there will be many more fabulous bears and 'friends' available to add to your collection, from a wealth of talented international teddy bear artists. 

I hope you can visit and share this very special occasion with us!

Friday 14 June 2013

The gift of knowledge

Dad's book was never written.  He catalogued many photographs from his seventy four years on this planet, with the intention of telling his life's story one day soon, but when it came to sitting still and getting the job done, Dad's final Autumn blazed so beautifully, he simply couldn't resist the call of his garden.  In hindsight, I think I knew he had a sense of something significant on the horizon; he told me he needed to finish his book, but wasn't sure he would be around the following year to write it, but Autumn was so glorious in 2010, I laughed off his comment and told him his book would wait until the winter months.  I couldn't imagine a day when he wouldn't be around to enjoy his garden ...

As the years slipped by, it became more and more important to Dad that when the day finally came and he was no longer with us, there would be a record of his life, something to show who he had been, what he had seen and what had been most important to him.

He needed us not to forget him ... as if we ever could.

Dad left us without warning on 18th September 2010 and as I wrote the eulogy for his funeral it became clear to me that although his book was never written, everything Dad truly needed us to know, he had already shown, or told us.

To write his book would have meant temporarily putting real life on hold whilst re-living the past and Dad really wasn't a man to do that.  He was a 'do-er', a larger than life character eager to experience life and carve his niche in the world, not the kind of man to sit down and write a book!

So Dad, don't worry, you never could have been forgotten.  You are with us always and of course we miss you every day ... but not only that ... as your daughters, we celebrate who you were with pride, love and also with the knowledge you shared.

We may not have the written dates and details of your early travels and experiences, but that's not important - what is important is that you were our Dad and you taught us about life in a way no-one else could have done.

Happy Father's Day xxx

Monday 10 June 2013

In 'other news' ..

I'm sure you must think I've been hopelessly distracted by my puppy Polly since she arrived six weeks ago, as I have had no new bears to show you lately, but I promise, there are some super new creations being brought to life behind scenes.  I'm afraid I can't share these oh-so-secretive bears with you yet because one of the rules of the 'Teddy Bear and Friends Picnic' show is that all participating bears and friends must stay under wraps until the big day ... June 28th!

So in 'other news', Polly has been having a lovely time out walking and loves to bumble around the 'yellow field' close to our house -  sad to say, this beautiful area is threatened with a housing development in the near future, which is such a shame ...

On Sunday we had a super day at my sister's home in Wormshill ... the dogs played happily in the garden, while the boys started work building a spiral staircase into the ash tree at the bottom of the garden and we girls did what girls do best, drank coffee, ate cake and nattered!

Cuddle time with Auntie Fo

Polly had a wonderful time in the garden with her handsome new pal Bugsy and his bouncy buddy Marley (my niece's labrador) and between chases squeezed in plenty of cuddle time with all her people!

Saying hello to Leah and Ella

Building a spiral stairway into the ash tree!


So as you see, we've had another fun weekend in the fresh air ... bit chillier this weekend though!  (I wonder when Summer will arrive?) Back to working on my secret bears today and as Polly is pretty tired after her weekend chasing with the big boys, I think I'll be able to work for a few hours this afternoon, while her ladyship catches up on her beauty sleep!

Monday 3 June 2013

A very splendid Sunday!

The sun shone, the birds sang and yesterday morning I was up with the larks to help my niece prepare for her beautiful baby girl's Christening Day.  All hands were on deck at the celebration venue laying out a fine spread for baby Ella's party, before we walked back through Aylesford village in our finery, to St Peter and St Paul's Church, where we shared a lovely family service and welcomed Baby Ella officially into the wider Church family and of course, to our own.

My Great niece Ella on her Christening Day
with proud Mummy and Daddy, Leah & Gary.

Relatives drove from far and wide to share Ella's very special day and to show her just how important she is to us all.  We watched  proudly as her parents and Godparents pledged to take care of her, then family and friends joined together to celebrate Ella's new life in traditional style, with music, balloons, chat, gifts, cards, a magnificent tiered cake, dainty cupcakes (made by my son's talented girlfriend) and a table heavily laden with tasty tidbits.

  Mummy Leah and Ella

Little Ella chatted with her guests for as long as she could manage, before excitement overwhelmed her and she dozed off in mummy's arms.

Daddy Gary and Ella

Sharing the baptism of a new life is a rare privilege and as Ella's Great Auntie Paula, I couldn't have been more delighted to share in her very splendid day!


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