Wednesday 22 April 2015

Crafting a teddy bear ..

I often snap work in progress pics on my mobile phone and recently, after making my traditional 18" teddy bear Elliot, it dawned on me that the photographs might be put to better use if I could make a short video with them.  It took me a little while to figure out how to use 'You Tube', but eventually I arrived at a very simple and I hope charming video, of how I make a traditional teddy bear.  For anyone interested in traditional techniques, I think those I have used are pretty much standard in terms of traditional bear making.  This video could perhaps benefit from being a bit more detailed (a project for another day?!) but even so, does gives a genuine insight into how I bring my own hand crafted teddy bears to life ...

I would love to know if you enjoyed this bear making presentation ... has it inspired you to try your hand at making a teddy bear perhaps?  Please let me know by leaving a comment, thank you!


Tuesday 21 April 2015

Mr Moonshine

Introducing a rather magnificent 22 inch 'Mr Moonshine' ...

One of those bears that just 'clicked' ... so glad I have decided to get back to my big bear roots!

I loved making this bear last week and and am thrilled to say, he sold immediately and will be taking up residence in the USA, thanks to the power of the World Wide Web!

Sunday 19 April 2015

Heart and Soul

Recently, I happened to spot a Tweet about this lovely book written by Jennifer Laing, published way back in 1996, so never one to pass an opportunity to add to my bear making bookshelves, I decided to track down a copy ...

I began my own bear making career in the early 90's, so flicking through this book was a real trip along memory lane for me.  I didn't know all of the antipodean bear makers featured by Jennifer, but did recognise quite a few familiar faces, so it's good to know that although some may no longer be making, others are still busy creating teddy bears 'Down Under'.

'The complete book of teddy bear artists in Australia and New Zealand' sums up that era in bear-making perfectly and also reflects our UK teddy bear industry of the day; it was a passionate period for creating teddy bears!  Back then, the internet was still inaccessible to most teddy bear artists, so the craft of bear making was an isolated process, slowly gleaned and polished through trial and error.  New techniques were cautiously guarded and naturally less advanced than the 'bells and whistles' of today ... but believe me, those simple, heartfelt teddy bears excited collectors and were very quickly adopted.

Sometimes I feel we bear makers may be in danger of losing our way with the pressure to be innovative, not to mention competitive.  As much as I admire the breathtaking artistry of many modern teddy bear makers, I truly hope the soul and passion those early bear artists brought to our craft back in the 80's (US) and 90's (rest of us!) will always remain at the heart of artist designed teddy bears.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Going back to my roots ..

It's been a while since I made a really big bear and I'm feeling the urge to go back to my roots and make some proper BIG 'UNS again ... starting with this lovely fella!

He's my work-in-progress this week, but as you can see, he is progressing well.

And in case you ever wondered exactly how a teddy nose should be sewn, here's a 'nowhere to hide' close-up of my work ... I believe a perfectly stitched nose is an essential ingredient in any top quality artist designed teddy bear.

Well, that's enough chatting, time now to stuff my bear's limbs and assemble him.  I'm not sure exactly how big he will be yet (maybe 22"ish?) but I am sure he'll take more than his fair share of stuffing!

Monday 13 April 2015

My Birthday Boy!

Thirty years ago today, I gave birth to a beautiful 9lb baby boy - which surprised me somewhat, as I had it in mind I was expecting a girl.  I was completely thrilled, but totally unprepared for my son's arrival!

Boys are rare in our family, so Anthony held 'only boy' status until the birth of his own son six months ago ...

Watching my son become a father himself, has been an absolute joy and seeing him share his 30th birthday celebrations with his own son for the first time yesterday, was priceless.

Ants has always been the very best kind of son and when life was tough for us in the past, never failed to be strong for me and his sister.  

I am immensely proud of the man my son has become and because the things that truly matter sometimes don't get said, I'd just like to say ...

 Happy Birthday Boy and thank you for the hugs when I have needed them most.

My love to you always,
Your very proud Muva xxx

Thursday 9 April 2015

Teddy bear making, the process

When I recall my days of making and selling a minimum of three bears each and every week, I realise I must have been driven to work many more hours in my single parent days! These days I prefer to work at a more gentle pace, particularly as my poor hands don't cope so well with long hours any more ... bear making takes its toll on finger joints over time, unfortunately.  Anyway, we should all make a little extra time to smell the roses now and again ... it's good for the soul!

Even a fairly straightforward classic teddy bear takes about twelve solid hours to create - from drawing and cutting out the pattern, trimming the mohair edges by hand to give a professional finish, then pinning the pieces together ready for sewing, setting in paws, stuffing, making the head, assembling, jointing and finishing.  Yes, making a traditional teddy is a very involved process.

So I'd share my latest bear's work-in-progress photos to show the process. The picture above shows a stuffed head with muzzle closely trimmed on top.

I usually pin the ears roughly in place at this point and use a couple of black pins to give me an idea of where to place the eyes. Then I start to scissor sculpt the rest of the muzzle.

I always work on the head first and when I'm happy with the muzzle, move on to nose embroidery.

Once the nose and mouth are sewn, I think the bear really starts to take on his personality!

But as you can see, it's only when the eyes (vintage boot buttons in this case) are inserted, he comes to life ...

When both eyes are in place and he can look straight at me, my teddy bear is ready to be assembled.

After I have jointed the head to the body, I half stuff his limbs and measure where I want to fix them.

When making a traditional bear, the traditional method of jointing limbs and head is to use two hardboard discs, one inside the body cavity and the other in the limb, then make a crown joint using a cotter pin and washers to secure.

When teddy has been assembled, it's time to stuff him, add his growler and close all seams by hand.

Lastly, there are claws to be stitched and ears to be sewn on; again by hand.

To finish teddy, I like to give him a thorough brush with a teasel brush to remove any fur trapped in the seams and generally spruce him up before deciding how to accessorize.  As this is a traditional teddy, I opted for a smart satin bow.

Before teddy can be offered for adoption, I like him to have studio photographs taken for my website as it's important to represent the colour of his mohair as accurately as possible and the Iphone pics snapped in my workshop aren't really suitable ... and of course, a beautiful photograph taken on a decent camera is hopefully worth a thousand words!

So that's the tale of how one of my traditional teddy bears is made.  I may not make quite as many teddies as I once did, but I guarantee each bear I do create is made with as much love and attention to detail as ever his predecessors were.  They are, as always, special teddy bears for special people.

Oh and if you were wondering - yes!  The bear in this post is now available for adoption from my website. His name is 'Elliot'!
Thank you so much for your kind interest :-)

Update: Elliot has been adopted.


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