The deadline for the 2019 TOBY Industry's Choice Awards has now arrived and after a time away from competition work, I decided to stop umming and aahhing and actually enter this year. Not that I am terribly hopeful of success, as my experience of the TOBY Awards has been mixed over the years. That said, I did have the honour (not to mention shock!) of winning a couple of times with entries several years ago, so I guess you never can tell!
You could have knocked me down with a feather when I received notice that my big clown, 'Billy Buttons' had won a 2008 TOBY Industry's Choice Award... my very first TOBY Award!
And in 2011, I was absolutely thrilled to receive the TOBY Award again, this time for my careworn style 'Lonesome' teddy bear.
That said, it has been a good while since I last entered a competition after a disappointment with another competition, regarding an award I won three years ago. Sadly, despite contacting the organiser many times, my trophy was never sent and as competitions are costly and somewhat nerve-wracking to enter, I felt a little discarded after the initial joy of winning an award. As a result, I decided to take a step away from competing for a time. Bear artists invest not only their hard earned pennies, but also fragile self belief, into submitting competition entries and to my mind, organisers should respect that investment.
So, why even enter artist bear competitions?
Well, as I see it, teddy bear competitions are about so much more than who has made the 'best' bear that year. They are about promoting teddy bear artistry as an industry and validating those bearmakers who put heart and soul into their creations. They are also about inspiring creative talent in others, whilst sharing passion for the teddy bear, his heritage and also his future.
My 2019 TOBY Award entries (there are two) have now been submitted so there is nothing else to do but sit back and enjoy the suspense, while judging takes place. I dare say there will be a twinge of disappointment if at least one isn't placed this year, but if that's the case, it certainly won't be the first time and probably won't be the last either!