I was sorting through a cupboard earlier this week and came across a box of old teddy bear magazines. I had to smile when I pulled out this issue, as it was my first ever front cover, way back in October 1997. The coverstar was my 'Gently', a huge teddy bear with the most gentle expression...
So much has changed in the teddy bear world since 1997...
The arrival of 'internet for all' heralded an explosion of teddy bears online, with collectors discovering exciting new teddy bears at the click of a button. I remember the excitement I felt at taking this new direction when I created my first 'All Bear' website way back in 1999. The opportunity to showcase my work globally from my own home, seemed daunting, yet utterly thrilling too.
Teddy bear shows across the UK, previously the highlight of any bearmaking/collecting calendar, soon began to struggle under the weight of undeniable competition from the World Wide Web. More and more teddy bear artists taught themselves technological skills to sell bears through websites, online auction houses and social media outlets. Who would ever have thought our humble teddy bears would be swept along in a tide of worldwide globalisation and digital revolution?! One thing is for sure, teddy bear artists have certainly had to prove themselves versatile if they want to survive in the fast paced world of the internet!
With so many teddy bear artists offering beautiful bears for direct sale from the comfort of their homes, eventually many bricks and mortar teddy bear shops found they could no longer compete, so beloved teddy bear shops ultimately disappeared from local towns. At the same time, here in the UK we began to notice that the teddy bear magazines we once clamoured to have our work published in, also began to quietly fade away. Favourite monthly publications became bi-monthly, then eventually stopped publication altogether. Ultimately, Hugglets, Teddy Bear Scene and The Teddy Bear Club magazine all went out of print. The immediacy of the internet, featuring latest news and brand new teddy bear designs often within moments of teddy's final ear being attached, seemingly diverting eager collectors' attention.
Shows, shops and magazines have been left in the wake of the digital teddy bear revolution and the thrill of a front cover on a magazine in the UK is now an experience usually only known to six lucky bear artists a year, thanks to the last specialist UK teddy bear publication to successfully withstand the internet onslaught, our old friend of thirty years standing, 'Teddy Bear Times & Friends'.
The online teddy bear business rollercoaster has been a thrilling ride in many ways, but of course, it should be noted that in the race to compete globally, we may have lost a personal touch, not to mention the delicious sense of anticipation and cosy permanence we once took for granted, in the days before the click of an internet button made everything so emminently disposable.