Friday 25 February 2022

Weaving a gentle magic



Years ago I established 'The Guild of Master Bearcrafters', celebrating the work of teddy bear artists around the globe. Our group ran successfully for many years, uniting the creative work of many international bear artist members. Some of the most outstanding and imaginative creations presented on the Guild, were designed by talented teddy bear makers from both Russia and Ukraine, teddy bear makers who seemed to weave a gentle magic through their work. I was always in awe of their skill and learned much from their inspired vision of the teddy bear.

To hear this week of the invasion by Russian military forces into Ukraine is both shocking and heartbreaking. To think of the fear now instilled into the lives of the creative people I knew as talented needlecraft and soft sculpture artists from both countries, makes no sense to me. To think of the wider issues implied by this act of aggression from one country to another, is simply too frightening to fully comprehend...

The teddy bear makers I knew from both Russia and Ukraine, worked with a passion for their craft, inspiring creativity in others as they pursued gentle, homebased businesses, creating teddy bears to share with the wider world. They were deft with their needles and generous with their knowledge.

They don't deserve this war.

No one deserves this war.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Teddy bears, a tradition



Not that I don't enjoy the challenge of contemporary design, I do very much, but traditional bears were my first love and they still tug at my heartstrings today ...

In fact, I remember my early classic bears as old friends.  'Becks' and 'Scrump' for example, two gold teddy bears made by my sister and I way back in the mid 1990's.  They were made from glorious kid mohair in two alternative shades of gold. As sisters, we didn't collaborate beyond choosing the mohair together over a cuppa and yet when completed, our bears looked just as though they were brothers, meant to be together!

Then there was Orwell, another early 90's bear, beautifully big and totally traditional. I think I made about ten of these bears for collectors around the world, but never kept one for myself ... now I so wish I had!  I recall being absolutely delighted with my 25" teddy bear because it was the first time I felt as though I had succeeded in creating the kind of teddy bear I would truly like to buy for myself.

Not long after Orwell, came 'Timeless', a whopping 26" growler of a teddy bear. I made him for the  final Hugglets' 'Festival of Artist Bears' show in Stratford Upon Avon, in the mid 90's.  I stood behind the exhibition table with my sister Fiona and as the doors opened, a lady flew across the room to scoop him into her arms ... we watched as she fell hook, line and sinker in love on the spot! We had a super time at that show standing among the most famous bear artists of the time ... it was a completely thrilling day for two bear-making sisters, quite new to selling their own range of handmade teddy bears!

Luckily for me, traditional bears really are timeless and a decade later they were still very much in demand.  'Gorgeous George' was another bear of whom I was immensely proud. I gave this bear a gentle nod to modernity by introducing hand painted glass eyes and subtle shading to the eye socket, which really brought him to life.

Leaping forward several years, reminds me of dear 'Bellamy,' a magnificent 23" bear commissioned by a devoted gentleman collector.  Fabulous German mohair helped me achieve this very handsome bear ... there is definitely something about kid mohair, which lends itself to creating teddy bears of distinction.

I have designed many, many traditional teddy bears over the years, some large, some smaller, but all with a special simple charm. There is no doubt in my mind, traditional teddy bears should never grow old or become outmoded. They are bears to care about, bears to cherish and most definitely bears to take with us into the future. They are where the teddy bear began and have earned their place in every collection.


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