Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Talkin' 'bout my generation

A while ago my daughter went to a gig with a girlfriend who commented how surprised she was by the more 'mature' audience - my daughter gently pointed out that just because years creep up on a person, their passion for live music and the right to enjoy it doesn't have to end ...

Sir Elton John
Detling Showground
31st May 2015

Before I became a mum more than thirty years ago, my first job was in London, the heart of the 'Music Industry'.  I was responsible for typing anything from invoices to envelopes (yawn!) pouring tea for my bosses, sticking stamps on aforementioned envelopes and generally making myself useful, but the highlight of my daily trek from Kent to London on British Rail, wasn't to work in an office, it was to watch live music in the evenings.  The acts I saw were diverse: up and coming pop rock hopefuls on tiny stages in smokey London pubs, angry punks at Finsbury Park's famous Rainbow Theatre, a mellow yellow Donovan at The Royal Festival Hall ... whatever the act, if there was a ticket or pass available, I would be watching eagerly from the crowd.

Legends of Rock: 
Kaiser Chiefs, Paul Weller and The Who at Hyde Park.
26th June 2015

That was over thirty years and my now fully fledged family ago; if someone had told me then how fast the years fly, I would never have believed them ... back then, time was simply a moment to live in.


After a great night out remembering when we were young with Elton John back in May, my husband and I, now creaking slightly into our fifties and prone to being overly organised and a little too responsible, dusted ourselves down on my daughter's orders and travelled by train to London's Hyde Park, to stand in a leg aching crowd of 65,000 beer and cider swilling fans for over five hours, for the sole purpose of listening to half-century legends of rock The Who talking 'bout their generation.  We also witnessed 'Changingman' Mr Paul Weller woo the crowd with his elite brand of uber cool and the fabulous 'I predict a riot' Kaiser Chiefs, rock it out above and beyond their call of duty. (Incidentally, let it be said if ever someone ought to still be rocking it out in fifty years' time, front man Ricky Wilson should be the man for that job ... what a performer!!!)

I love that age proves no barrier to great musicianship and I also love that crowds gather to share the music which first pounded their youthful hearts several decades ago, but after our Hyde Park excursion, I openly confess to shocked joints (and no I don't mean the kind wafting on the breeze!) screaming for hot baths and Epsom salts.  Next time we feel the urge to remember when we were young, our ticket criteria may well involve seating because young at heart or not, mid life aches are now the signature tune to 'my generation baby'!


Monday, 22 June 2015

Best Ever Dads

It was Father's Day yesterday and for the fifth year in a row, my four sisters and I either metaphorically, or actually, steered ourselves steadfastly past neat rows of 'Best ever Dad' cards displayed in local supermarkets, towards the relief of a more mundane challenge, that of selecting cold meats and cheese ...

The passage of time paints polite smiles on our faces, smiles which if you look closely, probably don't quite reach our eyes in the way they used to when you were here at the heart of us ... 

Dad, we miss you still xxx

But it's true, life does go on and for the first Father's Day in five years, I had a heartfelt smile in my eyes yesterday ...

My son's first Father's Day.
He is a super Daddy and I am so proud of him.

Happy First Father's Day Anthony.
With Much Love always,
Your Muva xxx

Friday, 19 June 2015

Memories of Summer

A fleeting memory of when I was a very young girl; waiting in the car with my sisters at the petrol station while Dad filled the tank and mum bought freesias for our Gran ... such a pretty scent!

Introducing 'Freesia', a Summer clown teddy bear, filled with the warmth of nostalgia.

Happily, 'Freesia' has been adopted.

Wishing you all a beautiful Summer, full of happy memories!


Tuesday, 16 June 2015


Creating a commission for a collector can be a fun process, but it can also be a bit nerve racking as it isn't always easy to tune into the same creative wavelength as a customer.  I find taking time to share ideas before committing to a project, is probably the most important step of the entire commission process.

Once ideas have been exchanged and fabric choices finalised (usually via email) it's then time to begin work ...

For this particular commission, my customer asked me to share work-in-progress photographs as her bear progressed.  It was a useful way of making certain we were both happy with the work ... and it only took a second to share snaps straight from my Iphone as I worked.

In fact, feedback from my customer during the bear making process was invaluable to me and it was fun to see how much she enjoyed watching her bear come to life step by step!

My customer's main directive was that her bear had to be BIG, a clown and created from only the most beautiful, luxury mohair. In other words, right up my creative street and a real pleasure for me to design!

My collector was also kind enough not to rush me to complete her bear, understanding instinctively that the best bears are never churned out quickly, rather they are better created with time built in for their creator to mull during the creative process.

For this bear, I hoped to achieve a  harmony of gentle Summer colour, so was delighted to stumble across Sirdar's lovely 'Crofter' yarn in perfect complementary shades for the scarf I had been asked to knit.

I decided to wait until teddy was completed before searching for his buttons because I needed them to be an ideal shade and texture. After spending several hours online, I settled on lovely chunky ceramics handcrafted by a seller in America.  She shipped them promptly and when I opened the packet a few days later, I was thrilled to see the time spent button hunting had been worthwhile - those buttons were absolutely perfect for my collector's very special Summer clown teddy bear!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Long live the big bear!

When I first began to make bears, for some unfathomable reason, I was always drawn to design new patterns in BIG, then gradually scale them down to more manageable proportions.  I'm not sure how other bearcrafters went about designing their bears back in the mid 90's, but for me, big was and still is, always best.

Monty is a magnificent 25" in height!

There's something immensely satisfying about designing an enormous teddy bear.  A bear to sit proudly, confident of his place in the world and not afraid to make a statement.

Over the years I have found myself reluctantly reducing the stature of my biggest bears to fit with many collectors' requirements for less space hungry teddys, but no more!  Now it's time to bring back my BIG, 'Big 'uns'!

And on that rather defiant note in these space dictated times, I would like to introduce 'Monty', an unashamedly area consuming 25" alpaca teddy bear (shown with Max, an 8" Tiddler bear).  I am happy to tell you 'Monty' was adopted straightaway upon completion, thanks to a keen Twitter follower who had been closely watching work-in-progress pictures published daily from my workroom table, directly to my Twitter feed: 

I firmly believe we should take care not to lose our big bears in favour of more clinical, minimalist homes.  Big bears are such an important element of the teddy bear's heritage and I for one, am proud to do my bit to help keep his heritage secure ... 

Long live the BIG BEAR!!!!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Spring break, then back to work..

Sorry my blog has been so quiet, but I've been enjoying a busy 'holiday-at-home' week while Stuart waits to start his new job.  Rather than holiday away, we decided to take long walks with Polly and between walks, finish redecorating the room that was my daughter's bedroom before she flew the nest a couple of months ago.

I can't lay claim to the decorating itself, Stuart makes a far better job of painting and wallpapering than I do, but I did enjoy blowing the budget to choose all the bits and pieces!

Hucking Woods

Leybourne Lakes

Riverside Country Park

We've been on some super walks with Polly each day; Spring has definitely sprung here in Kent with bluebells and baby lambs everywhere and the countryside as pretty as a picture! It's a beautiful time of year to don a pair of walking shoes and go exploring. 

My son Anthony, with his son Toby

And this year, my little Grandson came too - it was such a joy to share his excitement at being outdoors with us!  I am certain Toby will love walks every bit as much as his daddy always did when he was growing up.

Rainy visit to Emmetts Garden!

One of my favourite visits last week was to Emmetts Garden a National Trust property near Sevenoaks.  It was a rainy day, but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm, the garden was an absolute gem!  These rather whimsical tulips looked as though they had been transplanted straight from Alice in Wonderland ...

And the azeleas and rhododendrons were magnificent too!

Best of all though, were the bluebell woods, thickly carpeted with the most magical display of bluebells I have ever seen ...

There are some superb walks from Emmetts Garden, which are perfect if you are visiting with your dog.  We hopped onto a trail through the woods and needless to say, Stuart opted for the red route, the steepest of the circular walks.  It was worth the effort though, because the views across the Kent countryside were fabulous and after being on her best behaviour in the formal gardens, Polly loved being able to race through the woodland.

All in all, it has been a very busy week, but lots of fun!

So now Stuart has started his new job, I'm back in my workroom to finish the large alpaca bear I started a couple of weeks ago and Polly 's explorations will be restricted to local walks until the weekend.  Holidays never last quite long enough do they?  Ah well, such is life!

Back to bears: as soon as I've organised myself back into my workroom swivel chair, I will share some work-in-progress pics with you; that's a promise!


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 :-)


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