The roses have been so beautiful this year ... a moment to enjoy these most radiant of flowers is perfume for the soul. Sitting in my deckchair, with sun warming my skin as my dogs play tug together on the lawn, has been a joy since Polly's little sister Betty came to live with us just over a week ago.
At nine weeks old, she is the prettiest and cheekiest of puppies, full of fun, mischief and love. She and Polly have quickly become good friends, eating, sleeping and playing boisterously together. As you can imagine, my bear crafting time has been considerably interrupted by this sweet new arrival, so for the time being, I will need to steal creative moments while she naps!
So, new teddy bears may be slow to appear in the weeks to come, but please bear with me ... I have succeeded in cutting out and pinning a big traditional boy bear from beautiful gold mohair this week, so progress is being made, albeit at a leisurely pace. In fact, both my girls are fast asleep while I write, so I will sign off now and tiptoe up to my sewing machine ...
My sister Fiona's marriage to her long term partner Simon, took place last Saturday. The service was held in a quaint village church, which has stood fast for many centuries, just a few steps along the road from their home. The bride and groom opted for a relaxed stroll in the warm sunshine to Church, Fiona's designer heels carried chivalrously by husband-soon-to-be Simon, as she clomped elegantly alongside him in cheery red wellies, clasping a delightful bouquet of sunflowers and red roses. They looked picture perfect as they arrived to the celebratory peal of St. Giles' church bells.
The ancient church was filled to capacity with family and friends eager to help Fiona and Simon tie their knot and the congregation looked fabulous in bright, summery outfits, exactly as Fiona had requested.
Guests arriving at St. Giles
The planning of Fo 'n Simon's wedding has been very much a family affair. Oone of my favourite pre-wedding tasks was to visit St Giles with my son, daughter-in-law-to-be and Grandson, on the day before the ceremony, to tie children's wellies planted with flowers to the end of each pew. The rows of brightly coloured boots looked absolutely gorgeous as bride and groom walked down the aisle together. After the service, guests collected the wellies and carried them back to decorate the newlyweds' garden reception.
My son and his beautiful family
There were many 'Wormshill Wedding Committee' planning and preparation meetings during the months prior and no detail was overlooked. In truth, there were moments when we wondered if everything could possibly be achieved in time available, but with a concerted family and friends' effort, no detail was overlooked. The result was a wonderfully colourful, crafted celebration, with hand painted signage leading guests to the event, hand made garden decorations, invitations, flower arrangements, order of service cards and of course, a hand made teddy bear guestbook. There were even hand decorated glitter champagne flutes with which to toast the happy couple! The official photography was provided courtesy of our sister Tina and garden lighting, marquee and gazebo construction and a superb hand crafted cocktail bar, were erected thanks to the combined building and electrical skills of the men in our family. Stages designed and built by Simon and his team of family helpers provided flooring for a live band to play our favourite 70's disco tunes and later, for my niece's DJ friend to ensure the music continued through to the wee small hours, for the newlywed's and their guests to dance the night away on the smart, purpose made, black and white checked dance floor.
My husband Stuart and I were asked to give readings during the wedding service - Stuart's from the Book of Solomon and mine from AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh. (I think I had the easier part of that deal!) So on the day, we left early with my daughter and her boyfriend because traffic reports were threatening another nightmarish day of 'Operation Stack'. Thankfully our journey was unexpectedly clear and we arrived in the village with plenty of time to spare, so put it to good use in the Ringlestone Inn's lovely garden. A little Dutch courage soon eased away my pre-reading nerves and I am relieved to say, our speeches to the congregation were surprisingly word perfect!
My boys, collecting up the wellies
Meandering back to the garden reception to celebrate
The Church service was a wonderful beginning to Fo 'n Simon's married life, reminding us all of the solemnity of marriage vows and the meaning behind them, but there was also laughter, song and an important sense of family togetherness throughout the ceremony.
The newlyweds wedding dance
After the solemnity of Church, a celebration into the wee small hours, the best way we knew how! So much colour, music, laughter and love, a garden blooming with happiness for the new Mr & Mrs Winter ... and as a thank you to their many guests, a fabulous first dance, in true Hollywood style!
Not only is Simon now my sister's husband, he is also Stepdad to my two nieces and Grandad to my Great niece Ella, on top of which he has been a great friend to me and my family over the past decade; so I would like to mention how delighted I am to have Simon as my official brother-in-law at last! Not so much a welcome to the family, more a recognition of all you have quietly done for our family over the years ... you have always been a part of it.
And my family pic above, for this post not about me, my kids and my little Grandson, instead a nod to Dad and his presence on my sister's special day. Dad loved their home in Wormshill and the candle and glass of red hanging from the tree branch at the bottom of the garden, was their wedding day tribute to him. He would have loved the celebrations and just like his daughters, would have danced the night away given half a chance, but more importantly, he would have been so happy to see his daughter Fiona, married to his good friend Simon.
So to bring this special post to a conclusion ...
Congratulations Mr & Mrs Winter!
Here's to your future together,
may it be filled with everything your Wedding Day shared with us,
colour, fun, happiness, family, friendship and love ...
and in the words of Pooh bear,
“Oh, Bear!” said Christopher Robin. “How I do love you!”
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
31st May 2015
Before I became a mum 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'!
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 ...
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!
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 ...
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!