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 :-)

Friday, 27 March 2015

May dreams come true ..

We celebrated my daughter's first birthday in her new home last weekend and yes, of course Polly was invited to be part of this special family visit.


Although we miss Fay very much, it really is lovely to see her settled into her beautiful flat and after years of being a complete domestic disaster area, I must say, I am taking a great deal of satisfaction from seeing my hopelessly messy daughter, master the fine art of keeping a tidy home at last!  In fact, I am truly delighted to see her so proud of the comfortable home she and Neil are creating together.


As is traditional, there were cards, gifts, birthday cake, candles to be puffed and a special wish to be made ...


And as her mum, I think it's only fair that I too claim a birthday wish for my daughter ... one of dreams coming true with her lovely partner Neil and a long, happy life ahead together.


By the way, the baby in the picture is Fay's nephew, my gorgeous Grandson!


As for a gift, I knew exactly what I wanted ... what else could be more appropriate for my newly independent daughter than her very first sewing machine!


My first camelia bloom of the year was a birthday gift too. Dad gave me the plant for my own birthday many years ago and I carefully transplanted it into our new garden when we moved home just over eight years ago. Surprise, surprise, this year Dad's camelia bloomed its very first flower on his eldest Granddaughter's birthday!

Happiest of Birthdays to you Fay. 
You make me so proud each and every day.
All my love to you always,
Mum xxx

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Finishing Touches

After spending two unsuccessful afternoons knitting in the vain hope a jacket, or cardigan, might suit this bear, yesterday I finally abandoned my knitting needles in a bit of a sulk!


I prefer my bears to be uncluttered, but this particular bear was an awkward sort, seemingly refusing to wear anything at all!  Then I remembered a cute little homespun bib collar I made a while ago and after hunting through the depths of my workroom cupboard, my problem was solved ...  I found the bib collar and it was the perfect finishing touch for 'Bailey' bear!

Happily Bailey was adopted in next-to-no time too!
 :-)

Friday, 20 March 2015

In the Spotlight

As I was updating the Guild of Master Bearcrafters' blog earlier this week (www.masterbearcrafters.blogspot.co.uk) it dawned on me that in my eagerness to showcase Guild members' talents, I hadn't actually added my own 'member profile' since I first started writing the Guild blog!  I found myself scratching my head and frowning as I pondered  my long bear making career, but eventually, did manage to make sense of it all!

So, if you have ever wondered why I have continued to design and make teddy bears for two long decades, I hope this blog post answers your question ...


A word from PAULA CARTER
creator of
'ALL BEAR BY PAULA
Bearcrafter since 1995

UNITED KINGDOM

Paula Carter

My bear making career evolved from a love of vintage English teddy bears since I was a little girl, particularly the wonderful Hugmee bears created by the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company between 1908 and 1967.  I have a small collection of these dignified teddy bears and even now they never fail to inspire my creativity.

Some of my Chiltern Hugmee teddies:  C1930's to 50's

It hardly seems possible it has been twenty years since I designed my first teddy bear; the time has flown by!  Since then I have become immersed in the world of teddy bear artistry and am passionate about helping to steer our beloved teddy safely into his future.

Benjamin

It is never easy to describe one's own work, but if pushed to do so, I think I would say I tend to create in a fairly traditional vein.  Now and again I veer gently towards contemporary with my laughing bears, but mostly my bears hark back towards those gentle Chiltern Hugmee teddies, with their solid proportions and no nonsense charm.

Felicity

For me, a teddy bear should spark a sense of nostalgia and security in his owner, he must be soulful, comforting and honest in his design. My creations honour the teddy bears of my childhood and are protective of his heritage.

Beau was a 2015 Excellence in Bear Artistry award winner

I have been fortunate enough to achieve a collection of international teddy bear crafting and design awards throughout the past two decades and have had my work published many times in specialist publications around the world.  It is of course, always lovely to receive such accolades, but the very best rewards are the smiles and kind words I receive from collectors when they adopt one of my bears ... those smiles are at the heart of my bear making.

A trio of my careworn style teds

As part of my commitment to the future of the teddy bear, I established 'The Guild of Master Bearcrafters' back in 2009.  At the time I had a vague concept of providing a forum which could unite teddy bear makers from around the world, but had no idea it would quickly grow to almost eight hundred international bear crafting members.  I am immensely proud of our members' dedication to creating bears of outstanding creativity and am certain that in their safe hands, the beloved teddy bear will be ensured of a long and happy future.

With hugs and smiles,
Paula xxx

To discover more about Paula's work, please visit her website and blog:



I'd love you to spare a few moments to visit The Guild of Master Bearcrafters' Blog.  I began writing it back in 2013 to showcase incredible bear crafting talent from Guild members.  As you will see, outstanding artist bears are being created all around the world!

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