Sunday, 9 July 2017

A new Panda

Petrarch the Panda

A fellow bear artist recently asked me if I would make a bear for him, and he had a previous design in mind.  So with a certain trepidation because I don't really like going back to older designs, I waited while we found the appropriate picture on my website.   The preferred bear turned out to be a Panda, from quite a few years ago, and since I hadn't made one for a while, and the idea very much appealed to me,  I happily agreed.

This of course prompted me to think about making other Pandas before embarking on the requested one, which is quite large, and I wanted to make a new smaller one too, the commission bear will come in due course but I was keen to make a small one first.

When ever I think of making  Panda I create my own challenges.  It must still look like one of my bears yet have proportions which are more Panda-like.  And of course the obvious black & white pattern requires some decision about where the joins are, and, because I don't like straight line joins on them, a number of opposing curves to sew.  Then there are the eye patches, I really don't like resorting to fixing them on  top of the white cloth, marginally better than using a marker pen or airbrush but I feel that I must make them as a sewn in part of the of the pattern.  Fiddly to say the least but I have found a helpful technique which helps but it is still only practical down to a certain size.

So I set out to create a Panda under 12 inches, and I have just about managed it,  he is 12.5 inches to the top of his ears.   I think a smaller one would have to have applied patches for his eyes !   I am calling these Panda Teds, he is not supposed to be a realistic Panda, but a ted with leanings towards Panda shape and proportion. He isn't black and white either, I used black mohair alongside a pale wheat colour over a pale gold cloth, a personal preference to the plain white.

Designing him, making test pieces, all the hand sewing combined with my increasingly arthritic hands took 6 days, perhaps I make too much heavy weather of things but it is the only way I know, and at least I can be confident I have done my best.

So thanks to a commission I have completed a little project which I thoroughly enjoyed, he was listed for my mailing list and I had one of the biggest, most enthusiastic responses and he was sold immediately.  Lovely and very encouraging after all the worrying and fiddling designing and making him.

Needless to say I will be making more of them.

New bears are listed on my website at

To be added to my mailing list please email me at

Friday, 29 July 2016

A bear named Daisy

Customers and friends often ask me about how I think of designs for bears, how long they take to make, do I dress bears ? And, one of the questions which comes up is whether, or not, I make female bears.   I suppose the truthful answer is that I am not entirely sure how a bear appears female when it is finished, so I have rarely actually set out with the intention of a bear being female.  I made a set for a charity auction many ( many ) years ago which was called mother and cubs.  The cubs were smaller and more cubby in proportion, but the parent bear could have just as well been father from its appearance, since it was a "grizzly" type bear with no means of indicating gender by clothing.

I made a little tableau once,  I purchased doll house scale accessories and built a kitchen in a cave.  I had a table covered in food of all kinds, a cooking range and just about everything a cave kitchen would need, and to take charge of this kitchen I made the single smallest bear I have ever attempted, probably only about 4 inches tall, possibly even smaller ( no I am not making another one, I don't even have the pattern any more ).    The little bear was unclothed, I hadn't considered its gender but almost everybody who saw the piece assumed it was a mummy bear preparing food for the family, so the conclusion was reached due to their gender role perception, not any intent on my part.  The original owner sold it on and I have no idea if it still exists, I have no photos but if anybody out there knows the whereabouts of "bear in kitchen" I would like to know if only to have a photograph.    Anyway the point being that I didn't consciously make a female because I wouldn't really know how.

Sometimes a bear becomes female simply because I have been inspired by a name, I once named a bear Rosa, it was red ( rose ) and white in a panda design and I had been listening to recordings of Rosa Ponselle ( if you don't know who she was take a moment to google her name, feel ashamed for not knowing and listen to the lady who some regard as the stand out great Soprano of all time ) .

Many people dress bears quite elaborately and thus many become female because of their attire, I have never really dressed bears beyond a waistcoat, so even then gender is not necessarily obvious.

However recently I was following on Facebook the development of a litter of Newfoundland dog puppies, 2 boys and a girl.  One of them was a particularly fluffy, chunky adorable white and black one, one day a picture was captioned with the name chosen for her,  "Daisy" it just seemed perfect and if I had been lucky enough to be able to adopt her I would have happily called her Daisy.  And that's how I ended up naming a bear Daisy, I have never done it before but I set out to make that bear look as cute and fluffy as Daisy.  I think I achieved lady bear just by softness and perhaps leaving her face fuzzier than usual, and by chance I found a piece of vintage cloth in my mum's childhood supply of doll making materials.    I did start to make Daisy a little dress from the fabric which had blue daisies on it, but it was heading more towards lampshade so I abandoned that in favour of a generous and flamboyant bow. 

Her pictures received many kind compliments on Facebook, some people remarking that they like my girl bears, so I have resolved to make some more, having said that I am still not sure how, but watch out because I think I may have to make a dress for the next one.  Daisy is the smallest size pattern I use at the moment and she stands at just under 8 inches tall.

Incidentally and entirely a co-incidence, Daisy and her namesake puppy both went to their new owners on the same day.

Daisy has a new home already but detail of availability and more information can be found on my website

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Attention to detail

If you have visited my website, or looked through my Facebook pages, or even my Twitter Feed, you might notice that I never really make much commentary about my bears.  I have a brief outline of what I do and my ideas in fairly broad terms but I don't really go to much detail about techniques. I don't show work in progress often, I am too untidy and it just looks a mess.  I have always left it to others to comment on the merits or otherwise of my work. If I have ever mentioned such things it is more likely to be here on my blog which I seem to have neglected lately.

However, I did something recently which I am  going to mention because I am proud of having found the patience to tackle it. 

I made a new bear, I had given him an inset snout in a lighter colour to create a contrast  on this particular pattern I had made changes to give him a longer snout and I wanted to soften the division between the colours. 

The usual way to achieve this softening is to use ink and airbrush to blend and shade.  I have never got on with airbrushing, I had a nasty experience with a whole bottle of lightfast waterproof ink and my carpet many years ago and vowed never to go near an airbrush again.

Anyway my solution was to harvest individual tufts of hair from each colour cloth and replant them across the bridge of the snout so the transition between the colours was slower.  Its something I have done before to restore lost tufts on an old bear but to undertake the grafting on a new bear and be able to do the work economically is probably rather rash.  I spent the best part of a day underneath my magnifying lamp and I am pleased with the result but as I finished I wondered if anybody would notice so I decided that, just for once, I would blow my own trumpet and say that this was very fiddly indeed, I am proud of the result but no,  I probably wont do it again.  To give you an idea of the scale, the bear, Greville, is about 10 inches tall.

Greville is already sold, other bears become available on my website at

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Shrinking bears again

This is becoming a regular theme.  This time I decided it was time that the six-joint standing bear should be treated to a smaller cousin.  And, as has been the case before, the shrinking process didn't go quite as far as I intended but I managed just over 9 inches; I will also try very hard to make sure that it doesn't grow with pattern revisions.

I thought that such a small bear deserved a very big name so the first one was called Hercules.
The small size has meant that I have had to revise a lot of the joint components and in particular a smaller nut and bolt set for jointing. I know that doesn't sound like much but after 23 years of the same it is a big change in my little world.  It was especially fiddly fitting it inside the neck section and I am still refining that.

I have had to use glass eyes over  my preferred vintage boot buttons too,  there simply aren't any that small.
Purely to give an idea of scale....

A bear has to eat, the dogs won't miss one biscuit
Hercules soon acquired a "brother" but in a rusty shade. It seemed quite an appropriate shade for Autumn so he decided to be photographed with some of the pretty leaves from the Acer in my front garden, I know, everybody else has pumpkins and I just wanted to be different.

This one is Wotan, another large name for a small bear, and I am pleased to report that, despite a few minor pattern adjustments he didn't come out any taller.
More information about my bears, including any available, can be found on my website at
If you would like earliest information about new bears as they become available please e.mail me at
and ask to be added to my mailing list.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Designed for the package

One of the peculiarities of our postal system catches me out often when I am sending bears overseas.  The cost is high these days, especially if you use a fully insured, trackable service; An 18 inch bear was quoted at £125 for such a service to Australia.  However, if the bear can squeeze itself into a carton who's dimensions do not exceed 90cms in total ( w+h+d) and the pack weight is under 2 kilos then it can travel by a partially tracked signed for service at about a quarter of that.

I never thought I would consciously design a bear to fit a carton but I decided that I would modify and shrink a version of the 6 joint standing pattern.

I wanted to keep the proportions, keep it just big enough to look right with the fabrics available and also work with the boot buttons which I have the largest supply of.  I wanted to keep it a reasonable height standing up and make the legs so that they would form the right dimensions when seated to fit into the cartons which are  available at my local supplier. 

Anyway it was a success and I have a new pattern which still looks reasonably large but can travel overseas at small pack rate.    Now of course by the usual laws which govern such things the first three all sold to customers in the UK but the latest one went to USA and I am very pleased to say that instead of something like £75.00 his shipping and packing was only £25.

And all of this also produced a pattern which is a comfortable size for me to make and stuff, so born from creativity and shaped by postal costs I thought I would share some pictures of the new bears.

These first four are sold but more will be available over the coming months

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Before and After

It's not my habit to share work in progress pictures but I thought I might just reveal a little before and after.

One of my personal preferences when I make traditional bears is to create them with a look and feel that I think is generally referred to as care-worn.   The expression is widely used and seems to cover every level of care worn from slightly matted to totally mangled according to the artist's intentions.

Mine are mostly care worn to level of being still in one piece but with sometimes with a few bald and matted patches.  I also set great store by the way they feel, difficult to describe but I like them to feel like saggy old wood wool and very loose. Basically the opposite to what everybody tried to persuade me an artist bear had to feel like when I started out all those years ago.

To get to the point, I do most of the ageing of the finish after the bear is complete; That seems to best give an impression of the wear and matting that would occur on a bear.  So after they are complete they spend some time getting the "treatment" and no I am not going to tell you what I do but I kept a "before" picture of Oliver.  The difference is quite subtle on him but I wanted to tone down the newness of the mohair and add some depth to the shade.

Above - Oliver before the treatment, the fur looks a bit dead and woolly.

Below  -  Oliver after the treatment - very subtle but to me it puts life and depth in the colour and I also fatigue the embroidery of his nose.

And basically another day's work for a very subtle change but it pleases me.

More pictures of Oliver on my website while he is for sale