Friday, 30 December 2011

Fresh Air and a Swim

It has been a while since I posted here, the end of the year seems to prompt so many to reflect on the year just passed and contemplate prospects for the future.  Well, 2011 was not without its issues, not all pleasant but through those difficulties I am so very glad I have special friends who have looked after me.

Nothing better to blow cobwebs away than a brisk walk on a chilly day with the doggies, as a post Christmas adventure we went to Virginia Water, quite a few people had the same idea so it was crowded with families with assorted dogs of all shapes and sizes but of course Angus and Posh were by far the most beautiful.

Posh has been showing some signs of her age recently so I was very pleased that she seemed to be able to keep up comfortably.  Posh is usually a model of good behaviour on walks but just once in a while she turns a deaf ear to instruction and did just that as she marched very purposefully towards the lake, stepped in and paddled about defiantly, I don't think she actually got around to swimming but seemed to enjoy walking along the bottom anyway.

So cobwebs well and truly blown away its back to work and with fresh ideas for some new bears for 2012.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

An exciting pot... or not !

Yet again I have been trying to sort through various boxes of stored "stuff" which has accumulated over the years and came across a familiar pot which has surfaced on occasion.   When I first acquired it via a Great Aunt many year ago I was disappointed that it didn't carry a very illustrious name and I lost interest in it.
On its latest outing however I started to get quite excited about it, I discovered it was made by Hill Pottery Company between 1861 and 1867 and since the company only existed for that brief period it is quite scarce.  So all prepared for my Antiques roadshow moment and planning how I would spend the money I sought an opinion from a well known Auctioneer and discussed my pot with their ceramics expert.  Oh dear, and such a sense of deflation; My pot is indeed quite scarce and items from the company well regarded in terms of quality but sadly few people collect them and those that do seem to lack sufficient passion to pay very much for them.   So for the moment I will keep the pot  as a reminder not to get too excited too soon when delving through the family treasure trove.

Oh, I did also think that perhaps exposure of my pot on the internet might create some interest, after all it would be an inexpensive way to start a collection of rare pots by little known potters from Burslem... and perhaps a little interest from the right quarter could create a more exciting market in the future for my little orange pot.

Looking at it again I can't help but be amused that although these are described as "Greek Revival" Victorian British taste required that the figures be more discretely draped on these items than they were on the ancient originals. Perhaps the factory would have been more successful if the designs had been racier !

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Green Party - "Jack" Teddy Clown

It has been a very busy time so my bear for this year's Green Party at House of Bears began his journey rather late and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he will actually arrive in time !

The theme is Old Timers and I am not very strong on theme ideas but I enjoyed the chance to use stronger colours and make a "traditional" Teddy bear Clown. His suit is made from vintage mohair plush, fragile but strengthened, and the white head and feet are made from new mohair which has been quite subtly aged and fatigued. His excelsior stuffing has been left quite loose and crushed so he has a slightly saggy crunchy feel, the trimmings are vintage buttons and a simple collar made from old fabric.

The event is organised in support of Macmillan cancer so this is an individual bear made for this store just for this event - e.mail

Monday, 29 August 2011

Birthday at Polesden Lacey

Yesterday I reached my 55th birthday and decided to mark the occasion with a smoked salmon picnic with Ian and his mum at Polesden Lacey. Formerly the home of legendary socialite and hostess Mrs Greville it is now yet another National Trust property, there were a large number of visitors enjoying outside Jazz and other entertainment, so kind of them all to come on my birthday, and the gardens not at their most colourful but I have happy memories of visits to Polesden over many years and always just enjoy being there, day dreaming and enjoying the atmosphere.

I think it was one of the first expeditions I made when I first learned to drive, I remember visiting with my mum and it was one of her favourite places too.

As we walked around the house someone was playing Ivor Novello on the piano and it all made me feel very nostalgic.

The picnic turned out in true British tradition as we huddled under gathered umbrellas munching raspberries but a lovely gentle way to celebrate a birthday. It wasn't really the day for pictures of the gardens as it was just too busy but I managed to find some pleasing flowers not too battered by recent rain.

The visit was yet another reminder of how very glad I am to have decided not to move home last year, this part of the world is home and familiar and has so many places with treasured memories, I would have missed them very much if I moved too far away to enjoy them all so often.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Woolbeding Garden

Woolbeding, essentially still a private home leased from the National Trust, sits in picture perfect Sussex countryside, the Trust opens the garden during the summer for a couple of days each week. It was a rather wet day when we visited but the gardens are fascinating and full of beautiful detail so still very rewarding even if some of the flowers were a little bruised by our recent rain. It is a very unusual garden and a very personal project carried out lovingly over many years, I felt priviledged to be allowed to visit. It could only be improved by a small pack of Newfoundlands and puppies playing on the neatly clipped lawns.
To control visitor numbers visits to the garden have to be booked in advance through the National Trust and to visit it is best to Park at Uppark and use the shuttle bus.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Creating in the Kitchen

Recent changes to my outlook on food resulted in an urge to start baking my own bread, I wanted to be certain of the contents of the bread and also eliminate modern wheat from my diet. So armed with a bag of wholegrain spelt I started to experiment. Not only are the results much better for my digestive system but they also taste delicious and the latest are also starting to look presentable too so I decided it was time to reveal a photo of my latest form of creativity before I eat it all.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Those of you who have known me for some years will know why my website is called Hugoshouse, newer friends and customers ask me why I chose the name so I thought it was time to explain.

The answer is very simple, I had a dog called Hugo, he was my constant companion and it seemed perfectly natural to adopt his name.

Hugo died in 2007 but my website had already long carried his name and it always will. I am writing this on my blog so that it will be here as another little tribute and an excuse to post some photos of my dear old pal, providing I don't have to take too many breaks to shed a tear for him in the process.

Hugo was a Leonberger, when I was chosing a breed I confess I looked through a guide to dog breeds and just thought that it was such a noble handsome dog, I didn't realise that they were rare in the UK so I was very pleasantly surprised to find one of the top breeders with a litter of 15 puppies. I first met them at 4 weeks old and one of the little boys just bounded up to say hello, that was the moment I met Hugo and I could barely wait for the extra 5 or so weeks before he could come home.

When the great day came I made the journey armed with blankets, toys ready to comfort the little chap on his journey into the world, my much older cross-bred dog Alice came for the ride as I thought it best they met as soon as possible. Well, about 10 minutes into the journey the "nervous" baby was exploring the car and chewing any parts of it which he could fit his teeth around so stopped and put him in the back with Alice, she instantly adopted him and he clearly felt comfortable and I just sensed that everything was going to be just fine, he was a wonderful bold chunky pup and fitted in just perfect from the earliest moments.

I had wanted a large breed dog, and he certainly lived up to the anticipated rapid growth soon becoming much larger than Alice although she always seemed to mother him and was quite capable of putting him in his place even when he was many times larger than she.

There is a doggy lifetime of adventures which are my memories of him all I will say here is that he was a devoted, playful loyal friend through times which I found especially difficult. He was exactly what a dog should be and I thoroughly enjoyed being owned by him.

I don't want to dwell on his passing but it had the most enormous impact on me and I still find it deeply upsetting to recall even though it was as natural and peaceful as I could have wished, perhaps I am just writing it down, albeit as briefly as I can, because I never have and I need to.

I had always believed that dogs shouldn't sleep in the bedroom and Hugo had his own bed on the landing, after Alice died and it was just the two of us he started fussing at bedtime to push past into the bedroom and in the end I gave in and let him sleep on the floor beside me. After he passed his 10th birthday it became increasingly difficult for him to climb the stairs so he couldn't always make it up to the bear room to watch me work but at bed-time he would come up to be with me whatever it took. By February 2007 I sometimes slept downstairs to save him the effort but I wasn't comfortable on the sofa. So with a Winterbearfest on Sunday I decided I had to head for bed on Friday and he stayed at the foot of the stairs because his legs just wouldn't take him up, however I woke up a few hours later to hear him just reaching the landing and he made it to the favoured spot beside my bed. The following day he just couldn't walk enough to get down stairs again, I had bear collectors visiting later so I asked a friend to help me carry him down, and even though he had lost a lot of weight he was still over 60 kilos so it took some doing. I stayed downstairs with him that night and resented every moment I was at the bear show teh next day away from him. On the night after the bear show he slept snuggled close all night, I realised that his time was near and the following morning asked my vet to come to the house later for decisions to be made. The vet was not needed... after lunch Hugo rapidly went into decline and stayed in his "observation" spot by the drawing room door, I sat with him and held him as he gradually took slower breaths and passed away so peacefully and loved so very much by this silly old man who just adored his precious old dog...

So my website will always be called Hugoshouse... his spirit is still very much with us and I am sure he would have had immense fun with my gorgeous Newfies Angus and Posh, they enjoy the same wonderful country walks as did Hugo and we sit in the same favoured spots to admire the countryside views.

The following link will take you to the little video of him, very old and unsteady but enjoying exploring the snow in my yard....

Hugo's Youtube Video

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Dare to be fragile

In my earliest bear collecting days I was drawn to the classic vintage bears. In my own work I periodically revisit my own classic bears patterns with the benefit of experience. I was always enchanted by the fragility of some the vintage bears, they bore the signs of many years of Teddy Bear duty as companion and comfort for their first owners and I try to simulate this gentle wear in many of my own classic bears.

I also like the feel of a very old bear, the firm but crunchy feeling aged wood-wool, the looser limbs and saggy parts are very much part of the appeal. I remember being very taken with a little Steiff bear at Christie's which was almost completely empty, it just asked to be treated very kindly and be taken care of.

So as well as in appearance I have also been braver in making some of my classic bears feel fragile and understuffed so that they invite care and gentle attention and have the right weight and feel.

This little bear is my latest pattern, around 14 inches tall and made as a Teddy Clown so I can have a bit of fun with some delicate colours, adorned with a simple cotton collar and shell buttons on the costume.

This one has been named Miranda, unusual for me to make a girl bear but I had just been watching Miranda Hart who always cheers me up so I thought this bear could adopt her name.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Arts and Crafts Gem in Surrey

Victorian painter and Sculptor George Watts established his final home at Compton, a village near Guildford in Surrey. In addition to a substantial Arts and Crafts house he built a gallery and studio. Recently restored the Gallery is once again open to the public and now displays a large number of Watts' works to much better advantage. There are also a few personal items on display.

I enjoyed the paintings but very much part of the charm of this place is to be able to experience the surroundings in the idyllic village location. I enjoyed walking the same paths in summer sunshine imagining George and Mary Watts and their protegees following the same route and inspired by the pretty countryside around them. Watts' house is not actually visible and is in private hands but you can walk along the lane and pass its entrance, the lane is crossed by a bridge designed by Edwin Lutyens.

The gallery is a real gem of its period, the exterior very much following the purpose of the interior and with some subtle details like the green ceramic around the gallery windows.

Nearby is a true Gem in the shape of a tiny Chapel in the local cemetery. Watts' wife ran an apprentice scheme for artisan potters and her pupils all took part in the decoration of the Chapel, finished only months before Watts death. It is decorated in a style which is a confection of Art Nouveau, Celtic and other influences and the result is rich and colourful treasure of the Arts and Crafts movement.

For literary buffs a further point of interest is the grave of Aldous Huxley in the picture postcard perfect cemetery rolling down the hill on which stands the Chapel itself.

I found the whole setting and history enchanting, I suppose I thought it would be a wonderful place to have my bear making studio too. It does cost £7.50 to go into the gallery to see the paintings but there is a tea shop and it is an enchanting little spot to enjoy and soak up atmosphere even if you are not a fan of Watts' work. There is a web-link in my list of interesting websites.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Favorite Park

Yesterday was a little overcast and windy so an ideal day to take the dogs for a stroll in my favorite Park, Bushy Park at Hampton Court. The restored water garden needs to mature a bit and it is spoiled by ropes and rails at the moment but never-the-less makes a pleasant circuit for the dogs, we stopped briefly in front of the water fall for a picture but they noticed the lovely green slimey weed in the lake so we had to move on rather hastily. Further on Posh got a bit warm and decided to walk along a nice cool creek filled with green weeds.... strong smell of soggy pondy dog accompanied us on the car journey home and she had a nice bath in deodorising shampoo, all slept soundly and smelled sweet for the rest of the day while I worked on a new bear design.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Artist Bears Stratford-upon-Avon

Sunday was the Artist Bear Event in Stratford, my plans had been much curtailed by a few health problems so I actually only had one lonely bear little to offer, I managed to occupy the rest of the six-foot table with a bear on loan from his new owner and a large classic bear destined for a Store. The show seemed to have a very nice atmosphere and although I was taking regular doses of cough mixture etc., thoroughly enjoyed meeting friends and chattering about the bear world. I also managed to offset the disappointment of customers, who were hoping to see more than one of my new small bears, by taking a number of orders too.

I normally enjoy the drive but there was a pretty constant deluge of rain and much surface water so it took longer than usual to get home and I am somewhat puggled after a very long day. Great joy of getting home is of course a massive slobbery hairy greeting from Angus and Posh.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A Career Choice

I am proud to have been chosen to represent Teddy Bear artists on a website designed to help people find out about the scope and variety of careers that can be pursued, there are many other interesting people featured in other crafts and industries... it would be good to think that my write up might inspire somebody to take up needle and thread to make bears professionally.

my page can be found at:-


Just as I thought everything was going so well in the bear making frenzy before the Stratford Bear show I seem to have developed a severe dose of man flu... well the unpleasant seasonal cold anyway. Not the most interesting information to share but it has somewhat slowed my bear growing pace and it means that I do not have any preview photographs available.

Angus installed himself under the desk this morning so he is keeping my feet warm and encouraging me to keep working.

I have managed to find a smallish growler which I have successfully installed in the latest new small classic bear :-)

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Small Traditional Bears

I have been having great fun working on some new smaller bears, I like my classic bears to be quite care worn these days and I have been getting braver with some very loose crumbly filling on the larger ones. My aim was to make small bears, often requested but somehow they never seemed to shrink very much.

At last though success and these latest classic Teds are a mere 12 inches tall ( ok that is not very very small but it is about as small as I can comfortably make).

I wanted them to evoke the fragile nature of quite well worn old bear which needs a gentle attentive owner. At this size they can still be quite loosely filled and still have that wonderful crunchy feel that a traditionally filled bear often has when his filling has settled and crushed a little. Both of these bears have small genuine vintage boot button eyes and I will use these for as long as my precious supply lasts. The nose and claw embroidery thread has been fatigued and faded and the bears subjected to much careful attention in order to remove any trace of newness in their hand dyed mohair. They are filled with fine excelsior wood wool which has been squashed and fatigued. It would be nice to have growlers in them but I haven't found a small enough one which makes a big enough growl... yet.

Both of these bears are now sold but I will be making some more in this size, different colours and some in traditional teddy bear colours, if you wish to be on my mailing list you will receive notification as soon as more bears are available, for details please visit or e.mail me at

Monday, 18 April 2011

Major - Six Joint Teddy Bear

Every once in a while I bring together ideas in a bear which are purely for my own enjoyment, a bear which represents my latest thinking on this overall style of bear. I chose a slightly unusual colour, a greenish gold fur on a yellowish base, there are flecks of different colours in the fur including a very few black hairs. I wanted this bear to have some extra special details so I gave him applied foot pad detail, all done freehand and on a carefully shaped pad which takes up a very three dimensional contour when it is filled... they are made to be seen of course but carefully proportion so that Major will still stand comfortably.

I have also added a streak of smokey grey on his chest to break up the plain white, a small detail which is repeated as a stripe through his tail.

I have also included some evolutions to the pattern to improve posture and proportion. He is a six-jointed bear and stands approximately 23 inches tall. The eyes are vintage boot buttons chosen for their gentle look and his nose is my signature embroidered nose which has been set, shaded and wax polished to soft sheen.

Major has a new home but if you would like to join my mailing list or see other information about the bears and my schedule please visit my website for more details.