Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Attic Treasure

I expect some of you will have already seen this bear and his friend on my website or on Facebook.

I thought I would take a few moments to explain how he came about and how I surprised myself by entering him in a competition.
I set out to make a bear to please myself, I still don't really have a bear of my own at home to keep, apart from some very early ones.  I have a fond memory of a particular bear I saw once at an auction, he was very old, about 1905 or so, and he was almost empty, his feet had worn away and his tummy was open so almost all the wood wool had crumbled away and fallen out, but his fur was still "furry" and his face was intact.
So I set out to make a bear just like him, I was going to dare to leave his tummy open and holes in his feet.
In the event I made hard work of it of course, I decided that he would only look right if I completed him first, aged him a little in my normal way then eroded the bit which I wanted worn away.
In the process this bear was with me for some time, little by little I worked on him on and off eroding bits, staining wood wool until he looked suitably worn out and very saggy, and I think he reached a stage where he was about as fragile as a proper old bear and would need to be looked after carefully to stop any more stuffing tumbling out, he lived in my airing cupboard each time a treatment needed to dry out.

This bear was all set to remain unsold at home, after all how can I sell a bear which looks as if it is coming apart.
Then I spotted the categories in the competition at the Artist Bear Event in Stratford, one of them was "Attic Treasures"  now, I haven't felt the urge to enter anything like that for years and I am usually not responsive to category suggestions etc but this rang a note with me and I decided that as I was going back to the Fair after a few years break I would enter him for fun.
I moved on to thinking about the meaning behind the expression Attic Treasure and thought that my bear was a neglected bear abandoned years ago falling apart in the aforementioned attic and he would need a friend.  So his friend the mouse was born, a mouse being the most friendly option given the other creatures likely to be found in an attic.  Indeed I had recently been following the attempts of a bear world friend who was at war with a squirrel in his own attic.
I haven't made a mouse before so that was quite a little project in itself; they make a sweet pair but to link them up I made nest for the mouse from the wood wool tumbling out of the bear.  So the mouse found his own treasure and the bear has a friend.
As a final touch on the finished piece, purely for my own sentimental reasons I added some little treasures from home, the mouse was wearing my Mum's and my Grandmother's wedding rings and their engagement and eternity rings were scattered in the mouse's nest to be taken care of.
All set on the day I arrived to find that there were already quite a few entries laid out and my little tableau had to go at the back surrounded by some other very impressive creations it looked quite modest but it was under a convenient spotlight.
Thanks to all the very kind people who voted on the day. colleagues and public alike my old bear and his friend were awarded first place.
Now I am faced with a dliemma because since then I have been asked many times if I will sell him, and the mouse, I am reluctant because of the nature of the layout and the fragility of the bear but I am going to have a sealed auction, more details with be posted very shortly but it will be done through my website www.hugoshouse.com where I am preparing a special page with more information about the piece, and how to enter the bidding, to find them an appreciative home.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

New Work Room

The transformation is just about complete and I am back to work in a freshly decorated and refurnished work room.

There is now plenty of room for Angus and Mr Bond to join me, I chose a large curved corner desk to provide plenty of space to lay things out and this also creates a very cosy shelter for the dogs.
Barely a month ago it looked like this, gloomy and the last room in the house after 12 years which still had the previous owners wallpaper.  It had become an unhappy place and associated with some times which were, let's just say, not the best I have known.
So to strip it out to bare walls and replace every thing from the floor up was very cleansing and symbolic of the fresh start I have made.

 It looked very sparse when first finished and I kept it that way while I decided exactly what was going back in, most importantly it had to be quick to clean up and everything had to be put away so Mr Bond, who is now a very inquisitive large puppy, could not get hold of anything which might hurt him.  I have missed canine company while I work, I couldn't leave the pup alone downstairs so Angus had to stay with him too and I have been very lonely working in there without them.

 It is a pleasure to be in there now and I have enjoyed a happy first week of bear growing with my canine companions, they sleep most of the day and it is all too tempting to rest my eyes and join them during the afternoons.
The one thing that was missing was something of the dogs who have departed, so I have used the blank wall opposite the window to hang pictures of them.
Hugo is there of course, he will always be part of my work as my website bears his name and I have also decided to mark this new phase by using Hugoshouse as my business name.  Posh is there too, both of them spent many hours at my feet while I worked, and of course Buster's picture is also there. Poor Buster was never actually able to climb the stairs so he never shared the work room with me, and I confess now that I came to resent hours toiling away while I knew he was downstairs, I was on a roller coaster of editions and orders to finish just when he needed more and more care.  So my lovely boy has joined us and many thanks to Malcolm for extracting his image from a cluttered photo and making a canvas print for me.

There we are, I have never really had a work room just to suit me with things chosen just the way I want them, I have made do, and yes there is merit in that and of course I have made some lovely bears over the years but I finally decided that if I were to continue I had to have a special place to spend all those hours.  I like it so much that I went in there with the boys this afternoon just to kick back and relax.

Looking forward to better times ahead, now that I am on my pension I thought I would be making less bears, but at the moment my bright new work room seems to be helping the creativity flow so I might even end up making more if I don't "relax" too much after lunch.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Melodies and Memories

Places and songs hold special memories for many people. In my little world one of those places is Polesden Lacey; my mum enjoyed visiting the house and gardens and in more recent years it has become a regular favourite for morning dog walks. The house stands in a large estate and a walk around the nearer lanes is just about right for the Newfies.

Last summer I took Angus and young Buster there in Springtime and shared happy pictures on my blog of us together in favorite resting places on our walk.  Tragically it turned out to be our last visit together and Buster died barely a month later.  I had only been back once or twice after, without the dogs, and remember sitting looking across the view from the verandah of the house with tears pouring down my face as I remembered Buster and how happy we had been such a short while before.

So what about the melodies.  Well that is a Buster memory again. When he was poorly at home I put on a cd of old standard songs.  The first one was Dean Martin singing "Memories are Made of This."  Buster was asleep but he sat up and cocked his ears when the music started and for that simple silly reason as well as the obvious meaning of the song, I associate it with him. Whenever I hear it I see him sitting up with his head on one side watching the loudspeaker in my sitting room, sniffing at it as if to work out where the sound was coming from.

So how does this all come together.  Well, last Sunday I made my first return to Polesden for a walk with the dogs, this time with Angus and young Mr Bond. As I approached the gate memories stirred of course but then, and quite by chance, the cd in the car reached its end and the next one in the changer loaded itself, a home made one of some old favourites, and at the very moment I drove through the gate Dean Martin's voice began singing "Memories are Made of This."

Probably a complete lucky coincidence but a moment to remember. The spring morning was lovely and we had a great walk and made new memories in our favourite resting places.

 Ian was looking after Angus while I steered the extremely energetic Mr Bond around the sheep, swampy puddles and other countryside features. Here we are now, a happy family again enjoying the Spring sunshine.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Threadbare Bears

I have made classic looking bears with various degrees of care wear, gentle fatigue or hand distress finishes over the years.  I like them to look a little lived in and I am also quite particular about the way they feel, I like them to be light, a little saggy and crunchy just as a real old bear might look and feel after many years of duty as a Ted.

Until now I have resisted the temptation to take the distressing and fatigue to the distinctly worn look.  The pattern has been revised and these new bears are just over 11 inches tall so one of my smallest bears.  The big move is to make them very threadbare, heavily worn and with repairs.
The pile is worn away in many places and the holes repaired with darning, I used examples from real old bears which showed rather crudely mended holes, and resisted the temptation to make anything too neat and regular.  The felt pads have some patches and some darned holes.
The stuffing is moderately firm but I have made it crushed and loose at the neck and on the tummy, so they are a little saggy but with the distinct crunch of wood wool filling.  It's quite time consuming because I do all the wear and repair after the bear is finished, each is very much an individual, and I have enjoyed making all the little repair areas and try to blend them in so they look as if they too are old repairs which have simply become part of the bear's character.

for more information about these and other new bears please email

Monday, 13 January 2014

Approved pre-owned Bears

I have a number of  bears which I have agreed to re-home on behalf of a long standing customer.  They are from a very large collection and have all been kept in specially made cabinets since new.  I am not sure about taking this on but when the box arrived I was intrigued to see some old friends, and as this person was so keen he very often got to my table first and picked out some interesting bears.  Including 2 very small ones which I have rarely made.

Full details are on my website but I thought I would just post some pictures here.
I wasn't sure how to describe these bears, re-homes, orphans or the like, or even approved used, approved pre-owned.  However they are described leads to the same conclusion, the owner wanted to sell them and seemed unable to organise doing so through the usual internet facilities, I didnt really want to get involved but on reflection I thought perhaps some of my current mailing list collectors might be pleased to have a chance to see them.

The earliest is from 1999 and they are not in my current style and proportion but very much representative of  my style from that era, I particularly like the very stocky caricature grizzly bear.

Being re-homes I find it quite difficult to price them compared with new bears and as such I will be prepared to  consider offers depending on the response, they are all different of course and some very unusual.  Yes, I will be keeping a commission sum for myself from the sale which helps me as well as giving some much needed assistance to the former owner.

If you would like more information please visit my website and click the "Rehome" link, or e.mail direct for further information:-


Sunday, 12 January 2014

A New Year ?

I have completed the first bear of the New Year, normal hours seem to have resumed everywhere so 2014 is well under way.  I have never really taken much notice of New Year Resolutions, I am a creature of habit and it has usually taken more than a date change to make me change my ways. At the moment I am looking ahead at a variety of hurdles, I have some stark choices to make about what I do for the future.

Last year I lost my puppy Buster, the loss of a youngster and the circumstances of his death is still very much with me, but he was beautiful, brave and magnificent; it was a privilege and a joy to have owned him and I will treasure my memories of him and will always be glad and proud that he was part of my family. I had to say good bye to Posh in September, such an affectionate and precious old lady, I console myself with the fact that she achieved a very grand old age, I miss our gentle strolls across the village to watch the world go by.

Hard as it was to lose them, have accepted as a dog owner that you have to learn to live with the sadness of saying good bye to them, but other things were going wrong too which were leading me to a sorry state of affairs and it is those other things which must now be faced.

So now I am going to tackle 2014, Mr Bond is growing fast and Angus is watching over me with his usual close eye so with my beautiful doggies and the help and support of my friends I will make sure that I will turn things back in my favour.

So that's it, that's my new year rumblings, last year stank, and not really for the obvious reasons, this year might end up with its own dramas but I think I have finally seen the light !