Thursday, 17 February 2011

From the Beginning...

      Pretty teddy earrings from                                        Bear in a Balloon from  

Mummy plaque from
....there was a piece of gold mohair bought from Oakley Fabrics in Luton, a treasure trove for the bear maker, with huge rolls of wonderful mohair, and everything else needed to make a bear.  The shop is sadly no longer there but they do still trade online.
It was 1996 and I had looked through a magazine that had come from our news suppliers with the ordered magazines (we ran a newsagent in Merseyside in the 1990's).  The magazine was called Teddy Bear Times and I was fascinated by all of the wonderful bears amongst it's colourful pages.  I ordered other bear magazines available at the time - Teddy Bear Scene, Teddy Bear Club International, Teddy Bear and Friends to name a few.  This was the start of a long association with the artist/collectors teddy bear.
We visited relatives in Hertfordshire and I found the Oakley shop, bought my piece of mohair, a pattern and other bits and pieces I needed and proceeded to make my first bear.
I even gave him a growler and, very proud of him, I called him Uno, because he was my first and we had just got back from a holiday in Spain (uno is one in Spanish).  I had a bit of mohair left over, so using the original pattern as a guide made a smaller bear and Dos was born (two in Spanish).

A fair at Horwich
 I made more and more bears, gradually developing my own style, went to a couple of craft fairs, visited a few craft type shops and persuaded them to take some of the bears.  I was on a roll now so I booked my first Teddy Bear Fair at Manchester.  It didn't go too well as I only sold one bear.  Not deterred and loving the buzz I got from someone wanting to actually buy something that I had made, I made more bears and booked more fairs at Tatton Park, Horwich, and Altringham.
These proved to be much more successful.
One of the high spots of my bear making was being invited to Alexander Palace in London for the finals of the EVA bear making awards.  These were sponsored by the magazine Teddy Bear Scene and were held at this huge venue along with a Teddy Bear Fair with stalls as far as the eye could see.  Two of my bears had got through in the 'new bear makers' category (bearmakers who had been making bears for less than a year).  I didn't come in the top three but I was so proud to see my bears in the cabinet with the other bears.  Some of the other bear artists in this final went on to build quite a big reputation in the bear world. Arnie, the white bear is in the top of the left hand cabinet and Freddie is the brown bear (waving) on the second shelf down of the right hand cabinet.  I still have both of these bears.
                           The bears at Ally Pally

I was making bears every spare minute I had now, mohair and cotton was everywhere in the flat, much to my husband's dismay.  I advertised in one of the bear magazines and managed to get a few regular customers by mail order.  For the first year or so I had a standard camera and spent a fortune having films developed and prints copied for my brochures. 
Then I discovered digital cameras and a computer.  Wow! this was great, not only could I pick out the best photos, but edit them and produce a more professional looking brochure.
These I sent out to various specialist teddy bear shops and struggled to keep up with their demands (I was working at the newsagent too).
Check out the wonderful bouquets made from socks
The internet was not as strong as it is now, but I managed to design myself a website using Microsoft Publisher.
Everything was going so well, my business was growing year on year. 
Then we moved, because of family committments and promotion to a larger shop in Norfolk. 
My feet never touched the ground, the new shop had lots of problems, my parents and daughter were  ill, Sammy, my gorgeous Cocker Spaniel died and the bear making stopped.

A knitted bear from
 Now, ten years later I have started making bears again, I find it more difficult as I now have a bit of arthritis in my fingers, but it is still enjoyable to give life to these little characters.  The bear business is very hard now, the boom of the 1990's has gone, the recession is taking it's toll and we fight for every sale.  Many of the shops I supplied are no longer there, but I try to find new ones that will stock my bears.  I know they sell from shop shelves, that has been proved in the past, but shop owners are wary of taking new stock in this current climate, so I keep sending my brochures out to them and hoping. 

I now have my own online shops in Etsy and Folksy and enjoy the whole idea of online selling. and

Here are a few of my bears available at these online shops -

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