Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Christmas Past and Christmas Present .

I think this will be the last post until after Christmas - everything is now on the slow grind down to a halt . My bear making has been packed up even though I miss having something to work on - now is the time to sit back and admire things already made !!
To that end I've been thinking about some of the objects I've made over the years , which really only came in to being because of the Festive Season . Some posts ago I mentioned the felt reindeer I made when I was 13 , as a school project . Out they come , every Christmas at my parents' house , regular as the turning of the seasons , ... I've just realised they're 31 years old !!! The fawn is a perpetual baby ; with pipe cleaners in his twiglet legs . The adult has a wire coat hanger armature . I well remember "adding" to the original pattern in that faded grey and white book to give the mother (father ? as it has large antlers ??)a kindly face , and embellished eyes ... expression being so important ! Of course I'd do them better now - no red gaps between the appliqued white leg socks for a start - but they're part of the heart and soul of tradition in our family . Just as they are !

As I brought down the children's sacks and stockings from my big (mysterious) box in the wardrobe it turned my mind to the huge pleasure I had in creating them . Each of
my sons' had a little felt Christmas stocking made for their first Christmas .My husband and I also have one each ; they're decorated with a "Mr.Men" theme as that was popular back 17 years ago !! Hubby is "Mr.Strong" , I'm "Mr. Happy", then we have a "Mr. Nosy" , "Mr.Daydream" and "Mr.Chatterbox" .... they know who they are ! I thought the buttons were cute to add with the felt decoration . On the back are their names picked out with silver thread . These tiny stockings are just for edible surprises , and are always set upon after The Big Meal !

I made the small sacks from cheap lining material and decorated them with ribbon snippets and felt ,and also the silver name panels on the back again .These go on the end of the bed year after year , and were always the cause of that early morning ripping sound !!

My husband also took a photo of the Christmas cake wreath which I made about 7 or 8 years ago . I carefully wrestled it out of its box and wondered (again) that I'd actually made it ! It's very odd but at the time I was "in to" sugar craft work I seemed to be able to create flowers and foliage out of thin air (couldn't be bothered with directions etc) , then elaborately wire them together surprising myself most of the time with the result of my efforts . This wreath rather takes the form of a crown , and includes holly berries and tiny cones . The roses are dusted over with a gold lustre . It used to look quite majestic atop the 14" rich fruit cakes I would make at Christmas , but sadly for the last few years we all make do with a tiny bought cake as a concession to both my parents' Type 2 diabetes , drat to it (Pantomime Boo !)

Now for "Christmas Present". My last picture (under electric light I'm afraid ) is a plate of the mince pies I was talking of , although I haven't made any with meringue this time . If you'd like to try a macaroon topping here is a quick recipe that will make enough scrumptiousness to go over 24 open tarts :

6oz golden caster sugar
6oz ground almonds
2oz flaked almonds
3 egg whites
1tsp almond essence
A few flaked almonds to finish

Whisk the egg whites until very stiff , fold in the caster sugar and ground almond , then the flaked almonds and essence . Dollop on to the pies and sprinkle a few flaked almonds over the top of each before baking .
Mmmmmm , what could be nicer than handing these round ?

As I'm a sentimental type may I extend warm Season's Greetings to all my beary friends , past customers , and anyone else who has happened to find this blog and pop in from time to time - see you all in the New Year !!

Ta Ta For Now , Ruth XX

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Deck The Halls ..

Well , actually I haven't got any holly - but I have put up all the rest of my Christmas bling ! It's one time in the year when I can surround myself with pretty / glittery / glossy / sparkley things and no males in the house complain !! We usually have at least 3 trees (amount of decoration is in inverse proportions to size of house , as a good rule of thumb) and as many pieces with glitter on as I can reasonably get away with . Whilst avoiding the dreaded "tacky" comments .

This year I chose a lovely new white tree , which is livening up the dining room . So it's lucky no one will be "dining" in there , as (obviously) there wouldn't be room now! Usually we all sit together in the kitchen (which is generally the hub of our universe!)

I can't get away from the fact that Christmas lights are so bewitching , not to mention beguiling - I wonder if my children feel the same ? I remember so vividly the magical excitement of coming sleepily down the stairs to find my father testing the fairy lights - with them strung across the floor ; the tiny , bright pools of impossibly enchanting light dancing across the carpet .The wonderment that would then suffuse my whole being - I then believed that Christmas was nearly here !

A huge part of Christmas to me is that special aroma , evoking more childhood memories of the days when mince pies were made on Christmas Eve . It should be 1 part cinnamon , 1 part clove and 2 parts orange !! Every year I go on a quest round the shops to find this extra special "essence of Christmas" in a can or bottle . Every morning when I come downstairs I liberally squirt the air and inhale .... aahhh !
My sons have told me this is how they know the festive season is well and truly upon them ! Mind you , there's absolutely no substitute for the real thing , and to that end several batches of mince pies will shortly be made . I always make star-topped , macaroon , and meringue . Also last year I first made puff pastry pin-wheels with mincemeat and flaked almonds (a complete doddle) Making shortcrust pastry is so relaxing , I love popping the batches of spicy little tarts in to the oven - and always sneak one or two "to try them out" when they're cool .

These new little bearies, sitting under the tiny rustic tree on my dining room dresser, look like they're enjoying themselves. I must say a big "Thank You" to (L to R) Samantha Potter, Tina Jenson and Clare Davis-Tedd for allowing me to adopt them - what a delightful little group!

T.T.F.N Ruth xx

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

A last Jib Jab

Ok , I know we're all just about Jib Jabbed out for now , but I couldn't resist posting this one of my two little "itty bitty" doggies doing La Cucaracha ! Although Delphi , my chihuahua , is a girl she seems to suit the "bandido" part - and Lilah (Papillon) is most definitely always a girlie . Or Princess . Well it's a harmless way to brighten up a dull , dreary day ; been way too many of those in the UK recently !
Just click the "play" button , turn on the sound , and enjoy !!

T.T.F.N , Ruth xx

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

Monday, 19 November 2007

A Very Nice Surprise !

In my last post I mentioned that to make submissions to the bear magazines you need to "think ahead". This is , of course , because they work several months in advance of each issue .I had sent in a picture of one of my Winter Warmer Show bears to Teddy Bear Club International in October - although I thought it was a little late in the month . Well , imagine what a lovely surprise it was for me when I finally went to pick up my copy of the December magazine ; there was "Freddy" ... all 3 inches of him !
I have to say he's sitting in some very distinguished company in the two page spread . Right next to him is Yvonne's beautiful wintery young cub (Bebbin Bears) It is just so thrilling to see your work in print !
Freddy has flown all the way to the USA for all his future Christmases. I wonder if he ate his cake on the way ?!
Hmmm , I think I'm going to have to confront this "'tis the season " feeling ... and tackle what needs doing ; time to make lists !!(goody -it's what I do best LOL ! )

Ruth x

Friday, 16 November 2007

This Little Bunny ....

Well , I managed to finish my micro-rabbit just after the BAO show .He is 7cm (1.9") tall , made from Upholstery velvet with a dark backing .He has a carrot pouch - 7.5cm (3") long , which is made from a felt with a sort of glitter treatment on it ; quite sparkly in the right light . As the "carrot" is heart-shaped perhaps I will send his photos in for possible Valentine's Day inclusion in one of the magazines .
I must say this "thinking ahead" lark is very brain-straining !!

T.T.F.N Ruth x

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Where , oh where is the Post Office ??

I was dumbfounded to find , on my last trip to Hanley , that the Post Office I've always used (grand , large old building) has been closed down and "replaced". You would never guess where though!

I'm talking about post office facilities for a major , very busy town with a huge shopping precinct ; Hanley being the principle one of the so called "Five Towns" that make up The Potteries area .Every time I had to go there , I found that although the queues were long, it wasn't a problem because there were at least 11 cashier points , so there wasn't a tediously long wait , and anyway whose spirits could flag when listening to that voice endlessly announcing with auto-enthusiasm - primed to make you feel like you've won something in a game show - "Cashi-eeer number threeee !" I certainly felt I could get my parcels in to the post with confidence . Now I will have to go to W.H Smith.

Yes , that's right ; W.H Smith is where the new improved (?) Post Office resides . At the back of the store . One floor up in the shopping precinct ... so handy for the elderly or infirm ! Of course , it isn't even half the size of the old place ; now groaning under the weight of "For Sale" and "To Let" boards .

I only ever thought of W.H Smith as a trusted , if a little unimaginative , High Street store , where they sell .. stuff . Stationery doodads and over-priced cards I could make better myself , magazines and a few . Maybe this is uber-rebranding ? I can't imagine how this hybridisation was arrived at , but the deeply cynical , enquiring part of me would like to know just how much of a symbiotic relationship this is intended to be.Perhaps during negotiations the fly on the wall would have heard :

P.O "Ah ! You know we can sell all the stamps for your cards "

W.H.S " Oh yes - a customer can purchase a CD then go to the window and post it
straight away "

P.O " Do you think they'll notice the hugely reduced floor space / lack of cashier points / fewer , depressed (as so many lost their jobs ) staff ?"

W.H.S " No , neither do I ... we have some other nice little stores for post office replacements in major cities if you're interested ?!"

Let's hope this won't spark a worrying trend : Combination Shopping - or some other nasty sound-bitey name . "Hey ! I need to pay the telephone bill ; just nipping to Marks and Spencer !" , or how about Council Offices tucked up behind the sweet counters in Woolworths ? Seems a nice fit .

I can't take my parcels to the super-efficient post office , that used to be a short walk away near my estate . It was shut down ... despite a long , long petition , and the anguished pleas of village residents ; some of whom , being elderly , must now be hard pressed to get to the other "local" one by bus.

I do hope , for their sake , the other purely W.H.Smith shoppers milling about on busy Saturdays , won't find all these people manoeuvring parcels tetchily along the aisles an inconvenience .

Next time I go , after my ride up the escalator , perhaps I'll find it's now called W.H.Office .....or maybe PostSmith ?
Whatever !!

T.T.F.N Ruth xx

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Bye Bye Dust Bunnies !!

Phew ! Now I've finished my 5 pieces for the Bear Artists Online Winter Warmer show I can take a breath , and survey the dusty wreckage of my house ! I'm afraid I've neglected it somewhat due to the intense focus on my work - well there was a deadline after all. Now I have the rest of the half term holiday to hoover ,squirt, sweep and generally flick the dusters about (boring ....yawn...) Ah yes , I was about to make a micro rabbit , as someone had asked after them ... and oh yes , I have a couple of dancing bears pencilled in for November .... well , it's nearly November .Isn't it ?

I'm showing one of the Winter Warmers here ; a 3" angel bear : "Cherub" , made from vintage Malden Mills upholstery velvet . She has her own starry cushion - which is also an ornament to hang on the tree ! I have to say I'm particularly pleased with her 1" high angel micro-doll , which is made out of ultrasuede , with appliqued ribbon and tiny star sequins . It took me half a day to make ! I got some of those long suffering looks from the husband ; as if to say "how can anyone spend half a day on that? Wait , I'll hold it at arm's length so I can see what it actually is.."

I shall definitely be making more micro-dolls . Where's some paper, and card ... and my ultrasuede stack ? What dust ? I can't see it anymore ...

T.T.F.N Ruth x

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Curiouser and curiouser...(or fantasies of a bear maker !)

Well , I was going to write this a few days ago but I put it off as I've been wrestling with one of those stupid inner-ear infections that affects your balance . For the last week I've felt as though I just got pushed off a particularly whizzy roundabout , and I've been lurching about feeling like I might stumble off the edge of the world (or at least down the stairs ! ) if I'm not careful . It's really affecting my progress with the bears for the BAO Winter Warmer show , as I can't focus my eyes for too long ... well double-drat it ! Maybe a trip to the you-can-only-get-an-appointment-today-by-standing-in-the- Doctor's is unavoidable :0(

Less of the health-rant digression .... I was particularly busy at the computer last Thursday afternoon - yes , I should have been sewing , when the phone rang . At first I had the call pegged as one of those charity calls from a personable young lady , who gabbles all her spiel while your brain glazes over , but then I suddenly realised I was hearing the word "bear" , and "they must be purple bears" as they wanted to put them "in the rooms" and they had seen a little purple bear on my website. Well what on earth was it all about then ? I tuned my brain in better ; she was calling about someone they had staying in the hotel , but couldn't divulge many details ......HUH ???
The next thing she asked was whether they could have a discount for "bulk ordering" and mentioned that all the bears would need to be identical ... oh , and there was a time constraint - hmmm,suddenly we were dealing with a whole different kettle of fish ; "bulk" doesn't sound like 1 or 2 bears then ! I had to explain that as my little bruins are hand sewn , and hand produced there was unfortunately no way I could fill bulk orders , and that even a couple of bears take their time . By necessity it is an unhurried occupation (not to mention an evolution of sorts !)Whilst I am fairly good at achieving similar features it is also not really possible to guarantee each bear as an identical 2 and a bit inches to each other !
The nice young lady was regretful , but she could see that it was just not going to be possible .
Later on , feeling intrigued , I embarked on a little detective work to glean the caller's number (using 1471) then used an internet programme to check the area code .
It even gave a locale map : centre of London - the very heart of the Big Smoke ; covering London Eye , Houses of Parliament , St James' Park - and the O2 arena (used to be The Millenium Dome) Husband narrows eyes ; " there's a load of big hotels around there..."
So now we spin (ooh not that word !) off in to fantasy . Who could this mystery person be ? Obviously likes purple .... are they , dare I breathe it , famous ? This is a tiny bear with a diddy purple hat , set at a rakish angle . I've just been reading one of the blogs in my listing to the right . The artist went to see a performer at the O2 arena ...... NO couldn't be
him surely ? I think I've just gone off the edge of the world .....

I'll come back when I'm feeling more sensible !!

Friday, 28 September 2007

Bit of a Blog Game

To stop my little grey cells shrivelling too fast I decided to write about some themes of current pertinence to me using letters that will also spell out one of those themes.
Yes , it's entirely pointless - but what the hey ??

B - for Bears obviously , and in particular Bear Artists Online . The next online show is Nov 3rd , so I've been spending all my time creating exclusive mini bears for this . I need to really plough on with it , as the photos have to be sent by the 27th October . Yikes , I wish there were at least 3 more hours in the day , and where can I cut more corners with housework ???

E - Education : what with the 11 yr old joining High School and now firmly ensconced in the conventions of that institution , it leaves me to observe for the third time ( two other sons having been through the doors ) that as a parent you become suddenly detached from the whole process . Input is required from parents at Primary level , but the stage 4 curriculum is so ..."now" . You feel ever more irrelevant and start to hear yourself saying "in my day.." or "when I learnt this we did it this way .." Yes, that's you speaking. Not your own parents ! Even the key workings of the school itself remain a mystery - never destined for enlightenment . Maybe that's just a boy thing ?

A - is for Autumn naturally . I can include a good textural pic of our garden ivy . It is lovely to see the golds and reds starting to come through . I think it's also time to rip out the dishevelled remains of the Summer planters and baskets ; now gone beyond "sad" . Hang on a minute though - it feels like we already had Autumn didn't we ? Oh no , my mistake it was Summer wasn't it !

R - Relics ; I think we might be in trouble if we don't manage to get Brett to the Tutankhamun and Terracotta Warriors exhibitions in London at some point . After all , he is going to be an Archeologist y'know.

F - is for Fairs - Bear ones in particular . This is totally on my mind at the moment . I was lucky enough to get an invitation to the Teddy Bear Artist Event (June 2008) which is being organised by Samantha Potter of Mary Myrtle Miniatures . The venue will be the Town Hall in Stratford upon Avon . This will be a complete first for me as I have never done anything similar - although I have been on the other side of the tables many times ! I am completely honoured to have been invited and it means an awful lot to me . I'm already wrestling with how the table will look , what pieces to make , whether to order bags or boxes . I have developed an obsession with T K Maxx , which has wonderful paste board boxes to use in display ... more on this over the coming months I'm sure ...

A - as my niece on my husband's side has just had her baby girl I am now officially a Great Aunt . Oooerr ; feels like I should start wearing furry squashy hats and gloves , and caking myself in unlikely orange face powder !

I - this one is Interesting ! Son no.1 comes home on a Thursday night and tells his Dad that a friend's uncle is driving the tour bus for Incubus in this country , and he can get 2 tickets for tomorrow night's gig , at Nottingham Ice Rink . Hmmph - So off they went , in time for the 6.30pm open doors to have a brilliant time at the "best gig ever!" , and Max even caught one of Jose's drumsticks ( surely it should go in a glass case or something ? ) Well phooey !! I just love Incubus :0( Whilst I might have smiled at the video clips on Max's phone inside I was childishly sulking !

R - last word has to be "Relentless" , as that perfectly describes the hands on the clock ; they appear to be positively spinning round !! Won't be long before June 2008 is here ....

Oh yes , of course the words are BEAR FAIR !

Ta Ta For Now ..

Ruth xx

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

A New Start

It was time for my youngest son to start High School today ...
the Primary school he used to attend is just a short walk up the road ; I can see it from my bedroom window . Now , Brett has opted to cycle to school ( ONLY 3 and a half miles away on hilly , narrow , winding , people-mover packed roads !) and his older brother , Guy , who is in the last year of the school , has taken on the responsibility of shepherding the tender "newbie" on his way . After testing out the route a couple of days ago with Guy and his friend who are cycling veterans , Brett declared he could "easily" manage the distance/effort every day !

Seeing Brett standing there in his brand new school uniform (leaving aside the question of the hair - which in fact has been cut !) I finally got to "see" more than just the turned up blazer sleeves , and re-hemmed trousers , the you-don't-want-to-know-how-many sewn in name labels , and other minor alterations - easily my least favourite sort of sewing . He looks .... older . Yes , he's gotten older this summer . Taller too.
So that's that.
Ping goes another apron string !

Ruth xx

Brett's summer persona !

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Here It Is !

I'm going to admit to being absolutely thrilled to see the Artist Profile that Kirste , editor of Teddy Bear Club International , has put in to the September issue !

I was so surprised to see the photograph of my "Bear Dancing with Buddy" blown up to that large size right over the page - he just seems to be such a favourite with everyone ! I shall have to give myself a good pinch as I still can't believe how very lucky I've been this year .It is a wonderful feeling to not only love what you do , but also to know other people seem to like it too !

Many thanks to TBCI , and all the lovely people who've contacted me about the article.

T.T.F.N Ruth xx

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Peeking 2 !

Well ... I wasn't anticipating having to confess two hours after my previous entry !!! Teddy Bear Scene just plunked on to the mat a couple of hours ago and (ahem) poor little Pollyanna isn't a final nominee . I don't feel down-hearted though ; I still love the way she came out , and I will keep her with my most precious bears . Here she is anyway - she still looks full of curiosity and a little mischief .........


Ruth xx

Peeking !

Yes : I have got to the point now , in August , when I am starting to peek out tentatively toward the two UK Bear magazines . Or perhaps that should be peek in to them ! Now why would that be ? We-e-ll , there could be two very exciting things going on ..... or maybe just one !
I entered the Teddy Bear Scene 2007 competition , in the Miniatures category , and it must now only be a matter of days before the nominees are revealed .
I submitted what I feel is one of my best pieces of work so far - but everyone's in the same boat here ; the standard is higher each year, and quite rightly the competition is gaining more popularity and many more entrants as time goes on . So - back to studiously forgetting about postal deliveries , dates and such !
The other super-exciting thing will be seen in the "September" issue of Teddy Bear Club International , which hits the stands on 20th August . I was so very lucky to be asked if I would like an artist profile in this issue . Would I ?! I was absolutely bursting with pride , and I can honestly say (without being disingenuous)that it was a real honour for me .It's going to be such a thrill buying that magazine ! I hope nobody will think I'm "tooting my own trumpet" smugly - I could never do that ! It can be one of the hardest things to exude confidence in what you do , and promote your abilities , yet not sound big-headed or horribly self satisfied .I'm not going to think/read too much in to this - just thoroughly enjoy seeing some of my words , and works on the printed page !!

I suppose I'll have to 'fess up if little "Pollyanna" doesn't make the final round ; I shall give her a picture on here anyway !
I hope the changes to my blog meet with approval too !

Ta Ta For Now !

Ruth xx

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Nice Weather for Otters !

Right , I'll get the admission out of the way first - I called this entry "Nice Weather for Otters" so I could make completely gratuitous use of the otter pic ! But Ahhhh! they're so cute , and whilst he wasn't snapped in the wild , I'm sure this wet (not to mention saturating!) weather holds no problems at all for the likes of him .
The rest of us aren't doing so well though ... I live quite near to some of the worst hit areas of the country , where flooding is really causing problems . Worcestershire and Gloucestershire seem to have the brunt of it ; no power , cut off by road , ruined homes ... and even more rain and hill water run-off to come . Every time I watch the news I want to hide my eyes - the damage is heartbreaking .Luckily my immediate part of the world is fine , and I actually live on a hill . My husband surmised that if this house was flooded then the nearby town would have to be under 400 feet of wet stuff !
Whilst wistfully thinking about "normal" summer conditions I decided to put a couple of benign , calming H20 related photos on the blog . Water can be restful , relaxing and picturesque !

The beautiful cygnet speaks for itself , but I shall explain that the brick promontory , sweeping out to sea , is "The Cobb" at Lyme Regis , in Devon - the very place where Louisa Musgrove so painfully mis-timed her jump down in to Captain Wentworth's arms , in Persuasion ! How many times have I lapped up the words off the pages that Jane Austen so skillfully set down - every time , in exactly the same place , secretly thinking "Ha ! Stupid girl ; serves her right !" Perhaps I should confess I have a total and enduring love of all things "Austen" ! I was completely wrapped up in absorbing an atmosphere of times long gone the first time I visited Lyme ; a favourite scenic destination of well-to-do Georgian society , and a major location in "Persuasion" , brought to vibrant life by the author's intimate knowledge of the tiny seaside town . Concentrating hard you can just glimpse that bygone vibe of ozone and gentility - the swish of an Empire line gown hem and the shrieks of the gulls overhead !
Walking along the treacherously uneven , giddying Cobb , in Jane Austen's footsteps ? Pure Magic !

Ta Ta For Now !

Ruth xx

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Blooming Marvellous !

Ok , so all the lovely flowers which shine out like my garden's jewellery are definitely looking worse for wear, due to the excessive amounts of wet stuff coming out of the sky ! I absolutely adore blooms of every kind , so to cheer everyone up I've decided to post these pics , taken last summer by my husband - showing some really glorious examples .All these flowers were brightening the formal borders at Forde Abbey in Devon , which is a National Trust property .I would like him to know that I think he is a wonderful photographer ; and I couldn't show my bears off to full advantage without his expertise !
Enjoy !!

T.T.F.N Ruth xx

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Say Hello !

Popping in to say "Hello" are Belle and Jez , who will be appearing in about 10 days time in the exclusive online show at
They are very excited ; especially Jez- a bouncy little handful of a terrier cross-breed who Belle adopted as a stray ! I hope you can join them on the 30th June .


Ruth xx

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Bear on a Pretty Chair ...

The "Pretty Chair Bear" for June is ..... The Tweezle ! When The Tweezle was having his photo taken one of my sons commented that he looked like a childish design - well that's ok by me ! I made him for a "Friends" project , and had the idea to make a very traditional bear (boy) who had his own imaginary friend ;of course he would be riotously colourful , and look like a child's drawing ! In fact the two friends can be glimpsed together , having a tea party very happily on a sunny day in the garden , amongst the ATC cards in the previous post .

Ah the Tea Party Game ! It was a vital bit of childhood wasn't it ??

Back goes the chair 'til next month ...T.T.F.N

Ruth xx

Thursday, 31 May 2007

As easy as A T C !

I thought I might share a few of my Artist Trading Cards . I love making them , and it's a great way to show off your bears . Remember , you can never have too many crafty knick-knack /trim /gee-gaw/embellishments ! The size of the cards is always 2.5" by 3.5" , but it's amazing what you can do in such a small space .

I'm still working hard on my bears for the Bear Artists Online Summer Show , which will take place on the 30th June - back to my needles then ...

Ruth xx


Monday, 21 May 2007

Good Old Felt !

I seem to have an affinity with Felt . Not the craft of "felting" you understand , which I haven't had the nerve to try , but the flat , bright squares of material .Nowadays it is , unfortunately , manifestly different from the gorgeous soft stuff that used to be available . Throughout my childhood and adult life , cheap , humble Felt seems to have been my accomplice in creativity ! I will readily turn to my pile of kaleidoscopic coloured pieces ; collected over a few decades of "hunter-gatherer" expeditions to haberdashery departments , and I love to ripple through them , compare and contrast them , smoothe the squares , and often cut free-hand in to them without patterns . Much of my stash can now genuinely be referred to as "vintage" , as its origins stretch back in to the 70's . Several pieces still have 16p labels on them from when John Lewis Department Store introduced innovative price tags with magnetic strips ! Tills could read them ! WooHoo !

I must start with "Fuzzy Felt" ; who could forget it - that bastion of 60's and 70's toddler art , and source of ever changing master pieces ! I can remember the fascination of peeling pre-cut shapes off the flocked "fuzzy" board in order to carefully replace them . It was a big disappointment to me on searching out this same toy for my children that the thin nylony texture of the bits was all wrong ; not so clingy . Anyway , my children loved it all the same .

Next in the gallery of Felty art was the handkerchief case , somewhat like a folded wallet , which I sewed for my father . I couldn't have been much older than 4 ; I can't imagine 4 or 5 year olds being encouraged to use real needles at school now ! Features of this ingenious design were the sugared almond pink colour ( of course !) and the worst edging Blanket Stitch ever to grace "an object given as a present " ! I was convinced it would be a highly useful thing for a Daddy with an office desk , and he seemed to think so too ! He kept it in faithful service through his working life and still has it now . In the chest of drawers with his hankies .

A few years on and Felt enabled me to produce chi-chi little dresses for my troll ( in reality hacked out blobs with stretched arm holes )That was so "de rigueur " in 1972 . My troll was a flame-haired beauty called Sandi-Dandi , who liked to encourage my artistic urges . With a tiny rectangle of felt sewn around then shoved on her unprotesting feet you could make ice-skating boots . They were usually , well , pink actually ! All you had to add was a thin pressed roll of tin foil sellotaped along the bottom seam for blades . Of course you had to plan ahead a bit , and freeze a foil dish of water overnight . Then you could whirl the little creatures around on the ice by their hair for ages ... until the damp sellotape fell off !

Just a few years later would see me , and my sister - often "creative partner in crime" - venturing on a Saturday , in to bicycle-bustling Cambridge ,to one specific tiny shop along The Backs ( of the University). It smelt strongly of joss sticks ; but the big attraction for us were the Zilly Kits : little packets of pre-cut felt with a card base and instructions with a colour picture . Oh they were so enchanting ! A multi-coloured array of animals each in its own toning shades ; like a big head with feet underneath , in a witty pared down design . There were various dogs , cats , a lion , a frog - easy peasy to assemble with a few dabs of glue . The finished little character would look just like the photo .

At 13 years old I managed to really amaze even myself . In the sewing rooms of the Upper school I discovered not only the stirrings of creative needlework , but a really old craft book with scanty black and white photographs . I found this book intriguing and chose a fairly ambitious project to make an adult reindeer with a fawn . I used a bright red felt with black and white appliqued detailing , and had to construct a thick wire armature for the bigger deer and a pipecleaner one for the spindly legged baby . I made forward branching antlers from white felt , supported inside by fluffy wire stems , and they had black hooves , almond shaped eyes and tiny freehand white spots sprinkled across the backs , which I blended on to the red with the tiniest stitches . Even the under gussets were in two pieces . After such an intensive labour of love I can't recall that the teacher gave any critical reaction , but my friends and family were impressed ! The Reindeer became a beloved Christmas institution and would annually take charge of a sleigh full of sweets !

Once I was on my second job ( optician's receptionist ) I was well and truly hooked on "creating" . I decided I could liven up the Christmas window display and bought red , green and white felt ; turning it in my own time in to tiny stockings and even a replica of the company logo , which was an owl .It was very satisfying when more than one person came in from the street to ask if they could buy the cute little props !

Yes , Felt is my friend , and I wouldn't be without it for making accessories for my miniature bears . There are even exciting finishes available ; printed patterns , glittery , curly and the long plush style . It's all very good to work with - no fraying and easy to sew together .
I recently saw an old school friend whilst staying with my parents - guess what ? She asked after the reindeer !

Hope you like the pics of felt bear accessories ... Ta Ta For Now !
Ruth xx

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Wistful Moments

Yesterday I was peering down the telescope of time , encountering the wistful memories familiar to so many mothers . An indulgent contemplation you may think - with the busy pace of life we seldom have the time to notice time itself slipping past. How is it that our lives and families change so gradually , imperceptibly , and yet I always feel as though I'm positively hurtling toward something . As I picked my sketchbook out of the drawer ( a sentimental memory on its own as I've done no new drawing for several years ! ) and flicked through the pages , there was my oldest son , now 17 , looking so different ( see first post ! ) So little ; so vulnerable . I remembered how he actually needed me once ! A tiny hand on my sleeve imploring me to stop talking , a face full of delight when I was spotted amongst the parent audience at assemblies ! Little nostalgic snippets once sifted rising to the surface .
I have hardly dared to share my drawings with anyone really . It's very exposed ; much more naked than showing the fruits of your labours in a bear . Pictorial art can reveal as much about the artist as the subject somehow .It's uncomfortably personal ....

Well I've gone and stuck 2 of my efforts on the blog ; no turning back now !

I might have actually drawn both with a similar sense of meditation on things past. Both were done from photographs . As a pinchable toddler Max pulled back his pyjama top on his head , turban style , looking like an adorable Indian princeling .The second , where he is older , is also retrospective ; the photo having been taken a couple of years before I did the sketch .
I would like to learn to draw ; to capture the emotion of a set moment on paper . For now I hope to convey something through the faces of little bears ! Giving them expression is my constant intention ; as though they may just have little thoughts and memories of their own ....

Ruth xx

Thursday, 3 May 2007

A Teaser and a Taster .

And so back to some serious bear making....... I've kept my fingers busy for the last couple of days , and switched my eyes to hyper-critical vision ; the better to minutely perfect the tiniest detail of the wee bear I've just finished . I'm afraid I can't possibly divulge any details about him/her/it for a few months ,but here is a teasing picture of a mystery shroud !

Is it a bird ? Is it a plane ? Is there anything actually under there ?!

Could it possibly be something to do with a competition run by a well known magazine ??? Perhaps you will check back with this space to find out ...

I have also decided to introduce bears from my own little Hug , hopefully at the beginning of each month . They will be appearing in truly cosseted style on "The Pretty Chair". In fact I have made quite a few bears in the past who have never left me or their friends , and seem to have no intention of doing so ! The Pretty Chair is a Christmas ornament that I've always had in mind as a photographic prop but never used . So here it is ; a taste of things to come , in all its gaudy glory .

The May Pretty Chair Bear is Hugh - a very shy , Vintage Long Pile 2.5 incher with Ultrasuede paw pads.

By the way I have been having a few phone lessons with my 11 year old son recently . He stands over me with an expression on his face which is a mixture of exasperation , (at old people obviously) and that freaked out look new mothers get when clumsy relatives first start picking up their beloved baby , and you can just see them itching to snatch it back !
Ho Hum - he doesn't need a manual you see , because he is a) male ("let's just chuck this pointless set of instructions away/under my dirty socks /to the back of the wardrobe/ in the box of things marked invisible ") and b) too young to have properly formed any gadget conspiracy theories .Let's just say progress is slow , and I hope I'm not that impatient when I'm trying to teach him something !!

Ta Ta For Now , Ruth xx

Monday, 30 April 2007

Poetic and Techno Fiddlings.

Time for some poetry , it is a beautiful day (for a Monday ) which has inspired me to jot down some Haiku . The traditional form is 5 , then 7 , then 5 syllables in 3 lines of poetry . A "season" word should also be included when taking a strict interpretation , and the subject matter is centred on nature ; with a serious theme . Senryu , on the other hand , has the same form of 17 syllables but is often about human foibles , and can be "cynical or darkly humorous " hmm ......

April Haiku

Bright sunbathing blooms ;
Spring is clothed with Summer's veil -
Heat upon my skin .

I was thinking of the luscious tilting heads of lilac , stirring their heady scent in my garden at least a couple of weeks early ; the weather being so un-seasonably warm .

Here is a less serious beary themed one -

Spring brought new fabric -
Stitching in sunlight kissed pools ;
Smile tiny bear !

At some point I really must stop all my distractions - like learning to blog ! - an
d pick up the tiny little furry pieces of my creations . I have also got side-tracked by the mobile phone I had for my 44th birthday . As a fully paid up Technophobe I can still utterly admire the seductively sleek fuschia red body lines of its " slide-out" form , and marvel at the teeny tiny elegant keys on the pad , but there , all serenity ends ! No matter how hard I scrutinise the alarmingly thick manual I can't get even the basic functions in to my head ! I understand that Shintoists believe every inanimate object has its own "kami" , or spirit . Well , this style conscious phone has either a cunningly evasive one , or it is sneakily malevolent . Or possibly both . I was so sure I needed it , in the phone shop - doesn't seem quite such a great idea now ......
I suspect this techno-tart , fibbly jibbly phone would rather have been carried off by some 20 year old with a teensy handbag the size of one of the inner zipped pockets in mine ! It's going to be so bored with only 10% of it's available functions ever gotten to grips with ......quick I feel a Senryu coming on ;


Lipstick coloured phone
Oh ! Inscrutable object -
Desire waning .


Sunday, 29 April 2007

First Post "in the Pits" !!

You would think this blog would start with an introduction to the bears - plenty of pictures and mention of artistic intention , that sort of thing - wrong ! First I have a surfeit of motherly "glow" and pride to offload ; my 17 year old son - the eldest of the three , played his biggest gig yet with his band Defkon last night ! He is the lead singer and front man for the five piece , who veer stylistically from Incubus to Pantera .
On returning home last night , my Husband and middl
e son , eyes alight , were unanimous in their verdict ; Max and his friends totally "whaled" if ya know what I mean ! In spite of their tender ages they "owned" the stage at The Sugar Mill in Hanley ( Staffs, U.K ) and had the excitable , writhing , leaping crowd of teens in the palm of their hands.

Even as a small boy I knew he could sing - not just sing , but he had a natural pitch perfect ear , carrying tunes far better than average.Now though he has morphed in to a self-assured young man , and performer ; a dynamo of guts and bravado ! Oh yes , did I mention talent !!

I'm so proud of his achievement , and that of his friends ; Oliver and Joe on lead guitars , Vern on bass , and Ben -drums . They got a fantastic , partisan reception . On the last song of the set "the crowd went wild" stood up as a literal interpretation . I keep thinking what inner depths has all this come from ? Or have I created this being ? Wow ! All children are amazing but sometimes they can truly amaze you just that little bit more .
If I were an attentive mother Sparrow , marshalling her fledglings on a high branch I would see there's no need to nudge him off in to the blue yonder ; he has already soared away , enjoying a free-wheeling flight I can only marvel at !

Here is my middle son also enjoying the gig , from the " mosh pits" !

Well, away with the purple prosed Boast-a-thon - I have a competition piece to finish , and a Bear Artists Online Summer Show to get ready for !
t.t.f.n xx