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