Sunday, August 28, 2011

This Was Unexpected

The other morning I had a phone call from my sister Susie wishing me a Happy Birthday, this was somewhat unexpected as she usually forgets (our family was never all that good with this sort of thing). We arranged a meeting in town for coffee and Susie gave me this gorgeous little "Sukeshi" doll. When I saw a group of these on her blog I was taken with "P'tit Fauve" particularly, because his little face reminds me so much of my grandson. Tobias gets just this look on his face on occasion, usually when he's thinking up some mischief! I think it is so special to receive a little something hand~crafted, and this little one is such a treasure. If you want to see more of Susie's work you will find it here. I wish I had a photo of Tobias with "the look" so that you can see what I mean!
Tomorrow I'm heading off to England and Germany. I'm looking forward to seeing my daughter in London and catching up with family in Germany and England. I'm teaching two workshops in Bremen and one in Somerset, and I am also exhibiting my bears at Teddies 2011 on September 11th. I'll be away for three weeks, so things will probably be a bit quiet around here. I'll tell you all about it when I get back!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Name Game

I have seen many photographs of polar bear cubs when they first emerge from their winter snow caves, they look so small and vulnerable in the vastness of the Arctic wilderness. There is one particular photo that I often hold in my mind of a cub trotting along in pursuit of it's mother, you don't see the adult in the picture just this tiny cub in a huge, snowy, vastness. It makes me smile because he's such a cute little guy, but I also feel an incredible sadness at how the future looks for polar bears. That photograph seems to embody the fragility of their existence in the face of diminishing suitable habitat, it is such a tragedy that we may lose this magnificent species (one of my favourites) in the very near future as the ice caps disappear.

In this latest bear I have endeavoured to capture the vulnnerability of a newly emerged polar bear cub. I have used a very dense alpaca for his coat, which I have had to extensively trim to carve out his features (otherwise he would just be a big fuzz ball!) He has a Locline "spine" and he also has it in all his limbs but I have kept him softly filled so that he is a very poseable bear. I  added a bag of stainless steel pellets to his tummy to give him a nice weight. He has needle felted eye surrounds, which have enhanced his juvenile appearance. I really like how this one has turned out, in fact I think it may be my best work to date! Now all I need to do is think of a name...............

You'll have to forgive my odd set up for these photos. I could have taken a trip up Ben Lomond and posed him in the real snow up there, but quite frankly I didn't really want to get that cold for a couple of photos. So you get the old polyfill "snow" instead!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cross Over

In bear making as in a lot of things, there are the "given" ways of doing things. The pattern we first use will determine pretty much how we approach our bears. For years I have been unhappy with the way the fur sat over the toes on my bears. The traditional pattern for a bear's leg is made in two pieces plus a foot pad, and therein lies the problem, that seam over the centre of the toe area. I have been dabbling a little in dolls over the last few years and have found that there are techniques which definitely cross over between dolls and bears, and in dolls is where I found an answer to a couple of bear design problems.
I wanted to get a flatter looking foot for my bears and looked at doll patterns for a solution. So now for a number of years I have been making bears with a two piece leg like a doll's leg with the toe sewn flat (but with no footpad). I then hand appliqued leather pads to the feet, which were stuffed and sculpted to get toes like this. This achieved the flatter foot I was after, but I still had problems with how the fur was sitting over the toe end of the foot because of the seam running down the centre of the foot.
Just recently I have sloved this annoying problem by again looking at doll patterns. I now I have a three piece leg with no seam over the toe, plus a foot pad. I can then use different techniques for the pads, including sculpting the pad after the legs have been stuffed, or using a combination of trapunto and needle sculpting  to get some very nice feet. The bear I have just completed has given me alot of joy, I have managed to get some great articulation in him using Loc-line in both his body and his limbs, and I have spent hours playing with him enjoying the realistic movement in him. I feel I'm getting closer to what I'm after in my bears and that is what is so rewarding about all that I do, the evolution of design, the solution of problems and the joy of achievement!
This bear has the "new" feet, but isn't my latest.You can see how nicely the fur is sitting over the ends of his toes.