Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Haven't Quite Disappeared Yet

Goodness, I feel like I've fallen out of "blogland" lately!  I feel like I have been literally attached to my laptop furiously typing and editing things in Photoshop for my website.  I have my temporary site up and running here.  But I wasn't able to make it quite what I was looking for.  HOWEVER, I am really liking how my new site is coming along.  I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish it in the next week or two.  I'm very excited about it!  That's why I just can't seem to stop working on it.

Well, that's all for today!  I'll try to write again soon.  I do hope I finish my site soon because I do miss interacting with all of you!

BUT...right now a piece of chocolate cake that my daughters made today is waiting on the table next to me and I just can't wait to eat it any longer!  BYE now!

Heaps of Hugs,

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing you a Big Bear Hug for Christmas!

Ho! Ho! Ho! A merry Christmas to all!

I wish I could give each one of you a hug for all your wonderful comments, support, and compliments during this year!  I really couldn't have wished for a better group of people following me on this adventure or a better year.

This year has led me on a wonderful journey into a circle of bear and art lovers which has enriched my life tenfold.  I never planned on this journey or even prepared for it, so I'm very thankful for all the helping hands, love, and care along the way.  I look forward to meeting more wonderful people and fully embracing the adventures coming in the new year.

I wish you all a happy Christmas filled with peace, love, and joy.  Boy, now I'm getting all teary-eyed because I am just SO grateful to have you all in my life.  Thank you!  Thank you!  And thank you again!

Affectionately yours,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Sweetest Little Ornament

Look what I'm going to receive from Heather at Little Bearries!  It's my ornament from the Teddy Talk swap!  How CUTE is this?!  It's Sirius the Dog Star with 3 little detachable puppy pins that my daughters and I can wear!  Heather is so sweet to have remembered my daughters when she made this for me! She is SO creative!

Right now I can only admire the photo though because my cute little ornament is waiting with the rest of my mail until we return from Michigan.  We're here to celebrate the holidays with family and to just enjoy their company.

I wish you all such happiness and peace this holiday season!
Heaps of Hugs,

P.S.  Oh,  I almost forgot---my website is up and running.  You can check it out here.  I still have things that I want to add and change on it, but it's a good first start.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our Giveaway Winner is ... (And Look! There Will be More Giveaways, Too!)

WooHoo!  My Christmas Indulgence Giveaway winner is Amanda of Pandy Potter Bears!  As soon as I receive your address, Amanda, the package will go zipping through the mail to you. At least it will go as "zippy" as it can this time of year!

And for all of you who entered this giveaway, remember you will receive an extra entry in my upcoming bear giveaway!  I can't tell you exactly when that will be, because I haven't even started it.  But, you see, I have all sorts of surprises up my sleeve.  And since you are here and I'm in a bit of a chatty mood, I'm going to let you in on them!

I've already told you that I'm starting work on 2 patterns that will be available from Etsy--one of an elephump and one of a bear.  And you know that the current plans for the bear are that it will be 12 inches of a lovely honey tan mohair.  I'm thinking he will be a cute little vintage-style bear, but you do know that bears tell us bear makers what they want to become.  So, we'll just have to be patient to see who he becomes. 

Well, the elephump is a bit more certain.  He's going to be from Toffee's pattern (I've had a LOT of requests for his pattern) in a scrumptious vintage pale purple mohair.  He's going to be in a giveaway as well, but that giveaway will be only for my mailing list members.  You see, I'm just finishing up the final touches on my formal website that I will soon unveil.  People who sign up to be on my mailing list will receive email newsletters with the first information and inklings about available Bingle Bears.  If you are interested, you can sign up on my soon-to-be-website or on my blog.  In fact, you may already have noticed it on the top right of the sidebar.  I'm just so excited--I'm almost giddy!

Heaps of Hugs,

P.S.  Alfie and Sebastian have been adopted.  Alfie should be arriving to his new home in North Carolina today and Sebastian will soon be taking a similar route.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts About a Future Giveaway of a Bingle Bear

Remember, I'm drawing the winner for my Christmas Indulgence Giveaway on Thursday--two more days!  There is still time to leave a post!  No matter where you live, please feel free to enter--this is for everyone in Blogland, not just the U.S. Blogland people!  And for those of you who have already left a post, I have a little idea that has been rolling around in my noggin' (not egg noggin', but my little head!).  I'm starting work this week on two patterns that I will be selling on Etsy, an elephump and a bear.  My current thinking is that my next giveaway will be the bear that I make as I'm working on the pattern--I have to make sure the pattern works! 

Well, I'm taking a page out of Ginger's (of bearbits) book and anyone who enters this giveaway will have an extra entry when I have my future bear giveaway.  He isn't designed yet, but I think he's going to be 12 inches made from a honey tan semi-sparse mohair--he should be a real cutie!

Heaps of Hugs,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another Christmas Blog Party AND a Giveaway!

I’m so glad that Kelly at A Stuffed Life decided to host this “H’artfelt Christmas Blog Party.” It gave me a chance to think about one of my favorite indulgences during this time of the year and to share it with you as my blog giveaway. I love to curl up under a quilt with a cup of hot cocoa and read my favorite children’s Christmas stories. “The Tailor of Gloucester” by Beatrix Potter always has a place in that stack. If you would like to be entered into my Christmas Indulgence Giveaway, please leave a comment (and don't forget to leave contact information if it's not on your profile!). The randomly chosen winner will receive a copy of “The Tailor of Gloucester,” a 16-ounce container of some of the best cocoa mix around, Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate, and a great big mug (you can never have TOO much hot cocoa!). You might even want to consider becoming a follower of my blog—you never know what I might come up with next! Followers of my blog who leave a comment will be entered 3 times and posting about my giveaway on your blog and linking it back here will give you an extra entry. The drawing will take place next Thursday, December 17th. Good luck!
Now that the business is done, let’s get back to my musings about one of my favorite Christmas stories. I must admit that I am unabashedly smitten with all of Beatrix Potter’s stories and drawings. But the little mice sewing tiny, tiny, tiny little stitches to finish the Governor’s coat for the poor, sick tailor in time for the Governor’s Christmas wedding holds a special place in my heart. I’m not sure why I love those little mice so. Perhaps it is their unconditional giving. They work joyfully to help someone who has never asked for help or for anything in return for his favors. The tailor does rescue the little mice from under the teacups in which Simpkin, the tailor’s naughty cat, had trapped them. Maybe they have noticed that the good far-sighted tailor lives so poorly without griping or complaining? Or perhaps the mice appreciate the scraps of silk and satin that the tailor leaves for them. I’m not sure why they choose to joyfully help the tailor. But the mystery of the exquisitely finished Christmas wedding coat where only cut pieces of cloth previously stood continues from that day forth. The tailor chose to help the little mice out of their teacup predicament even though he knew that Simpkin would be cross. And, yes, that naughty cat spitefully hides the last bit of silk twist that the tailor needs to finish the Governor's coat. The poor, sick tailor goes to bed knowing that he won't be able to finish his work. What is he going to do? But those sweet little mice work by candlelight during the nights cheerfully sewing and singing. Ever after, the tailor designs beautiful articles of clothing, cuts out the pieces, and, tired from a day’s work, lays the pieces on his work table only to find them worked into intricate garments. The tailor’s “work” becomes sought after and he no longer has any monetary troubles. Oh, those sweet little mice! Even Simpkin, the tailor’s naughty cat, feels ashamed of his behavior in comparison to those giving little mice and returns the necessary bit of twist when the tailor is well and thinks all is lost because it's Christmas day and he did not finish the Governor's coat.
But the tailor goes to his shop and is surprised to find the coat finished and worked with the most beautiful and intricate embroidery. I’m not sure the tailor ever knows to whom he owes his gratitude for these wonderful mysteries. But he is none-the-less grateful. Perhaps that is why I love this story so. There are ever so many mysteries for us to be grateful for. And there are ever so many ways we may be like the little mice.
We may feel that we are “too small” to do anything of importance. But, indeed, just like the tailor’s mice, it has always been the little things that are done “stitch by stitch” that ever really make a difference for us, others, and the world. May we all be grateful for the little stitches that make up the fabric of our lives.
Be sure to go to the “H’artfelt Christmas Blog Party” site so that you can visit all of the other partiers. It’s always fun to read them all! And remember to leave a comment in order to be entered into my Christmas Indulgence Giveaway.
“No more twist.”

Happy Christmas!
Heaps of Hugs,

P.S. I’d like to thank my bear, Alfie, for his part as the tailor and my little needle felted mice, Pip and Squeak, in the roll of, well, the mice. I’d also like to thank my daughters for lending me their American Girl cat who played Simpkin.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Remember! Fun Stuff Tomorrow!

Remember, tomorrow is the the “H’artfelt Christmas Blog Party” and my "Christmas Indulgence" Giveaway--it's just a little something that I'm fond of during the cold winter months.

Can't wait to see you then!
Heaps of Hugs,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Lovely Surprise--Blog Awards!

Sandi at Bearly Sane gave me these wonderful blog awards.  I'm just tickled about them!  Sandi is an amazingly talented bear artist, so I feel quite honored to have received the blog awards from her.  Check out her blog--she always has something fun going on there.  Okay, now on to the formalities:

The rules are as follows:
(1) Thank the person giving the awards
(2) Copy awards to your blog
(3) Place a link to their blog
(4) Name 7 things people don't know about you
(5) Nominate 7 bloggers
(6) Place a link to those bloggers
(7) Leave a comment on their blogs letting them know of their awards

Ah, let's see now...7 things you don't know about me.  Okay, here goes...

~ When I was little I caught a catfish when fishing with my Grandpa.  I named it Charlie.  It seemed like a good name for it, but I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't wake up.  Oh, well.  Long story short...we wrapped Charlie in a blanket, buried him under a stand of old pine trees at my Grandma and Grandpa's farm, and then had a service for him.
~ I have a strong affinity for the smell of pine trees.  Hmmmm...probably something to do with that stand of pine trees that Charlie is buried beneath.
~ I can watch Jane Austen movies over and over and over again without ever tiring of them.
~ Matt and the girls can figure out what kind of day it's been for me based on which Jane Austen film I choose.  I'm a bit transparent, I guess.
~ I sleep with a teddy bear next to my bed.  Sometimes Edward Bear (think A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh) finds his way into my bed as well--I think he climbs in when he's feeling tired and needs a little something extra.
~ I spent WAY too many years in graduate school.  I've decided that it was because I just didn't know when to stop.
~ I purposely tried to FORGET what I had learned in graduate school when we had kids.  I wanted to be as present and genuine a parent as possible.

Okay, now for the difficult part--choosing ONLY 7 bloggers to give the awards to.  There are so many wonderful bloggers and artists out there in Blogland ... it just boggles my mind.  Anyhooo, these are the seven I narrowed it down to and they are in alphabetical order by their first names.  There is no way I could play favorites because they are all wonderful artists.

(1)  Brenda at "Duffyantiques"
(2)  Ginger at "bearbits"
(3)  Jenny at "jennylovesbenny"
(4)  Robin at "Needle Felted Art by Robin Joy Andreae"
(5)  Sharie at "sreetzbears"
(6)  Vivianne at "Gotta Share This"
(7)  Wendy at "Whendi's Bears"

These are remarkable people doing remarkable work.  It gives me the goosebumps thinking about how inspiring they are.

Thanks again, Sandi, for the lovely awards.

Heaps of Hugs,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Alfie is on Bear Pile

Alfie is now available for adoption on Bear Pile. This 16-inch sweetie is made of wonderfully soft and silky 3/4-inch kid mohair--yummmm. He's such a cuddly bundle of fluff!

Oh, and my copy of the "Teddy Bear Review" came yesterday afternoon! I turned to page 45 and there was Alfie! It wasn't a dream after all!

Heaps of Hugs,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sandi's "Double Ton Giveaway"

Sandi at Bearly Sane is celebrating her 100th post AND her 100th follower with a giveaway. Click on her blog's name or the picture above and it will zoom you right there. She has a delightful blog and makes beautiful bears--a win-win situation!

Congratulations, Sandi! I look forward to the 2ooth, 300th, 400th....

Heaps of Hugs,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Join the Party!

Welcome! I’m so glad you stopped by to visit me and my bears during Bearbits “Christmas Tea for All the Toys” blog party. Tea time is not an everyday event in our house but it is always a special event for us and this time my bears, Sebatian, Alfie, and Ling Ling, are going to join in on the fun. Our youngest daughter particularly loves setting out all the pretty table things and baking scrumptious edibles to enjoy while drinking our tea. I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons it is so special to her is her memories as a very wee one going on backyard “outings” with their grandfather.

May I introduce Alfie, Sebastian, and Ling Ling. Sebastian has generously agreed to play the part of Grandpa and Alfie and Ling Ling are acting as the girls when they were little.

One of my fond memories of my late father-in-law is the teddy bear tea parties he held with my two daughters when they were small. The girls would tenderly carry their stuffed friends and troop with Grandpa to the back woods of my parent’s-in-law yard.

There the girls, their stuffed buddies, and Grandpa would sit on up-turned logs circling a larger “table” log in the center.
I’ve never been quite sure what they did during their tea parties—I never asked. It seemed a special time between the three of them which needed to be protected from prying questions.

I believe that Grandpa sometimes brought a tape recorder and they listened to the “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” song. I never heard him play the song, but I frequently saw the recorder ready and waiting on the kitchen counter when we arrived for our visits.

My father-in-law was a very serious, reserved man. He had a tender and warm heart, but rarely expressed himself. With his grandchildren, however, it seemed to be a different story, especially when he thought no one was listening. He was never particularly effusive, but you could frequently catch a laughing twinkle in his eyes.

In my imagination, though, he was different in those back woods tea parties. I picture the three of them around the log table imagining a troop of teddy bears dancing around them as they ate cookies, “fed” their stuffed buddies, told stories, got silly, and sang along with the tinny sounds emitting from the tape recorder.

To them, their rustic setting was transformed to the most elegant of events. Of course, that’s what I imagine, so I’m really not sure.

However, I do know that there was always a perceptible difference in the three of them upon their return. There was a spring in their steps that wasn’t there before. The girls were more animated and giggly. And the twinkle in my father’s-in-law eyes shone brighter and deeper. It was such a sweet time. Their joy spread throughout the house and a lovely lightness enveloped us all.
I hope during this Christmas you may experience the mystery of the season and find snatches of joy where you previously did not expect them so that a lovely lightness may envelop you and yours. Don’t forget to go to Bearbits so that you can visit all of the other blogs participating in the “Christmas Tea for All the Toys.”

I would love to have you consider joining my blog as a follower and to visit me again next Saturday for the “H’artfelt Christmas Blog Party” and my giveaway. The giveaway is one of my favorite indulgences during the cold winter months--I'll reveal it next Saturday! All of these Christmas blog parties have been so much fun to prepare, I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Happy Christmas!
Heaps of Hugs,
P.S. Sebastian, the large brown bear who played the Grandpa in our story, is available for adoption starting today at Bear Pile. You can click here or on the Bear Pile link on the right side bar. He is a wonderfully sweet big guy—a real heart-warmer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Alfie is in the Teddy Bear Review!

I'm so excited, I just looked at the February 2010 digital edition of the "Teddy Bear Review" and Alfie is on page 45 in an article about "Bare Bears!" You can check it out yourself here. This is the first time one of my bears has been in a magazine. I'm just tickled pink! I can't wait until I can hold my paper copy of TBR in my grubby little hands!
Heaps of Hugs,

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Present

Yippee Skippy! My bears are finished, their photos are ready for the blog party on Saturday, my house is decorated, my Christmas shopping is about done (including stocking stuffers), and the girls have made amazing lebkuchen for a homeschool Christmas party today. Wow! Everything just seems to be humming along!

I used to be such a procrastinator and worked very well under pressure. Not so today. My body doesn't deal with stress very well. Nowadays I tend to get things done really early because, hey, you never know what can happen!

I suppose some may think that sounds a bit pessimistic, but really I do things early to be able to enjoy the present. I want to be able to take time to look at a rainbow, a beautiful sunset, or clouds passing over a full moon. I want to take time to really look at my girls and my husband and to be able to fully listen to their joys, sorrow, or concerns. I want to be able to take a nap when I'm tired and to cozy up under a quilt with a good book or movie when I don't feel well.

So I work slowly and I don't get as much done as I would like. I work in snatches of time. Yes, I certainly wish I could make more bears, but I wouldn't trade my life for anything. I even have a small metal sign that hangs on our front door reminding us:
Life is a gift
that's why it is called
the present.
Heaps of Hugs,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bubbling with Excitement

I have so many surprises coming up--I'm just bubbling with excitement. Next Saturday. December 5th, is Bearbit's "Christmas Tea for all the Toys" and the following Saturday, December 12th, is A Stuffed Life's (formerly Yesterday's Glitter) "H'artfelt Christmas Blog Party." I'm so excited about both blog parties and can't wait to share my posts and pictures with you.

I'm actually all ready for the "H'artfelt Christmas Blog Party" on the 12th. The photos have turned out wonderful and I've written my post. However, I'm not quite so ready for the "Christmas Tea for all the Toys" next week. My post is written, but I'm still finishing up two of the three bears who will be starring in my party post. Sebastian just needs a few finishing touches, but he's already a beauty. He's 19 1/2 inches with wavy cocoa-colored mohair and an absolutely adorable face (if I do say so myself). And I'm currently stuffing the second bear, a cute 16 1/2 inch pink and black panda who will be my youngest daughter's Christmas present. My daughter picked out some of the softest, silkiest mohair that I've ever touched--it's vintage mohair (also called new old stock) that Alison McKee of eTeddys is selling at Teddy Bear Mohair.

So keep posted because I have two surprises for you--one on each of the coming Saturdays. On the 5th, I'll debut Sebastian who will be available to purchase. And on the 12th, accompanying the blog party, I will have a giveaway of one of my favorite indulgences on a cold winter's night--you'll just have to wait and see what it is.

Heaps of Hugs,

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Life is Good

Yes sirree ze doozy! Life is good! I finished my Teddy Talk swap Christmas Ornament yesterday and it was mailed out this morning. AND..this is the good part...I was able to finish sewing a teddy bear today! If I feel well enought tomorrow, I can work on stuffing and jointing. Whoo Hoo!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Teddy by My Daughter and My Sewing Dilemma

Well, I haven't finished any bears lately, but my eldest daughter has! Isn't her 12 inch panda, Butterscotch, absolutely adorable!

I'm working on making Squeak's (the brown mouse from the last post) swinging wreath chair for the Teddy Talk ornament swap. It's coming along...honestly. I just have to sew on some ribbons from which to suspend the wreath. I know...I know. It's probably a quick little job. Just sew them on, attach some embellishments, and, voila, it's done. But it's sewing. You know how I feel about sewing anything other than teddy bears. I can't figure out why it's the case...it really seems like it shouldn't matter...it really doesn't make sense. But there you have it. I'm just itching to sew on a bear, but I'm afraid that if I don't make myself finish this little sewing task first it might just not get done in time.

So, I'm going to be brave and step up to the sewing needle and thread and finish this wreath. I'll remind myself that I can play with the bears as soon as I'm done. Honestly! I should add an ice cream cone to the bribe as well. I'm worse than a kid facing having to clean her room.

Heaps of Hugs,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tales of Mice and ... Well, Wreaths

I've had a lot of fun needle felting these little guys--Pip (2 1/4 inches) and Squeak (2 1/2 inches).
They are going to star in a special blog post in a couple of weeks and are warming up for their roles.
Squeak is also part of a special Christmas ornament that I'm making for a swap on Teddy Talk.
He's still waiting for his swinging chair that I'm making for him out of a little Holly berry wreath. I'll post it when I'm finished. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for me that it will turn out as planned.
Heaps of Hugs,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The "Over the Top" Blog Award

Heather at Little Bearries has presented me with a blog award, the 'Over the Top' award...I know I can get a little wordy so I hope it doesn't refer to that! Anyways, I'm thankful to sweet Heather and I love the award!

Rules :-
1. Use only 1 word answers.
2. Pass along to 6 of you favourite bloggers.
3. Tell them you've given them the award.
4. Have Fun !!

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse
2. Your hair? Brown
3. Your mother? Caring
4. Your father? Warm
5. Your favorite food? Sushi
6. Your dream last night? Bears
7. Your favorite drink? Chai
8. Your dream/goal? Bears
9. What room are you in? Living
10. Your hobby? Bears
11. Your fear? Evil
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Bears
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something that you aren’t? Tall
15. Muffins? Pumpkin
16. Wish list item? Bears
17. Where did you grow up? Michigan
18. Last thing you did? Read
19. What are you wearing? Pajamas
20. Your TV? Hiding
21. Your pets? Sleeping
22. Friends? Wonderful
23. Your life? Great
24. Your mood? Content
25. Missing someone? Uncle
26. Vehicle? Hybrid
27. Something you’re not wearing? Wig
28. Your favorite store? Antique
29. Your favorite color? Rainbow
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Thursday
32. Your best friend? Matt
33. One place that I go to over and over? Couch
34. One person who emails me regularly? Mom
35. Favorite place to eat? Home

I know...I know...I am a bit preoccupied with bears. I just can't help it!

I am presenting my awards to the following wonderful bear artists (in alphabetical order):

1. Bearkidz
2. Beckoning Bears
3. Bramblewood Bears
4. Bumpkin Bears
5. Dances with Teddy Bears
6. Desertmountainbears

Please click on their links and check them out--these artists do beautiful work!

Heaps of Hugs,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cheryl, the Slow Learner, Finally Finds Her Passion

Ah, so we come to the end of my story. After trying jewelry making, woodblock printing, carving Hittys, and let's not forget knitting and punch needle, I finally gave up my desperate search for "My Passion." I had tried so many things, yet nothing pulled at my heart strings. I finally settled that I would just be one of the "Jill-of-all-Crafts" and would bounce from project to project as the wind blew. I loved my life. I was content.

Life went on this way for at least a year. I dabbled in this and that. Of course, I would never voluntarily take on a sewing project because I just didn't like sewing. I KNEW this. It was a fact. I was very good at sewing. I had learned to sew at a young age and had sewn clothing, stuffed animals, quilt pieces, Waldorf dolls, Halloween costumes, and on and on. I just tolerated sewing. It was an ends to a mean. I would do it if I had too, but with no joy. It was simply just another skill to add to my list.

But then fall came and I really wanted a bear. I don't know why. I just knew that I REALLY wanted a teddy bear.

Okay, I finally relented...sewing would have to be my means to an end. I would buy a pattern and teach my girls and another homeschooling girl more sewing skills while they made bears with me. It would be a homeschool project. It would need to be a small bear so that the project didn't overwhelm them and so I could work with them on their hand-sewing skills. You see, I am very practical. I quite disliked sewing, but I still thought it was a useful skill for them all to have. Ah, yes, very practical. Being a small bear, it would also be done without having to spend too much time sewing, such a disagreeable thing to me.

Jennylovesbenny comes to the rescue! What an adorable pattern! How cute! I actually became a bit excited about the whole prospect--particularly about finishing it. The girls were thrilled and we sewed away. I hurried along to finish mine. I told myself it was because I wanted to be able to go through all the steps so that I could better help the girls. Perhaps. I hadn't made cotterpin joints before or sunk glass eyes--I told myself that I needed to make sure I worked out all the bugs. But really...I was having FUN!

And then it was over...it was all done...there were no more bears to make besides assisting the girls. How could this be? There HAD to be more--I really wanted to sew more. I wanted to SEW! Unbelievable!

Well, I would just have to design my own pattern and make my own artist bear. So I did. Bailey was the result.
And then I designed and sewed another bear and yet another. I didn't want to stop! I just LOVED sewing teddy bears. I NEEDED to sew teddy bears. By Christmas I realized I was hooked and our house would be overtaken with bears if I didn't do something quick. Thus Bingle Bears was born and I was selling bears.

I suppose that's how life goes. When you finally stop searching for something, it sneaks up behind you and catches you by surprise. I had found "My Passion" by stopping the search for it. I ADORE making teddy bears. When I don't work on a bear for a day or two, life just doesn't feel right--I get edgy. As long as I'm thinking about, reading about, creating, and, yes, sewing teddy bears, all is right with the world. Do I like sewing teddy bears?--Oh, my gosh, yes, yes, and YES! I LOVE sewing bears. Do I like sewing in general now? Ummm...not so much. I guess some things may never change.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cheryl, the Slow Learner--Part Three

On to the next part of my story. We've established that in my search for "My Passion," I learned that jewelry making was too hard on my hands and I moved on to carving and printing wood block prints. Somehow in my little brain I figured that carving wood blocks was easier on my hands. Yeah, I know--doesn't make much sense does it? But wait..it gets even BETTER!

As time went on, I let go of printing and slowly admitted that it probably wasn't a good idea for my hands. Besides, I didn't miss it. So my search went on. Then I stumbled upon Hitty. "Hitty--Her First Hundred Years" by Rachel Field has always been one of my girls' and my favorite books. It's a story about a 6 1/2 inch wooden doll's travels and adventures in the 1800s. Very charming. But what I didn't know was that there were all sorts of people who MADE her! Oh, that stirred the imagination of Ms. Do-it-herself!

Yes, you guessed it. "My Passion" took a turn from carving wood blocks to carving Hittys--wood-pegged joints and all. Yes, I hear you asking now, "How was carving little dolls easier than carving printing blocks?" It's a valid question. Well..I could tell you how pulling a carving knife towards oneself is easier than trying to precisely push and stop a carving knife through a block..and it would be true. But, PLEASE...WHAT was I thinking?! Carving is still hard on the hands. See what I mean about being a slow learner? By the time I had become rational again, I had already carved, sanded, painted, varnished, and clothed 2 little Hitty dolls and had started a third (now forever banished to a box in the basement).

I must admit that we had fun taking the Hittys on our own travels and adventures. Here's my first Hitty sitting at the base of a huge tree.

And here are my two Hittys sitting on the lawn of Monticello.
And at the Lincoln Memorial we have my two Hittys joined with a Hitty by Gail Wilson. My eldest daughter received it as a Christmas present during our "Hitty Fever." Gail creates beautiful Hittys from paper mache with cloth bodies. She sells all sorts of necessary supplies and kits for dolls and doll's furniture. I still love looking through her website, Gail Wilson Designs.
One or more Hittys still enjoy joining us on our travels--particularly when we are camping--we just have gotten more lazy about photographing them.

So, in my search for "My Passion" I never found it. I gladly put aside my carving knives because my hands hurt so much that I just couldn't ignore them any longer. And I gave up my search. Tomorrow I'll tell you about the conclusion. Although I'm sure you've already guessed that it has something to do with teddy bears!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cheryl, the Slow Learner--Part Two

Okay, so I finally admitted that my aching hands just couldn't take the jewelry making. But, remember, I'm still looking for my "passion." So what do I do? I decide to go back to my roots--my mom is an award-winning, abstract artist (you can see her work here). I set up an easel in the living room and I fill sketchbooks. That works for a time. But I can only make one copy at a time. Solution? Printmaking!

I throw myself into printmaking. But do I use the easier-to-carve linoleum? Of course not! I want to see those little curliques that come from carving wood! I loved playing with those pretty wood shavings as a little girl. Making little piles of them--gluing them on paper to make pictures--decorating dolls and stuffed animals with them--well, you get the idea.

I take my drawings, transfer them to wood blocks, and away I go--carving, carving, carving away the "white area." After a while I do figure out that it's tiring work carving the wood and my hands are not entirely pleased. So we head over to the woodworking store (otherwise known as Matt's candy store) and buy some really nice ergonomic carving tools. Beautiful tools. Sharp as razors. The set even comes with bandaids packaged in an easy-to-use plastic fliptop container--nope, I'm not kidding.

Printmaking is fun! Drawing, carving, inking the block, and running the block through a press. Cool stuff. But was it a passion? Not really. I could go days, even weeks, without missing it. But I did enjoy it and I liked the prints I made.

Here's one of our youngest daughter as a preschooler.

And I love flowers. This one is of a cranesbill geranium--I watercolored the petals blue.

And beebalm also with watercolored petals.
Lastly, this is a print I called "Baby Talk." Sorry the photo is rather small.

Eventually though, I realize that my hands just can't keep up with the carving and the press begins to gather dust. What next? I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cheryl, the Slow Learner--Part One

Thank you everyone for your patience and well-wishes. I saw my doctor yesterday and I'm feeling a bit better. I'm not fond of taking medications, but I was desperate and they are helping. Thank goodness! Now on with my post.

Remember way back in my posts when I told you that I was grateful to have found a sewing machine to use because my hands were having difficulty sewing my bears completely by hand? And in the last post, I told you a bit of my saga in trying to find my passion. Well, today and in the next couple of posts, I'm going to show you what a slow learner I've been over the years!

Many years ago, I became enamored with wire-wrapped sterling silver jewelry. And, of course, Ms. Do-It-Yourself decided, well, to make some herself! With a book in my hand, silver wire in the other, and beads scattered about, I went to work. I enjoyed it. A local art gallery sold my work. The only thing I had to worry about was making sure our preschooler didn't collect the little sharp silver bits or our toddler didn't eat them. Well, I guess silver is pretty inert and she seems okay today, so....no harm done?

Let me show you some of my work from back then. Here are 2 bracelets using lovely lampworked beads. Everything was hand worked including the clasps and the large silver beads. The only things not made from wire were the silver bead in the clasp and the very thin spacers.

I made this necklace for my Mom using some beautiful agates that my paternal grandparents had collected and polished. My grandparents were known as "rock hounds" and they collected amazing specimens from across the country--particularly in the upper penisula of Michigan.

I'm not sure how well these photos show the jewelry, but in "real life" they were really lovely, if I do say so myself. However, I never bargained for the amount of strength, control, and coordination required to make these baubles. My fingers protected themselves with some hefty callouses. But nothing could protect my hands and wrists without interferring with the pliers and the range of motion necessary. So my hands and wrists finally let their opinion be known and I had to stop. The experience wasn't wasted though because now I'm really good at using a plier in each hand to turn cotter-pins for my teddy bear joints!
Tomorrow I'll tell you about my next step in the "art world."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I'm So Thankful I Found Jennylovesbenny

Okay, I must first whine and then I shall (hopefully) be rational again. Actually after my whine, I'd like to talk about some of the beginnings of my "bearhood." Just wanted to prepare you for the first.

Here goes....Matt's been working out of town for nearly 2 weeks, my uncle died on Friday, and my fibromyalgia is so out of control and painful that I am one step from being bedridden. I can only do one thing a day, so that means I must choose between either taking a shower, driving a child to a class, OR doing one VERY light errand (as long as I use my cane). I can't consider even doing laundry, grocery shopping, or cooking. The latter may sound great, but anything looks good when you're glued to the couch or the bed. Okay, that's enough...whine, whine, whine.

Deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out. Okay.

So what do I do to distract myself? Why, I look at and think about teddy bears. I've been thinking about how much can change in a year. This time last year I was working on making my very first teddy bear with a lovely Jennylovesbenny pattern by Jenny Lee. She has so many adorable patterns available and is very generous with her help.

After all of the things I've sewn both with and without patterns for nearly 40 years, it was Jenny Lee's Pepper pattern that changed everything. Or, perhaps more accurately, it brought me back to my beginnings. Back to the little girl who would spontaneously make little friends out of anything available--cloth, wood, clay, etc.

I had been searching for my passion for years. By the end of graduate school, I knew being a psychologist wasn't my passion. It was a job I enjoyed and valued, but I wasn't passionate about it. And by the time the fibromyalgia rolled around, I realized being a psychologist wasn't even an option anymore.

So I searched. I had a gut feeling that my passion was somewhere in the arts and crafts. I've made sterling silver wire-wrapped jewelry, hand-cut woodblock prints, and hand-carved dolls. I enjoyed each of these in turn, but none of them ever beckoned to me when I wasn't working on them. (In another post I'll show you some of these past works and how I've arranged my workspace, but this post is already getting rather long.)

But this time last year as I was stitching up my little Jennylovesbenny bear, I knew something had happened. I was hooked! By Thanksgiving of last year I had already designed my first artist bear, was putting on the final touches, and was working on my second design. My second artist bear was finished by mid-December!

Now, I have my passion. I LOVE making teddy bears. If I don't get to work on some bear, any bear, for a day or two, I get rather grumpy...out of sorts...off balance. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my doctor will be able to help me sort out this latest fibromyalgia flare-up. It's been a LONG time since I was able to do some real bear work and I'm feeling it. It's CALLING to me! Oh, well, I'll just keep my mind occupied with bears in books, magazines, on the web, and in my imagination.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Last Boston Post and My Favorite Museum

I know I've promised two more posts on our trip to Boston, but I've changed my mind. Instead, I'm going to combine the posts and show you lots of pictures. I hope you can bear with me.

We went to some fabulous places in Boston and still didn't even scratch the surface of everything we wanted to do. The Museum of Fine Arts is mind-boggling. I probably could have spent a week there, but unfortunatley my legs would only cooperate for a couple of hours. Ah, well, it will have to be one of those places on my list to revisit. We saw some lovely exhibits, but one that stood out was a room of antique instruments. There was everything from beautiful to unique to strange (I wonder how you play THAT?!). But mostly they were all stunningly gorgeous.

Seeing the USS Constitution was, I am told, also a highlight. Unfortunately for me, my legs didn't want to cooperate at all that day. So I watched movies in the houseboat and continued to learn about tides (lots of rocking and rolling). However, I did catch a glipse of the ship the next day when it was turned around for it's birthday and fired it's cannons. All the booming was a pretty good indication that something was going on, so the girls and I ran out to see this sight.
Matt was walking Bingley at the time and took this lovely photo--its masts were down due to restoration. Bingley apparently was not at all impressed with the cannons. When they were on the tour, Matt took the photo below of the crowsnest. It gave a whole new perspective to being a lookout on one of these old ships. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like that job. Between the height and the rocking of the boat, it must have taken some time to get used to.
But my FAVORITE thing in Boston was the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I had never heard of it and I am SO glad Matt found out about it. It is a beautiful museum that is very different from most. The collection was bought and put up by one woman, Isabella Stewart Gardner, around the turn of the 1900s. She had the four-storey building built specifically for her collection with the intention of it later being a museum. While she was alive she lived on the fourth floor. All of the rooms, encircle this amazing indoor courtyard. Oh, by the way, all of the following photos are from the ISG Museum website, because taking photos are prohibited while visiting the museum.
You can also see the courtyard from many of the upper-storey galleries.
Besides having a gem of a courtyard, another unique thing about this museum is how the works are displayed. You know how most museums have their artworks spread out with plenty of space to contemplate each work--well, not here. There is painting upon painting upon sculpture upon architectural details. It just overwhelms the senses. You become completely enveloped by beauty.
Things are just stacked on top of each other.
And everything is in the exact place that she originally displayed them. They have to be. If the museum doesn't display everything and in its exact place, her will stipulates that the entire collection will be whisked off to Paris, sold off, and the proceeds will go to Harvard.
I guess this is a bit of a curator's nightmare--trying to protect the art from the light and still displaying everything.
Another thing about the Isabella Stewart Gardner is that none of the artworks are labelled. You walk through room after room passing all these amazing works and not always knowing the artist--Titian, Rembrandt, Sargeant, Whistler, Degas, etc. I suppose this may bother some people, but I found it rather refreshing. Instead of feeling compelled to read who created each work and trying to store it in my brain, I was able to just be awashed in art and beauty. The sensation of being absolutely surrounded by greatness was sublime. Walking through the rooms was an experience of complete sensory overload--and it was wonderful.