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 really seems like it shouldn't 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 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 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, 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 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.