Tuesday 24 May 2011

Panda update

My prototype panda is finished! This is the plain cotton version I'm referring to: whether I can replicate the effect in mohair is another question entirely. I am very chuffed with this design, although I have had so long to get used to him that I am dangerously close to thinking he looks fabulous in plain cotton and doesn't need to be made in mohair!

He has not turned out to be as I expected. He definitely has realistic elements, but there is something quite unrealistically cute about him(!) But I guess that's teddy bears all over.

It has become quite a marathon, this panda-making project - although I am having a breather now, waiting for the fabric to arrive. Every time I go to work at the Art & Craft Centre, I see my sparse-looking unit and think, 'hmmm, I must get to work, and make some more bears to bring in'. I have done that now for two weeks on the trot - then home again, back to the slow, laborious task of piecing together my panda, and nothing gets made for the unit.

He is quite a chunky chap though: when he finally gets to the Centre, he will fill a large gap!

I am not sure what to do about the leaflet idea now. I have about forty photographs (almost as much work went into taking the photographs as into designing the bear), and I haven't even started on the actual 'making' bit yet! At this rate, it's going to be a book, rather than a leaflet. Maybe a 'look book' is a more practical idea though - a folder of annotated photos of the process, which stays in the unit, for customers to flip through. It does seem a shame not to give people something to take home: customers often ask if I have a leaflet or something. If they're buying it as a gift, they understandably want the recipient to see that a lot of work has gone into the making of that gift. I shall have to see if I can condense the whole thing.

I wrote a few weeks back (here) about different definitions of the concept of 'one of a kind', and something which seems to go hand in hand with this is different... uh... experiences of the pattern making process. Often, in the world of one of a kind teddy bears, it seems that everyone can simply imagine a teddy bear,and then put that design onto paper straight off. I'm sure there are plenty of very talented people who can do that, but I also think that this is partly an impression resulting from the fact that teddy bear makers don't talk/blog much about the long, messy process of putting a pattern together. Emphasis is often put on the hours that go into the details of the bear - the air brushing, the hair styling, the needle sculpting - but not the actual pattern making.

I'm not sure why this is - perhaps it's because bear makers are actually, in practice, more realistic than their marketing suggests, and don't often start completely afresh on a new design. Or maybe it's because nobody wants to destroy the magic of their gorgeous, beautifully finished bears by dredging up images of them in a less than perfect state... the first design attempt, where the bear has a pointy bottom, or a wrinkled muzzle - or, God forbid, doesn't look anything like a bear at all.

When I first started out though - and, to some extent, still now - I found it very intimidating. Coming up with workable patterns takes me dozens of attempts (well, dozens might be an exaggeration - but you know what I mean: lots of them) and what I was doing at home seemed a far cry from the way other bear makers described the pattern making process. Back then, the failure to get it right first time felt like incompetence.

As with the whole 'one of a kind' thing though, in recent years I have been reading blogs by people who create other forms of soft sculpture, and a number of them are particularly good in that they make plain the relatively extended, developmental nature of the process. It has given me confidence to see that people who are as good as they are - who produce such beautiful work - don't necessarily go from an idea to a perfect paper pattern in the blink of an eye.

Anyway, not without some trepidation, I have photographed each and every attempt at this panda - even those attempts which were complete rubbish. I might actually publish them on here, in addition to producing a leaflet. Although I might be guilty of it anyway, I wouldn't like this to be one of those blogs which was like, blah, blah, blah... ta da (new bear)! Blah, blah, blah... ta da (new bear)! As if the whole thing happened easily, without any swearing, hair tearing, and piles of unattended washing up.

Anyway! The fabric is on order, and when he is complete (he's a Steve, I think), I will post some pictures!

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