Unlike most bear people I began with little interest at all in teddies. I was too busy doing other things with my life until a relative unearthed my childhood teddy. A little cream bear (I now know is an Alpha Farnell) that my granfather gave to me when I was born. Somewhere along the line I tied a piece of purple wool on his right arm & chewed a hole in his right foot. But he still has his other arm up waving and manages to pull on the heart strings when I look at him. When Christine & I met in 1993 I had just finished post graduate work in scienece (studying sewage microbes of all things) & was working as a freelance computer artist. I had always had an interest in biology & morpholgy in particular. Add to that a soft spot for fury animals & you have the ingredients for an unconventional bear maker. So when Christine suggested that we design some teddy bears together I jumped at the oppurtunity to do something a little different.
Using "Old Mr Holy Foot" as a starting point , we developed as many different bear shapes as we could & then started branching out into real and imagined animals. Since then I've learnt to appreciate many more aspects of bear making. So now when I look at designing a bear I think more about the personality I want to convey & how to use materials to their best effect. I like to find new ways to embellish a bear with gestures and subtle changes to the hands, feet & facial features. I believe that for a bear to come to life it must not only be asthetically pleasing to the senses but it must have a personality that is endearing & says "Pick me up, I wanna be yours".
I started my working life as a dancer, with a foothold in Musical Theatre, which was hectic but rewarding. I remember I spent more time helping in costume design, behind a sewing machine, or with needle & thread in hand, than I did at dance rehersal. About the same time, I was given the oppurtunity to attend The Royal Academy to study Fine Art, which I jumped at. Pencil drawings, oil paintings & antiquarian techniques became my forte & it was around this time I became interested in Pre-Raphaelite art. Just lending a hand in Costume I gradually developed skills with the needle which I soon developed into a small business in costume/dress design. As a professional artist and designer I also learnt the virtue of patience, a skill that I found to be indespensible in making bears.
My bear making career began one day in 1994, when on the spur of the moment I picked up a bear magazine at a newstand and decided that this was something I could do. Gradually I honed my skills and within a year started selling bears on commission and on consignment. Most of my bears are produced in small numbers so that they retain their one of a kind feel. My inspiration comes from the natural world and the materials that I use. I love haunting antique bazars and fabric shops, looking for just the right item.
Many of my ideas evolve from studying the texture and color of fabric swatches and watching my son - his mannerisms, gestures, moods and the way that he acts. When I make a "Guggums" I try to capture a personality that I see in my mind and translate it into something with character and feeling. As I sit here now, I glance up at an old friend of mine "Talking Teddy" (at least that's what I've always called him) and I find it hard to believe that a gift from an aunt so many years ago could have inspired me so much. Of course he's changed a lot over the years. His fur, which was once gold is now much darker, thanks to many years of baby dribble and hunders of wet kisses. And of course he's suffered a few injuries in days gone by. None the less, he has never lost his cheery smile and the twinkle in his eyes. The growler in his tummy still growls but now days it's my son he makes happy.
Guggums began back in 1994 with the unlikely combination of a scientist and a fashion designer who both had interest in the arts. Together they design and manufacture a wide range of plush toys -
from traditional teddies to way out critters, you have to see to believe.