Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fight the Good Fight

If anyone is still following my blog they might have noticed a serious  lack of bear making here. There is a serious lack of anything at all in fact, because this is my first post for 2016! The reason for that is I am still battling ongoing health issues which seriously limit my working time. They started last year around this time--just when I had decided to leave my teaching job in hopes to be able to work MORE on my bears and dolls!

I have made a few pieces for Silly Bears this year (which were promised last year), but as the pain continues I am becoming increasingly concerned that trying to "power through" the pain may cause irreversable damage. I cancelled my place in the Teddies Worldwide online show in March, and I have decided I must cancel my trip to the Quinlan Artist Doll and Teddy Bear Weekend. This makes me incredibly sad. I am not saying that I'm not going to make any bears for now..I will when I can, but I don't think I can commit to any shows until I have some idea of what's going on and a treatment plan.

Here is a little more detail about my "health issues" if you want to read it. Skip the next paragraph if you find it to be too much information. I hate feeling like a complainer--I know there are folks who have a lot more challenging things to deal with, but this has been quite depressing for me, particularly since I don't know if or when it will get better. 

Basically, I have been experiencing a variety of pain symptoms in my pelvis, lower back, tailbone, and legs, which get worse with sitting, standing, and heavy activity. Currently, sitting is the worst. I can stand and work for a little  while on some days, but on others standing long enough to shower and dry my hair is about all I can do before I must lie down for a bit. Sitting is immediately uncomfortable, and it’s painful after about 15 minutes.  I've had ultrasounds, blood work, Doppler scans of my veins and arteries in my legs (checking for blood clots) CT scan of pelvis/abdomen with "normal" results. I came very close to canceling my trip to the UK last November. It was mostly a lovely trip, but the all day traveling days (there were four) were difficult, and I would really like to go again when I am well. Initially, I had noticed that the pain was worse with my periods, and as my cycle began to change those became much heavier and much, much longer (one was 10 weeks--landing me in the ER for a blood transfusion!) This, along with the pelvic pain, led my gynecologist to suggest a hysterectomy (I had a prolapsed uterus, which she suspected was the cause of my symptoms.) I had this in December and the recovery was longer than I thought--nearly two months, and while I guess I am recovered from the surgery now...I am still symptomatic. The general heaviness and lower back pain have decreased only very slightly, and of course no more bleeding, but most of the pain remains, new symptoms have occurred, and the sitting pain is worse than before.  I've been doing my own research online and I have run across a few things which fit with my symptoms, I just need to find the right doctors who will solve the puzzle, and help to set me on the right road to healing. Currently, I am trying an anti-inflammatory diet, walking as much as I can (with standing and sitting limited this is about all I can do) I'm in pelvic floor physical therapy (who knew there was such a thing?!), and I'm trying to find someone who will diagnose and treat--or at least definitively cross  off the list of suspects--- Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS), Pudendal Neuralsia (PN), Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD), or whatever is causing my CPP (chronic pelvic pain) . I am trying to stay positive and proactive about things. Some days I do better than others with this. 

Today was not one of my better days, but I want to end this post on a positive note so I'm reposting a video I posted on Facebook a little while back.Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" has obviously resonated with a lot of people, given its constant radio play. I am one of them. When I actually listened to the words, I mentally adopted it as my theme song for this year. Last year was an amazing year for me in so many ways, particularly with my bear business. But even as I chose to leave my teaching job and focus fully on my bears and dolls, even as I enjoyed being recognized as "Teddy Bear Artist of the Year" and traveled to England and Scotland for the first time to share my work, I was struggling quietly with daily pain. I still am. My health issues do not appear to be life threatening, but they are depressing and decidedly "quality of life" threatening. While my end of the year surgery helped with some issues, the pain continues--for now. However, I am hopeful and determined that 2016 will be my Year of Good Health!
Fight Song is a good theme for the year, but Amazing Grace is one for life! The combination is beautiful, and the wonderful images of Scotland remind me of one of the highest points of my year last year!

Note: This piece is instrumental. If you don't know the words to either song you can look them up on Google 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Silly Bears Christmas Cheer Event!

Just posting some photos of the special pieces I have made for the Silly Bears Christmas Cheer Event!  I made a kitten, a rabbit and of course bears!!! I particularly pleased to show my first doll offering for the shop.
Maraschino and His Puppet

Maraschino and His Puppet









A Curious Dream

A Curious Dream

Closeup of Alice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Great Yorkshire Teddy Bear Event!

I am sorry it has been ages since I have posted anything here. I thought I would have more time since I left my teaching job, but I am so very good at filling up my days, they just fly by.

Speaking of flying--I will be flying to the UK tomorrow for The Great Yorkshire Teddy Bear Event in Sheffield--my first overseas show! I'm looking forward to seeing arist and collector friends, and to making some new ones. I've been dealing with some health issues (which will hopefully be resolved soon), so I don't have as many pieces as I had hoped for my table (there is always something) but I am very pleased with the pieces I did finish. I hope you like them too.

I will be traveling to Scotland after England for the Silly Bears' Winter Cheer Event with some more of my work. I'll share photos soon!

Alaska, my class sample, will be donated to the Charity Raffle.

If I finish the Alaska I'm using for demonstratiuon in the class, he'll be for sale.

Rigel and his star ornament.

I always like to have at least one classic stlye bear at a show.

This is Rufus.

Because I can't get enough of Steampunk-- Here is Doc


I engaged in a bit of "Fan Art". His suitcase  and it's contents are hand made tpp.

Furbaby Colin has a hand sculpted and hand painted face.

Another classic style cutie, Justice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Letting off a Little Steam

I love the Steampunk look and I've been thinking about making another Steampunk themed bear piece---the gears are turing in my mind, but I have a few other works in progress I need to finish before I start something new!

I realized I never posted finished pictures of my last Steampunk creations on this blog! You can find  my idea sketch and a few progress photos a couple of posts below, but here is the finished bear for the Steampunk gallery at the Quinlan show in Philadelphia.



Icarus wears a leather aviaitor helmut and vest that were challenging and fun to make and wooden wings, painted to look like tarnished brass. I love this bear!

Along with the Steampunk gallery, a few artists chose to let off some steam at dinner by dressing up in fine Steampunk fashion. Of course I was one of them! My costume is put together entirely from thriftstore finds apart from the corset and hat. I dressed up an inexpensive party store top hat, and bought an authentic steel- boned corset from "corsetdeal.com". ( Who knew there was such a place?)

Icarus and I

with Noemi Smith

My wonderful husband and I

It's about time for dinner, I think.

The lovely and talenetd Michelle Lamb and I

Excited award winners.

Martha Burch does amazing Steampunk pieces!

Katherine Hallam looked incredible in her Alice in Wonderland themed Steampunk costume.
I wish I had taken a close up of the leather teacup hat she made.

There were even more people dressed up and still more said they would join us all next year. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, July 27, 2015


Hello, Friends! I am sorry it has been so long since my last post here. My days are full and fine , but they do tend to fly by at an alarming rate!

I have two pieces of exciting news to share. The first is exciting, but also a little bit sad. After 8 wonderful years, I have decided to leave my postition as the K-8 art teacher at St. Bernadette School. There were so many wonderful things I will miss-- my subject matter, my fellow teachers and staff, the beautiful new classroom I spent a large part of last summer painting, the new TAB curriculum I began to use this past year, and, most of all, my beloved students! It has been one of my greatest joys to see these boys and girls grow as artists and individuals over the years.

 I chose to leave because I felt it was time to devote myself completely to my other passion--creating my dolls and bears. I am hoping this change will allow me to focus on my own growth as an artist and a business woman. Look for more bears, more blog posts, faster email replies, etc. (I am also hoping to create a bit of free time, but knowing me, it won't be free time for long!)

This choice to focus on my own art has already yielded one amazing benefit, which brings me to my next bit of news. My bears and I will be visiting the UK in November!  I have long wanted to particpate in an overseas show, but the constraints of the school calendar kept me from doing so.

I will be attending for the first time, The Great Yorkshire Teddy Bear Event Sunday the 15th of November. I have aslo been invited to teach a workshop on Saturday the 14th. If you are interested in joining me in creating this darling polar bear contact Katherine Hallam at info@katieraebears.uk.com

For the second part of my trip, I will be off to Aberdeen Scotland! On Saturday the 21st of November from 1pm to 4pm Silly Bears will be hosting their Annual Mulled Wine Afternoon to celebrate the official start of their Christmas Festivities, and they have invite me to attend. I will be bringing with me ten special pieces created exclusively for this event.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to meet in person, Julieann Bruce (proprietor of Silly Bears), some of my fellow artists I have come to know online over the years, and some of the lovely people who choose to add my creations to their collections!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Getting ready for Philly!

With just a few weeks until the Quinlan Artist Doll and Teddy Bear Convention in Philadelphia, I have been busy, busy, busy in my studio! I always have the idea of recording my work in progress here on my blog, but I get so caught up in what I am doing, I often forget to take pictures, let alone post about them!

I thought I would take a moment today to post some photos that I have taken. My head has been absolutely buzzing with ideas and like this little rabbit, I have been hopping from one project to another for many weeks! It's time to focus and finish!

Here is "Daffodil" getting her markings. I find it easier to add the color as each body part is added so you can see here on her unattatched leg what color the fur is before the Prismacolor shading is added. I love this part!

Adding color.

I was delighted to have her as part of our Easter decor while she waits to find her new home in Philly!

I have also been working on a Steampunk themed bear for one of the special galleries at the show. His name is Icarus, a perfect name suggested by my son!

From my sketchbook

Wing mock up

Icarus waits for his special accessories

I'm also bringing a  fun circus themed bear. This special vignette will include the toy circus train which you can see in progress below.  I'm keeping this bear under wraps for now!

I have created a new natural style bear pattern with an articulated spine and this playful polar cub is the first bear I made with it.

Be careful Orson!

As they used to say on Monty Python,

And now for something completely different...

I usually like to include a few classic or traditionally styled bears in my show collections, so I had in mind to create one for this show. I accidently trimmed too much fur from the snout and had no more fur to make him a new head! I decided to sculpt a clay face over the bald fabric snout and came up with this...

I decided to cover the face with wool felt to match his paws and this was the result:

The finished bear is far from traditional and quite unlike anything I have done before, but I am delighted with him! I definitely want to play around with this idea some more!

That's all for now, as I had better get back to the studio! I have lots of things to finish!

Oswald and Orson: See you in Philly!