Well Half Term is finally upon us, which means I have a bit of bear making time. Just before school broke up myself and six interested students came together to begin Bear Making Club: it's the first time I'll be teaching people of their age (although I did show three girls at my American University, but that was a bit more informal!).
For us, the process has begun with DYEING FABRIC (always dramatic, generally coupled with witch-like cackling and stirring of suspicious looking pots of bubbling liquid). All of my students have chosen their colours, but I was trying to match a paint chip for a commission: hopefully you think I was successful? Student selections were mostly brown with some lilac and green thrown in. Next fortnight we'll start drawing out and cutting patterns, before the real fun begins.
Meanwhile (because I won't have a club update this week due to the holidays) I thought I'd chronicle the real first step for me as a bear maker: pattern design. I've done this for my hare before, but thought it might be useful to have a bear reference in time for the inevitable club assembly at the end of the year.
I always start with a simplified sketch and plasticene model of my creature, generally made piece by piece rather than whole model at once, hence the disembodied head.... I'm aiming to make a baby version of my big Bomb bears: they'll have a traditionally positioned neck but I want them to have the head dimples I like in my Gem style bear and the tendency towards obesity of the Bombs. The aim is to have a 'one day' bear which would be more affordable but have the look of a chunky bear.
So, once I have my model I will lay plastic from plastic wallets onto the model and pinning it in place: this helps me to work out my darts as you can see from the top of the head here. It takes a while to work out the best layout but I prioritise the front of the face and try to avoid too many seams there. Once I have the whole of the head covered, I will peel off the layers, draw them out on paper and try to make a mock up. I make my trial bear heads in mohair now, having learnt too late that the difference in stretch is difficult to compensate for. If it's a massive body (like a Bomb or Sloth size) I will make a canvas version first, but I often ruin good mohair because I can't wait: bad habits die hard!
Going to work on the body next: planning a fairly chunky one similar to Gems, but the arms and legs will hopefully be stubbier so I need to take that into account... might need to make a set of limbs at the same time to balance him out...
'Till next time!
Chloe and the disembodied heads xxx