Franks Bear Making Biography
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How did this all begin?
Well that's a question that has been asked many a time so to begin at the begining
as they say would be useful.
In the mid eighties I was involved in the antiques trade with my brother-in-law and
best friend Ned who was a committed arctophile and no wonder as bears at that time were
plentiful and inexpensive in the U.K. which allowed Ned to collect some fine specimen
bears at affordable prices.
Before long Ned and I found that Teddy Bears were taking over from the general side
of the business as the demand was becoming much stronger but as the demand grew the supply
shortened to the point where one option was to buy neglected bears in poor condition and
sympathetically restore them.
Charnwood Bears began in 1989 through the repair and restoration of Old and Vintage Bears
which was very satisfying and what repairer can resist
restoring an old bear and giving it a few more years.
My first attempt at making a bear was in 1988 and it was pointed out that I would need
a pattern. The first and only pattern that I have used was from a dress manufacturer,
and the bear was made in a knitted acrylic fabric which had the ability to stretch to
the edges of the universe and produce something of an out of proportion bear, but important
lessons were learned.
As you may gather, using this type of fabric was not very successful even though I did
manage to sell the odd one or two bears it was quickly realised that a more stable fabric
was needed and the next best option was a good old crushed velvet curtain and what a difference
this made as I was able to note the changes made by small alterations to my own patterns
which were developed from repairing and restoring old bears.
As a self taught bear maker both skills and technique have been learned through trial
and error and although this is probably not the best way to learn it does have the effect
of having to find solutions to problems in design and construction that may be a little
different to normal.
My first big breakthrough was at the Hugglets Winter Bearfest at Stratford Upon Avon
in February 1991 with the help of Val Lyle of Big Softies fame who produced a bear named
Thomas from my own design, the entire Edtion of 50 bears sold out on the day but I have
to admit that I have never achieved this feat since that day although having produced
a number of editions of 50 bears. Limited Editions have now become editions of a much
Introducing a variety of designs has always been high on my agenda which lead to my
work being noticed by Peter and Frances Fagan of Colourbox miniatures. Though my inclination
is toward larger bears it was a fantastic challenge to produce bears that would be cast
into miniature resin figurines that would be part of Colourbox Collectibles and with several
designs completed there came a request by Frances Fagan for a bear that would be the most
challenging of all.
Frances owned an extremely rare fur cape that was gifted to her when she was involved
in theatre but could not bring herself to wear it, so she had the good idea of having the cape
transformed into a bear which would be turned into a Colourbox miniature and the proceeds
from the sale of the resin bears to be used as a fund for conservation work.
Accepting the challenge was one thing, making the bear was another, it took a total of
10 days to make and the learning curve was steep, having not worked with real fur before
but the result was better than I could have hoped for, an 81cm. bear with paw pads and waistcoat
made from the lining. My fee for this was contributed to the fund and considered as time well spent.
The Bear was named Bellamy with the kind permission of Dr. David Bellamy who is a
famous naturalist and conservationist and the first donation from the fund went towards
Plantlife which is Dr. Bellamy's own conservation group. The second donation was to
The Friends of Charnwood Forest to assist with the conservation of woodland within my local area.
Bellamy Bear was also made as a Limited Edition of 125 by the Deans Company who since 1997
have produced a total of 15 Limited Editions designed by myself for their Artist Showcase.
The first of these was Brannigan a 58cm. Bear where the original was auctioned by Christies
at the Colourbox Festival with the proceeds of £520 being donated to The Society of Stars
in aid of less fortunate children.
I often get asked if I go to any Teddy Bear Fairs outside of the U.K. and the answer to
the question is that I rarely get the time and have in past years have been on beary
business to only 2 countries, the first time was when invited to Singapore and the
second time when invited to Japan. On each of these occasions my hosts were incredibly kind, supportive
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