Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
A Pawsome Adventure
Little Le Woods
When I received an email from Whittle-Le-Woods giving me a sneak preview of some of the bears they were going to be bringing to the Winter Bear Fest last February, I realised that one of the things I enjoy most is the anticipation. Hugglets often post pictures on their Facebook page of artist bears attending the festival, and tasters like these build up lots of excitement. Sometimes when you are really looking forward to something, you can end up feeling disappointed when you actually get there, but this not the case when it comes to Hugglets. They always deliver and are eager to provide the best experience possible. From the friendly staff to the free chocolates when you queue up at the entrance, Hugglets knows how to make every Teddies Festival fun and memorable.
Last year, the new organisers requested feedback as to how everyone liked the event and if we had any recommendations. After making a few suggestions, I was very grateful for the thorough reply they sent back, and was even more chuffed to discover that most of what I had said was not only taken on board, but implemented. For example, I requested more seating and lo and behold, several chairs were now situated around the cloakroom. I asked if they could invite traders selling budget bears, and what do you know, I arrive to find a wider variety at affordable prices. There were also other small tweaks, which showed how dedicated the organisers are to creating an enjoyable experience.
Lake District Bears
It's not just the organisers who know how to dish out great customer service. Some of the traders are lovely people who will go out of their way to help you. For example, a few festivals back, my mum saw a bear she was interested in by Lake District Bears, but decided to continue looking before making a decision. Unfortunately, by the time she decided and went back to buy the bear, it had already been sold. My mum again saw a bear that she liked this time round by the same artist, but when she reached the stall, saw a sign saying 'reserved', and thought she'd missed out again. Turns out Winston the bear was getting a lot of attention, so Jackie, the artist, put up a reserved sign so my mum could get a chance to see him. It goes to show that the traders aren't just there to make a sale, but really care about their customers.
With Teddies Festival 2019 just around the corner, it is once again time to build anticipation for that special date of September 8th, when Hugglets will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. Apparently, a few exciting surprises are in store, so it's not something to miss.
The doors to Kensington Town Hall open at 10:30am and entry is £4 for adults and free for children. If you register to the Hugglets website, however, you will receive a free catalogue worth £5.95, which includes two free entry tickets. When you hand over your ticket, it will be put into a prize draw, which could win you a £50 gift voucher to use at any Hugglets festival. You will also be tasked with the fun challenge for finding hidden letters across the event's three floors. These letters spell out a phrase, and if you get it right, you might win a £250 voucher. I managed to unscramble it last time, but not before the one o'clock deadline. As finding all the letters takes a while, it is a good idea to arrive early.
There are three halls full of teddy artists and stockists, but before you step inside, you'll spot Dot Bird, a Bear restoration artist, who heals all the boo-boos on vintage teddies. If any of your bears were born before 1960 and could do with a little TLC, why not go and pay her a visit? She has an impressive portfolio.
The Bear Garden
The Bear Garden stood opposite to the entrance and enticed me over with a full shelf of Charlie Bear, including many bears that retired several years ago. There were also lots of bears from the new collection, such as Skipper, a 24" teddy in a sailor collar.
Adjacent, could be found Bisson Bears by the artist Gail Thornton. She creates both giant and miniature masterpieces, but no matter what they're size, they are all weighty bears full of character.
There are many different types of traders at Hugglet festivals. So far we've seen stockists – companies that sell a range of branded bears – and artists – individuals who handmake all their creations. Another type of trader are the ones who sell a clients' private collection. You can find all sorts of treasures here, and there were two collections that particularly stood out for me. The first included a 'Yes/No' bear. Around from around the 1920s – 1960s, these bears have a special mechanism: push the tail up or down or left to right and it will, in turn, make the bear's head nod or shake its head respectively.
The other trader I discovered was selling a huge collection of work by R. John Wright. Wright is an American artist who specialises in Trademark characters, especially Disney. I only learnt about him a couple of years ago, but I immediately fell in love with his design style. This particular collection had a full set of characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Winnie the Pooh, and Pinocchio. My favourites included Pooh Bear sitting on his armchair, and also two limited edition Paddington Bear designs.
Vectis Auction House
Another way to sell a private collection is through an auction house such as Vectis. No auctions are held at the festival itself but several auction bears are on display. If you are thinking of selling your collection, then it is also a good opportunity to be able to talk with them for advice.
A fourth type of trader are those who run stalls for charity. For example, Loved Before sell donated soft toys and sell them on to a new home. Not only do bears get a second chance to be loved, but even more importantly, all the profits go towards supporting children who have lost loved ones of their own. When you donate a toy, you are invited to fill in a card that tells everyone about their name, age, and backstory.
Many traders deal with vintage and antique bears. Amongst my favourites is attracted The Old Bear Company. Usually, these bears are very expensive, but this time I was pleasantly surprised to see how good value they were. Some vintage teddies were even under £50.
Another regular antiques dealer at the festival is Daniel Agnew, who always has lots of interesting pieces from the past. The one that caught my eye on this occasion was a large brown bear with a safety pin.
Bower Bird Bears
The artist, Gill Cattrol, who runs Bower Bird Bears likes to experiment with different fabrics, such as with her set of beautiful turquoise bears, which she explained were made from hand-dyed Lester velvet with a subtle screen printing. I find it fascinating to visit Gill's stall because she always goes into detail about how her bears came to be. For example, I was curious about one of her bears, which was wearing a colonial-style outfit, and she explained that it was a commission. When someone fell in love with the doll's outfit, they asked Gill to make a bear to it for her. Gill said teddies and dolls are very different shapes, so designing a pattern to fit the dress was a unique challenge.
While some bears are specially outfitted by their creators, most bears are bare of clothing, and so a lot of fun can be had in finding the appropriate attire. There are several traders who knit and sew outfits specifically for bears, and it is amazing just how much personality a bobble hat provides.
Many of the teddy bears on display derive a lot of their character from their apparel, accessories, and scenery. One stall was selling a small wooden bed for sleepy teds, while Christopher's Chairs are beautifully crafted so teddies can enjoy a bit of luxury seating.
With so much choice and variety, Hugglets really does provide something for every type of collector.