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Teatime in the workshop: Missive No.2

‘Presidential Delights’

It’s teatime in the workshop and although it isn’t quite December we are already indulging in a mince pie or two.  The end of the lockdown is in sight and we are looking forward to getting on with the uplifting business of Christmas.  A merry bunch of workshop elves packaging up our festive bear orders; and we have also been working with some inspirational people to create very particular bears, both private commissions and for some extraordinary brands.  Nurturing relationships, old and new, is such an important aspect of a family business and this month we have been making a ‘hug of bears’ (yes, it is the official collective noun) for the wonderful folk at the Welsh woollen duvet company Baavet; we also have shipped bears to ‘The Chocolatier’ Aneesh Popat that echo his extraordinary branding, more on that to follow; and we’ve been creating our lovely patchwork friends for Firmdale Hotels. This month, iconic lifestyle and hospitality brand Thyme have featured an interview with our own Kerstin Blackburn in their online magazine, ‘Thoughts from Thyme’ talking a little about the lovely lambs we make for them. You can read it here.

We’ve been feeling quite nostalgic about past commissions and writing in our last missive about President Roosevelt and the origin of the ‘Teddy Bear’, against the exciting backdrop of the elections in the United States, brought to mind Canterbury Bears’ own Presidential Commission.  In 1992 the Blackburn Family were contacted by the Smithsonian Institute in New York.  Bill Clinton had just been elected to become the next President of the United States and we were advised that clothier Ben Silver of Charleston had been engaged to make an inauguration silk to celebrate the occasion. They wanted us to make two very special bears– one for the new president and one for his vice president, Al Gore.  John Blackburn set about designing a traditional bear that would incorporate the silk and the team excitedly got to work doing what they do best. These historic bears were presented to Clinton and Gore in January 1993, the week of their White House Inauguration. This week we spent an indulgent hour or two looking through old boxes of photographs and look what we found …


PAWS FOR THOUGHT

Bear Fact for the Day …

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In 1907, five years after the creation of the first ‘teddy bear’, American composer John W. Bratton, wrote “The Teddy Bear Two-step.” Which we have come to know and love as “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’. It was an instant instrumental hit … you can hear a fabulous recording of it being performed in the year it was written by the Black Diamond Band, listen here .

Twenty five years later, the Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy added the lyrics that we are so familiar with and it was recorded by popular thirties songster Val Rosing and The Henry Hall Orchestra.  Since then it has been recorded by many stars of screen and stage … but our favourite is the 1950 version by crooner Bing Crosby … enjoy!


NEXT TIME …

We’ll be looking into a little bear artistry: ours, our customer’s #bearsathome art and a little meander through bear-art history!


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Teatime in the workshop: Missive No:1

‘A bear is for life, not just for lockdown’

So we are a week into a new lockdown in England, this time round we are perhaps not as bewildered as before; we are lifted by hope for a vaccine and if nothing else we know how important positivity is for us all. So with a little fancy footwork, we have outreach workers making bears from home and the ‘family bubble’ in the bear workshop: stuffing, stitching and finishing bears to be sent far and wide.

Smiley Workshop Bear

Having put our ‘bears in a row’ (we don’t make ducks … yet), we thought we would reach out to our followers, friends and members of the Canterbury Bear family (our mailing list) with a teatime message, when time allows. The aim is simply to connect, share a little bear news, have a cuppa and a biscuit … to shine a light when it may feel a little dark (it really is dark around teatime here in the Kentish Countryside afterall).

We shared an instagram post this week with the caption ‘childhood just wouldn’t be the same without a teddy bear or two’ and one of our followers commented ‘neither would adulthood’ … its an interesting thought don’t you think … what makes a teddy bear so special?

There is an impressive body of scientific work focussed upon what researchers rather coolly refer to as ‘transitional objects’, exploring why the human-bear bond is such an important part of how children grow emotionally.  Simple, open-faced, soft, portable and above all reliably comforting… they often give the young that little extra strength to navigate what might otherwise be daunting.  And those of us who love a bear know that there is nothing ‘transitional’ about them.

We receive so many pictures and letters from adults sharing news of Canterbury Bears who are still companions to them, those images are being shared on social media with our hashtag #bearsathome along with our new friends who have a bear for life. We’ll be sharing some of those stories in our teatime missives too.

During the first lockdown, to keep us afloat in so very many ways, we created the ‘Thank You Bear’ with all profits donated to NHS Charities Together.  Were those bears bought exclusively for children?  … not at all!  They were of course sent to new babies, to missed-grandchildren and to be opened on lockdown birthdays; but they also went to staff in hospitals, to the elderly (longed-for grandparents and those who were simply lonely), to teens and adults without children in their lives, and those who just wanted a symbol to put in their window as an expression of support.

We believe that everyone who received a Thank You Bear was compelled to do one thing … give it a hug!  So one week into lockdown 2.0 we are sending you a bear-hug and looking forward to the next teatime that we share.


PAWS FOR THOUGHT

Bear Fact for the Day …

Let’s start with the most basic of Teddy Bear facts, a story undoubtedly known to all arctophiles (bear collectors) but we would be remiss if we didn’t start our ‘Paws for Thought’ with this one.  In  1902, President Theodore Roosevelt purportedly refused to shoot a bear that had been tied up for him, newspapers carried cartoons of “Teddy” and “The Bear”. Which inspired a gentleman named Morris Michtom to create a stuffed plush “Teddy Bear” for his shop window display.  Of course, soft bears were being created elsewhere at the time (not least of which in Europe), but without the story we wouldn’t be calling them ‘teddies’.


NEXT TEATIME …

We’ll share Presidential tales of Canterbury Bears in the White House, in times a little less turbulent than today but not quite as far back as Teddy Roosevelt!