It has been really quiet all year in the "Magpie's Nest", at a virtual standstill while I struggled with the enervating effects of chemotherapy. After months of inactivity I feel maddingly impatient. My brain is starting to tug at the bit, after four doses of the poison that is chemo, whilst my body languishes day after day in bed.
Even a reversal of our big sea change, and migration back to the bush we love and the friends we missed, has failed to stem my restlessness at being virtually immobile.
The Three Bears. During one of these restlessly languid daily challenges my eye lighted upon The Three Bears. These were the the three bears that I could not bring myself to discard when I resolved that bears were no longer 'my thing'. After all, what woman with a small string of academic degrees, a former Head of high school English, and with pretensions to be taken seriously spends her time creating anthropomorphic representations of gendered narratives?
My bare bear is my canvas. It seems that I actually enjoy the mindless distraction and potential creativity of needle felting and dressing small cloth bears.
Needlework, for me, is a form of active meditation. My brain stills itself on the myriad small decisions required to decorate this tiny canvas. A character is created in my hands and narratives arise that explicate just why that bear with the white waistcoat has an earring in his left earlobe. His tartan bow tie is deliberate. He is an intently gay bear, delighted to be dressing up for some kind of very festive ball. His fur is from a natural Corriedale coloured fleece that I happened to have to hand in my spinning stash when I started to bring him (just call me "Dr Frankenstein"!) to life. He evolved, almost independently. His female companion is off to the races in her Dame Edna glasses and glorious red and green silk and merino wool jacket. Her fascinator is needle felted to her head and beautifully matches her flamboyant personality. The little bear in the blue waistcoat is my very first bear. His jacket is made of silk and merino. A very gentle bear.
My most beautiful creation was made for a friend. I embroidered dragonflies in silk threads and used Swarovski crystals. I 'need' to create more such critters.
Bear Workshop at 'Spunout' Gulgong
I learned to needle felt bears at a workshop in Gulgong, NSW. Patricia Gledhill is very generous with her workshops and my tutor, Lyn Sutherland, enthused me. We each had a small cloth bare bear (I buy mine from 'Spotlight'), a needle and some dyed wool. You also need some firm sponge to lean your bear on when felting small bits such as ears or tails (I buy mine from 'Clarke Rubber'). Once you understand just how dangerous needle felting tools can be, needle felting is easy. Everything else is just imagination.
I'm a spinner so I already have a fleece and fibre stash. I also mail order dyed merino online from 'Treetops' in Western Australia. There are any number of spinning businesses online that will supply you with small quantities of highly colourful wool to use to cover a small bear.
You can buy felting needles from 'Spotlight'. 'Clover' makes a range of these needles. Spinning supply shops will have them. The New Zealand spinning company, 'Ashford's', sells needle felting tools. I prefer ones that come in an aluminium anondised case/holder. Just Google and you will find them.
That's the million dollar question! I know that many readers would not hesitate to execute bears rather than agonise existentially. But I do. Agonise existentially, sociologically and anthropologically, with a dollop of literary theory, and questions of the role of toys and anthropomorphism and the place of narrative and story telling in the twenty first century. Once upon a time, there were three bears ...
And what to do with them once they are completly realised? Presents for special friends? Stock for my craft market stall? Donations to money raising efforts for charity? Do I channel any funds raised to Kiva do that other women can benefit?
Whilst that topic resolves itself, I feel an itch to create.