I started talking about the themes of my art work last week and I will come back to them over the coming weeks. The themes themselves are quite loaded so I decided I would discuss them over time so as not to overwhelm and not to get too heavy all in one go.
Instead, the next thing I would like to show you is the collection of work I have made under the “Bad Bear” banner. As I started thinking about the story behind the Bad Bears I began musing about good and bad, about “evil-doers” and virtuous saints. These are not heavy or uncomplicated subject matter at all! (She says sarcastically) Blog Fail! The heavy themes prevail no matter what I seem do at the moment.
I got a book called “Toys to Sew” by Claire Garland a few years back. It has a lovely range of different soft toys to make for all levels of sewing capabilities. She had a pattern for a small felt bear in the book and it inspired me to have a go at making my own template for something similar. I measured the bear out using different sized circles and rectangles. It turned out a little wonky but I like my hand-drawn imperfect design. I cut him out from some felt scraps I had and set about sewing him together.
My first attempt had its difficulties and I accidently severed one of his little limbs off. I did a patch job with some purposeful broad black stitches. He began to look like one of Dr. Frankenstein’s creations. His face became sullen and cross-looking. I embraced his patched together body and added some cross-stitches to enhance his slightly beat-up and dishevelled demeanour. The unfortunate slip of my scissors had turned into a happy accident and the character of my bear was formed.
Sometimes if you can persist with a project or idea that doesn’t feel like it is going exactly your way, you can use the difficult developments to come up with a whole new concept. The perseverance in some instances is really worth the extra push; other times you can end up with a pile of rubbish but at least you gave it a go……right?!
When this dude was finished he looked like a bad bear, a bear that had seen and heard not good things, an un-virtuous bear. The idea of making him a pin cushion came soon after this. I thought you wouldn’t feel so bad about sticking a pin in him if you thought he was innately bad himself. I can have a dark sense of humour sometimes and I thought it was kind of funny. The alliteration was there with the double B’s and who can resist some good alliteration, I know I can’t. So the Bad Bears were born and they have been part of my repertoire ever since.
I would like to say for the record, I don’t believe that any person is innately good or bad. It is my opinion and I don’t expect you to agree or disagree with me. It is just how I feel about it. I am fascinated by the black and white beliefs around calling someone “bad” or “evil”. To label someone in a definite way without examining the reasons why their behaviour can be deemed as bad or evil is a foreign concept to me. I live in a world that has immeasurable shades of grey. I believe actions impact on feelings, feelings create thoughts and thoughts can lead back to actions; sometimes positive and sometimes negative. I think I would love to live in a world where things could be broken down into basic RIGHT and basic WRONG. I feel uncomplicated moral positions are unsatisfactory in the face of the mire and messy reality of the human experience. I believe we are extraordinarily complex and complicated beings.
I think the Bad Bears are an ode to a simplistic world view, the suppression of emotion and the importance of the impact that suppression has on our daily lives; an ode to the super-villains, real and imagined; an ode to wishing I was GOOD but only feeling I am BAD; an ode to impossible rigorous standards upheld by people who can’t keep them and who actively personally defy them; an ode to the lunacy that is “nature over nurture” or the thought that people are born rather than made.
To be bad or have bad behaviour, I believe, is to be human. I like to bring it out every now and again, dust it off and shine a spotlight on it for myself. I have received some strong feedback for these Bad Bears. Once, at a Christmas market, a customer was telling me that her daughter had just started sewing and she would like to get her one of the Bad Bear Pincushions but she was afraid that one of them looked like he had done time. Now that is a BAD bear! Other people have exclaimed there were no such things as a bad bear like there is no such thing as bad children, there are only bad parents. She was quite annoyed with me. Most people delight in their mischievous and wilful expressions and their outright personalities. I think what it comes down to is- who among us doesn’t like to be a little bit bad sometimes. Being good all the time is exhausting!