Well hello there, welcome to November, and welcome to the Thursday Showcase. I am excited about todays interesting person as although I met them online (through Facebook I think) I have actually met them in person a few times since, and they live only a mile away from me – how strange – the world wide web leads me straight back to the locals!
So, who am I talking about – have a read and find out…..
1. Whats yer name and where d’ya come from?!
I’m Carys Thurlby, aka Wissy Bears, or Wissy to my husband, and I’ve just moved back to my home town of Worcester after living in Ascot for 7 years. Coming back home has been great as I’ve reconnected with so many great friends. At Wissy Bears I primarily make bears and little British animals but I also dabble with needle felt, papercraft, and I do crochet for fun.
2. How long have you been doing what you do, and how did you get into it?
I’ve always been a crafter. I remember as a kid the biggest treat of the summer holiday was in the first week we would go to into Worcester and buy sugar paper, glue, glitter, card, stencils, pipe cleaners and all manner of goodies to put in the craft box. Then I’d spend all summer making things from the supplies and egg boxes, milk bottles, scraps of material and anything I could get my hands on. I think Wissy Bears is just a continuation of that!
3. What is the hardest part of your work?
My instant response was marketing but I’m getting better at that. So if I’m totally honest the hardest part is seeing myself as a genuine teddy bear artist with talents and skills. I always look at my work so critically and see all sorts of flaws and defects, and see myself as a pretender. Having confidence in your work is so important but sometimes I still feel like I’m a kid bringing home a squashed junk model for my mum to admire.
4. And what is the most rewarding?
In contrast to the above, it’s when a customer falls in love with something I’ve made. It helps me realise that what I do takes skill and not everyone can do it, and if someone loves a bear enough they can’t leave the shop without him, I’m walking on air.
5. What do you class yourself as – artist, designer/maker, crafter, creative?
Umm, when I’m being posh (mortgage application!) I say I a teddy bear artist but I think of myself as a crafter. Again I guess this goes back to the confidence thing as crafter sounds less official and you can be a crafter as a hobby. If I class myself as a designer/maker or bear artist it sounds more official.
6. Who from the creative world do you admire?
Can I say Kirsty Allsop? I just want her life. She gets paid to try out new crafts and be taught by the most amazing crafters. In the bear world, Pipkins Bears are beautiful. I love the expressions and detailing she creates.
7. Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m terrible for buying mohair I like and designing a bear to suit it, rather than having a bear designed and buying the right mohair. I’m a bit of a magpie and will buy shiny buttons and pretty fabrics and then think, “oops, I ought to do something with this”. My teddy bears are inspired by traditional teddies. I like to create new versions of bears that would have sat in a Victorian child’s nursery. I enjoy going to bear festivals like Hugglets where you can see thousands of bears. I always come away full of ideas and enthusiasm.
8. Do you listen to music/watch TV whilst you are working, and if so, what?
I love listening to audio books. I love listening to historical fiction, and am currently listening to Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexander. Before that I was listening to Miranda Hart’s book, which led to an embarrassing moment. Miranda was talking to her dog and just as a customer came up the stairs she yelled out “I can see your poo hole”. Thanks Miranda!
9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Hopefully in a bigger studio, teaching craft sessions, running bear making courses, selling lots of bears to a long waiting list of discerning clients. I have so many ideas I have to keep reigning myself in and remember to concentrate on a few…for now.
10. What sacrifices have you made for your art?!
Nothing important. Only my sanity! Being serious I really don’t know. Sometimes I think crafting drives me insane but it’s also saved me. I lost my job due to health and I was looking for something I could do instead without making my health worse so crafting has rescued me. Other than when it’s driving me round the bend because I’m trying to achieve something, I don’t feel I’ve sacrificed anything. My husband might say differently as he always comes home to chaos with bit of yarn or teddy bear all over the house!
Why not hop on over to Facebook and like the Wissy Bears page?
Or if you happen to be in Worcester, you can visit Carys at her workshop above The North Star on The Tything.