Josephine Parnell’s doll’s house bears are lovingly made and fully posable so that they can carry our any chores or household duties, or just sit and relax at the end of the day in your doll’s house. She promises that they are all good natured and can be dressed to any period in history. And so long as you talk to them regularly and keep a well- stocked larder, they are well behaved faithful companions.
Josephine says that every bear she makes has its own personality, so she tailors the clothing to fit and suit the bear. “Each teddy is an individual, and must be treated so and dressed accordingly.”
And how this all comes about? “It just happens,” says Josephine of Lincolnshire. “After I’ve made a bear I leave it naked and sitting on a shelf until it tells me if its male or female, so I know which one to put a frock on.”
Don’t worry that Josephine ends up with lots of unwanted bears. “They each let me know what they are. They find all their own little niche and dress appropriately.”
She is a self-taught artist, who also has a great interest in period clothing. She began making large fabric animals and dolls some 30 years ago which she would sell at craft shows.
“I liked the idea of doll’s houses, and thought about making a soft doll. But someone was already doing that, so, as I loved making bears, I decided to see if I could invent a bear to replicate people which wouldn’t look out of place. It took over six months of serious development, but eventually, in 1996 I did it.”
The following year a family of her bears were nominated in the British Bear Artist Awards and she has since gone from strength to strength. Her bears have been featured in various magazines and some bears are in the Puppenhausemuseum in Basel, Switzerland.
Last year, Josephine broke her arm, which stopped her from making her miniatures for a while. Jokingly, she said it was hard to do things like pulling up her knickers, let alone make miniatures! But while she couldn’t cut and sew, she could still design. “I asked the doctor if I could put a pen to paper, and he said so long as my arm was supported, so I’ve still been able to draw and design. Then when my arm mended, I had to re-train my limbs to do the miniatures again.”
Josephine also makes sewing kits: miniature bears, rabbits and elephants – tiny little things for your dolls house. “If you think you have the ability then go for it. Do it slowly and you’ll get better and better at it.”
She only shows at Miniatura these days and is looking forward to their 70th show in the spring, which combines with her 30th anniversary of her Doll’s House Bears. “It is the best show out there. It’s fantastic!”