26 January 2024

More About the Guardians

Rebecca Solnit recently posted on Facebook excerpts from an essay about stuffed animals that meshes beautifully with this Guardians project I'm working on. Here's a portion:

The English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott was the first person to write seriously and with sensitivity about the business of teddy bears. In a paper from the early 1960s, Winnicott described a boy of six – whose parents had been deeply abusive to him – becoming very connected to a small animal his grandmother had given him. Every night, he would have a dialogue with the animal, would hug him close to his chest and shed a few tears into his stained and greying soft fur. It was his most precious possession, for which he would have given up everything else. As the boy summarised the situation to Winnicott: ‘No one else can understand me like bunny can.’

What fascinated Winnicott here was that it was of course the boy who had invented the rabbit, given him his identity, his voice and his way of addressing him. The boy was speaking to himself – via the bunny – in a voice filled with an otherwise all too-rarely present compassion and sympathy.

This is most likely why the response I received on social media when I posted my woodblock portrait of my old teddy bear was so instantaneous and enthusiastic. We remember.

Here are the steps in making my bear portrait.

First a pale brown, and beginning to add texture to the "bare" spot on Tedward's head.

A darker brown with a little more detail carved out.

A new shade of brown with more detail carved away.

The texture for the bare spots was made with a bit of window screen pressed into the paper.

Some shading added.

Nose and eyes to finish.

Tedward was made from a progressively carved single block (reduction print) and here's what the block looked like at the end.

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