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March, 2008

Not long ago, Brendan Bear held an Open House at his new shop.

Brendan, who once shared my McKinley house with Hiram Rabbit, who had rented it from me, called me personally, saying, "Come a little early, Wanna; at least a half hour, if possible."

So, that's what I did, and when I arrived, Brendan greeted me at the door, his arms full of apples.

"Thought you might like a few to take home with you," he said, "From the orchard where we have many of our hives."

And of course I was delighted to take them.

Why, it almost felt like real winter in there, with all the blankets and caps and mufflers!

Did you know there are charts that tell you about the different bear noses, and the colors and types of furs? I didn't either, but there was one on the wall!

"Well, what a great first impression!" Brendan grumbled in embarrassment at this fellow bouncing happily atop a stack of blankets.

"How many times have I told you not to do that?"

"Sorry, sir, but they make such good bouncing," the little guy said, picking up the sign and standing at attention.

"Now this pot has some large honey and glycerine soaps. Perfect for the complexion and the entire body," Brendan explained as the tiny panda gestured toward the little sign.

"Looks as if it's story time for these two," I said, smiling.

"Yes, it is. Wee Charlie likes the modern illustrations in his new Goldilocks book. Fred here is interested in the bee industry, right, Fred?"

Fred smiled, "Yep. I'm thinking about the possibilities."

"This fellow is prepared for cold winds and warm porridge, apparently," I said, as we watched another guy balancing a precarious stack of bowls.

We entered the next room to find still more bears; in chairs and everywhere else.

It was not always that easy to tell which bears were for purchase, which were staff, and which were customers, frankly!

I wasn't aware that bears were such big readers, but Brendan says that's another example of the stereotypical views we humans have of bears.

Not only are they readers, but they like to dance and hold one another close, apparently.

I wondered how or if they were all related, but was hesitant to ask.

It's amazing how many different products Brendan has developed using his special honeys!

There may be a honey for each type of flower.

Oh, oh! Looks like somebody's been testing, or is it tasting, the merchandise! And I think I heard the blue guy in the back hiccuping.

These neon bright bears are favorites with little girls, Brendan tells me.

The emphasis in this room shifts to linens.

Green Bear is testing the pillow.

"Besides the pillows, sheets and tea towels on top, this chest is full of vintage linens," Brendan says.

"These glass-topped tables are good for display, aren't they?" I said. "I use those wide glass tops in my own home," I confided.

"Notice anything?" Brendan asked.

I was so surprised and pleased to see that he has decided to name his line of products after me! Why in the world ....?

"Well, that period of time you let me and all my bear relatives and associates stay in your McKinley was a life saver. I don't know what I would have done with all these characters otherwise; they'd probably have all wound up in the zoo at best, or with Animal Control at worst. It was a very trying time, trying to coexist with all those rabbits, but I like to think we all learned a lesson about getting along with others. And thanks to you, we all survived it and went on to better things."

"I didn't even realize you knew that my middle name is B," I confided. "Not Bea; just the letter B. It is a bit strange, I think."

Brendan said, "Well, I know your family has often called you Wanna Bee. I knew you were named after your grandfather, whose middle name was Bithel, but was always called Bee. Aren't you glad they didn't name you Bithel!" he said, slapping his paws against his thighs as he laughed.

"Ed Handy makes these wooden honey twirlers and other wood items for us," Brendan said . (You might have met Ed at Miss Minnie's. They are old friends.)

More honey bottles.

"Oh, my! Got to do something about this angel bear. He needs a good cleaning; probably been touched too many times by that orange bear with the sticky paws.

"Boy, I just can't let my guard down for a minute around here!" Brendan said, adding a note to his To-Do list.

This tiny carved wooden bear that Ed Handy made reminded me of another bear who occupies a dome in our place in the mountains. You can see him in the Bear In The Dumpster pages.

By the time we reached this room, I was so hungry!

"Why, I didn't even realize there was a Honey Bee Festival in El Paso! How did I miss hearing about that?" I asked Brendan.

"Well, you're like a lot of people who are unaware of all the things there are to do in this town. I never understood why there is often the assumption that things are better - including colleges - in some other city, than they are in our own home towns. Why, all they have to do is look at the lists of events in the newspapers, as well as El Paso, Ink, etc. Everything from the opera to polo to low-rider parades to honey bee festivals!"

"These things may look good enough to eat, but they are bath and beauty products," Brendan told me, smiling as my stomach rumbled.

He says this skin care product is guaranteed to take care of those dark under-eye smudges.

Those flower-shaped soaps and the lotion are both big sellers; excellent for our dry climate.

Can't have a honey shop without a hive poster!

This hive was carved and painted for Brendan by our old friend Ed Handy, too.

Here you can buy the honey comb in jars. Brendan also makes up gift baskets, too.

Looks like these little guys are all into physical fitness!

In the next room, I watched three bears marching across the wall; perhaps looking for some of those porridge bowls we saw earlier!

Bears are so affectionate, I learned that day! Always liking to cuddle and give each other rides, apparently.

Looks like a few have stowed away in the gift wrap section.

"Hey! I've been looking for that coffee mug," Brendan cried. "And who took all the pencils out of that pencil holder?"

Are these little guys helpers, or just playing around?

You can choose from a variety of gift boxes.

Now this fellow apparently takes his job seriously. He didn't move the entire time I was there.

"Here, Wanna, these are for you. Brendan wants you to have a sampling of our products. "

Oh my; what a nice thing to do. I wasn't expecting anything like this.

Well, talk about not expecting something!

"Hey, Wanna! Want a honey pie, Honey Pie?"

"Good grief, you guys act like you were born in a barn, or in the woods, or something!"

"Sorry, Brendan! I just wanted her to get a good look at this before I put it in the oven!"

Looks like somebody needed to take a nap~

This customer was on his way to the El Paso Opera performance of Aida, he said, but stopped off to pick up something for his son.

There are apparently many teddy bear collectors and collector clubs.

How did that koala get here? I thought they only lived in Australia and zoos.

"It's so nice to make your acquaintance, Wanna. Why don't you join us at the opera?"

"Well, sorry you can't make it; perhaps another time. Hey, Brendan, make sure she knows about your next Open House!"

"Oh, absolutely! Well, Wanna, I hope you enjoyed our quick tour and that you plan to be back soon," Brendan said. "Would you like me to put your name on our mailing list for specials and whatnot?"

"Oh, sure," I said and he added another note to his list.

"I'm heading out to check some hives right now, if you'd like to come along," he said, grabbing his bee hat.

"Thanks," I replied, "But I'm starving, and anxious to get home and try all these honey goodies you've given me!"

And they were GOOD, all right. I particularly like the jalapeno honey, spread over a block of cream cheese and eaten with crackers. Yum!

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NOTES:

I bought two of these units, thinking they would be great for my granddaughters to use as roomboxes. They stand on wooden ball feet.

However, when I started planning my Bears shop, I realized I didn't want to have to work on the tree trunks that I had thought I would use, so set them aside for another day. That's when I remembered the boxes, pulled one off the shelf and turned it upright.

Aha! That'll work, but I need to get rid of those ball feet.

I gathered everything together that I thought I might use; things I had been collecting and making for years.

... and started experimenting with different arrangements, to see if things would fit all right, and not clash too much with that bright orange color.

Yes, I thought, this is going to work fine.

The orange ties in nicely with all the yellow and gold honey tones, the browns of many of the bears, and the other bright colors of the furnishings. I love it because I don't have to paint or wallpaper, and after all, Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Bee-Holder, right?

At this point, I had already made and filled most of my display pieces. You may notice that these are all smaller scale. The vertical openings in these units are quite small, compared to the soaring heights of the rabbit shop.

I have had that red paper dispenser atop the gift wrapping unit since the 80s. The bear paws wrapping paper was from a small writing tablet, as I recall.

I think this bear needs something to hold, maybe a book ....

The oxidized green table base is a heavy metal napkin ring.

The hive table top was formerly the lid for this jar, which now holds odds and ends on my real bathroom shelf.

The bee on the floor is one of several pushpins I purchased in a package. I thought they would be ideal to hold some little signs.

I collected all kinds of beads and findings for a long time to use as honey pots and containers; kept them in one of those plastic boxes with dividers. Some came from inexpensive dollar store necklaces or bracelets; others were packaged; many came from hair ornaments and earrings.

As in most of my shops, I used inexpensive furniture pieces and contrived others.

This green cupboard was created from three very inexpensive and disparate pieces that I painted green to unify. The top sections are two little drawer units which I glued on backwards so that the open part would be in front. I glued strips of index card to the back and a sign to the front to help stabilize them.

I made the Old Toys sign from a magazine cutout glued to cardstock, then varnished. It is attached to the back of the chest with a strip of index card, also. This chest was in bad shape; the top drawer was all scuffed and scratched and there were no knobs. I made the Beary Happy sign and attached it to the top drawer to cover most of the scuffs. The new knobs are glass head pins.

This was my first arrangement on the barrel. I felt the bear with the orange hat would be better somewhere else; he wound up on a yellow shelf on the wall.

I liked the way the panda bear's paws tied in with the paw prints in the fabric. Also redid the sign. Somehow the pink just didn't work as well.

The globe for this lamp is a small glass Christmas ball. I used bleach to remove the color. After painting it, I glued the rounded bottom into this upside down base piece, and then glued that to a wooden bead.

This large bee was a tealight holder.

I added hats, neckwear, trims to personalize and differentiate the bears. The white bear holds a tiny basket trimmed with unraveled bunka and a silk bow.

This was one of many signs and labels I made for this project. The tiny wood-look bear is actually resin, although his arms and legs are hinged.

Because these "rooms" were quite small, I wound up using both display boxes. There are over 70-something bears in this shop.

Of course, what I REALLY wanted for this shop was one of Alice Zinn's bears - but that will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, I thought this resin fellow would work. I had to figure out what to do about that armload of apples, so used that as part of the story line at first.

Later, however, I wanted to show him in his beekeeper mode and decided to make him a hat like the one my husband's grandfather used to wear. Grandad was a beekeeper for many years. He also kept goats, and always said it was drinking goat's milk and eating honey that made him live to over 100.

I made the hat out of brown felt and a leather band, but didn't like the look. Here I have painted it over with a coat of khaki paint, which I like better. For the netting I have also painted a length of tulle edged with a heavy thread.

I used the same color acrylic paint to paint over the apples so that they wouldn't be so obvious when I showed Brendan holding his hat.

Not bad, I suppose; it's a reasonable facsimilie of Grandad's hat.

According to Grandad, nothing calms a bunch of angry bees like smoke, which is used anytime a beekeeper needs to move bees, or get into the hives to collect honey. The smoke makes the bees drowsy and less likely to sting. Although Grandad was never a smoker himself, he did sometimes puff on cigarettes when he was working with his bees. What he used most, however, was a bee smoker; a small metal canister attached to a set of bellows. A fire is built in the metal chamber, and the bellows blows the smoke all around the hive. Older ones date from the 1890s and can still be found at auctions and antique shops.

I started making a bee smoker like Grandad's, but I have made so many things and worked on so many shops lately that I just ran out of energy when it came time to make the bellows. Sometimes it's important to say to myself Stop! This is ENOUGH!

LATER: I began collecting real life honey pots back in the 70s when my mother gave me the first one, which she had purchased in Utah, The Beehive State. Those honey pots, along with quite a few bears and various honey bee related items, fill some shelves on the kitchen wall at our place in the New Mexico mountains. It seems fitting to take this Bear With Me Shop up there to hang on the other side of the window.

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