LOMBARD BEARS AUSTRALIA

Designed & Handcrafted
by LINDA DOWN

In The Very Very Beginning!

Well,  I suppose it all started at Katanning Senior High School when I was about to hit Year 11 and decided I wanted to do Art as one of my T.E.E subjects as well as Maths 2 & 3 , Chemistry and English Lit. Not possible, I was told as the subjects clashed!  Hmmmm! Though I was mostly a quiet sorta kid I wasn't prepared to take NO for an answer and headed to the office to plead my case with a pair of big watery eyes to add to my cause!!! Voila!!!!  It was worked out that I would do the year 11 & 12 Art with a year 9 class!! Perfect!! As two of my subjects, Art and Home Ec., were not 100% subjects, permission was sort and I would be allowed to sit the English Exam, even though I didn't do it as a subject, to add to my T.E.E. score. All set now, year 11 and 12 here I come!

Well I was a bit slow as a drawer and still wonder to this day why I so wanted to do Art at that age!!!??? I made it through to August of year twelve when I was able to go up to W.A.I.T. and have a tour of the Art School!!!  All good except I couldn't see an area that interested me.....I saw The Fine Arts area, the Graphics area and Woodwork area...not for me though!!! I came back a little sad and confused as to what on earth I was going to do the next year as you had to have your preferences in for Uni and I had no idea now!!! I ended up putting down a couple of things that sounded interesting...just because,  really,  and I  remained a little lost in direction until one day a fabulous Aboriginal lady, Naomi Mills, came to the Art Department at Katanning S.H.S.  Naomi did the most fantastic silk screen pictures!!!!!!! Immediately I was asking where she learnt to do this and the answer was W.A.I.T.!!!!!!!!  Holy Cow!!!!  I had missed something!! Straight away I rang and found out that they did indeed have a B.A. in Textiles/Crafts course there,  of which I saw nothing when I was taken on a tour!!!  Well it cost money but I changed my preferences and crossed my fingers!
W.A.I.T. invited all prospective students for the Arts courses to present a folio of work in Perth at the School to a panel of 3 lecturers in the last part of year 12 as part of the criteria to be accepted in. Off I went with my half finished drawings and what turned out to be my ticket in, my 13 colour, multi panelled, silk screened quilt cover!!  Although a shy country kid, I must have really wanted this as I had the gumption to go back in after the interview and ask what chance I had of getting in. I was told that as long as I got the minimum score of 76 to get into W.A.I.T. I would get in as they were blown away by my silk screening skills!!! Yippeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! I got in!!!  I have only just recently,2014, looked at what score I actually got and it was a 93!!!!!!!!! Cripes! Must have gone ok....all I was thinking on was getting in to Art School!
At this stage of the game I really have to thank my parents and siblings so much!!! Lucky for me, when I said I wanted to change my preferences to Art, my beautiful Dad said 'Just do what you love!'   This was because he was told at high school that he would be best doing an office job....he was a farmer all his life and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!!!!  Mum was not as sure but went along without a negative word!  Then came the worst time that January, when I was soooooo worried that I had made the wrong choice and was in what I call a 'black' mood the whole of the holidays, everyone had to put up with me...Dad, Mum, my brother Brett and my sister Christine!!  So Thank you guys!!!!!
So off I headed to the Big City of Perth and started my arts course. The first year was a bit of everything, the second year was full on and a lot of work!!!  Half way through I really had to decide if I was going to continue and just go for it or pull out......as a country kid I found myself up against not only confident Perth kids but many mature age students who had completed other arts courses and were very aggressive in their approach to the course...lovely, interesting people, but really going for it!!!!  So after a mid year break on the farm, my energies were back and the decision was made, I was 'going for it' too... so Watch Out!!!!
The final year was the most interesting and fun as it was just up to you to come up with a body of work over the year for the end of year Exhibition!!  My saviour was the lovely security person at W.A.I.T who kindly let me have a key to the Art room!  I would puddle around during the day as I found it hard to concentrate with everyone there, go home and have tea,  then come back to W.A.I.T. and let myself into the Arts room and work on my ideas and creations until the wee hours of the morning, then pop home for a little sleep before heading back for the day ahead!
I could see the surprise on my lecturers faces towards the end of the year, when things started really coming together and I popped out my creations I had been working on at night!!  They were really quite excited!  I was, back then ,working with wood, fibre and bamboo and creating tensile strucures which had evolved from looking at the Architecture of Frei Otto and Naum Gabo. I hope to pop some pictures of my work back then on my website soon!!!
Our end of year Exhibition was held at The Praxis Art Gallery in Fremantle at the end of '85. I was lucky enough to sell several pieces, one of them bought my the  Holmes A'Court Collection!!!!!
Then the next year I was lucky enough to be given a free studio for the year in the Crafts Council of WA , which was then above the Railway Station in Perth! It was during that year that Peter Garside, an Arts Co Ordinator, saw my work and liased for me and landed me a commission for the Burswood Casino in it opening year!  Wow! A big thing for a young person!
It was also the time of The America's Cup in Fremantle and I  held several joint exhibitions over this period and had a busy creative buzz going on. During those years I met my now husband, Brian, and things slowly began to change in my life and the art work took a back seat for a while while I concentrated on chasing my partner to be...BOY was he hard to catch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Once caught though I started to get restless and wanted to create..........then the bear story began....................

The Lombard Bear Story

In the bear beginning...

The bear story started in the winter of 1995. Linda had successfully completed her Bachelor of Arts, which had led to several exhibitions, a purchase of a piece of her work by the Holmes a'Court collection, and commissions of her sculptural works,and  an exciting commission of 9 large pieces for the Burswood Casino on its opening,  which was a wonderful experience . She then went onto flirt, sometimes briefly, but always passionately with a range of things including photography, decoupage, doll making and collecting. The collecting thing turned out not to be a brief interest and included collecting bears, which sparked the whole bear making thing in the winter of 1995.

So next thing you know she's signed up with a bunch of like-minded people on a bear making course doing the bear thing. Like-minded except for the latest 'stealth' sewing machines they all seemed to be using whilst Linda banged along on her old beast. Was it going to be just another one of Linda's brief encounters?  Nope!  For those of us who knew Linda well, the quirky gleam in her eye was enough to warn us that this 'bear thing' was more than a passing fancy. That and the sudden acquisition of a new sewing machine!

Lombard Bears Australia Was Born!

So why Lombard Bears? Is she Italian? Nope. A touch German, Irish, English, Russian and way back even Viking, but not Italian. It's like this, Linda Hilder, as she was then, grew up on a farm in a small town in the Southwest of WA, Tambellup, with her Dad, Rob Hilder, Mum, Val Hilder and brother and sister Brett and Christine Hilder. The farm was run by two brothers, Rob and Warren (Mic) Hilder with his wife Gloria Hilder and children , Sheryl , Julie, Nicole and Michael..... the two families,  grew up together and had a ball.  It was a fun and rowdy way to grow up and was the perfect breeding ground for a fertile imagination. It was also the inspiration for the name. The farm was called 'LOMBARDIA' and was purchased as bushland by Linda's grandparents,  Frederick Charles Hilder and Christine Winifred Hilder , from an Italian farmer in the early 1900's.

Dad-Rob, Mum-Val, Me with Elkie

A Little About the Bears

When making her bears, Linda focuses on attention to detail and creating a bear with it's own distinctive personality. A bear with character. A large part of this is pushing the limits of accepted bear features when she's drawing the original pattern. The character then evolves through construction, finishing touches, even to the final angle of the bear's head. Throughout this Linda brings together the finest quality materials with a natural diligence to make sure she creates the best quality bears.

So that's how it began. Now what's been happening?

Well let's see. A tree change along with a successful business, a sea change and another business, a wedding (finally), a gorgeous addition to the family and more collecting. Okay with all that going on anyone would find it tough to keep the focus on the bear thing. Until that is, she went to a bear fair and a demonstration on felting. She didnt stand a chance! The gleam is back and now she's working on a range of 'chimps with character' Never intended as a true replication, Linda is again experimenting with designs and draws inspiration from the materials, colours, textures and of course the real thing!

And so the story continues...

FOR DAD xx

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