Following the success of the Spring Trade Fair in 1983, Peter created the Colour Box brand to better represent the pieces he was creating and to reflect they were hand painted. It should be noted that Colour Box is the trading name and the company name remained Bronze Age Limited. During the same year, an American distributor was appointed where the trading name of Adroables was used rather than Colour Box.
Later in 1983 Colour Box launched with the release of its first three collections: Hopscotch, Miniatures and Home Sweet Home.
During the 1980s the Home Sweet Home range grew from strength to strength due to its highly appealing nature. In 1987 whilst on holiday in Bruges, the Fagan’s wandered into an antique shop where they spotted four bears. Peter purchased three of them but after a sleepless night feeling guilty for leaving the fourth, returned the following day to make the purchase. Those bears were Peregrine, August String Bear, Robert and Gustav von Bruin. A new collection was forming in Peter’s mind and in 1988 the Teddy Bear Collection was launched. Each bear was accompanied by a story written by Peter’s wife, Frances. This collection also proved to be hugely popular especially as they were based on real bears owned by the Fagans.
In 1987 the Collectors Club was formed resulting in a great deal of interest. Collectors benefited from quarterly newsletters, catalogues and a special piece created by Peter along with the opportunity to purchase limited editions.
Due to the growing popularity and interest in Colour Box, The Colour Box Shop and Visitors Centre was opened on 8 July 1989 in the Old Smiddy, the oldest building in Lauder.
1989 also saw the introduction of the Colour Box Logo along with newly designed boxes for all the ranges. Painting demonstrations were also taken around the UK, where collectors could paint their own pieces. In the same year, the Christmas pieces were launched and the Miniature Collection was given wooden bases to improve presentation.
By the time a new decade dawned Colour Box was continuing to grow and 1990 saw the introduction of the Tableaux Collection and Colour Box Ceramics, Pictures and Greetings cards.
1991 proved to be a busy year. The first Collectors Club Weekend took place in East Lothian, and a hardback Home Sweet Home Collection guide is launched. For the bear collectors, a set of 3 hardback books detailing the stories of Bruno, Jonathan and Robert are launched which are written by Frances Fagan. Record keeping is formalised and archiving begins. The collectors club magazine is renamed ‘Collections & Reflections’, a Dutch collectors club is launched and a new range, Personality Pups is issued.
To encourage more collectors club members, in 1992 the member-join-member scheme was launched. Participants were issued with a free special bookmark with a choice of a special colourway Hopscotch miniature or bear – Jonathan, Grey Cat, Owl, Pig, Shaggy Dog and Rabbit. Between June and Christmas of 1992, all bookmarks were signed by Peter. This year also saw the launch of the Edward Harrod collection and a collaboration with Deans to create replicas of Bertram bear, Chocolate Chip, Prudence and Jonathan. A set of bear postcards are also offered for sale via the collectors club.
Colour Box celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 1993 and in December a Christie’s auction took place where 40 lots were donated by Colour Box. New additions to the member join member scheme included H40 Teddy Bear, Shaggy Dog and Grey Cat in a special colourway. Australia and New Zealand see their own collector’s clubs established. 1993 also sees a new collection, Pennywhistle Lane, hit retailers and a set of Christmas cake decorations was created for sale in John Lewis. To accompany in-store promotions three special pieces were created that are only available at events; Miles, Travelling Cat and Promotion Pup. These were painted in unique colourways for each event.
In 1994 the Good Golly and Arthur the Cat collection were launched. Other collections and collaborations saw Steiff Bears and Edgar Lawley made available. As part of the Pennywhistle Lane collection, a series of special pieces are made especially for the USA market. The Colour Box video is launched.
The first Colour Box Festival took place in Spalding, 13 – 14 May 1995 where collectors had the chance to bid on rare items at a special auction. After many requests from collectors, a Collectors Guide to Colour Box was issued in softback, one for the bear collectors and one for the Home Sweet Home collectors which also included details of other collections. A limited edition of 250 hardback copies, which had both books included is launched. More collaborations were established and pieces were created for Lakeland Bears and the English Teddy Bear Company. Hopscotch Maxis were launched and no longer was there just one special membership piece. The scheme was reviewed and members were given a choice of a piece: bear, cat or pennywhistle lane depending on what members collect.
April 11 1996 marked a very special day, the opening of a new 20,000 sq ft factory and shop. To celebrate the new factory an auction was held to raise funds for different charities.
1996, also saw the launch of a new range of bears, the Celebrity Bears. Based on real bears belonging to celebrities, the range was designed to help raise funds for the Society of Stars. The central piece of the collection was a limited edition named The Performance. Bears which featured on The Performance never went on general release but were made available at several special in-store events where collectors could meet the celebrities to have their pieces signed.
An additional collaboration was established with Harman Brothers to create the Oxford Bear Collection. Mounted on wooden plinths, this collection featured resin bears coated in silver-plate, and each bearing a hallmark.
Working with other artists, Colour Box also launched the Bearies, a range of bears with fairy wings and the Animal Antics range.
The highlight of 1997 was the Colour Box Jamboree to celebrate 10 years of the Teddy Bear Collection. This two-day event gave collectors the chance to visit the factory in Lauder and to take part in painting demonstrations. On day two the celebrations moved to Thirlestone Castle where Les Dennis and Amanda Holden were present. Over 2,000 collectors saw Sopwith bear take to the skies as he flew solo in his own remote-controlled model aircraft. The afternoon saw a special charity auction take place with lots of interesting lots, namely the special limited edition of 10 Teddy Bridges and Cat Bridges.
1998 marked the 15th anniversary of the Home Sweet Home collection and to mark the occasion a new range of pieces was unveiled, Big Cats. These retained the original features of the Home Sweet Home cats but on a much larger scale and on items that could be used in the home such as clocks, key safes and trinket boxes.
Gollies made another appearance this year with the introduction of the brightly coloured Razzle Dazzle range.
As the decade was drawing to a close in 1999, it was time to celebrate again, this time in Lauder and Berwick with the Grand Millennium Event. Collectors were treated to tours of the factory, Berwick and the Lifeboat Station. The highlight of the event was the very special auction where collectors for the first time would have the opportunity to own a piece of Colour Box history as some of the plush bears were going under the hammer.
1999 saw the launch of String Things, a completely new concept for Colour Box. This range featured large anatomically structured bears, gollies and other items held together with string and presented in a shoe box.
A special collaboration with Debenhams was launched with the introduction of the Monty Bear Collection.
Sadly the new millennium sparked the end of an era and many collectors were left shocked and saddened by the news that Colour Box had closed. At its height, there were over 55,000 members and Colour Box had a strong presence in the global gifting marketplace. So much so there were collectors clubs in the USA, Australia, Holland, and South Africa to name just a few.
Colour Box went out on a high with the Grand Millennium event of 1999. This may have been the end of Colour Box but this was not the end of Peter sculping and he bounced back by producing items on a much more manageable scale. Read more in the Peter Fagan Originals section.