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  1. Look what dropped through my letter box…

    This one-of-a-kind stitched postcard, handmade with love all for me winged its way from the US across oceans and land to arrive today, safely, in my letterbox. 

    Thank you so much Susan Vincent Molinaro, for the care your took in designing something so thoughtful.  I love the phrase on the back:
    like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives“.
    I need a REALLY big hourglass to have time for all of life’s adventures!!

    I have put it up in The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap Flickr Group, where a few others have started to arrive – go and have a look.  It’s so interesting to see how everyone has interpreted the theme ‘time’ differently.

    Life has got in the way for a few people (which is of course as it should be!), so the postcards will be drifting in slowly over the next couple of weeks.  I will feature some of them on here, but do keep an eye on the Flickr Group for updates, and don’t forget to upload yours when it arrives, and leave your link in the comments below! 

    Note to participants: If you aren’t a member of Flickr and/or don’t have a blog, please do send a photo of the card you receive to me, and I will share it here

  2. Back to basics

    Imagine the scene.  Ten people sketching furiously to a strict time limit of ten seconds, one life model pose after another, papers flying everywhere, tossed to the floor on each ring of the bell for a new pose, new piece of paper, new sketch.  A veritable storm of drawing paper and charcoal dust…

    10 second sketch
    (10s is seriously quick!
    I’m not sure I even looked at the paper in that time)

    I spent most of Saturday at the Northern Film School taking a fascinating workshop on Drawing Figures for Animation.  Five solid hours of live drawing, with the longest sitting at 20 minutes – exhausting but exhilarating.  And seriously good practice.  We did a mixture of contour drawings, gesture drawings and charicatures with charcoal, pencil and marker pens.  I came away with about eighty sketches, and a whole lot more confidence in figure drawing. 

    30 second sketch

    Sometimes it is worth putting a time limit on your work to focus your attention and really make you look.  Then it’s up to you whether you stick to the rules, break the rules or abandon the rules altogether!

    (2 minute sketch)

    When was the last time you played around in your sketchbook?

  3. Do What You Love interview: Dimitri Kolioussis

    Today’s Do What You Love interview isn’t really an interview.  It is more of a conversation, with one of the last real professional Icon Painters in Greece.  I dropped in to visit Dimitri Kolioussis in his studio on the beautiful island of Santorini when I was there on holiday recently.  Dimitri learnt all the important things he knows about painting from the elders in his village. 

    His work is so revered that he has been commissioned to paint 14 icons for the legendary Panagia Episkopi Church on Santorini, a church which has existed on the island for over 1000 years.

    He is the first artist I have ever met who expects his work to last ‘for hundreds of years’.  That in itself is a lesson to us all to have confidence in the longevity of what we produce (and use archival quality materials!)

    Dimitri’s cave studio

    Dimitri’s studio is inside one of the white caves set in the cliffs of the volcanic island of Santorini.  He spends hours in this vaulted space, swishing his long white hair and his horse-hair brushes, recreating visions from religious stories of old. He has been painting his whole life, and here are some of the pearls of wisdom he offered me as I sat quietly with him in his studio, observing him paint with oil and gold leaf on stunning old doors:

    • “Art school is valuable for the techniques it teaches you, but after that it is up to you.  It is like learning to speak a language – you need to know the words in order to write the poetry.  But too much technique and you end up with a politician’s speech that is of no value to anyone, with no truth in it.”

    • “Although all artists need their creative freedom, commissions actually help you develop and grow, as they force you to think about something you might not ever have imagined yourself”

    • (Commenting on the fact that the public can wander in to his workshop at any time, which I thought was quite generous)  “For some people art is a gift from nature, and artists who receive such a gift have a responsibility to share it, not keep it to themselves.”

    This is a very interesting way of looking at talent.  For all those artists among you who are facing fears of rejection, are nervous about being accepted, or don’t having the courage to put yourself out there, perhaps it would be different if you thought about it as your responsibility to society to share what you have been given, and do what you love!


    For more inspirational Do What You Love interviews see here

  4. Love is all around

    When I sat down at my computer this morning
    I noticed a heart-shaped tangle
    in the wire of my mouse

    Have you seen much love in the world around you today?


    See here for the latest on The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap

  5. It’s time…

    … to get The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap show on the road! All around the world busy bees have been buzzing away at their sewing machines, with their hand embroidery needles, with paper, fabric, ribbon, words, images and anything else they can think of, stitching up a storm. And we are about to find out just how much loveliness has been created, inspired by the theme ‘time’.

    When I launched this just a few weeks ago, soon after getting a shiny new sewing machine for my birthday and in celebration of getting over my fear of breaking it, I had no idea that so many people from nine countries on three continents would sign up and join in. I cannot tell you how much this has made me smile.

    And now the stitching is done, the bobbins tidied away, the machines unplugged, the stamps stuck on and the postcards in the post (and if they aren’t they should be, come on girls!!)

    Here’s a sneak peek of my Stitched Postcard which is winging its way to someone in… Australia! Who could it be?…


    You can watch this little project unfold over on our Flickr group, where participants will be uploading photos of their postcards as they arrive. Louise in the US has already posted a sneak peak of hers here.

    Note to all lovely participants – THANK YOU for making this so much fun. You should have received an individual email from me outlining next steps but if not, please let me know. Once you have uploaded the photo of the card you receive in the Flickr group, please leave a comment below so we can go and check it out. Let us know about your experience of making your card, and and what you thought when another one dropped through your door. If you blog about it, please be sure to share the link in the comments below, and then go and check out the others!

    I hope you all had fun. I’ll be sharing some of the postcards on this blog over the coming fortnight – watch this space

     PS thanks again to Tinnie Girl and Stella for their advice on logistic-y things!

    UPDATE JULY 2010: The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap has now closed. Thanks to everyone who joined in and made it so much fun! See our Flickr Group here for everyone’s gorgeous creations! Check back in October when the project will open again
  6. doing nothing

    Doing nothing does not come easily to me, but island hopping in Greece was the perfect opportunity to take a step back, get some much needed rest, soak up the sun and have no schedule for over two weeks (except ‘swim time’, ‘ice cream time’, ‘dinner time’ etc – you get the picture). 
    It has been a time for…
    … ice cold watermelon
    … cool swims in sparkling seas
    … dancing in the sand 

    … long chats over dinner as the sun set

    … and a time to wander and explore tradition and modernity
    It has also been a time for clearing out my head, which arrived in the baking heat of Athens jumbled and full, noisy and impatient. 
    The gentle breeze, clear skies and luxurious sun have calmed it, and made space for new ideas, plans and adventures.  I have made real progress on two exciting projects I am working on (more on this soon) – baby steps towards a big dream. 
     I feel healthier, energised and ready to play. 
    It’s funny how quite a few of us have been talking about rest recently, as Louise pointed out. 
    It’s half way through a big year, spring is turning into summer, and we all need to take time to replenish our energy reserves every now and then. 
    Are you taking care of yourself?
  7. On fear and permission

    (sign at Athens International Airport)

    Just had to share this awesome TED talk by Chris Guillebeau on tackling fear and giving ourselves permission to choose the life we want to live, and to do what we love

    Did that resonate with you?


    Back soon with more photos from Greece, where I spent lots of time lying in the sun thinking about these things!

  8. Barefoot in Greece

    Just back from a blissful couple of weeks island hopping round Greece with my man. A wonderful sunny break after too much rain in Yorkshire, and I watched in delight as my toes got slowly browner…

     Have you gone barefoot lately?

  9. Waste not, want not: creative business tips from a leading social entrepreneur

    Do What You Love interview: Kresse Wesling
    Meet Kresse Wesling, young sparky British creator of unique accessories for Hollywood superstars. Kresse is not your average fashion designer. She is one half of the very cool ‘Elvis and Kresse’ brand which took London Fashion Week by storm and has recently announced a collaboration with apple. She is one of the British Prime Minister’s Ambassadors for Social Entrepreneurship and a champion of responsible business practices. And the belt she made for Cameron Diaz to model in a Mario Testino shoot for American Vogue used to be a piece of fire hose.

    Kresse takes what others throw away and makes beautiful high end fashion goods from them – handbags and belts from hose discarded by the London Fire Brigade, purse linings from parachute silk rejected by the military, and eco-friendly shopping bags for a major UK supermarket chain from old coffee bean sacks. Not only does she reuse and recycle what would otherwise go to landfill, she ploughs a chunk of her profits back into charities which support the people who have contributed the ‘waste’ in the first place, so 50% of the profits from her fire hose line (see picture below) go to The Firefighters’ Charity. Although the company is still quite young (launched in 2007), it has already taken London Fashion Week by storm, and unveiled the 2010 collection at legendary auction house Sotheby’s.

    I had the good fortune of being invited to do a job swap with Kresse as part of the Social Entrepreneurship programme, and was so inspired by what I saw and heard, I wanted to share her story with you.

    Tell us a bit more about how you came to be up to your elbows in old fire hose?
    I have always had a keen interest in the environment in general and waste in particular. I met the London Fire Brigade over a year before we launched the business in 2007 but I knew immediately that I wanted to tackle the hose problem. Running a company that makes honest, quality, practical pieces is the best way that James (my business partner) and I can help to solve the hose problem.

    How would you describe yourself?
    Mostly I call myself an environmental entrepreneur – or an environmentalist – or waste obsessed…

    What is your advice for a successful creative business partnership?
    James and I work very well together because we tackle different aspects of the business. James is our designer and logistical mastermind, I focus on finding new wastes, collaborators and business opportunities. Because he focuses on the internal aspects and I focus on the external and we trust and respect each others’ judgement things run fairly smoothly. That said, when there is chaos, and in our business there is a lot of chaos, we both immediately drop everything and roll up our sleeves; no one is left to deal with problems on their own.

    Kresse and her business partner James

    What are you most proud of?
    That we have reclaimed around 100 tonnes of waste.

    What you are doing is pushing boundaries and accepted wisdom about fashion. What do you do when you come up against obstacles?
    This depends on the obstacle. Most of our hurdles have been technical, so there is a lot of research, trial and error and innovation. When we stay focused on the core mission of the business, reclaiming waste, we can overcome most of what is thrown at us.

    You have had some awesome PR coverage for your products. Do you have any tips for people trying to promote their creative business in creative ways? We love what we do, if we didn’t I don’t think the press would be as keen to cover us. We love that our work is messy, complicated and that the end products and all of our packaging have an incredible history. Some people love our design, others that we are committed to reclamation on a grand scale and probably everyone loves firemen. Having so much to talk about is why we love doing this and why lots of people want to talk about it. We are also incredibly lucky in that we have stakeholders, like the London Fire Brigade and the Fire Fighters Charity, that are also constantly promoting what we do. Working closely with your stakeholders and making your passion for the business as obvious as possible to everyone else is the best advice I can give.

    What is your favourite part of your working day?There is no real repetition in what we do, no two days are the same, so my favourite bit is that I wouldn’t be able to answer this question!

    What is your big dream for Elvis & Kresse?That we can scale up – take on more waste, donate more to charity and start to really challenge the idea of waste.

    Elvis + Kresse has recently launched ‘The Elvis + Kresse Arts line’, a joint venture between Elvis + Kresse and ISSI, dedicated to bringing together creativity and care for the environment. They have produced a range of products in collaboration with award-winning artists who have accepted the challenge to create beauty from waste. The Elvis + Kresse Arts Collection is a collaboration with an international group of outstanding artists – Lothar Götz, Olivier Millagou, Paul Morrison and Simon Periton. They worked together to explore the possibilities of new materials, innovating in both design and manufacturing, to create bags and accessories.

    For more information check out their beautiful products here.

    To be inspired by more Do What You Love interviews see here

  10. Are you living your best life?

    Friends are so precious, and losing one is so painful.  An old university friend of mine was killed in a hit and run accident on holiday last week.  I wanted to take a moment and use this space to honour his memory.  Part of me feels this is too personal to share, part of me thinks it is too important not to.  I hope you don’t mind.

    Matt was one of life’s good people.  I hate it that I have written that in the past tense. He should have had much much more time.

    He was a big strong rugby player with a heart to match.  I have been reminiscing about a big adventure we shared several years ago when I joined him and two other guys on a crazy road trip around New Zealand.  We were three strapping lads and a wandering girl with a rucksack bigger than herself packed into a tiny car.  We got stuck (in a ford), got drunk (on cheap beer), got lost (in the mountains), and I even got a shoulder ride into town.  Those boys gave me the courage to do my first terrifying bungee jump, and wisely advised me not to look down as we sped around narrow mountain paths.  We traversed a glacier, ate mooncake at a stranger’s party and hung out on a kiwi farm.  But more than anything, we laughed.  A lot.

    Along with the gripping shock and hollow sadness of losing a friend to a freak accident comes a deep questioning and reflection on our own lives.  Do we tell those we love that we love them enough (and do we love them enough?)  Do we really spend our precious moments doing what we love, making ourselves happier and bringing more happiness to others as a result?  Do we pick up the phone, write that letter, get on that plane, live that adventure, follow that dream? As Oprah would say, are we living our best lives?  I’ve been here before (in my very first post on this blog), but I am back again.

    It shouldn’t take a tragedy for us to do just that, but often, sadly, it does.  There is nothing anyone can do or say to make loss any easier to handle or understand.  There is no fairness, and no reason.  Three are many questions, but no answers. 

    To honour and celebrate the big life of my friend, I want to revisit that question and commit to making a few small changes (and maybe a couple of big ones) that will allow me to completely and absolutely say YES, I am living my best life, every day, every hour, every minute.  Won’t you join me?

    Goodbye MD, you will be missed so very much