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  1. We got our dreamy little new home!

    sign on the wall in our ‘old’ kitchen
    We’re in! 
    All the wishing worked! 
    Our dream has come true…
    Thank you to all of you who wished for us. 
    This is such a special day.
    We LOVE the house,
    and are so excited about turning it into a home.
     You are all welcome for tea and home baked cakes anytime.
    Over the next few weeks
    I look forward to sharing a window on our little place
    as we unpack
    settle in
    and snuggle up
  2. Joining in some creative summer fun!

    Just wanted to share a couple of cool things I am joining in with this summer, in case you fancy having a go yourself.

    The lovely Louise over at Dream, Inspire, Create has launched a ‘Creative Color Challenge’.  It’s a great idea, and gives you a bit of a steer for creating but also gives you a lot of freedom to play with juicy colours.  I will be sharing what I make over the next month right here.

    Image: from Louise Gale

    And Susannah Conway has just launched the ‘August Break’, a photo blogging challenge for the summer – so I will try to share a photo (nearly) every day in August. 

    Image: from Susannah Conway

    And I am also trying to keep up with learning some new techniques from the very talented Claudine Hellmuth.  Her class ‘@ Home with Claudine Hellmuth’ is very cool.  I will share some of the things I make over there in the coming weeks too.

    Image: from Claudine Hellmuth

    What creative challenge are you setting yourself this summer?

  3. Time’s up! The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap round-up

    Wow! 
    You all blew me away. 
    So much imagination, creativity and LOVE shared around the world through our little project! 
    Thank you SO much. 

    I had no idea it would be so much fun – 70 women from nine countries on three continents all intepreting the theme of ‘time’ differently, turning it into a unique stitched postcard and then sending it off on its way overseas… and waiting in anticipation for another unique stitched postcard to drop through their own letterbox.

    Here is the one I made and sent to Kath in Australia…   Kath said she is going to frame it and put it up in her sewing room.  That makes me want to do a little dance…

    The idea suddenly came to me when I was lying in the top bunk of a tiny cabin on a night ferry from the Greek island of Santorini to Athens.  I had an image of exactly what I wanted to create… so you can imagine my utter surprise when I got home and a package had arrived containing a copy of Noelle Oxenhandler’s lovely book The Wishing Year, with this front cover:

    Even the colours were similar.  How strange.  Well now is a big time for wishing in my life, so maybe it was just serendipity!

    But the best bit of all was receiving a postcard myself from Susan in the US, and seeing everyone else’s creations being posted in the Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap Flickr group.

    Here is a random sample of some of the gorgeousness that has been carried across land and sea by friendly postmen in the past month…

    Check out the Flickr group for the rest, and to see who made what.

    Finally, some people wrote about the swap on their blogs.  Here is a roundup of the their little leaps of joy as their surprises dropped through the door or into the mailbox…

    In the US:
    Cindy here and here, Donnell, Gwinnie B, Lori, LouiseMonica (the Creative Beast), RikkiStella, Susan

    In Australia:
    Amy, AnastasiaCamille (Curly Pops)Caroline (Maika Creations), Hilary (here and here), Lex (Captain Plaknit), Nicole, Sarah, Susie (Flowerpress)

    In New Zealand:
    Deb, Gabrielle

    In the UK:
    Emma (Amoeba Handmade) Helen, me

    In Germany:
    Robin (Well of Creations) here and here

    In Spain:
    Judit (Pilgrim of the Moon) here and here

    For future reference, the project details have been archived here

    And for next time…
    Quite a few people have asked when the next stitched postcard swap will be (so happy that you want to do it again!). I am planning to run the next one in October/November – watch this space! If you have a suggestion for a theme please add it in the comments below. I have a few ideas but would love to hear yours too.

    Thanks again everyone, and keep stitching!

  4. Do What You Love interview: Suzanne Woolcott of Gorjuss™

    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott

    This week I am delighted to share a conversation with Suzanne Woolcott, the inspiring creative brains behind the Gorjuss™ empire. Some of her fans are so crazy about her work, they have had her designs tattooed on their bodies! Suzanne’s Gorjuss™ Girls are licensed by Santoro, a brand creator, design and publishing company with distribution in over 50 countries around the world.

    33 year-old Suzanne runs her company with her husband Grant, from their studio in Glasgow, Scotland, where they live with their three children. Her work has been exhibited in galleries across the globe, but most regularly in Hollywood, LA , New York, NY, and Hong Kong (how cool is that?!)

    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott

    Can you tell us a bit about Gorguss™?
    Gorjuss™ is about bringing beautiful emotional art into everyone’s lives. I love to play with words, especially taking things literally, but I also think that love runs deep within all my art. I choose to paint only Girls, as I can only paint what I’ve felt, experienced and imagined. I couldn’t put so much emotion into something I haven’t felt myself.

    I have always been a fan of portraits, and the scope of what can be captured in a moment, the stillness of the figure, the stare looking out at you and the placement of the objects around the subject, everything is there for a reason, to accentuate the meaning behind a portrait. I would always rather hand a portrait on my wall than a nice landscape !

    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott

    Where did your girl designs come from? What inspired the first one?
    The style of my girls really came naturally, as I was learning to draw, I always wanted to show my emotions and to do that you have to concentrate on what makes the viewer feel emotion, it doesnt always have to be a facial expression, and I think my art proves that!

    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott

    What has been your greatest challenge on your journey to here, and how did you tackle it?

    I’ve recently become disabled, and now can’t walk. This has made a huge difference to my life, and I think I may be going through the greatest challenge of my life right now. After many months in hospital, I’m now trying to work out how to keep working. I’m sure we will get there eventually but everything is taking twice as long ( or more!) to do right now, so I’m grateful for my fans’ patience and support through this very difficult time.

    Art-wise, it has to be just learning and learning, to create what’s in my head. Getting the ability to create exactly what you want to can take time. I do remember how frustrating it was. Now I’d say “Don’t panic, but do keep trying and learning.”

    I love to learn and I’m constantly learning new techniques to help my art be stronger. Learning should never stop, or there can be a great risk of staleness in your artwork (eek!)

    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott

    What are you most proud of?
    I’m proud of what I’ve done – everything – sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it is real! I’m very proud to be working with Santoro. They are such a warm welcoming company. They don’t just look after me, they also love and care for my Gorjuss™ Girls with so much respect, I couldn’t imagine anyone better to look after them.

    I’m extremely proud of my paintings, I always tell people to paint what they would like to see. If you love it, then someone else will too!

    And I’m very proud of my fans. They are such a wonderful bunch, and always surprise me with their love, loyalty and support!

    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott

    What do you wish you had known when you started out with your creative business?
    I wish I’d know it would be all okay ‘in the end. It’s very scary in the beginning, and not knowing what the future held for us was terrifying.

    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott
     How do you juggle creating with managing your creative business?
    People have an absurd idea that being self-employed, and particularly in a creative business, means you spend all day doodling away dreamily. But the reality is that creating is only about a third of the work to be done daily. It’s important to have a head for business, not just a great product or brand. If you think you don’t have the knowledge then take some free courses. You’ll find them everywhere right now as the economy tries to support start-up businesses.
    Everyone finds their own way about this, but I have no time to play on Facebook, sometimes I feel like the only person who doesnt!!, and often can work til 2am daily, you HAVE to put the hours in to see a result!

    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott
    You have a licensing agreement with a major manufacturer in the UK (Santoro). Can you tell us a bit about how this came about, about your decision to license your designs, and what freedom this gives you?
    My goal was always to license, right from the start. As I get older it will take a lot of the workload off myself. I won’t always be able to work until 2am every night! I was very lucky to have it happen with Santoro, who stumbled across me, we like to call it fate!
    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott
    What is the best piece of advice you can give to artists aren’t sure if they are ready to start making money from their creations? What should they consider?
    I’d say making money only comes when you have a product that is unique and which people want. If you haven’t got that then you will waste your time, so spending time on your product is just as important as trying to sell it. Also, think about how to present yourself. You have to come across as presentable, and if your products are cohesive it will help keep customer loyalty.
    image used with kind permission of Suzanne Woolcott

    Where is your favourite place in your city (Glasgow) to go when you need time to think, recharge or get inspiration?
    Glasgow is a great place, full of culture. The music and art scenes are vibrant here. We love going to live music gigs, visiting galleries and eating out. Glasgow is known as the ‘Green green city’ because it has so many parks, so we have visited those a lot too. I’m not able to sit in my wheelchair yet, as it’s still early days, but as soon as I can, I’ll be wheeling back to these places !
    Thank you so much Suzanne!
    ***Check out Suzanne’s magical Gorjuss™ Girls on her website, in her main shop or etsy shop. You can also keep up with her on her blog, on Facebook or Flickr, follow her on Twitter or join the Official Gorjuss™ Fan Group.
    ***
    For more inspiring interviews with people doing what they love see here
    ***
    Still a few more days to go until completion on our house (and my brand new studio)… 
    Please keep wishing for us and help our dream come true!
  5. The power of photography

    “When we look with our eyes, from our hearts, through the lens, it’s a completely different photo and something really powerful can happen” Jen Lemen

    Check out this awesome video of Jen’s story on her journey from happy snapper to $50,000 world photography prize winner…

    ***

    And if you are in the mood for wishing, please help me make a dream come true here!

  6. A dream about to come true?

    I do believe in the power of wishing, and of visualisation, to help make things really happen (like it did here a few months ago). But sometimes some things just seem that little bit too big and too important to say out loud. I always have a niggling fear that speaking about the dreams you really really want to come true will somehow jinx them, and make them not come true after all.

    That is why I haven’t mentioned anything about our dream house until now.

    (cute stitched keyring from the lovely Dear Emma) 

    My man and I have been living together for some time, but in his place, not in our place. To his eternal credit, when I moved in he let me change a few things around (read ‘new wooden flooring, new doors, new paint on every wall, new furniture…’) and we have been happy here. But for a long time we have wanted a home of our own, that we chose together, with a little garden, space to spread out, and maybe even a nice big studio for me(!).

    And then, all of a sudden, a couple of months ago, we found it. The perfect house for us, right now.

    And then one serendipitous thing after another happened, which brought us closer to actually buying the house.  And guess what?  If all goes to plan, it will be ours next Thursday!

    I cannot tell you how excited I am about this!

    There is something very comforting about a house, with actual staircases. Having lived in a flat for so long, I cannot wait to go upstairs to bed! And downstairs in the morning, to make a brew and then sit in the garden having breakfast and chatting to the birds.

    So please, wish hard for us that everything goes right and we get the keys next week, as is supposed to happen according to our dream.  And then I can invite you round for tea!

  7. Adventure is good for the soul

    I’m back from my little African adventure. 
    Energised. 
    Refreshed. 
    Inspired. 
    I went alone but travelled in good company 
    with people I found along the way.
    I visited a prison,
    played with a lion,
    hung out with new friends and old. 
    And I soaked up the energy of the world’s football fans
    dancing on African soil.
    New places, new faces.
    New perspectives.
    New memories.
    Nothing like a little travel to shake it all up.
    What little adventures have you lived recently? 
  8. Do What You Love interview: Niel Jonker

    (image courtesy of Niel Jonker)

    Today’s Do What You Love interview comes hot off the press from South Africa, where I am currently on a little adventure of my own. Niel Jonker is an artisan breadmaker, bronze sculptor and painter living in the remote village of Baardskeerdersbos, in the Western Cape. He shares his deep love of creating, his view on the business of art, and his favourite aspects of being an artist. Enjoy!

    (image courtesy of Niel Jonker)
    On breadmaking…
    How did you get into breadmaking? It chose me. I was in-between jobs when breadmaking served as a form of guidance. It contains a series of simple processes that have a life of their own, similar to the strange way that art is evoked (as opposed to pursued). I was taught many things that reminded me of nature’s supremacy on the micro-level of being – things like regard, patience, humility and so forth. My bread adventure has been going on a decade now and still I feel like a child learning to walk.
    Does breadmaking influence your painting in any way? Probably. If anything, it reminds me that I am never entirely in charge. The artist or artisan remains merely a part of the greater whole. It is all one.
    What makes the perfect loaf of artisan bread? Perfection of each stage of the process arising naturally as a result of fostering a genuine and simple regard. Regard for the greater whole, regard for all things in life; regard and gratitude. Was it Beethoven who defined the three essential factors in being creative? Love, love, and love..

    “Klein Assegaaibosch III” oil on panel by Niel Jonker
    (image courtesy of the artist)
    On his art education and career…
    How important has your formal art education been to your development as an artist? I was a reluctant student who almost chose apprenticeship to established artists over education. In the end I custom-designed my education by attending two institutions: first a year at a small institution that favoured old-school techniques of drawing and painting, and then qualifying at a sculpture faculty that looked at more conceptual contemporary concerns. This sounds like the story of my life, where I repeatedly find myself in-between respective (and sometimes contrasting) schools of thought, allowing for more objectivity while avoiding dogma. As a youth I was lucky to have parents of separate linguistic subcultures and they instilled in me a tolerance for diversity. I find this to be an essential skill in understanding South Africa’s contrasts. So often my position is that of an in-betweener.
    What enabled you to take the leap to becoming a full time artist back in 2004? I recognised the need for a rehab/ transition phase after several jobs were failing to succeed. Bread-making was this cleanser and it held my hand while I worked out fickle yet significant issues, including self-image, finances, etc. and all the while developing a daily art practice. The latter is the most important and should be seen for what it is: a practical issue.
    “Upward bound” bronze sculpture by Niel Jonker 
    (image courtesy of the artist)

    On the business of art…
    How do you manage to juggle creating and business? What is your biggest challenge in doing this and how do you deal with it? It helped to grow up on a farm and learn about business elements like production and sales from a young age, so you could say I apprenticed as a business man. The secret is to not get too serious about business and just let go of the wheel a bit as business is refreshingly simple and should be seen as just another toolbox. Okay, I’m not really answering that question, now am I? Hmm… I try to redefine essential business functions into friendlier concepts, e.g. selling is essential but can feel a bit impersonal when applied to an object that was created from the heart. So I rather talk about ‘sharing’ when selling, and that makes it easier to talk and listen to potential collectors. The biggest challenge is finding the time and resources to represent yourself in business, but it helps to remember that the guy next door is also struggling to do just the same. It also helps to remember that I am first and foremost an artist, and only secondly a business administrator. Also, try to distinguish between ethical and business concerns. So often I run across another artist at a deadlock as he brings moral judgement upon some aspect of business, out of context.
    What advice would you give to people who are currently creating part-time, and trying to develop their creative businesses alongside a ‘day job’? Know that a job is a job, while art is a career. No artist should ever be referred to as part-time, as that is like suggesting being part-human! After all, one does not choose to be an artist – it is an inner compunction that refuses to be ignored. If you’re preparing for a creative career then my practical advice would be to apprentice to another entrepreneur (even in another field) and learning about business, self-employment, people skills, etc.. If you are content to wonder about creatively and have no need for pressure, then revel in this and simply be.

    “Cloudflash” by Niel Jonker
    (image courtesy of the artist)

    On South African artists…
    What are the key challenges and opportunities facing contemporary artists in your native South Africa? Apparently we are statistically one of the most creative nations, and this probably has something to do with living in an environment that is never a fait-accompli. There is room to maneuvre and custom-make your path in a country overflowing with opportunity, while the challenge remains in evoking a language that succeeds in translating this experience coherently to a crowd from Babel.
    Which other South African artists do you admire and why? Hugo Naude for humbly painting nature in situ.
    (image courtesy of Niel Jonker)
    On life as an artist…
    What is your favourite part of your life as an artist? Being entirely at the mercy of natural forces; having my eight-month old daughter as a co-worker; walking to work through a forest; relying on nothing but faith for next month’s income.

    Be inspired by more Do What You Love interviews with artists, writers and creative entrepreneurs here
  9. Hot new talent: Graphic Design

    I’m not much of a techie but I love seeing what talented people can do with a Mac, and the Graphic Design graduates of Leeds College of Art are no exception. Their final year show included some stunning work, and I wanted to share some of my favourites with you


    Introducing…Jonathan Chapman aka Mr Yen
    24 year old Designer who uses paper to illustrate and communicate, currently freelancing, creating paper cut stationery and paper cut products that are stocked in a variety of galleries and shops around the UK with talks of having some of his work stocked in Australia.  Jonathan’s work is exquisite – amazing to think it is all hand-cut.

    - Most important thing I learnt at art school: To experiment with a range of ideas and concepts before settling on a final one as it is usually the experimentation process that reveals interesting details you would not have found out unless you had experimented!

    - Most important thing you learnt outside class: To be as organized as possible. I am still working on this, but organization really does help to create a balance of work and play and planning time effectively gives me more time to do what I love

    (images courtesy of Jonathan Chapman)

    Did I mention I seriously love this guy’s work?  You can find his creations here, follow his blog here, or check out his Etsy shop here  You can also see more of his work on his Flickr pages here

    (images courtesy of Jonathan Chapman)



    Introducing…Claire Nicholson
    23 year old Illustrator/Graphic designer, currently launching herself into freelance illustration

    (image courtesy of Claire Nicholson)

    The most important thing I learnt at art college: Making your work appropriate to the brief you’ve been set, and adjusting your style to suit it. Another thing I’ve learnt is to draw/note down your ideas as soon as you have them, even if it’s on a receipt or a napkin because it’s easy to forget them… particularly if you’re blessed with a sieve-like memory like me ;-)

    (image courtesy of Claire Nicholson)

    The most important thing I learnt outside of class: Definitely to speak to as many other designers as you can. Making friends and contacts is one of the best things about it I think. And check out as many blogs as you can, not just the ones directly related to your field, but other arty/designery stuff because it can spark other ideas. One of my tutor’s fave expressions is “You can’t design in a vacuum” and I think he has a point there

    (image courtesy of Claire Nicholson)

     Find Claire on Flickr, Society 6 and Behance or check out her website

    (image courtesy of Claire Nicholson)
    Introducing… Angus MacPherson
    25 year old Graphic Designer mainly working with typography and print, about to move to the big smoke (London) to find work at a design agency


    Most important thing I learnt at art school: To believe in what you do


    Most important thing I learnt outside class: Look after yourself. Eat well and don’t go out drinking every night!
    (detail)
    Check out Angus’s website here
    If you liked this, see here for the pick of the Printed Textiles and Surface Design work, also from the Leeds College of Art final show.

  10. Hot new talent: Printed Textiles & Surface Design

    I love this time of year, when you can wander around the end-of-year shows at art schools, wowed by the talent and lapping up all that fantastic inspiration for free.


    Although I am normally a fine art and interiors kind of gal, I found myself drawn to the and Graphic Design and Printed Textiles and Surface Design sections of the recent show at the Leeds College of Art, here in my city. Here are some of the lovely things (and people) I found in the textiles gallery… (see here for separate post on the pick of the graphic design studio)


    Introducing… Anisha Chauhan
    21 year old Surface Pattern Designer and Illustrator, who is currently exhibiting at New Designers in at the Business Design Centre in London and is working on a portfolio of Indian Wedding invitations

    (image: courtesy of Anisha Chauhan)



    Most important thing I learnt at art school: how to combine skills in drawing, mixed media, painting and textiles.

    (image: courtesy of Anisha Chauhan)



    Most important thing I learnt outside class: How much inspiration there is in visiting major art galleries like the Tate Gallery, Saatchi Gallery and The V&A.

    (image: courtesy of Anisha Chauhan)
    You can find Anisha on Facebook

    (image: courtesy of Anisha Chauhan)


    Introducing… Hayley Johns
    23 year old Textile Designer, currently expanding her experience through internships and work placement, and toying with the idea of postgraduate study to broaden her portfolio further. Her work is also on show at the New Designers show at the Business Design Centre in London, and her latest collection Kasuri was developed from detailed illustration of New York’s urban landscape, and influenced by Ikat and Japanese design.



    - Most important thing I learnt at art school:- Organisation is key! Losing track really sets you back, just be level headed and use the network of student designers around you.

    (image courtesy of Hayley Johns)
    - Most important thing you learnt outside class – Be inspired, use your experiences and go and see everything you can from trade shows to minor exhibitions. Expanding your knowledge of your subject helps you to enjoy what you’re doing and find purpose for your design work.

    You can contact Hayley by email Hayley dot L dot Johns at gmail dot com

     
    Introducing… Hazel Snaith
    22 year old designer, fresh out of art school, planning to release a collection of designs every three months, and continue freelance designing alongside teaching

    The most important thing I learnt at art college: Try keep a diary of all ideas and to constantly reflect on your work, as this helps to generate new ideas
    The most important thing I learnt outside of class: How to make my own choices

    Hazel can be contacted at hazel dot snaith at hotmail dot co dot uk.
    For more hot young talent check out this post featuring the latest in graduate Graphic Design