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  1. STOP PRESS! Published on design*sponge!

    My Leeds City Guide has just been published on influential design blog design*sponge (eek! squeal of excitement!), featuring some of the city’s most famous places and spaces…

    The UK’s ‘Most Delicious Cupcake’ found and indulged at The Sunshine Bakery
    Writing a guide to your city might just be the best way of reminding yourself of all that is good about it – the galleries, the indie shops, the open spaces… and of course for reminding you where to find all things delicious.

    Stunning architecture, quirky shops and yum food at the Corn Exchange

    But also some hidden gems and best-kept secrets

    Get your Yorkshire yarns at funky little knit shop Baa Ram Ewe
    Emerging artists’ exhibitions, art and craft workshops, unique handmade gifts and a sweet cafe at the Bowery

    Researching it was a fantastic excuse to indulge in afternoon tea and cakes, check out some of our hottest new artists and shop for gorgeous things.

    ‘Buy me’ antiques at Retro Boutique

    It tells you about the kind of places I would take you if you came to stay.

    Ethical delights at Love Organic

    Check out the full Leeds City Guide over on design*sponge and start planning your trip to this lovely part of the world. 

    Sparkly chandeliers, girly beauty products and a 1930s boudoir at Rose & Co Apothecary

    Would love to see you here some day…

    Check out the guide here

    
  2. Reflections on Squam: I dreamed a dream…

    … of a place where I could sit on a rocking chair,
    on an old wooden deck,
    looking out over the stillness of a lake
    … where I could think
    … listen
    … soak in nature
    … create
    … dive in*
    *literally, at 5am. It was icy but I felt so ALIVE
    I found that place at Squam Lake, New Hampshire, with a warm family of old and new journeymates.

    Thank you friends, for opening your hearts and sharing your laughter

    It was a most precious time

    ***

    Other posts on my Squam experience here:
    Bloom True – painting workshop with Flora Bowley
    Open Your Eyes – photography workshop with Susannah Conway
    Wabi Sabi paper class with Judy Wise
    Squam round up

  3. Do What You Love interview: Jessica Gonacha Swift

    Today’s Do What You Love interview is coming to you from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where I am recovering from four awesome days at the Squam art retreat.  Artwork and photos to follow after I have processed the details of a very special experience. 

    For now I want to share this interview with Jessica Gonacha Swift, a painter, surface pattern designer and illustrator based in Atlanta, Georgia. (Note: since this interview Jessica has moved to Portland, OR)

     Image courtesy of Jessica Swift
    I was originally drawn to Jessica’s gorgeous fabric designs but have just seen some of her original art work in the Enormous Tiny Art Show here at the Nahcotta Gallery in Portsmouth and they are just as juicy. Jessica is married and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her two adorable cats. She has been a working artist since 2003, when she was 23 years old. Today she is sharing a peek into her creative life. 


    ‘King of the Mountain’
    (Image courtesy of Jessica Swift)

    How did you get drawn to textiles and surface pattern design?
    I’ve always been drawn to color and pattern, and when I taught myself to create repeat patterns, a whole new world opened up for me. My grandmother used to tell me that I should be a fabric designer (she was a quilter), so that idea was placed in my head early on, but I never knew how to make that happen. I didn’t realize people actually made careers of surface design until I started reading blogs and learning about the industry, and as I learned about it I was hooked immediately!

    A selection of fabrics from Jessica’s gorgeous new range
    (Image courtesy of Jessica Swift) 

    How important has your art education been in shaping your career (or has it been shaped by other things)?
    My career hasn’t been shaped by my art education very much at all; I studied painting in college and not textile or surface design at all; everything I’m doing now is entirely self-taught! I love learning new skills, and I constantly strive to be better, grow, and learn from what’s happening around me, so being part of the online community of creatives is really what’s shaped my career the last few years.

    Has anyone played a mentor role for you as you have grown your business? If so who, and what was their most important or valuable piece of advice?
    I’ve never really had a mentor, but I’ll never forget something that one of my favorite professors in college told me. He said “you have to be willing to make the bad work in order to make the good work.” I always remember that when I create something that I don’t think is very good– I’m just making room for the good stuff!

    ‘Jump’
    (Image courtesy of Jessica Swift)

    What single opportunity has been the greatest catalyst for the growth of your creative business and how did it come about?
    I think exhibiting at my first trade show, Printsource, in January 2009 was a big catalyst for my business- it was the first time I took myself seriously as a surface designer and knew that I wanted to devote myself to it. I exhibited just 6 short months after I first learned to create patterns, and it was a huge leap of faith. I knew in my gut that I had to just jump in if I was going to make big things happen, so I went for it, even though it was scary! I learned about the show through an email from the director, inviting me to exhibit. It felt like a sign from the universe, because just a few days prior to that email I’d decided that I wanted to exhibit at a trade show but didn’t know where or how to start. The email came and that was that!
    (Note from Beth: Don’t you just love those signs from the universe?)

    ‘Hope’
    (Image courtesy of Jessica Swift)

    What do you wish you had known when you started?
    I wish I would’ve known about surface design as a career when I first began down my path as a working artist (I primarily painted and sold my work at outdoor juried art festivals in the beginning). I wish someone would’ve led me toward commercial art when I started out, because I could’ve gotten an earlier start in my career in surface design– it was instantly my obsessive passion when I discovered it, and I wonder where I might be now had I started 5 or 6 years earlier!

    What is your big dream for your creative business? (Go on, put it out there!)
    I want to be like Orla Kiely and Jonathan Adler! I want to have shops throughout the country and world full of products with my designs, and I want to create a fun, hip lifestyle brand. That’s definitely the big dream.  (Note from Beth:  You heard it first here!  What a fantastic big dream)

    ‘Let your worries fall away’
    (Image courtesy of Jessica Swift) 

    Check out Jessica’s gorgeous work on her website or in her etsy shop.  You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.  And watch this space for a very special giveaway coming soon in October, featuring some original creations made using Jessica’s brand new line of fabric.

    ***
    See here for more interviews with inspiring people doing what they love

  4. gone travellin’

    U S of A here I come!
    Time for some more adventures…
  5. for the love of trees (and sculpture)

    A visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park does wonders for the soul.  500 acres of stunning parkland, with internationally renowned sculptors’ work dotted here and there.  You can picnic by a Henry Moore, hide behind a Barbara Hepworth or get lost in the forest near the David Nash stairway.  You can even take an outdoor class in bronze casting.  And it is free to get in!

    My man and I had a lovely couple of hours strolling through the land, making up stories about what each piece really meant, and sheltering from the rain in the cosy shadow of the big trees.

    These two made me feel a bit funny – all those holes (above) reminded me of cheese, and the shapes below made me think of a Playdoh MopTop Hair Shop. 
    Not sure that was the look the sculptor was going for… 

    This ancient yew tree was amazing, just perfect for climbing when no-one’s looking…

    And this ash installation had sensors built into the ground, so when you walked inside, sounds came from speakers hidden in the woods.  On one hand it was as if you had company, but on the other it was a bit scary, as if the sounds were part of some kind of ritual going on deep in the forest.

    Not sure if this was a sculpture or just a cool tree that had decided to shape its trunk at 90 degrees!

    There are four indoor galleries too.  These works by David Nash were complemented by giant charcoal on canvas drawings.  Quite imposing in the big white space.

    I love trees, and everything that comes from them, especially paper.  These sculptures were warm and calming too, sitting happily amongst the living trees of the country park.

    Have you read ‘Wildwood – a journey through trees’ by Roger Deakin?  If you love trees, you’ll probably love this book too

  6. Do What You Love interview: Tim Moss

    (image courtesy of Tim Moss)

    Do you love adventure like I do? How about skiing to the South Pole?  Tim Moss fancies a go at it, but unlike most people who just dream about it, he is actually going.  In January he will be accompanied on his ‘Inspired by London 2012 South Pole Adventure’ by an Olympian (Derek Redmond), a Paralympian (Marc Woods), and a Special Olympics athlete (Declan Kerry), as they ski to the bottom of the earth to wave the British flag in the name of participation, inclusivity and accessibility, and marking the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott reaching the Pole.

    At university Tim decided on a whim to organise a mountaineering expedition to Kyrgyzstan, a country he’d never heard of. In his words, “It all went horribly wrong, I had a wonderful time and have been trying to have as many adventures as humanly possible ever since.”

    He now runs adventure consulting business The Next Challenge, helping others to live their adventures.  Tim is a guy who really does what he loves.

    (image courtesy of David Tett)

    1) What does ‘adventure’ mean to you? Adventure, to me, simply means trying something that’s a bit different. Something you haven’t done before, that maybe pushes or scares you a little bit and probably teaches you something about yourself.  I don’t subscribe to the idea that adventure is synonymous with ‘extreme’ but rather think that it’s available to anyone and that everyone could benefit from a little more of it in their lives,

    2) What is the single most important thing for succeeding at the kind of challenges you take on? The single most important thing for succeeding at a challenge is starting. Start and the rest will follow.

    3) Which has been your favourite so far? Why?  My favourite of recent times has been hitch-hiking around the UK on a budget of £100 (approx US$150). I caught myself thinking that I was too poor to go on an expedition when I got a cheque for Christmas that I cashed in for an adventure. I spent a lot of time freezing cold at the side of the road with my thumb out and sleeping in some pretty rough areas, but I also met some wonderfully generous people, made it as far as Dublin for a Guinness, swam in the sea off the Welsh coast and made it back with £30 change!

    (image courtesy of David Tett)

    4) And the toughest? What did you learn?  In Kyrgyzstan we found ourselves at the end of 5-day trek along a glacier, walking through snow in the dark with no food and the only sign of the base camp that was supposed to feed and shelter us, was a pile of ruined huts. We also slept bolt-upright on the tiny ledge of a 45-degree snow slope and two of us dangled from a rope attached only to our team-mate’s waist on a vertical ice wall.

    These were all self-inflicted problems from our total inexperience but they taught me that “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun” (Mark Twight) and, more importantly, it showed me that I was capable of a LOT more than I might previously have thought. I’m absolutely not special in any way but from being put into the great variety of situations that you find on an expedition, I drastically improved my self-belief.

    5) What advice would you give to someone who would love to do something like this, but is telling themselves ‘you don’t have the time, money, connections, freedom from responsibilities etc etc’  I’ve tried to demonstrate through my own adventures that time, money and connections are not necessary – my £100 Adventure, Running the Tube challenge and London to Isle-ofWight triathlon all required very little of each.

    If you really want to try something then there will be a way. It doesn’t have to be cycling around the world or climbing Everest but you always fit a little bit of adventure in.  (And if it’s really contacts that you’re struggling with, maybe I can help?)

    6) In your eyes, what is the ultimate challenge?
    The ultimate challenge is the one that leaves you happy, sated and desperately wanting more.

    ***
    Tim’s South Pole challenge has been entered into British Airways’ ‘Great Briton’ awards, and if he wins, the airline will provide free flights for the team’s expedition.  You can help him on his way by voting for him here and follow his adventures here

    ***

    See here for other inspiring interviews with people doing what they love

  7. On friendship

    This week I was visited by a wonderful old friend.
    She is exactly 12 years older than me which, 
    being one full cycle of the Chinese horoscope,
    is apparently very lucky
    When I first moved to Tokyo,
    a young stranger blinking in the bright lights of the big city,
    she gave me a place to sleep, 
    a fellow English girl in Japan
    (Let’s not talk about the fact I had only known her a week,
    and ended up staying in her spare room for four months.
    I was nicknamed ‘the little squatter’..)
    When I wanted to change jobs,
    she gave me awesome career advice
    over a bagel on a park bench
    (and then introduced me to my next boss)
    When I left the city for a round-the-world voyage
    she let me leave all my junk at her place,
    and lent me her beloved suitcase
    When I returned from my adventures,
    tanned and exhilarated but with nowhere to stay,
    she opened a bottle of champagne,
    threw me a party at the cutest little restaurant in town
    and gave me her key (again!)
    When she had her first baby girl,
    she made me her godmother.
    What a gift.
    She has an amazing talent for making small things feel big and special
    and is so generous with her energy and kindness.
    I wish everyone had a friend like her.
    Yesterday she came to visit.
    We caught up, told stories and laughed until late.
    My turn to pour the drinks and give her the spare bed.

    I am not sure if she realises just how treasured she is.

    Where would we be without friends?

    Have you thought about yours lately,
    about why they are so special to you?
  8. At home: Welcome to the garden

    On days like this I feel very lucky to work from home - Sunshine, freshly baked gingernut biscuits cooling in the kitchen and a pot of tea by my side.  What better way to get in the right frame of mind for working on exciting business plans?

    There is a cute water feature surrounded by white stones which remind me of island hopping in Greece, although we don’t actually turn it on very often as it seems like such a waste of water.  The neighbour’s cat tends to get more use of it, as a mirror in which to preen himself…

    And there is a wall of black bamboo which reminds me of where I used to live in Kyoto, surrounded by rice fields and bamboo forest.

    But my favourite bit of the garden is this sunken table, which has benches on each side and played host to a party of 15 with room to spare last weekend.  We had the clematis cut back a bit, got rid of the bindweed and tidied up the deck so it is now a lovely shady place to gossip, play cards or relax with a chilled glass of wine…  It looks magical at night, all lit up with small spotlights in the steps, and little candles on the table.  Now all we need is a barbecue…

    Having lived in flats with no outdoor space for years, this is a very special place indeed. 

    ***

    For more peeks around our new house see here

  9. Exciting creative business news

    Sometimes great things seem to drop from the sky just when you need them.  This is one of those times.

    With huge good fortune I have been chosen as one of around 15 young female entrepreneurs to be part of a groundbreaking business mentoring programme run by a leading national glossy magazine here in the UK.  This awesome opportunity partners us with some of the country’s most inspiring and successful businesswomen.

    Kanya King (photo courtesy of MOBO)

    I have been gifted the most amazing mentor – Kanya King, founder of the MOBO Awards, the largest urban music awards in Europe with a television audience of 250 million.  Kanya is a creative entrepreneur of quite astonishing energy, talent and courage.  She founded the awards 15 years ago, remortgaging her house to pay for it.  Since then Kanya has won over the music industry, negotiating major TV and sponsorship deals along the way, to turn MOBO into one of the high points of the annual music calendar.  Not only has it been a huge commercial success, but it has also become a shining light for social responsibility within the industry. 

    I am so excited that we will be working together on branding and expansion of my creative business – and there are some seriously cool things in the pipeline which I will share with you here soon.  I will also use this space to share the many things I know I am going to learn from Kanya, so stay tuned, and get yourself some mentoring by proxy! 

    ***
    This year’s MOBO Awards will be held in the music mecca of Liverpool on October 20

  10. Say it with a card…

    Having recently been overwhelmed by kindness I have many thank yous to say right now.  There are many ways to say thank you, but I like the hand made way…

    Here are some of the cards I have been making in my new studio this week, using gorgeous ribbons from East of India, Tim Holtz’s Distress Inks and hand made paper from Southern India, recycled from cotton rag

    How do you like to say thank you?

    ***

    PS The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap will be back in October!