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  1. Searching for sea glass

    Have you ever gone searching for treasure on a beach?  It is so much fun to seek out sea glass, collect lovely pebbles and bring beautiful shells home as a reminder of a trip to the sea.  On the way back from Bressay to Aberdeen I spent a couple of hours poking around Lerwick, finding tiny treasures everywhere.  My heavy rucksack was literally ‘full of rocks’!

    Jeanette and Sarah with their treasures


    A perfect end to a lovely trip away.  What a discovery the Shetland islands was – I shall be back to Scotland’s bonny isles…


    More posts from this trip:

    Dreamy skies and tumbling seas

    Scottish island life

    Book making heaven

  2. Book making heaven


    [View from the studio window]

    Recipe for a blissful weekend:

    Take seven ladies, much chocolate, several boxes of supplies (paper, glue, ribbons, washi tape, paints and who knows what else) and put into a studio in the Chief Keeper’s Office of a lighthouse on a remote Scottish island.  Add wine and homemade cake and leave for several days to rise gently.  Delicious results every time.

    Here’s what I made…

    A5 hardbacked book

    and this little one, which is just 3 inches high…

    and this other little one with pearl and chain stitching on the spine…

    I was lucky to share the workshop with wonderful teacher Rachel Hazell, and five very lovely talented ladies (Sarah, Jeanette, Kit, Ama and Emma).  Here is what they made…

    Easter books (Emma)

    Paper cutting (Kit)

    Magazine-collage book cover showing Shetland (Jeanette)

    Adorable tiny tapestry made on a makeshift loom on an old canvas frame, using ‘shoddy’ from old machines in the lighthouse workshop as thread (Sarah)

    Detail from a painting by local contemporary artist Ruth Brownlee, who used to use the lighthouse as a studio.  Several of her gorgeous paintings were stored in the workshop and provided wonderful inspiration

    Ahhhh such a lovely few days…


    More posts from this trip:

    Dreamy skies and tumbling seas

    Scottish island life

    Searching for sea glass

  3. Scottish island life

    [View of Bressay lighthouse through the crooked stone window of an abandoned croft house]

    Staying in a lighthouse has always been a bit of a dream for me, so when I found out about a book making workshop taking place in a lighthouse on the remote Scottish island of Bressay, I knew I had to go. 

    It is so exposed to the elements that there wasn’t a tree to be seen.  There were just seven of us, with the sound of the sea, and sheep for company. 

    These lovely seals flopped on the rocks and kept a curious eye on me as I scrambled over the rocks looking for pebbles

    Each morning I took a walk through the fields, along the shoreline and past abandoned crofts, hiding tales of lives lived long ago.

    … and past cosy-looking crofts still home to islanders, who wake up each day to such a beautiful view.

    It was a little wild, and quite eerie with the light swooping over the cliffs at night, but I loved it. 

    More posts from this trip:

    Dreamy skies and tumbling seas

    Book making heaven

    Searching for sea glass


  4. Dreamy skies and tumbling seas

    Do you ever find yourself so busy that going away is the last thing you think you should do, when actually it is exactly what you need? 

    This past weekend I had to force myself to shut down my computer and head off up north, on a journey that door-to-door took me longer than getting to the Middle East. 

    As the boat pulled out of Aberdeen for its 14 hour overnight journey to Shetland – closer to Norway than England, I breathed deeply and soaked in the fresh sea air. 

    I tossed my mental to-do list into the wind and shifted my attention to the wheeling seagulls. 

    Five days later I feel refreshed and energised after a wonderful few days making books in a lighthouse on a remote Scottish island (hidden in the mist in the picture below).

    Every day this week I will share a few peeks into this place, which feels like a different world to the rest of this country.

    When are you next heading off on a little adventure?


    More posts from this trip:

    Scottish island life

    Book making heaven

    Searching for sea glass

  5. *shared stories* (11): Jennifer Carter and Paul Codd



    This week we share two very different stories – from artist Jennifer Carter and retailer Paul Codd


    Jennifer Carter

    I have always been different and very expressive. Whether it was what was coming out of my mouth or what I was wearing I was always trying to bring my point of view to light. The only thing is, different and expressive were not cool in my house. My parents were strict and by the book. And my bleach blonde bangs and suede chartreuse penny loafers never went over well.

    Fast forward 20 years. I’m pregnant, newly unemployed and my son’s father has dropped so far out of the picture he is but a memory. And all I can think of is the type of person I want to deliver to this world. Besides being loving and kind, I wanted him to know he was here for a purpose. And even if it was the hardest thing he ever had to do it was worth everything to hold true to what he believed and desired for his life. That’s where the rubber met the road for me. Because I realized I couldn’t teach him this jewel of a lesson, I could only show him.

    In hindsight I wish I had known that doing what made me happy didn’t mean I was irresponsible or lazy. I wish I’d have known that I could change my mind and begin a new path. It would have been freaking fantabulous if I’d known that there was such a thing as an Art degree! But mostly, I just wish I had known I was good enough. And that’s what being creative means to me. It means knowing you’re good enough, just by being born to put your vision out into the world. It is true living. And I believe that’s what we’re all here for.

    Today, my son is a smart, active, & funny little man child. Nine months ago I moved back home with my lovely and sometimes over bearing mother so he would have the stability he so needs at this age. I also work part-time so I have time to spend with him and time to paint. I almost don’t remember having my own bed. There have been more sacrifices than I can fit on this page. Some things I gave up willingly, others, not so much.  And even though I sometimes complain and wonder, “Why me?”, I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Through it all, I have learned what I’m made of. I am more disciplined, determined and certain than ever. Ever since I decided to pursue a creative life, win lose or draw, I have gained more than I could ever imagine losing.

    So now every day I go about making my dream a reality by not only painting, but by rewriting the script I had for my life. I can’t boast that I earn any money as an artist YET. But I continue to paint almost every day while  unpacking the boxes of the dreams I had long ago. I do have an Etsy shop and I have reignited my love of writing in my blog. I’m also happy to have found an on-line community of like-minded artists and entrepreneurs. 

    While world domination would be right up my alley, my bigger than big, big dream is to have my art turned into paper goods, home décor and even a line of home accessories. I also think I’ve got a book or two in me. When it’s all said and done, I see me with my feet in the softest sand, sipping on a margarita, watching my son splash himself silly…with a gorgeous wonderful man by my side of course.

    [All images courtesy of Jennifer Carter.  To find out more about Jenn or her work, visit her blog or pop into her Etsy shop]


    Paul Codd

    I would love to be an artist, singer or poet but unfortunately, I just do not have any of those traits.  I am a 34 year old.  Some would call me an entrepreneur.  My girlfriend would say I am plain crazy.  But I am definitely doing what I love!  After a roller coaster year I have suddenly found myself running a new business designing, making and promoting football shirts, and operating a retail store in one of the busiest shopping centres in the country.

    How did I get here?  I was made redundant twice in two years from sales jobs working in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry. I used to sell paper products, then popcorn to multiple retail companies. Redundancy left me low in confidence and with not as much financially as I was used too.

    I spent a year of my life gathering my thoughts, working in a job I did not enjoy and thinking, what do I do next? At the age of 32 surely you have to do what you love? I have always had a passion for football, and used to play to a high standard when I was a young chap. By the age of 32 I was not the capable defender I once was – I could not be keep up with Wayne Rooney, or out-jump tall England player Peter Crouch. However I was still fiercely passionate about the sport I love.  

    So over a chat with my ex-boss I hatched a plan to make a living from my passion of football, without actually playing the sport.  He asked me if I would like to try and sell some vintage footballs behalf of a French friend of his, here in the UK.  From this I evolved the idea and had my lightbulb moment. I wanted to work in a world where everyone who would be my customer would share my passion.

    I began selling retro football shirts and affiliated products from a small retail unit in the nostalgic Affleck’s Palace in Manchester and started to learn the highs and lows of running your own small business – every PR stunt a coup, every pound you spent that you did not need to a disaster.

    Paul in his first store in Affleck’s Palace, Manchester

    I quickly began immersing myself into the world of media. I was knocking on the door of every journalist, using social networking to engage with celebrity, even calling radio stations to try and get a plug.  I quickly started to learn I was on to something. The resounding response I was getting was, I love your website, I love your shop and I love you guys. I was always thinking. How am I going to take this forward?

    Fast forward eight months and I am about to embark on the biggest adventure I have ever been on. I am about to open a retail unit in n one of the busiest shopping arcades in the UK. My store will be called ‘Mundo Football’ and will be situated in The Arndale Centre in Manchester which has a footfall of over 40 million people a year. I have also just signed a deal with a new football concept called football40. This is a new concept of football (soccer) where the two teams play twenty minutes a side and there are no red or yellow cards, just sin bins, and roll-on-roll-off substitutes. This is going to be played by some of the greatest footballers ever to have played on this planet – real footballing legends. Think Dennis Bergkamp, Gianfranco Zola, and Paul Gascoigne. This tournament has been brought together to get all the legendary players out of retirement and let the public see them for one last time.  My company is designing, making and promoting the shirts the players shall be wearing.

    I have never worked so hard, nor risked so much. But I know I am delivering a service to customers. I am selling them products that take them back to yesteryear, in turn giving some football nostalgia. Making them remember Pele, Maradona and George Best – perhaps the best footballers ever.

    Why am I doing this?  I am meeting my heroes – people I would never dreamed I would. I am making football kit for legendary players.  I am sending products from my website to all over the world to people who have bought in to the concept of business and the nostalgia it represents.  I am engaging daily with customers who love what I am doing in my stores.

    I am spending each day doing what I love, living and breathing football.

    I am making a living for myself, and enjoying the rollercoaster ride that it has become. Every day is different and each day throws a new challenge at you.

    I firmly believe that if you are passionate about something, you can make it work. Failure is not an option for me. I will be living, breathing and working my business until my body or brain will not take it anymore. I am having a lot of fun along the way, but I am working much harder than ever before.

    I hope that anyone reading this can be inspired to do what they love. Life is too short to not too, isn’t it?

    [All images courtesy of Paul Codd. To learn more about Paul and his business visit The Vintage Sports Company or Mundo Football. NB: In true entrepreneur style, this *shared story* was sent at 3am after another long day of work – but I could sense it was a happy exhaustion]


    Would you like to share your story on Do What You Love? Please see here and contact me for more details


    Read more *Shared Stories* here


    Only 2 places left! Registration for the Do What You Love retreat closes at 5pm UK time on Wednesday 27 April, so if you want to make a last minute booking please do so now!

    Don’t miss this opportunity to get creatively inspired, relax in a stunning environment, meet a new community of lovely like-minded people and start or grow your creative business.

    This is the ONLY Do What You Love retreat this year. Yorkshire Dales, England (May 11-15 2011) Register now!


  6. Playing with flowers

    Playing about with jam jars, ribbon, twine and flowers to decide on table decorations for our tipi at the retreat

    What do you think?



    Only 2 places left! Registration for the Do What You Love retreat closes at 5pm UK time on Wednesday 27 April (or when the last two places are gone), so if you want to make a last minute booking please do so now!  Only one Luxury A double and one Luxury B double left.

    Don’t miss this opportunity to get creatively inspired, relax in a stunning environment, meet a new community of lovely like-minded people and start or grow your creative business. 

    This is the ONLY Do What You Love retreat this year. Yorkshire Dales, England (May 11-15 2011) Register now!


  7. Do What You Love interview: Juliette Collet

    After falling for her adorable creations, I am excited to bring you this interview with French designer Juliette Collet, owner of Zü.  Juliette lives in Marseille with her husband and daughter.

    - Tell us a bit about your creative journey to here

    I’ve always drawn and created, ever since I was a child.  I am from a family of artists.  My father and two uncles are in the arts which has had a huge influence on me.

    I’m a graphic designer by training and spent 15 years in this profession.  I started my own business Zü while still working as a graphic designer, and have only recently given that up to devote myself full time to Zü.   

    - What does ‘Zü’ mean?

    My nickname is “juju” or “ju”.  I tried to imagine how a small child would pronounce it and I came up with “zuzu” and ” zu “.  In the end I chose  Zü for its fun feel, and the ü (with a trema/umlaut) for the graphical effect.

    - How did your label ‘Zü’ come about?

    I made my first cloud cushion just after the birth of my daughter Joséphine two years ago.  I then made a lot of other accessories for her room, and I had just decided I wanted to start selling them when a friend suggested she stock them in a new shop she was creating. And that is when the great adventure began for me!

    I kept working part-time in the beginning, to see how it would go and whether my creations would be well received.  I got coverage in a number of publications and in the press, and then other shops who ask me to put my products in their shops.  I was very lucky!

    - Where do you sell your products?

    In six shops online (including Tante Suzie, Youshou, Yume Store, My Little Square and Pivoine et Tapioca) and in shops in several in cities in France – Yume Store and Les Mégères in Paris, L’instant Poétique in Lyon and Mobile de Curiosité in Marseille. 

    I have them in one English shop (FuzzyZebra) too, which makes me very happy!

    - How do you split your working time?

    I spend a lot of time – probably around 60% – making my products, cutting fabric, doing embroidery etc. I make everything by hand!

    I spend around 20% on marketing and communication, which I really enjoy too.  I spend quite a lot of time updating my blog with photographs of my work and life. This is a really important communication tool for me.

    The remaining 20% is spent on creating new products and searching for materials, like vintage tissue.

    - What has been the most challenging thing for you as you have grown your business?

    The sheer amount of work!  Sometimes I feel like I am not giving enough time to care for myself and my family, but it is a must at this stage of a business like mine!

    - And what has been the best part?

    The most delightful has been the amazing feedback from people, and the positive coverage in the press and various publications.

    - What advice would you give to someone who is starting out?

    Do what you can to have some sense of financial security to start – a small financial safety net can be a huge help.  And be patient. If it is meant to be it will work!

    - How do you juggle work and family life?

    I try to be really organized, and not feel guilty if I am working at night when everyone is asleep.

    The ideal I am aiming for would be to spend all day working and be with family in the evening.  It helps to have a patient and understanding husband!

    - What do you do to relax?

    I spend time with my husband and my daughter, and try to make time for my friends.

    - What is your big dream for your creative business?

    To grow and develop my range of products and have them sold all over the world.  Why not!  And I hope it continues to make me happy!


    Find out more about Juliette and the lovely products from Zu on her blog here or connect on Facebook  [All images courtesy of Juliette Collet]


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


  8. Only 2 places left on Do What You Love retreat (registration closes 27 April)

    I have had a flurry of last minute requests about the upcoming Do What You Love retreat.  Flora Bowley’s class is sold out but we do have just two places left in Rachel Hazell’s class and in Priscilla Jones’s class.  There is one Luxury A double room, and one Luxury B double room available.  Registration closes at 5pm UK time on Wednesday 27 April (or when the last two places are gone) so if you want to make a last minute booking please do so now!

    Our awesome lineup of confirmed speakers is as follows:

    Matt Stinchcomb, European Director, Etsy

    - Kanya King, Founder and CEO, MOBO Awards

    - Hannah Nunn, designer and owner of Radiance Lighting

    Rachael Taylor, surface pattern designer (with licenses including Target USA, WHSmith, Johnson & Johnson and SeaScape Lamps)

    Don’t miss this opportunity to get creatively inspired, relax in a stunning environment, meet a new community of lovely like-minded people and start or grow your creative business. 

    This is the ONLY Do What You Love retreat this year.  Register now!


  9. Window shopping


    Don’t you just love shop windows?  When I first started taking photos of them I used to get frustrated with the reflections on the glass, but more recently I have noticed that sometimes the reflections actually make them more beautiful –  a bit like when you used to get double-exposed negatives on print film. 

    [Harvey Nichols]

    Here are a couple of others that have inspired me lately:

    [Louis Vuitton]

    [Lomography – this is actually an inside wall rather than window display but still awesome!]

    Which shop’s windows inspire you the most?



    Registration for the Do What You Love retreat closes at 5pm UK time on Wednesday 27 April, so if you want to make a last minute booking please do so now!

    Don’t miss this opportunity to get creatively inspired, relax in a stunning environment, meet a new community of lovely like-minded people and start or grow your creative business. 

    This is the ONLY Do What You Love retreat this year. Yorkshire Dales, England (May 11-15 2011) Register now!


  10. *shared stories* (10): Mandy Saile, Helen Agarwal and Karen Wallace



    This week we take in three continents as we share the stories of artist Mandy Saile of Bijou’s Whimsy and art therapist Karen Wallace in Canada, and ‘jack-of-all-creative-trades’ Helen Agarwal in the UK


    Mandy Saile

    I am…

    - A creative & inspired maker of whimsical things

    - A gal who’s usually most comfortable around animals, or in rooms full of books

    - A a self-confessed rabbit addict, animal lover and animal advocate

    - Intensely sensitive, especially about animals

    - Plagued by severe chronic & acute migraines which heavily affect my day to day life and creative business. But, I try to see them as positive in their own pain-riddled way, because the headaches and migraines really do force me to slow down and really take notice of the small simple beauties in life

    - Slightly obsessive when it comes to my work – I am a workaholic when my head allows

    - Hugely passionate, joyful and find some form of bliss in almost every single day because I am always acutely and nervously aware of how short life is

    - Full of wanderlust and dream of great travel adventures but at the same time I’ve had a long-standing dream of opening a rabbit sanctuary for rescued test-lab rabbits…so I’ll have to find a way to do both

    - Still finding my footing as an entrepreneur but have huge hopes, plans and dreams which I will stubbornly never give up on.

    I am Mandy Saile of Bijou’s Whimsy, and this is my story.

    I graduated from one of the best art schools around, the Ontario College of Art & Design with associate and honors standing in 1999. I minored in communication and design and majored in illustration. I’ve been an artist and have made the making of art a priority in my life since I was a kid. Lately however, I am realizing that it’s not been that long since I’ve really been putting my artistic dreams out there to be answered or believing in the beauty of my own dreams.

    In 2003, with the incredible support of my honey, I was ready to take the leap, pursue my own work, and I resigned from my beloved job as a gallery coordinator. A couple years of light-hearted attempts followed, when I thought I believed in myself, but looking back realise I didn’t. I was making tons of pictures, doing lots of work and building up my portfolio and style most definitely BUT I still lacked the courage and belief that I was truly good enough to make a living as an artist. I don’t think it was until I immersed myself in the online world, that I started to see all of the incredible opportunities available that could be mine. Up until this point, my own dreams were not firmly set in my own heart as truly being possible. And, it’s really just in the last few days that I am starting to ease up on myself. For I am realizing that I’ve not been giving it my all for THAT long, it just feels like I’ve been pursuing this art thing for a long time. Because though my dreams have long been big and lofty, I until recently didn’t realize the importance of courage, belief in oneself and the ability to accept abundance as being key factors in the road to success. I would say that it was in 2008 when I became more proactive; I started a blog, opened online shops & just started spreading my art around more and more and now I am really trying, NOW I feel like I am REALLY pursuing this art thing full time.

    I can’t really think of a time when making art and being inspired by art was not a major part of my life. It was not however always a nurtured aspect of my life. Many people around me tried to persuade me that ‘art is not a steady or wise path’ , and even nowadays there are more naysayers than positive people around. I do often wonder where I would be now – whether I’d be much farther along the road of success – if my artistic nature and aspirations had been fully nurtured by others. But I’ve always been an artist and I always will be, regardless of where life takes me or how much money I make from it. Making images and being creativity is really just as necessary to me as air, food and shelter. Besides, my love and the rabbits, creativity and art makes up the rhythm of my heart beat.

    With my art I want to create images that refresh the soul and fill the viewer with joy; I want to use a vibrant & rich colour palette to quench colour hungry eyes and hearts; I simply aspire to inspire and shed a bit of positivity into a world that is often negative; I want to show and speak of the strength, beauty and fragility of the human spirit, especially that of the female side; and I must create work that prompts reflection and brings attention to the beauty of animals and the need for their conservation & protection.

    My perfect day doing what I love is one where I wake up refreshed with no head pain and the sun is streaming into the house basking everything in a golden light. Jazz is tinkling away in the background, and healthy happy rabbits are playing around my feet and napping all stretched out in the sunlight. It’s a day that feels full of promise and feels deeply positive in future plans, dreams and hopes. It’s a day where this soft blanket of peace falls over me because I know I am exactly what and where I should be in that day. It’s this incredibly intense knowledge that I am happy in my life because I could do this life, just as it is for the rest of time. It’s where the day feels long with oodles of time to snuggle rabbits, cook delicious meat-free meals, have plenty of time to read and to hang out with my spectacular honey. A day where I let assumptions, fears, doubts, pressures and expectation fall by the way side because instead I am welcoming in whimsy, abundance, light, luck and love. This is a perfect day for me.

    [All images courtesy of Mandy Saile. Find out more about Mandy on her website Bijou’s Whimsy, on her blog, in her Etsy shop, or connect on Facebook or Twitter]


    Helen Agarwal

    If you’d told the small girl who liked ‘making things’ that one day she’d have a studio – a whole building of her own – and that in it she would craft lovely things and show other people how to do the same….she would have thought it too good to be true.
    And my path to doing what I love has been as much about blasting apart the ‘too good to be true’ myth as it has about actually creating the dream.  I’ve had to learn that we can have what we want….our wildest dreams, our deepest desires.  They’re not pie in the sky; they’re put inside us for a very good reason.  Because that’s who we’re meant to be.
    It hasn’t been a straightforward journey.  Nor a quick one.  It’s encompassed ten years of illness and a move to another continent that I fought against tooth and nail.  There were years of trying to figure out the road ahead before I took so much as a single step; years of going it alone; and years more of playing small.  Ultimately, it took three years of solitude in order to get in touch with what I really wanted, establish new mindsets and put the basics of life in order.
    I could write reams about the lessons learned along the way; and about the things – and the people – that have helped me get this far.  But the biggest boost of all – the life-changing turning point – came when I went to Squam Art Workshops in the summer of 2009.  I finally found my tribe….and discovered the existence of the online creative community (how had I missed that one?!).  That virtual – yet very real – world of connections has catapulted me forward to places I never dreamed of venturing.  There’s so much inspiration, so much support out there.  We are living in extraordinary times and I’m thrilled to be a part of them.
    These days I don’t go it alone.  I share the journey with friends; share my art with the world.  I write and talk and teach and offer retreats so that others will be inspired to live their creative dreams, too. 
    And I keep showing up.  Bottom line is, I’ve learned that you get to do what you love by doing what you love.  So these days, there’s no more hanging back.   No more dithering.  I just do stuff.  I let my inclination and gut feeling lead me.  I say yes to whatever opportunity presents itself.  And the consequence is that the road rises up to meet me.  One bizarre circumstance leads to another.  And I suddenly find myself places I never expected to be.  But loving the journey!   

    So what exactly do I do?
    Well, I write a blog.  Take an inordinate number of photographs.  I’m currently working on one book and have been asked to contribute to another.  I’ll soon be running my first retreat here in the Pennines and I’m also going into business with a local holiday company.  I’m designing a wedding, selling skirts, teaching regular piano classes and occasional craft workshops.  Oh, and I travel a lot!
    Friends comment on how opportunities fall effortlessly into my lap these days.  They want to know how it happens.  I say:
    * Believe the creative life you yearn for is possible.  Your dreams aren’t too big.  They’re probably way too small.
    * Just keep showing up.  If you don’t know where to start, do SOMETHING.  You don’t have to know where it’s going.  But action creates momentum.
    * Say yes to any opportunity that comes your way that sounds appealing.  Even if it’s scary.  Even if you don’t feel qualified.
    * You don’t have to opt for just one passion.  Or one expression of art.  (Believing this one kept me in a place of stagnation for YEARS!)
    * Don’t worry about finding your voice.  Just do what comes naturally.  Do the obvious thing.  (Your obvious is totally different from the next person’s.)
    * This journey has everything to do with mindset and attitude.  Pay attention to those.
    * Let go of perfectionism.  It’ll kill the joy and halt the momentum.  Practise imperfection!
    * It’s more than okay – it’s actually necessary – to enjoy yourself!  That’s usually when you’re most truly you and can be of most service to others.
    * Dare to call yourself an artist.  Claim the title.  Others will treat you like one and you’ll step into those shoes.
    * Connect with others.  There’s a world of support and inspiration out there.  Tap into it.
    * Everyone’s journey will look different; will be unique.  So don’t worry there isn’t room for you.  Or that it’s been done before.  Your journey – if authentic – will be beautiful and wholly your own.
    * Let the future unfold.  You don’t have to have it all figured out before you start  Just accept what comes and see where it takes you.  It’ll be far more exciting than anything you could have planned, anyway!


    [All images courtesy of Helen Agarwall.  Helen is a writer, photographer, musician, textile artist and jack-of-all-creative-trades whose life and work are rooted in the landscape of the Pennine hills in Yorkshire.  For more info see her website Dixon Hill, Instagram (dixonhillgirl) or connect on Twitter (@dixonhillgirl) ]


    Karen Wallace


    My name is Karen Wallace and I am an Art Therapist. Perhaps you know what that means or you may be thinking: ‘Does she work with tortured artists; help people who come to see her become artists, or use colour to heal people?’ It is in fact none of those things.

    I am a therapist who works with others to heal emotional or psychological issues. You can think of it as being creative or artful about working with emotional, psychological, and/or physical issues in the therapeutic process. It is not about doing ‘good art’.  What matters is whether it gives you a new perspective, helps you get in touch with your feelings and/or helps you make changes. Even if you are not doing art as therapy, you most likely have experienced feeling calmer, happier and more relaxed while creating art in your studio. Getting in the flow and connecting with your creative spirit is enjoyable and healthy.

    At the age of forty I began my journey of becoming an artist, art instructor, educator, and Focusing Trainer. I had worked in fashion, run an organic gardening business, had my own gallery and a few other things along the way before I started my career as an Art Therapist. At forty we had sold our farm in the Gulf islands and had taken a year off to backpack through the South Pacific with our two children. Once we settled in Australia I wrote a book on Archetypes that I had been studying and reading about for years. Studying Archetypes (see note below) and Archetypal Psychology lead me to realize that I loved working with the mysteries of the unconscious, symbolism, art, and story. I was ready for a new career and I enjoyed working with others in creative healing environments. I had attended many therapy and art workshops, worked on my own wounding and had started reading about this new career choice, knowing that it was for me before I really knew what it was about.

    When we returned to Canada, I enrolled in an Art Therapy school and started my post-graduate studies. At first it felt like I was on holidays; the joy of learning, freedom of not having to earn money (we still had money from the sale of our farm), and movement away from being a mother of small children to a mother of an eight and twelve year old. I loved the profession from the beginning knowing that I would have a private practice with adults and children. Initially I specialized in many different kinds of creativity and art therapy groups: The Archetypal Journey, Learning to Love the Body You Have, Claiming Your Ruby Red Slippers, Soul Garden and Honoring the Mother. Having a private practice meant that I could keep things fluid and fresh by offering groups that I was really passionate about. The challenge was having the faith and patience to build up a solid client base. My partner was a schoolteacher at the time so I had some financial support as I began the business. Yet, it did grow and flourish and I feel very privileged and fortunate to have found life work that is so satisfying, challenging, and spiritually gratifying.

    [Archetypal Theatre: Fool]

    Currently I specialize in trauma work, disabilities and autism. This is the work that I find the most challenging, rewarding and meaningful. Being a good therapist has meant that I have had to do a lot of work staying mentally, psychically and emotionally healthy. I meditate, run, eat well, and work on my own personal healing. In my early days of this work, I often felt overwhelmed, shocked and depressed by people’s stories. It is a profession where you learn as you go no matter how much you read, attend workshops, or courses. I realize now that it is the quality of presence, mindfulness and authenticity that I bring to a session that may help the person sitting across from me heal—rather than any great therapeutic technique or brilliant idea.

    When I was very young, during the winter months I would make classrooms of snow people and teach them until my mother called me in for dinner. In the summer I carved out a classroom in the lilac bushes behind our house and created art camp for my dolls. Now at fifty-five, I don’t feel all that different. I am still that little creative, playful sprite setting up the art table for my clients in the morning. I challenge myself to always think of new and dynamic ways that may help a client get in touch with and release some anger in a healthy way, or a client mourn a death in the family, or a client get some resolution from a childhood trauma that still haunts her. I am lucky enough to teach Art Education at the University of Regina helping student teachers learn how to bring Mixed Media and process art into their classrooms. I am moving more into teaching, but I am not ready to leave working with clients. I have been working on finishing material for three books: A book on Art Therapy and Focusing, Archetypes, and a book of poetry that I have written in response to the work that I do. I will end this post with one of my poems.


    [Archetypal Theatre: High Priestess]

    Talking about Art Therapy

    I am asked to explain, “What is art therapy?” over and over, again.

    In my talks, how do I explain,

    That when someone is playing, creating art the imagination wakes up?

    And for an hour they are free of feeling stuck, depressed, and/or pain?


    In my talks how do I explain,

    That when someone is playing, creating art, the body relaxes, lets go.

    And for an hour the anger, defenses and hurt

    Fall into flow, comfort and ease?


    In my talks how do I explain?

    That when someone is playing, creating art the mind frees up,

    And for an hour the circular thoughts, self-hatred, criticism,

    Give way to curiosity, wonder and clarity?


    In my talks how do I explain,

    That when someone is playing, creating art, the emotions shift, balance,

    And for an hour they experience joy, happiness and peace?


    In my talks how do I explain,

    That this new way of being does not get lost, but becomes embodied,

    And slowly their lives become more creative and full of colour they can’t remember what it was like to be before they had creative license

    How do I say all this when Art Therapy is about being in the experience not talking about it?

    [Archetypal Theatre: Magician]

    Note about archetypes: Archetypal stories are universal, enduring stories that transcend culture and time. Myths, or stories about Archetypes often become part of folklore and mythology. These legendary stories about heroes attract us as keys to or blueprints of how we can become more enlightened, successful, creative or happy. Archetypes hold the stories of our primordial desires and fears, and collective dreams. According to Carl Jung, the concept of archetypes can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Jung felt that archetypes function somewhat like instincts, by shaping our behaviour. He thought they existed inside the human psyche. We see archetypal behavior in ourselves and others as we play the joker, teacher, mother, leader, and hero.

    [All images courtesy of Karen Wallace. The images show Archetypal Theatres being made by Karen  for each archetype that she am writing about in her book on Art Therapy and Archetypes. For more info on Karen see her blog here]


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    Registration for the Do What You Love retreat closes at 5pm UK time on Wednesday 27 April, so if you want to make a last minute booking please do so now!

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