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  1. *Shared stories* (48): Nicola Taylor and Stanlee Panelle


    Today’s *shared stories* come from photographer Nicola Taylor and life coach Stanlee Panelle


    Nicola Taylor

    For me, doing what you love begins with consciousness. What do I mean by that? I mean that sometimes we just have so many options available to us that it’s hard to know what we’d love to do. We don’t know which is the right thing for us and we expect that, when we find it, we’ll hear angels singing the Hallelujah chorus and a beam of light will shine down from the heavens, illuminating that one thing that will make it all complete. I don’t know about you, but that hasn’t been my experience. I spent a long time doing something that wasn’t what I loved and it took me a good couple of years of hard work just to clear the decks and figure out what to do next.

    To take you back to the beginning of my story, two years ago I was working as a stockbroker in the City of London. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing and, to be honest, I had no idea how I had got there. I think I had just stopped looking at the big picture and started focusing only on the choices in front of me. I did that job for seven years and I think I was happy for two of them. The rest were just wasted in stress and worry and fear that I couldn’t actually do anything else.

    I think we all want the transitions to be smooth and easy but the truth is I couldn’t have known at that point that I wanted to be a photographer. I couldn’t see it from there. It’s kind of like being in a valley. You need to get to a higher vantage point in order to be able to see further afield. Sometimes, when all you can see are the mountains in your way, the first step is just trying to get to higher ground.

    The moment of truth came for me on a January morning when I was meeting with my boss to allocate the many stressful and lonely business trips we had to take throughout the year. I remarked on how busy we were going to be and he turned to me and said “It’ll be November before you know it.” NOVEMBER. Almost 52 weeks gone…just like that. And the implications of that comment hit me between the eyes like a sledgehammer. As long as I was in that environment where a year went by in a blink of an eye, I would never have the space or the perspective to decide what I wanted to do next. I would never get a smooth transition. There was nothing else to be done. I would have to leave and face the discomfort.

    I gave my notice a month later with no idea what I was going to do. I was fortunate in that my career had been very well paid and my unconscious had been protecting me by forcing me to be frugal for the past few years, so I had some savings and I decided to take a year off, a kind of sabbatical. I’m not the kind of person who can just wander aimlessly so I set myself things to do throughout the year, things that would keep me on track. A yoga teacher training in Bali, a writing retreat in the Scottish Highlands, an art retreat in New Hampshire and a nine month photography course at the London College of Communication.

    And, although I didn’t know it at the time, everything was unfolding in just the right sequence. The yoga training was like a reset button for my life and gave me back my connection to my gut instinct. The writing retreat allowed me time for reflection on my life and the things I wanted. The art retreat gave me a tremendous sense of community and the bravery to try something with no idea whether I‘d be any good at it or not. And then, when it came to the photography course, I was ready. Everything that was inside of me was primed and ready to be expressed. And it was a little like the Hallelujah Chorus. But the angels could never have found me sitting on my butt in that cubicle. I had to take the first steps myself.

    My big dream now is to continue exploring my own newly discovered creativity and, in time, to help others find theirs. I had written myself off as not being a creative person and that couldn’t have been further from the truth. In reality, I was paralysed by my own expectations of what an artist is and the judgments of my school art teachers. Not that they were wrong (I could show you a clay sculpture of a seal I made that would make you pee your pants laughing) but what they forgot is that creativity is so much more than technical artistic ability. We are all innately creative and we all have access to a medium that works for us, a medium that allows us to express ourselves with joy. I’m making it my mission in life is to convince people of the first and to help them find the second.

    [All images courtesy of Nicola Taylor. Find more of her gorgeous photography here or connect on Facebook or Twitter.]


    Stanlee Panelle


    Doing what I love means feeling happy, fulfilled and useful every day!  I know that I am a beneficial presence in the world, that my life has meaning and I make a difference in the world. I have found my Life Purpose and I am grateful not only to be alive today but also, to have had every experience along the way, no matter what it felt like in the moment.  But it wasn’t always this way.  I am over 60 and my True, Authentic, Life of Joy and Purpose wasn’t in practice until 12 years ago.

    I had a bit of a rough childhood.  Not the worst by any stretch, but still, not at all pretty.  Like many young women blessed with some physical attributes I lost myself and later, as I recovered from addiction, I realized my life had been like a huge mansion with all the lights on inside, costumes hanging in every window so I could appear to be whatever pleased someone else… but, no one was home!  I didn’t know myself.  I was an empty shell –  a Barbie Doll…

    At age 40, 3 years after my second divorce, a date-rape and having sent one of my sons to live with his dad, I started a relationship that would end 7 years later in violence.  Of course that triggered the depression I had been fighting with since I was 11 years old, and after over a year of being handled like a piece of evidence in the Domestic Violence trial, I was so suicidal I wound up in a mental hospital just to stay safe.  I realized suddenly and  with an awesome clarity that I did not belong there in the same what that some did.  I was strong, healthy, smart and capable and I needed to do something with my life.

    Right after I escaped from my abuser, my 77 Year old Mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer from too many years of HRT.  Within two weeks of landing in her safe place, we found ourselves both, unemployed and homeless.  In pretty raggedy shape, I decided that The Universe, in It’s Infinite Intelligence was somehow supporting me as we found a beautiful home, owned by a family friend, to land in and I realized that I needed to “bloom where I was planted”.  It was time to get a grip on my Self and my Life while being of service to loved ones that needed me to be all that I could be.

    So, while caring for my aging and ill Mother, helping my son be a father to my first grandchild, going to therapy and support groups and as many spiritual growth events as I could get to, I started back to school to complete my BA degree.  It was a weird, impoverished and rich time of life!  On unemployment, (General Relief and Food Baskets for a minute before that even!), with my education sponsored by The Department of Rehabilitation I slowly began to recover.  I was giving and receiving at an awesome rate at a ground floor level of survival and I began to get in touch with myself, my needs and wants, my feelings, my fears and my dreams and passions.  I pulled out of recovery mode and flew into creation mode.  I started dancing again and found pure bliss.  I trained as a Ballroom Dance Instructor and started teaching for the local recreation department, which oddly enhanced my physical recovery from injuries.  My mom would say, “You’re as poor as a church mouse and happy as a Lark”.  Great metaphor in the long run …  Life was good.

    I got my BA but was struck with ageism at 50 and short time to accumulate a retirement so looking at my future productivity and knowing I just wanted to dance forever, I went on to get a MA in Marriage and Family Therapy with the idea in mind that my age would be an advantage and, I could probably sit with people until about 10 minutes before dead while making a living that would support my dancing.  The second week of my Masters program I fell in love with it!  I found myself!!  I remembered how all my life people had said I should be a counselor or therapist and I just shrugged it off as some sort of compliment I didn’t feel I deserved.  Now, I was there and it was the most meaningful thing.  It put all my history into perspective and made every pain, tear, heartbreak, trauma and ugliness positive and purposeful  I could understand, relate to  and empathize with everyone’ issues.  I had recovered from, and overcome so much that I was powerfully endowed with the ability to help others see their way to a brighter side of life as well! 

    Today, I practice as a Life Coach with the honor and privilege of witnessing others heal, learn, grow, deepen and expand their lives into what they dreamed of and had given up on.  Every day I am reminded that nothing can overcome me.   I am gratified to be of service to others and humbled by the intimate view I have of humanity’s resilience, determination and ability to create something beautiful out of ugliness and misery.  I can teach, because I know, that Life is unfolding exactly as it should, the Universe is a friendly place always conspiring for our greatest and highest good and everything we experience has meaning purpose that can be a gift – if we let it.

    So, as I move into the final stretch of my life journey with purpose, passion and meaning discovered and blossomed so late in life, I love what I do!  And I only do what I love … I help others find their way to Joy through Life Coaching and through teaching Social Dance.  I am building a community and a movement of Wise Women to help lead our world with their wise, loving voices and, since my Mom died I am consciously preparing for my own graceful exit from this world.  I am reducing my “stuff” to fit into a suitcase because I intend to buy a Time Share I can live in year round while leading this Wise Woman Movement, Coaching clients and dancing all over the world!  It’s a big dream and I can do it. 

    Living so much of my time here unconsciously has taught me to die with consciousness grace.  My kids will know I have lived well but they will only have a suitcase and a small box I have already labeled “After I’m gone”, to handle.  Then, they can go on vacation with the insurance money I’ve accumulated for them, in the Time Share they will inherit and my entire life will on earth will be a 100% success!   

    [All images courtesy of Stanlee Panelle. To find out more about Stanlee visit her here]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


    Bloom True: the e-course with Flora Bowley starts February 6! Register here

  2. Papery goodness

    Thought I would share some pictures from my day of papery goodness last weekend, making books, spinning yarns and scoffing chocolate with the lovely Rachel Hazell (hosted by the also lovely Fiona Pattison). There is something about white linen thread against textured white paper that I just love, don’t you?



    This workshop was the first in a series which will be featured in a book by Rachel, ‘The Travelling Bookbinder’ – check out this video to hear more about her project – and why not go and take one of her fabulous workshops when she is near you?


    Module 2 of The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design featuring Rachael Taylor starts TOMORROW! It is all about ‘creating your professional identity’ as a designer. If you have ever dreamt of seeing your designs on stationery, homewares, textiles or other products, this course is for you. Register now

  3. Surface Pattern Showcase Part 2!

    Fresh, pretty delicate floral from Katy Hackney
    I wanted to share a few more images from students in Module 1 of The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design. Rachael and I have been blown away by the enthusiasm and sheer talent. I hope you enjoy looking at the designs as much we have. What a fantastic group of students from all around the world! We launch module 2 on Monday and cannot wait to get started & see the results.
    Striking contemporary geometric from Diane Davies
    Decorative graphic hearts from Faye Brown
    Beautiful motif layering from Bethania Lima
    Stunning sketchy style from Femi Ford
    Sweet pretty motifs from Meg Harris
    Quirky & experimental style from Lene Daugaard
    Unique motifs & pretty detailing from Nicky Ovitt
    Fresh & quirky hand drawn geometric styles from Katy Clemmans
    Fun seasonal style from Lauren Britchford
    Textural details & layering from Hema Lakshmikanthan
    Vibrant bold colours from Dee McConville
    Funky contemporary paisley from Emine Ortega
    Unique innovative motifs from Su Jones
    Beautiful intricate line work from Virginia Kamau
    Fun flower heads combined with pretty silhouettes from Phyllida Coroneo
    Striking motifs with a moody palette from Vanessa Haggerty
    Beautiful simplistic design from Anne Murray
    Striking palette & stylized florals from Luisa Franco
    Fun illustrative styles from Eva Eva Marion Seyffarth
    Such gorgeous work!  Cannot wait to see what comes out of Module 2 (which starts on Monday.  Join us!
  4. Do What You Love interview: Bekx Stephens

    I stumbled upon Bekx Stephens’ gorgeous work at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in Manchester. I am thrilled to share a Do What You Love interview with her today. Recent graduate Bekx creates amazing sculptures with paper – just take a look!

    What does doing what you love mean to you?

    It means doing exactly what I am doing now! I can’t really explain how amazed I am about the response to my work. I never expected it whilst completing my final year at Derby University. I was just thrilled to have found a material that inspires me so much, there are so many possibilities that I can’t wait to explore. As such I have recently had the time to get back to experimenting with paper again, exploring ideas that I have had festering for a long time.
    How did you get into doing what you do?

    I was first inspired by a fellow student who found a pop-up book in the university library. Interested by the structures and mechanisms, I begun to explore the possibilities of pop-ups, firstly by repeating the examples in the book, then developing my own.

    One day I decided to move from the limitations of the book and progressed into origami. I have been developing the process ever since, exploring the properties of paper and the many possibilities it offers.

    Your work is really unusual.  Where do your ideas come from?

    The material is my inspiration. Paper is a material that often gets overlooked, but is both surprising and beautiful. The simplicity of paper and its properties has inspired since that very first pop-up discovery, and still does today. I never design, pre-plan or try to predict what might happen when starting a new piece. I just simply let the material dictate the outcome.

    My present work is all produced using the same fold, but by changing the direction of the fold and introducing stitch, it alters the outcome of each piece.

    Why did you choose paper as your main material?

    The greatest appeal was that I could work with paper without the aid of machinery or technology, being able to produce work purely by hand. I certainly drawn in by the material’s tactile and fragile quality.

    I am also aware of the need to work more sustainably, so the fact that I can produce work with out the need to use machinery was an added bonus. The recycleability of paper was also a huge appeal.

    What has been the biggest boost to your business along the way? 

    I think taking part in New Designers was definitely the biggest boost. It was the first exhibition I had taken part in, since my degree show at Derby University.  It was a great experience and I was lucky enough to be offered numerous projects. You get to meet so many people and I would definitely recommend that art & design students apply to exhibit there. I have applied for New Designers One Year On; I really hope I get the chance to do it again.

    What does your typical day at ‘work’ look like?

    At the minute I’m experimenting with the present fold I use, with different types of recycled papers, as well as developing new folds.  Working with paper is still a new material for me and there are so many aspects that I want to explore and develop, not just in origami but pop-up as well. I am also experimenting with ways to develop the fold that I use in my current work, to explore different outcomes.

    Who inspires you and why?

    There have been many artists and designers who have inspired me over the years, especially textile artist Michael Brennand-Wood. I went to Michael’s solo exhibition ‘You Are Here’ at the Bankfield Museum & Piece Hall Art Gallery in 1999, and I was just amazed at how intricate and beautifully detailed his work is.  I think it is also the repetition of pattern that I find so appealing about his work.   

    What is your big dream for your work?

    The response that I have received to date has been more than I could have hoped for.  So I guess the big dream is to keep being able to do this for many happy years to come. I haven’t any major plans at the moment, just lots of little things. I have lots of ideas, which I am excited about!

    Find out more about Bekx on her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.


    More Do What You Love interviews with inspiring people here


    Starts Monday 6 February! Don’t miss out – register now

  5. Surface Pattern Showcase!

    Quirky style & colour palette from Stephanie Nance
    Today I’m thrilled to share a wonderful selection of designs from Module 1 of The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design. We are so lucky to have worked with such a dedicated, hard working and talented group, some of whom are well on their way to become professional designers.
    This is just a snapshot of the 3000+ images in the private class gallery (which included designs, research and  moodboards  – it is a veritable feast for the eyes!)

    We can’t wait for module 2 launch next Monday! It’s all about ‘Creating your professional identity’ as a designer (plus lots more designing opportunities in there!)  Join us here 

    Striking B&W design from Justine Aldersey-Williams
    Unique illustrative style from Liza Lamas
    Striking motif details Maike Thoma
    Pretty graphic layering from Melanie Pearson
    Quirky flowers with an oriental twist from Carrie Harper
    Captivating colour & details from Ellie Fidler
    Clever movement & layering from Miranda Mol
    Simplistic & striking florals from Deborah Velasquez
    Rich palette – silhouette & lifework combination from Jacqueline van Roosmalen
    Retro squares with a varied scale from Samina Khadam
    Luscious layering & depth from Helen Billett
    Quirky twist on the traditional teacup from Lisa Budden
    Energetic motifs from Veena Mistry
    Stunning illustrations from Beth Hewitt
    Decorative graphic styles from Jolene Heckman
    Edgy organic stems from Maggie Dunne
    Fun quirky look from Tina Devins
    Pretty country-feel floral from Cathrine St Clair
    Want to try it for yourself? Join us for Module 2, starting on Monday! Register here
  6. Paris. The city of love… and business??

    One of my favourite cards ever pinned up on my fridge… from the wonderful Leigh Standley of Curly Girl Design

    The first time I ever went to Paris was to meet a man. He lived in Canada, I lived in England. We both travelled a lot and met up in various places around the world more often than in our own cities.  It was one of those long-distance things.

    When he suggested we meet in Paris I was just so excited. I rushed out and bought a new outfit, booked my Eurostar ticket and daydreamed of days wandering the romance capital of the world.  

    But the day before I left to meet him, he called to say he had got stuck where he was (in a rural part of Rwanda), and wouldn’t get in until six hours before he had to leave to head back to Canada.

    I was so disappointed. My dreams of croissants and misty strolls along the Seine evaporated in an instant. Paris was off. But then I realised… “I still have a ticket! I still have a hotel reservation! I can go anyway!”  So off I skipped, for a weekend in Paris alone. And every moment of it was wonderful.

    Then a couple of years ago I got stuck in Geneva when the Icelandic ash cloud erupted and shut down airspace over Europe. Considering it the most wonderful piece of bad luck, I hopped on a train to Paris and spent a few dreamy days walking, painting and dreaming.

    And now it looks like I am going back for a third time, on business.

    Let me just say that again because I like how it sounds. “I’m going to Paris on business.”

    So exciting! Rachael Taylor and I are heading to the Indigo and Premier Vision trade shows in a few weeks’ time to get the inside scoop on the hottest design trends, report back to the class in Module 2 of The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design, and maybe even start dreaming of having our own stand there one day… Pinch me!

    PS Don’t miss Module 2: Creating your professional identity. Starts January 30. Registration open now!

  7. *Shared stories* (47): Sadee Schilling and Sheryl Gibbs


    Today’s *shared stories* come from holistic aesthetician Sheryl Gibbs and artist Sadee Schilling.


    Sheryl Gibbs

    As a Holistic Aesthetician of over 23 years, I am truly blessed to love what I do. I am always grateful for the inner guidance I received many years ago that told me to do “something” that makes people feel good. After years spent working for large skin care manufacturers and performing treatments, I determined I would truly fulfill my desires if I could create the most effective, non sensitizing, but least toxic products possible. Having always had sensitive skin, very few products worked for me. I was also often frustrated with some of the ingredients of commercial products due to their toxicity concerns. Thus, I pursued a career as a skin specialist with the hopes of also helping others that face similar challenges.

    Holistic studies were a large part of my career as I learned how important diet and the environment was for overall health and beauty. After years of meticulous research and development, I launched Sevani Botanica in 2010. Sevani, a word derived from sanskrit meaning “Devotion to the Earth,” was my contribution to healthy skin and a healthy planet. I spent countless hours in my lab fine-tuning formulations based on a “special blend” of organic nutrients, ayurvedic ingredients, cosmeceutical grade actives and potent antioxidants, all developed to balance, hydrate and prevent accelerating aging, while also nourishing the skin while respecting our fragile eco system.

    I recently received a review on my brand stating that the ingredients were “so non-nasty the preservative comes from radishes.”  While many brands label themselves as natural and organic many still utilize chemical preservatives, some of which have been banned in Europe.  I will continuously strive to create the safest, most eco friendly, non toxic products possible. Additionally, I donate a portion of proceeds to animal welfare, another heartfelt passion, and another article in itself.

    To date I still see my loyal clients of many years and custom-blend treatments and products for them daily. Nothing warms my heart more than reading a thankful letter or receiving a card or hug with the message “thank you for what you do for me.”  My relationship with them is more than skin deep. I truly love my clients, and I love helping people that have and continue to suffer from similar skin challenges as I have.  I believe that through Sevani products and my contribution, I can do just that.

    I will continue to educate, blog, and inform others about ingredients and planetary concern. I appreciate the consideration for “Do What You Love.” I will continue to encourage everybody to follow their heart’s desires, to never give up, and to always keep their eyes on the prize. However, they should remember to not overextend themselves, to breathe, to meditate, and to take some time to just “be”.

    [All images courtesy of Sheryl Gibbs, founder of Sevani Beauty]


    Sadee Schilling

    Growing up, I was always determined that I would do what I loved, always. My mom and dad often encouraged me to “follow my heart” in my life and career–you know, the old, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” routine. 

    The problem was that I loved so many things! Writing and drawing, books and poetry, antiques and crafts. As a shy and reflective first-born, I loved the way I could express myself creatively–no talking necessary! Even then I had a lot to say; I just spoke with my fingers, creating images and words on paper. 

    Strangely, even with my shyness, I decided that teaching was my calling. I was practical, and teaching was a practical job and one in which you could make a difference–people said you could always find work as a teacher. And because I loved so many different things, it made sense to me that teaching would be a great way to incorporate everything into one vocation. I just assumed that I eventually would outgrow my shyness…

    I still have nightmares about that first day of teaching, about many of the days during that first year! Oh, that feeling in the pit of my stomach as I drove to face a classroom full of high school students for the first time, and then day after day after day after that–me, the small, soft-spoken “teacher” (sometimes mistaken for a teenager, myself), 24 years old and still so painfully shy! 

    It would be an understatement to say that this year stretched me in ways I didn’t think possible. I’m not shy anymore, for one thing! Well, not painfully shy anyway. Oh, and the other thing I learned? I learned that I was not, in fact, doing what I loved. Oh, I loved parts of it: the kids (most of them!), my colleagues, sharing my love for books, poetry, culture–and developing a new love for the creative and crazy essays written by teenagers!  It was just so much hard work. And while the work certainly held the potential for being enjoyable to me, the fact was that my fingers were restless in always scratching that red-ink pen across notebook paper; I suddenly craved paint, brush and canvas.

    The words my mom had most often repeated to me during the last year of her life (she passed away during my second year of grad school, two summers before I started teaching) kept echoing in my dreams: “Jesus needs renegades.”  People who are willing to walk the unconventional paths, to follow that Voice in their hearts even when it doesn’t seem to make sense at all. She, of all people knew that I was a person who would carry on doing what I though I should do, even when my heart was pulling me in another direction.

    How often does it happen that we first must do what we don’t love, in order to figure out what it is that we do love–and finally to pursue it, no matter what the risk? 

    Well, I took the risk. Actually, it’s been risk, after risk, after risk. And I think the first step was standing up in front of those teenagers day after day, teaching with all of my heart. It was a risk to force myself out of my comfort zone, and later, a risk to look and feel like a failure when I admitted, “I can’t do this anymore!” But it was facing my fears that set me on the path that, almost seven years later, has led me halfway across the world. I can speak to strangers now–even in a second language that is still a bit uncomfortable for me–without that dreadful fear gripping my heart. My voice has been loosed–even though I still speak most naturally and bravely “through my fingers.” 

    I’ve been living in Germany for 15 months and blogging consistently for almost a year now – a saving grace and sometimes a pure force sanity at tough times during my European adventures! It’s been a slow gathering of strength, a gradual building of courage, an adventure of finding confidence in who I am as an artist through my developing identities as wife, mother, writer–and yes, even teacher again someday. 

    But I truly can say, even on my loneliest, most homesick “what was I thinking?” days, that I am doing what I love: gleaning the joy even from the grunge and grime of life, finding inspiration in the smiles and laughter and peanut-butter-sticky-fingers of my little girls, and telling others about it–perhaps teaching, in a sense–with my art and writing. And it is still so much hard work. But I’m at home in the work, and that makes all the difference.

    [All images courtesy of Sadee Schilling. To find out more about Sadee visit her blog or her Etsy shop]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


    Bloom True: the e-course with Flora Bowley starts February 6! Register here

  8. Adventure planning

    These days, in the quiet moments between the rushes of work, my mind drifts to the Orient, and to the adventures that are to come this year. Over the weekend we spent several happy hours shuffling through journalled lists of places we want to explore, things we want to do. Mostly we are just going to wait and see, but there is a delicious anticipation in the planning, and I am savouring that for now.

  9. Bursts of colour


    More fun with my new camera! Florists are always a source of colour inspiration on a dull grey day. These gorgeous flowers were found at The Willow Garden in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire where they kindly let me snap away to my heart’s content.


  10. Last chance to join Hello Soul Hello Business – and you do not want to miss this!

    [Image: Tiffany Kirchner-Dixon]

    It has begun and it is WILD.

    Incredible energy, amazing community and best of all… results already, and it’s only week 1!

    I can feel it in my bones that Hello Soul Hello Business (in collaboration with Kelly Rae Roberts) is going to be very special for every single person involved. And we’d love you to join us if you aren’t already in…

    Class began on Monday but we have held registration open for several days for latecomers. But this is your last chance – registration closes at midnight tonight PST / 8am Saturday GMT. 

    Seriously, you do not want to miss this!

    Register here – your business will thank you for it