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  1. Gone adventurin’

    (image by NavyBlur)

    Our stuff is in storage. The out-of-office/studio is on. The to-do list is done. We are off.

    My man and I are heading East for a big adventure. We are going to spend a few months in Japan – slowing down, looking, listening, exploring, (dare I add ‘retreat researching’??) and I am so thrilled. These past few months have been crazy, and the past few weeks have been nothing short of chaos. But they have all been leading to this moment when we step onto that plane, head into the skies and fly in the direction of adventure.

    See you in Tokyo!


    PS. If you fancy a very different kind of adventure of your own, I have just relaunched the Do What You Love e-course which will be brought to you for the very first time from Japan! Class begins on May 14. There’s a special early bird discount if you sign up before the end of March. See here for more details and to register!

  2. The Do What You Love e-course – Back by popular demand!

    picture of me by Tiffany Kirchner-Dixon

    For the past couple of months I have received a lot of emails asking when the Do What You Love e-course is running again, as it has been tucked away quietly since the last run of it back in November.

    It is all about adventure, identifying your passion and making that a bigger part of your every day life. But for the past few months I feel like I have been padlocked to my desk getting lots of other things out into the world.

    It would have felt wrong to run the course when I was holed up in my attic office, but now Spring is on its way, I have a plane ticket it my hand and I am about to head off on my own big adventure to Japan. It feels like the right time to run it again. Won’t you join us?

    The Do What You Love adventure will begin on May 14, and for the first time ever will be brought to you from the Far East! It is going to  be very special indeed… find out more below or register here (there’s a discount if you sign up by the end of March!)

    This online adventure will take you step-by-step on a path to discovering your true passion, and finding a way to make it a greater part of your everyday life.

    In six weeks you will expand your comfort zone, nurture your playful spirit and use this to feed your creative soul.

    You will travel this path with a community of like-minded people from across the world, sharing your stories, forging new connections, and inspiring each other.

    This will be like no other class you have ever taken. Can you afford not to join us? Find out more and register here

  3. *Shared stories* (55): Stephanie Guimond and Julia Dolowicz Harvey


    Today’s *shared stories* come from Stephanie Guimond in Canada and Julia Dolowicz Harvey in England


    Stephanie Guimond


    I’m an artist, a visionary and an avid left-brainer (read: I paint, dream big and I love spreadsheets). Doing what I love means:

    a)      creating meaningful work and revenue related to art and creative expression, learning & growth, space and community or business and productivity,

    b)      working with others to help them create their own meaningful work, and

    c)      making sure my chosen work is part of a bigger picture, supporting the life I want to create overall.

    At least that’s what it means today.

    After spending nearly 10 years coveting the possibility of multiple income streams and fulfilling work, in October 2011 I took the leap and left my government 9-5 job to pursue something more meaningful. (Full disclosure: when I told my boss I was leaving she generously suggested that I take a one-year leave which I did, so technically as I write this I’m on leave.)

    I loved several aspects of my job and tried hard to make the 9-5 work, but the desire to do something different kept coming back every few years, each time more pronounced. I could no longer ignore it. Months leading up to last year’s decision to leave became fraught with hemming and hawing to the point where I just had to choose one way or another: branch out on my own or stay.

    So here I am, smack dab in the middle of my journey in creating work as a solopreneur.

    ‘Blue Reflections’

    I’m in the space between, working on foundational projects and products that fuel me day in and day out, but I’m not yet bringing in revenue. It’s a place of possibility and hope intermingled with fear and doubt, of satisfaction at seeing things come together and frustration at wanting them to come together faster.

    It’s a place of opportunity.

    Today my biggest obstacle is fear of never having a substantial income again, but I see possibility in others making a good living doing what they love and that pushes me to not give up. Through small actions I try to move through this fear as gracefully as I can, regularly calling on the Universe for healthy doses of faith, patience and confidence in my ability to make it work.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to create work tailored to my soul and life goals. The journey started years ago, but I feel like it’s just beginning. Here’s to seeing where it will lead…

    [All images courtesy of Stephanie Guimond. Profile shot taken by Jag. Find out more about Stephanie on her website or visit her shop]


    Julia Dolowicz Harvey

    ‘Doing what I love’ is about creating the life I want to live.   It is related to my work but it’s also connected to my environment, my home, marriage, friendships, family, animals, community, the planet and even my spirituality.  All of these are so important to me – I need to ‘do what I love’ in all of these areas. I need to be in tune with the very core of myself and honour what’s deep inside. There have been times when one area of my life is ok, the other fantastic and another abysmal; they all have a knock-on effect on each other. Happily I can now state that I am now doing ‘what I love’ because I am a Writer, Artist and Healer. This has led me to become an author, sell my art, teach workshops and offer reiki healing sessions.

    In 2009 I was made redundant from my job at the University of Liverpool where I worked as a Career Development Manager – it was a good job that saw me travelling around the UK delivering workshops and presentations about how to create and develop your career, your life and your dreams.

    I was gutted.

    Having been at the university for 4 years, previously within the education team working with 16-19 year olds, I was always designing and delivering workshops and programmes.  With a lecturing background, degree in Health, teaching certificate and counselling and NLP qualifications, it all worked beautifully. 

    It was only on being made redundant that I realised there was something missing. I was on auto pilot.

    When I eventually finished work, synchronicity entered and family offered us a chance to move to France for a while.  Two days after that phone call; an old colleague contacted me as she was moving back to Liverpool from Devon.  Voila.  We all house shifted.

    Spending 5 months in France, we all went, me, my husband and Lucy, my adorable Jack Russell (she got her passport too).   Here I immersed myself into my long-standing dream of becoming a writer and artist and I began to write my first book ‘Writing a UCAS personal statement in seven easy steps’. I started with subject matter of what I knew for sure, supported by my work history and background – writing expression statements to apply to university in the UK. I also reignited my passion for art and mixed media, buying a whole lot of art supplies from a lovely lady who was selling them to buy a motorbike. Once again, this sparked my sketching spirit, my love of colour, prisma pencils and paint. In my 5 lovely months, I practiced my French and living in the countryside. C’est moi!

    Whilst in France, I began to create my cocoon art commissions for family and friends and I wrote, wrote, wrote, alongside developing my “ME mentoring” – where I support and mentor individuals who are suffering with M.E*/CFS* or Candidaisis, as well as career/lifestyle coaching. All of this I did over Skype.

    *Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome

    Back home to Liverpool having pitched my proposal to a publisher just as I left France, I received ‘the email’ four weeks later to say they wanted to publish it!  

    I then set about continuing ‘to create the life I wanted to love and live’ back in Liverpool.   I began to build a portfolio of work and got a job as a careers coach at a local independent school and also worked in a health food shop – this was my bread and butter money, enabling me then to focus more on my writing and my art around it.   

    Currently, I work as an external marker for Liverpool John Moores University’s World of Work programme and am putting finishing touches to my second book ‘Creating your First Ever CV in 7 easy steps.’   In April, I will begin my 44 Wisdom Card Project, which will see me complete a set of 44 oracle cards, art work by me, with messages and wisdom inspired by others and written by me and I continue to create my commissions in my quirky cocoon style and have completed 12 in the last year. 

    There is no doubt our style of life has changed – more so relating to money and expenditure as we are no longer earning a full time salary.  Both me and my husband work for ourselves.  He used to work in Iraq as a close protection officer and he’s now a passionate earth warrior and keeper of the garden – he’s a gardener.   However having become more money aware I feel better off – with my life, my health and my creativity.

    With hindsight, I wish I would have taken the leap and gone on some creative retreats sooner.  Especially when I was working full time. If I had attended workshops even when I wasn’t ‘doing what I loved’, I would have nourished my creative soul.  I went to Portugal in May last year to do a ‘Flora Bowley, Bloom True’ workshop and I wish I had done it years before.  It was so releasing.

    I now realise that travel and removing yourself from your familiar environment really does get creative juices flowing.

    Having my own mentor early on to focus my creative business would have been a good move, to help me plan things a little more.  I didn’t have a marketing plan, and still need to develop this side of me. 

    My big dream is to have my third book published called Healing ME Healing You, all about how I healed myself from ME/CFS when I was in my 20s; have an exhibition of my 44 Wisdom Card Paintings at a wonderful venue in Liverpool; and to illustrate and publish my mum’s poetry.  She’s 76 and a poet, now doing what she loves! Big dreams! But then you did ask.  

    [Images courtesy of Julia Dolowicz Harvey. To find out more about Julia visit her blog or her art website]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


  4. Second pattern course student shortlisted for top wallpaper design award!

    Jane’s gorgeous entry, which has been shortlisted for a top wallpaper design award! 

    WOW! Rachael Taylor and I are so excited – we have just received more wonderful news about another one of our e-course students. I shared yesterday that one of our students had been selected as one of the ‘TOP 5 FINALISTS’ in the Ideal Home Wallpaper Design Competition – well we now have news that Jane Bridges from Patternhouse has also been selected so two of The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design students are in the top 5!

    We are thrilled for Jane! it’s so lovely & rewarding to see! Jane says “I love to combine hand drawing and painting and can’t stay away from bright colour! I am launching soon a range of cushions under my ‘patternhouse’ brand. Other interiors products in the pipeline!”. You can visit Jane’s website here and also follow her on twitter @patternhouse.

    A big thank you to The Ideal Home for this fantastic opportunity!

    Below is a selection of surface designs & cushions from Jane’s ‘English Country Garden’ collection.
    We are so proud of all of our students from ‘The Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design’.
    What a fantastic talented group!
    If you want to have a go yourself and dive into the wonderful world of surface pattern design, be sure to join us for the next course which begins in April! More info here
  5. Pattern course student shortlisted for top design award

    We are very excited to announce that one of our talented surface pattern design e-course students, Nikki Griffiths, has been selected as one of the ‘TOP 5 FINALISTS’ for the Ideal Home Show Wallpaper Competition.

    Nikki’s wallpaper design (featured above)

    We are so thrilled for Nikki! We actively encourage the students to submit to to design competitions during class times so it’s so lovely for us to see them flourish! We just love the simplicity of the wallpaper – it’s cleverly combined with a monochrome palette creating a quirky feel that is contemporary, fun and very fresh. Well done Nikki!

    See below for more work from Nikki’s portfolio.  You can follow Nikki’s work and her blog here. She also runs her own very successful graphic design agency with her partner called ‘The Design Project’ clearly a girl with many talents!

    The competition is run in collaboration with the lovely It has been such a fantastic opportunity for our students. We can’t thank them enough and are thrilled to have as one of our fantastic e-course contributors.

    THE PRIZE: The winner will receive the title of ‘Ideal Wallpaper Designer 2012’, 5 printed rolls of his or her design courtesy of and have their wallpaper featured for sale via a unique link. Along with this, the wallpaper will be promoted on the Ideal Home Show website and it will be used at the Ideal Home Show 2013!

    The top 5 shortlisted entries will be displayed at this year’s Ideal Home Show on 16th March 2012 and later judged by our esteemed panel of judges, including and Laurence Lewelyn-Bowen, followed with a prize giving ceremony on the 26 March 2012.

    The Ideal Home Show, London will open its doors for 17 days from 16th March – 1st April 2012, at London’s Earls Court. Tickets can be either booked online or by calling the Ticket Hotline on 0844 858 6763, or for further information about the show visit the website here.

    A selection of designs from Nikki’s portfolio (above and below)

     If you fancy learning surface pattern design yourself, take a closer look at The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design (registration is open here now and the next session begins in April!)

  6. This used to be my studio…

    100 boxes and bags in storage, empty rooms, suitcases ready, and a huge to-do list still staring at me, but slowly, slowly, it is starting to feel like we are actually going on this big adventure…

    It’s like I don’t have time to get emotional about moving but I am sure it will hit me when I eventually slow down in a couple of weeks’ time and stop to sip green tea under a cherry tree somewhere, gentle blossoms falling all around me… ahh can’t wait (although I actually can as I have far too much to do in the coming days…)

    Please forgive me if the blog feels a little empty, like my studio, over the next couple of weeks. I promise it will be worth the wait once I have found a new temporary home somewhere in the Far East and I can get back into sharing photos and telling stories of far-away adventures!

  7. *Shared stories* (54): Petra Kern and Annabelle Hancock


    Today’s *shared stories* come from Slovenian designer Petra Kern and British adventurer Annabelle Hancock who is planning to lead the first all-female crew of four to row across the Pacific Ocean


    Petra Kern


    I would say my story is very basic and simple. It really is. But as I look back I consider myself quite lucky that things came to me in exactly this order and in this shares. I was journalist for women and lifestyle magazines since I was 19. As a friend said the other day, “Those were the dreams of that life.« But to become pattern designer suddenly became the dream of the life I am living now, and for the future”.

    Yes, I always loved art I always longed to make it but I really never had the courage to actually paint and share my things.  And I never really knew  that a profession such as textile designer or surface designer even existed!

    We all know those little nagging voices inside of us: ‘There are so many better than you. Oh, how would you do the art, you do not, repeat do not, have any art education. So we really need another artist anyway … ?’ Luckily the other »do what you love« voices were louder.

    One day in 2009 I went shopping and my eyes were caught on set of cheap sparkling markers for kids. With those I created my first patterns.

    These were my very first patterns and they made me drunk with joy and happiness.

    It felt so good, that one glorious day when I was still on maternity leave (in 2010)  I decided that  I have to do this every day of my life or I am going to be very, very unfulfilled and miserable by the time I am eighty. Of course lots of fears came with my decision to do whatever it takes to live from my art and designs. I guess I can count myself lucky that every time I get down because of worries and self doubt those spirit-lifting voices suddenly appear with super strong power and scare those fears away for a  while.

    In two years my hand painted portfolio of patterns has grown, and I have tried every technique I’ve learned along the way.

    I am still searching for my place in the world and right now I would describe myself as designer-in-progress who is ready to offer designs for licensing. I had to discover the whole new world of painting, mixed media, pattern design and computer skills in those two solid years.  Now is time to find people and companies that will license my designs.

    In your own business you overcome a lot of laziness and self doubt. I got through them with new computer pattern designing skills. I am totally self taught.

    The greatest lesson my new business is teaching me every day is that once you have your own business nothing is too hard. You suddenly find a great amount of will inside you and a giant hunger for knowledge. Suddenly your little world become so much bigger and when you look around yourself you find that you are among your people who also do what they love. And one more thing – since I am doing what I love I am a person who loves Mondays. For me they are a beginning of a five day creative process. Totally worth it!

    [All images courtesy of Petra Kern. Find out more about Petra and her designs on her website, Etsy shop, or Zazzle shop, or connect on Facebook]


    Annabelle Hancock

    I am currently on a mission to ‘do what I love’. In June 2013, I will be leading the first all female team of four to row across the Pacific Ocean. As a crossing only ever completed by one solo rower, we will be attempting to make history by being the first team of four to make the ocean crossing, setting a speed record in doing so and being entirely female.

    The inspiration for this hefty challenge is most probably the culmination of my insatiable and somewhat relentless, appetite for adventure. As an eternal optimist and some may say, overly ambitious individual, I have always had the attitude ‘anything is possible’. It is only within the last few years, however, that I have harnessed this within an adventurous capacity. Following what can only be described as an ‘epiphany’ at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010, I concluded that I should stop trying to oppress my desire to be an ‘adventurer’ and rather, embrace it. I am a Speech & Language Therapist by day and although a hugely passionate clinician, I knew deep down that I wanted to and could achieve more. I have always subscribed to the concept of ‘extraordinary’ and genuinely believe that we all have the potential to be extraordinary.

    Having always loved the sea and being inspired by the insanely brilliant, Sally Kettle, I started hatching a plan to row an ocean. Two years on, I am still just at the very beginning of this immense journey. I have recruited my core team mates and in a few weeks time we will be launching ourselves as ‘The Coxless Rowers’. Aside from the small matter of physically rowing across miles of the Pacific Pcean, in our world record attempts, we will be celebrating the fact that as four ‘normal’ women, from ‘normal’ backgrounds and walks of life, we are capable of achieving the extraordinary.

    One of my all-time favourite mantras was written by JJ Adams who said “People can accomplish whatever they desire, it is just that most people lack the will to accomplish it”

    For the first time in my life, I am doing what I love because I have followed my heart and have taken that massive leap of faith to courageously listen to it. After all, with a ‘will’ there is a ‘way’! Wish us luck!!

    Our website and blog will be launching over the next couple of weeks and we will be appearing live on BBC Radio Bristol up until the coxless row starting in June next year. If you would like to follow our progress in the meantime please follow my blog. We need as much support as we can get to achieve our goal so please do follow our progress.

    [Image courtesy of Annabelle Hancock. To find out more about Annabelle and this huge challenge visit her blog]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


  8. Window shopping in Paris!

    Some of the window displays were simply divine. Look at the colours!

    More Paris posts here: Parisian markets / Paris story / Les papeteries / Parisian cafes / Paris details

    I was in Paris researching The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design – join us if you want to get inspired with your own pattern designs!

  9. *Shared stories* (53): Liza Zeni Baker and Stacy Chizuk


    Today’s *shared stories* come from Liza Zeni Baker and Stacy Chizuk


    Liza Zeni Baker

    I love waking every single morning of every single day with the warmth in my heart knowing that I am my own path forward each and every day.  That is such a wonderful, uplifting feeling. 

    I am so grateful to be here now doing what I love.  I haven’t been doing this for long, just a year, and it’s been quite a journey to reach this place of inner knowing and trust.  Trusting my intuition has been my biggest lesson of all.  I used to think I was definitely embarking on and doing what I loved in life, but it was my mind and ego talking, not my heart and soul. 

    I was so young when I decided quite definitely that I wanted to be an Architect.  I was just 16.  And with my stubborn nature I went ahead like a bull dozer, making sure I succeeded in becoming an Architect, no matter what.  I completed my degree, going as far as completing my Honors, tutoring design students, and beginning a Masters in Architecture.  I established myself in a good job, ran my own projects, aligned myself with mentors, and surrounded myself with a strong Architectural community.  I went as far as setting up my own Architectural practice with my husband, also an Architect.  It was my life and I thought it was my passion.

    I wasn’t paying attention to my intuition at all during those 20 or so years.  I missed all the little pop up signs along the way saying “slow down, this shouldn’t be so hard, open your eyes, and listen within to that intuition that is actually screaming at you”.  If only I’d noticed, listen, paid attention.  One example that comes to mind is when I didn’t initially get into Architecture. This should have been one big enough sign that perhaps this wasn’t my true calling.  If only I’d realized that I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone.  That the only person I had to make happy was myself.

    I came to realize that I wasn’t doing what I truly loved just before we decided to start a family.  I’d become distracted, bored, unmotivated, developed IBS and had lost my natural, spontaneous, joyful smile and natural giggle that I was once know for.  I knew at that point in time Architecture wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

    I began to look within and opened my closed view of life to possibility.  But, as soon as I stepped forward into this scary world of truth and honesty with myself, I hesitated.  I was worried about all the silly things such as money, what others would think, and letting go of what was safe and known to me.  I am so very grateful to my beautiful, supportive husband Michael.  He lovingly and encouragingly helped me move forward from my inner confusion and unhappiness.  I began to nurture my health, my wellbeing, I practiced yoga, read life stories of those I admired, meditated, began to draw for enjoyment again and even studied Kinesiology.      

    Through this period of transition I’ve essentially come back to where I started in life.  As a child I loved art, self expression, giving sharing and togetherness.  I now draw every single day expressing what’s within, freely.  I’ve discovered a love for painting which is new, exciting and so opening for me.  I’ve also discovered a way to open up and share what’s within, allow those thoughts to surface and be heard with others through writing my blog. 

    I can truly say I am now doing what I love.  I am happy again and I love tuning in to my inner being every day and trusting what I feel and not what I think.  I love not being too decisive about what my future may hold or bring, but rather living now and breathing through each moment of every day.  I love noticing all of the tiny pieces of inspiration that delight and evoke my senses.  I love that my creative expression no longer feels forced, but flows freely through drawn, written and painted forms.

    My inner being has re-surfaced and I’ve felt childlike wonder, excitement, spontaneity and joy again.  I’m feeling full of life, full of motivation and enthusiasm to share my passion, share my inner wisdom, and gather together with other like-minded creative spirits.  I would love to inspire others to step into their hearts and out of their minds, to trust those intuitive whispers and take courage in themselves to nurture their inner souls and re-discover their natural way. 

    [All images courtesyof Liza Zeni Baker. Find out more about Liza on her website or blog, or connect on Facebook.]


    Stacy Chizuk

     Doing what I love is like unplugging from time. When I step into my creative self, I am not bogged down by thoughts of “to do” lists or haunted by plaguing “what-ifs” or the self-destructive “shoulds”. When I do what I love, that ticking clock in my head stops and a joy emerges that I often forget dwells in my soul.

    I picked up a camera when my first son was born six years ago and I never put it down. My Canon is always thrown around my neck, riding shot gun in my car or stuffed down inside my diaper bag. I started with a basic point and shoot and have gradually upgraded throughout the years. My grandfather was a photographer and on his deathbed five years ago he asked me to carry on the tradition of photographing the family. I agreed wholeheartedly. Growing up I never understood why he would take my sister’s and my photographs so often. We would groan and hide from his large Nikon lens, especially during those awkward pre-pubescent years (picture the 80’s hair coupled with heavy black eyeliner). Then after the birth of my first child I understood. I appreciated the desire to capture a moment of time. In capturing that moment I discovered the challenge to comprehend the magic and mathematics of the light, decipher the mechanics of the camera, and to gaze through the lens as if my own kaleidoscope into the world. I became addicted.

    I left the field of social work after giving birth to my first child. However, I still wanted to give back in some way without feeling I was losing myself in the giving. I had always loved writing since I was a child and taking the quote from a random postcard I purchased in one of those funky incense-smelling shops, I decided to “take the leap and build my wings on the way down” and I started a photography blog. My intention was to only post photos but it unfolded into a forum for me to write. I write for myself. I write to set free the incessant, sometimes humorous, sometimes solemn thoughts that camp inside my head. When I began to hear my authentic self in my words and see that self in my photographs, I discovered a feeling best described as a liminal moment. A liminal moment as described by author Rebecca Wells in her book Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, “Those moments apart from time, when you are gripped, taken, when you are so fully absorbed in what you are doing that time ceases to exist.” So I began Liminal Moments Photography.

    Since starting my blog and a small photography business, I have been able to incorporate a piece of my social work self in photographing children in foster care that are looking for an adoptive family. Many of these children love the personal attention a photo shoot brings and they often are my favorite kids to capture!

    Their ability to smile and shine despite traumatic childhoods is inspirational. When I see my photographs of these children displayed in public arenas, I feel both excited because the photograph truly captures their spirit, yet heartbroken because the reality is their pictures are there because they need a family to love them. My goal in taking their photo is to capture their essence, their spirit, their love. If I can do that, then hopefully I will have helped them in some small part along their journey.

    Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves, “a woman’s creative ability is her most valuable asset, for it gives outwardly and it feeds her inwardly at every level: psychic, spiritual, mental, emotive, and economic.”  When I hold my camera in my hands or free my words through my blog out into cyberspace, I feel as though my soul is being fed. I hope it touches others and helps to ignite their creative spark.

    [Images courtesy of Stacy Chizuk. To find out more about Stacy visit her website]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


    Join us for The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design, – next class starts in April!

  10. Paris details


    Inspiration and beauty everywhere in this magical city…


    More Paris posts here: Parisian markets / Paris story / Les papeteries / Parisian cafes / Window shopping in Paris

    I was in Paris researching The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design – join us if you want to get inspired with your own pattern designs!