Kanzashi, kimono, seasonal motifs, handmade finds and cooking!

Back Pain – things that help me

This week I’ve had a recurrence of the back pain that plagued me for around 2 years, before I became pregnant with Etta. It has knocked me for six, because I had thought I was on top of it.  I already have a lot of coping mechanisms in place for dealing with being in pain, from when I suffered with it before, but it is definitely slightly different dealing with pain while looking after a child.

I’m trying to stay positive about it, and hoping that it is just a little flare up and that it will be gone soon. In the meantime, I’m going to use it as a reason to post  about all the things that helped (and are still helping!) me to cope with living in pain on a day to day basis. I also just want to add that I don’t have any professional qualifications around managing pain, I am just sharing what has helped me, though of course I hope that in sharing this it can help others who are experiencing back pain.

My back pain is mostly sciatic pain and other nerve pain. It is caused by two bulging discs, one of which is touching my spinal cord. The feeling of nerve pain is very odd, to me the sensation is a little bit like cold water running down my legs, combined with the feeling of pins being stuck in my skin. It is extremely affected by mood, stress and anxiety. If I am relaxed enough I can convert the pain to just ‘sensations’ but as soon as something stresses me out, or distracts me from relaxing, the sensations are interpreted as pain again. For this reason, a lot of the things that have helped me are based around de-stressing!

I think the relationship between pain and state of mind is extremely interesting, but I don’t want people to misinterpret this as me saying that pain is imaginary, or that it is easy to switch it off just by thinking differently. Know that anyone manages chronic pain is likely putting in immense amounts of effort keep on top of their pain, face the world and perform many of the mundane tasks that pain-free people take for granted.

When I first hurt my back, one of the first things I did was to buy a Backfriend. This is a portable seat-adapter that makes most chairs more comfortable to sit in and supports your back correctly.  I still use it at my computer chair, though I think it has limited use as a portable adapter if you have really bad back pain, because having to carry something extra around with you can make things worse.

I also started going to a gentle yoga class. Yoga is one of those things that is often recommended if you’ve got a back problem – but if you are experiencing severe chronic pain, it can be hard to find a yoga class that is gentle enough not to trigger worse pain. If I went to a normal yoga class I’d probably just have had to lie on my back for most of the poses, feeling rubbish about myself. So for me a super gentle yoga class was great, because I could do all the movements and know my body was getting some benefit from moving, whilst also being able to seriously relax. Because of looking after Etta, I now don’t go to a regular class, but I do gentle, relaxation based yoga videos on YouTube like Yoga with Adriene.

Doing yoga lead me to look into mindfulness. Finding this article on using mindfulness to cope with pain was a moment of complete breakthrough for me. Tears streamed down my face while as I read it, and it completely changed the way I approached pain. Before reading it, I just felt complete desperation and a sense of ‘how on earth will I get through the day?’ every morning, and a similar sense before I completed any task or activity. Realising that I just had to cope with the now was a huge release. Funnily enough, it is the thing I am struggling most to do since my pain has returned!

YouTube is an amazing source of relaxation videos. I used a lot of progressive muscle relaxation and Yoga Nidra videos.

I found myself searching for ones with the most relaxing voices, and stumbled across something called ASMR. ASMR is basically people talking in a soothing voice about mundane things. It is really good if you find it hard to let yourself relax or meditate because of constant brain chatter. The person talking replaces the brain chatter for me. Some people experiences ‘brain tingles’ from listening to a soothing voice, and also from personal attention. You might have experienced it yourself without knowing what it was, maybe when someone was explaining something to you, or showing you how to something. I realised that I experienced it as a child, without knowing what it was during opticians appointments, while listening to science lectures and later, when watching QVC! I now use ASMR to keep me relaxed while I’m working (I have it playing in the background), to de-stress, and also to get to sleep. My favourite ASMRtist is Gentle Whispering, but there are tonnes of people making videos,and some of it is about finding someone whose voice triggers you, or who makes videos that contain your specific triggers. I have recently been wondering whether to make my own ASMR videos, as I use an ASMR type reading voice (I call it ‘my counting voice’) to help Etta go off to sleep! Do you think it is a good idea?

Once I was enough control of my life through yoga and mindfulness to think about tackling my back pain, I bought a CBT workbook, enrolled on a CBT and mindfulness based pain management programme at my local hospital and started doing graded exercise to build up my core strength. One of the things that I think has lead to my most recent setback, is a loss of core strength, as I neglected my exercise regime over Easter, and while Squidlet had chicken pox.

Because it is really important to me to maintain a positive outlook, I’m trying really hard not to beat myself up about causing a recurrence of my pain. I remember what a dark, dark place I was in when I first hurt my back, and I know that thanks to the many people who shared their coping experiences or made their yoga and ASMR videos available online, I am not in that place now, despite being in pain. I really hope that sharing some of the things that have helped me cope with pain will mean that my difficult experience results in healing and happiness for others. Please do share your experiences of coping with chronic pain and illness in the comments, and maybe you can help someone else out too.

A #creativekickstart from Katrien from SweetiePips

You may have seen my post recently about my #creativekickstart challenge where I’m asking you all to join in with me and post an image on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram every month, celebrating your creative achievements and documenting what has been getting you going over the past month. Here is my first post featuring someone elses #creativekickstart! Kat from Sweetiepips is a fellow Brighton Etsy teammate, whose work I only came across a few weeks ago, when making a Brighton Etsy Team Spring themed treasury. I love her eclectic jewelry and of course the #creativekickstart image she made to document what she’d done creatively or what inspired her creatively over March. I’m also really excited to meet a fellow Brighton Etsy person who is juggling making and running their business with parenting.

Kat says about her image: “The moon pendants featured in the montage are now listed having been inspired by both the Solar eclipse last month and the awakening of a very sunny spring.  Like a lot of people I feel more carefree and bohemian when the sun appears each year. It seems to enliven my creative spirit in abundance and I just want to become a complete gypsy, sleep outside, create unique bits and pieces and walk around barefoot (however, I have a son who has a lot of lego……need I say anymore!)”

I am totally with Kat on letting the natural world and all it’s subtle changes and unexpected surprises feed into what we make and do. Moving into Spring it feels like the whole world is awakening, and we’ve all emerged from being stuck indoors during the rain and cold, to living in the garden, marveling at all the plants and creatures bursting forth. The change in season is making me want to take Squidlet on a little camping trip, maybe to somewhere like Wowo campsite, where she can play in streams and forests and fields all day.

In a week or so, I’m going to be looking back over April, and I’ve already got some ideas of what I’m going to be sharing with you.  I’d love to feature another image from one of you guys mid-month, so remember to tag your image with the #creativekickstart hashtag and get involved because I am really excited to hear what you’ve been up to and how it’s fed into what you make!

Creative Kickstart – Looking back over March

So an idea I’ve had for a while now, but as yet failed to do anything about, is start a hashtag on Instagram and Twitter for people to share their creative processes.  I want #creativekickstart to be a place where you share a collage (either a photo-collage or a styled ‘collage’ of objects in a scene) of all the things you’ve been doing that have been getting your creative side all a-flutter. So roughly around the turn of the month I’m going to publish my #creativekickstart collage, and then over the next week look through at what everybody else has posted on the hashtag. Then midway through the month (-ish. Am trying not to put myself off doing this by being too deadline obsessed!) I’ll publish a post about some of my favourite posts on the #creativekickstart hashtag and maybe even do a little mini interview with someone to get a bit more background on what they’ve been working on and what inspires them.

The idea is that its a look back over the past month in all it’s creative glory. I want to throw out those guilt-inducing to-do lists and focus on the things that you HAVE done over the month, which is why we are looking back. This idea is kind of nicked from a CBT thing that I did when my back pain was super bad, and I had a book where the exercise was to list everything you’d done in the day, at the end of it, rather than getting up and making a to-do list of things, half of which you might not get done. Instead of getting a ‘gnargh, I still didn’t do everything I thought I’d do’ feeling, this exercise should generate warm glow of ‘look how awesome I am for all the stuff I DID do!’. I think also acknowledging all the things that are revving your engines at the moment is a good way to link together some of the threads of creativity you are working with.

It doesn’t have to be filled with pictures of paintbrushes either – it could be that for you, going for a run is your chance to think or rejuvenates you and that is YOUR creative space. Something I’ve realised as I start to compile my #creativekickstart collage for this month is that I don’t necessarily have a photo e.g. of myself freediving, so I am just going to experiment with ways to convey the things that are inspiring me- maybe using an object that symbolizes my creative pursuit. It can just be a round up photocollage of the creative things you’ve posted on Instagram over the last month. I want it to be a way to share where you are at creatively this month, rather than a big time consuming faff. I think I’ve just realised in the past month or so that I love hearing people’s creative stories, and that this would be a way to connect with others and share the love a little bit. :D

Here are a couple of useful online photo collage makers:

Canva

Fotor

And an app so you can download your Instagram photos for collage making:

Instaport

Here is my very first #creativekickstart looking back over the month of March!

Creative Kickstart March 2015

The things that I did that were creative, or are inspired me creatively in March:

Freediving, Anything fishy or mermaidy, Spring, especially in my garden as lots of the wildflowers start to come up, dancing, wedding season, glitter, mechanical robot flowers, Permission Party, Seigaiha/fishscales, Etta’s crazily good drawings.

So I think the mermaidy, fishy, glittery, fishscales stuff all sort of goes together – This is what is inspiring me for an upcoming collection that I’m developing. I think it will be an AW15 collection, I am hoping to release it in summer and actually get ahead of the game so that I can do some press releases etc in good time for typical press lead times! I’ve also got a summery (non glittery) fishy collection that I’ve already shared some pieces from and that I really need to get a move on with and start listing soon!

Freediving and dancing also link together in some way – I am trying to get moving! After hurting my back I really lost touch with my body and lost confidence in my ability to move freely and unselfconsciously without causing myself pain. In March I started Freediving with NoTanx Brighton and am loving learning to swim with a monofin. This also feeds into a my dream idea of starting a Body Positive Mermaid’s Playground. As part of my Mermaids Playground ‘research’ and in an effort to be comfortable dancing without drinking I went to a 5Rhythms class called ‘Love Thy Everyone’. This is a moving mediatation or ‘ecstatic dance’ class and was waaaay out of my comfort zone! I was really nervous about going, but it turned out to be a really amazing experience. Somehow being back in touch with, and friends with my body again is filling me with a confidence in who I am in many other areas of my life.

At Upcoaching’s Permission Party I did a writing exercise with Entrepeneur Enabler Ebonie Allard where I wrote a letter from the universe to myself . I found this incredibly cathartic. My letter revealed to me how my experience with hurting my back in 2010 left me feeling like really bad things could happen – to me! I think until that point I always believed that in general everything would be okay, and that even if kind of bad stuff would happen, the universe would catch me. Although of course, it has all worked out in the end in many ways, writing this letter made me realise how much this feeling that it could all easily go wrong at the drop of a ball has been dominating my thoughts and holding me back. So my letter was from The Universe to me, and it was weird, once I started writing it, it just wrote itself. Basically the universe said  ‘Don’t worry I’ve got your back again.’! I loved meeting all the coaches at the event, but I felt a real connection with Ebonie who totally bared her soul. The things she talked about also really nudged me about wanting to do more Tarot readings for other people.

What else have we got…Spring, wedding season and robotic gardens of flowers! Spring, spring spring! I had forgotten how much I love it. All the plants are starting to appear, and having a little person (Etta) who is excited by every ant, dandelion and puddle that we come across is making me appreciate it even more. Spring also marks the beginning of wedding season, and I am feeling really pleased with how many wedding orders I’ve had since starting to put more effort into promoting my work again. I love the feeling of playing a small part in somebody’s wedding day. The coming of Spring has reminded me that my love of flowers and the natural world is one of the things that got me into kanzashi making. Seeing two really exciting interactive robotic flower garden  here and here  made me wonder what it would be like to build one of my own (probably with help from Rob and my Dad who are both into programming and robotics!). I’m not sure if this is a project that will ever become realised as I seem to be fizzing with so many ideas at the moment I couldn’t possibly do all of them, but I think sometimes having these pipe dreams is important for our creativity.

 

 

Oh yes, finally, Squidlet’s awesome drawing skills – she is only 2 and (yes shameless parent brag!) I just can’t get over how great her drawings are. I love talking to her about them and discovering more about how she thinks. This one is of people reading, shouting, sliding and dancing. There is also a fence in there (one of her great interests right now!). Her fearlessness and intense concentration on them truly shows that all children are artists at heart.

I would love it SO much if you would join me and take part in the #creativekickstart hashtag! I am really excited about seeing a snapshot of everyone’s month of creativity, and I think it will really interesting to look back on as a long term project as well, as you see how what is inspiring you changes over the course of a year. Do post below if you are thinking of joining in, and I will  keep a special eye out for your posts!

Hallelujah I’ve finally stopped breastfeeding!

This is going to be my first parenting post on my all-new-slightly-kicked-up-the-bum, posting-every-few-days/weeks blog and I’m slightly nervous about writing it because a) its about extended breastfeeding and weaning, which I feel is a little bit socially unacceptable and b) because its about parenting and this just seems to be an area where people can easily feel that someone is judging them for their parenting choices. One of the reasons I feel a bit wary of posting about extended breastfeeding is that I’m worried it will be seen as braggy – there is so much guilt and pressure around breastfeeding that I really don’t want to add to that. I had a really really horrendous time feeding Etta at around the 4-6 month mark, and although I do feel pleased that I got through that phase and carried on breastfeeding, it was such a hellish time that I don’t think any mum should feel that they HAVE to put themselves through that in order to feel like a good parent. Sometimes taking the decision to stop doing something that is stressing you out, or affecting your ability to relate to your child is a really good parenting choice. I do also think that mothers should have the right to celebrate their parenting victories. So whether that was deciding not to breastfeed because you knew that was the right choice for you, or giving yourself a pat on the back because you survived a year of being kicked in the face by a nursing toddler, then allow yourself a ‘Hell yeah! I did it!’ moment for your baby feeding journey. This is mine.

When I made the choice to breastfeed, and to try to exclusively breastfeed up until 6 months, I thought I would probably be feeding Etta  at 6 months, that there was a slim but very unlikely chance I’d still be feeding her by 1 year, and really I would have definitely have fully weaned her before she was able to ask for milk in public by yelling “I EAT MUMMY BOOBY!” on the bus. As you may be able to guess I did not manage to wean before the cringe inducing bus incident happened, just before her 2nd birthday. That incident was however a bit of a catalyst for finally making the move to stop breastfeeding. I realised that I was no longer really comfortable feeding her in public, and desperately needed more personal space.

I loosely subscribe to the ethos of Attachment Parenting, as we cosleep, babywear etc and I believe the research around how babies and young children form attachments shows that being emotionally and physically available for your child is important. However in many ways I am a slightly reluctant practitioner of it due to needing absolutely immense amounts of personal space in order to feel even moderately normal. I hugely buy into the ethos behind AP but I think that the reality of it can be quite guilt-inducing (at least for me!) because you are constantly having to balance the ideal of being available to your child with the reality of sometimes being too stressed out, grumpy or tired to do that.

When Etta was super tiny, from 0-3.5 months-ish I remember thinking how incredibly easy and hassle free breastfeeding was. In hindsight this seems so smug, but I also think I was lucky to have this lovely calm time right at the start of our breastfeeding journey, or I might never have stuck it out! I was also very lucky to have a mother who was also a breastfeeding counselor, and who was pretty much on hand 24/7 with all the support I could ask for. I often wonder if everyone had this kind of access to a breastfeeding counselor how much smoother things might go in those first few months.

When Etta was around 4 months old she went through a 2 month phase of not feeding unless we were at home, lying down in a darkened room. Because she was still needing to be fed every couple of hours, this made going out anywhere (or even having people round) immensely stressful. I also suspect that it changed her from a baby who could just drop off to sleep if I left her alone on the living room floor without toys nearby when I spotted her sleepy signs to a child that HAD to be fed to sleep – because she would always end up having her nap while we fed. Although it seems like a long way away now, I remember being obsessed with sleep, and obsessed with whether I was feeding her enough. I can even remember worrying that I had given her an eating disorder – yes I was going completely insane! I ended up doing a lot of expressing and giving bottles of expressed milk, which was also hugely stressful (respect to anyone who does this for any length of time). At this point I started seriously considering quitting breastfeeding. I actually wonder if I should just have been less hard on myself and given some formula in place of expressing. It was at this point that having a mum who was a breastfeeding counselor took on a different dimension. Although she was still an immense source of support to me, in my head was the constant pressure to continue breastfeeding because how bad would it look if I, child of a well known local breastfeeding counselor stopped breastfeeding BEFORE my child turned 6 months?

When I look back on this period of my life, I don’t think I was really thinking rationally at all because I was just SO stressed out. Luckily I confided to my mum about the guilt I was experiencing and she said “You should make the decision that is right for you, not based on the fact that I am a breastfeeding counselor. I will support your decision whether you decide to stop breastfeeding altogether, supplement with formula, or carry on breastfeeding exclusively.” She also advised me to ring the NCT breastfeeding line and speak to a breastfeeding counselor who was not her, so I would be free to talk about all the issues affecting me, without worrying about her feelings in the matter. I can’t tell you how much this changed things! I felt really released from a lot of guilt about my own choices, AND speaking to the helpline resolved many of my issues within about a week. I almost felt a bit silly for not ringing them sooner, but it felt like a huge psychological hurdle to accept that I was having enough difficulties that I actually needed help.

Although we came out the other side of this phase, I do feel like my relationship with Etta was quite affected by it. I got into a mindset of obsessively worrying about sleep and milk intake, AND even better, worrying that my worrying was having an effect on her – yay, I love my brain! I also to some extent tried to hide my worries from friends and other mothers because I perceived these thoughts as neurotic, so I think I was probably putting out a very ‘yes I am super relaxed about all these things’ image, while actually worrying about them a lot. Maybe some of it was an attempt to NOT worry about these things as much, by saying that I wasn’t really that worried about them. Anyway, whatever it was, I don’t think it was particularly healthy , and it created a bit of a disconnect between my experience and the way others perceived me. I found being a new mother a bit like starting at a new school, where I wasn’t sure if anyone liked me and I wondered if I should try to fit or just go with it and be the massive weirdo that I know I am! So basically I now realise I was probably experiencing massive anxiety alongside the whole tiny baby craziness.

Luckily when Etta was about a year old I came across a group called Mothers Uncovered which runs creative discussion groups in Brighton and decided to go along and try it. I’m not really quite sure what I thought the group would be like, but I am so glad that I went. It is described as ‘a support service to new mothers through workshops and arts projects’ but somehow to me that doesn’t quite cover it. It was really quite life changing for me! Through lots of discussions and activities mothers were able to tell their stories and share their experiences of motherhood, in a way that didn’t really happen when I went to parent and baby groups. I realised that I had really lost touch with that ability to live in the present and enjoy tiny beautiful moments with my little girl. I think this is still something that I struggle with, so I wouldn’t say that I just went to the group and then left, instantly ‘cured’ of all the strange thought patterns I’d got into. But it gave me a chance to notice what was going on with ME rather than with my baby, and to start discussions with other people in my life about how I was feeling.

I think one of the things that made me realise it was time to stop breastfeeding Etta was that I started to let my worries about how stopping would affect her get in the way of really listening to how I was feeling about continuing to nurse. I eventually burst into tears after she requested to feed and then suddenly had this realisation that I didn’t want to be feeding her anymore and that I DIDN’T HAVE TO! Sometimes I wish that my relationship with feeding my child wasn’t so fraught with emotion, but I suppose that inevitably our decisions about how we nourish our children will be difficult because they are linked to our love for them.

Of Mermaids and Monofins

Last week (or possibly slightly longer ago….time is still slightly amorphous for me while living in Toddlerville)) I posted about trying to find my creative path, and create a working life that works for me, and I kind of hinted that something had come along that really excited me… I’d really been trying to put the question out to the universe ‘what do I want to do with my life’ and written a list of things I wanted to try out doing. One of the things which featured on the list was ‘get a monofin and try out mermaiding/freediving’.

I have a slight confession to make. I nearly didn’t put it on the list at all. In fact, when I was originally writing the list I left it off , even though it had popped into my mind, because I felt kind of embarrassed about it…… I actually felt that people would laugh at me for wanting to do this (hey, maybe some people are…if so – That is really mean! Stop it!) partly because it is a little bit out there, and a whole lot because I definitely do not fit the beautiful slim mermaid body stereotype and I thought people would think the idea of me in a mermaid tail was the most ridiculous thing ever thought of. Maybe it still is, but I’m not sure if that’s a good reason not to do something.

 

I recently read a great great great article about exercise and bodily movement by Naomi Alderman, who made a   running app called ‘Run Zombies Run’. The gist of the article, if you don’t want to read it (but seriously, go read it, it is great!) is that as a fat person, she felt like she wasn’t really ‘allowed’ to make an exercise app (but luckily she got over that and did). Her other main point was that the link between exercise being a chore (and often in fact a punishment for being fat) not only alienates people who don’t fit into the beauty norm from exercise but completely detaches them from the joy of what it feels like to move your body. I SO identified with this story. I hated PE at school, and once I left school actively rejected any form of physical exercise until I hurt my back in 2010. Since then I’ve realised that I need to maintain some kind of level of physical fitness in order to enjoy life, and graded exercise was a huge part of my recovery process from chronic pain. However, I am still overweight and I still don’t really like exercising. I cannot think of anything more dull than pounding the streets in my trainers, or  splashing up and down a lane trying to burn as many calories as possible.

Reading this article reconnected me with a memory of what I DID  love doing in terms of physical movement as a child and that was duck diving under the water, and generally playing in the water, doing anything but lane swimming. I also loved seaswimming, which I still do as an adult (admittedly not much since having Etta) and I think that has always appealed over pool swimming because somehow I have always disliked the on-display, echoey, shouty, divebomb-y , lane swimming atmosphere of swimming pools, and felt much more self conscious about my lovely lumpy body in that set up. I don’t know why that is…

 

Anyway I digress slightly. The reason I brought up the body image stuff is because when I finally plucked up the courage to write mermaiding down on my list of things I wanted to do, I started thinking how cool it would be if there was a place where people who feel similarly to me about exercise and their body could try out mermaids tails, and swimming like a mermaid and also just get back in touch with that love of bodily movement. I started to dream about a Body Positive Mermaid Playground (Yes I already have a name for it!), where we’d do a bit of mindfulness, do some movements in the water that just felt really good rather than designed to be exercise of any sort, and then people would be free to splash about and just play, in a very accepting and non-competitive space. Oh and also try out swimming with a mermaids tail on of course! My idea was basically that everyone deserves to get to live out their mermaidy dreams, no matter what their body looks like.

I think I was slightly ill with a fever that weekend, because I was suddenly seized by the idea that I should post about my idea on Facebook. Against my better judgement I did so, and waited for the howls of laughter. But instead I was happily reminded what a nice bunch of people I am friends with when people were not just supportive but actually really quite excited about the idea too. In one of those strange serendipitous synchronicity things, someone put me in touch with a freediver in Brighton who already had a mermaids tail. She invited me to go to her freediving club, called No Tanx, a monofin came up on Ebay super cheap and I got some bi-fins too, and I went along to try it out.

 

Freediving was amazing, like nothing else I’d ever tried. I am going to my second session tonight and already can’t wait. The club’s ethos is very non-competitive and the whole thing seems very meditative. This video seems to capture most what a session was actually like (though there was a full hour out of the water doing yoga and breathing exercises first as well as the underwater part)

The group was quite small and because of this I got to use my monofin and could even have tried out my friend’s mermaid tail , but I held back on that for now!

So, I’m not quite sure where the freediving and monofinning will take me exactly, but I have an idea of somewhere I’d like to go with it eventually, so just going to see where this takes me, for now!

 

What do you think of my Body Positive Mermaid’s Playground idea?

New Beginnings and Taking Stock

This month I feel like I have psychologically ‘returned to work’ after becoming a parent. Although my Etsy shop has been open since Etta was 3 months old (and she is now nearly 2!), I’ve not had the energy or the impetus to really dedicate much time or thought to where it is going. Similarly, my blog had become much neglected, with only a handful of posts  made since Etta was born.

Because this was a path I fell into, rather than by design, as I return to work, post-baby, I now feel it is time to really take stock and assess what it is I want to do with my life, and the way I want my life to be day to day. I have got back to work, thrown myself into making things, and started reconnecting with other makers with the aim of kicking my shop up a notch and taking it to a place where I am earning enough to live off.  Weirdly, since returning to this, I have felt somewhat directionless. Is making kanzashi THE thing I really want to do with my life, or is kanzashi just a little waystation on the way to something else? If so, what do I really want to do? Or do I just want to rework my business and the place that it has in my life? In the last month I have been trying to put this question out to the universe!

Perhaps because I really have this question on my mind at the moment, there have been a series of talks, books, people etc that have been inspiring me of late, and I am trying to use this inspiration to identify where I want to go myself.

During this month of creativity Anna Liversidge told me that she had been reading The War of Art and that it had had a huge effect on her – I have now read it and found the same. It has put the fire in my rocket boosters (if that is even a saying) and I feel like I cannot wait to get working every day.

I attended a Meet Up live Q and A with Kat Williams of RocknRoll Bride. Her talk really got me thinking about blogging again. I found myself a little bit jealous of her passion for what she does! I don’t think I have totally lost my love of kanzashi making, but I do wonder whether it is really my ULTIMATE DESTINY (please say this in an epic voice. Some thunder may also be needed.) or if I’ve just slightly lost touch with what I love about making. It made me think about my blog, which I initially really only set up because everyone said that you have to have a blog to promote yourself. That was really how I viewed it, as a promotional tool. I think I’d really like to use it differently now, as a way to explore some of the many things that are capturing my imagination at the moment and to connect with other like minded peeps. One of the tips from Kat’s talk, was to be authentic and use your own voice. She even suggested recording your blogs verbally and then transcribing then, which I think is a great idea if you are struggling to put your voice across in your writing. This has made me look at the way I blog slightly differently and has made me realise that the blogs I really connect to are ones where I feel like the blogger’s natural voice really comes across.

Another key inspiration from the last few weeks came from the Brighton Etsy talk at The Old Market by Zoe from Ladybird Likes. She had a message of envisioning your business and your blog as you want it to be, and then ‘making it so’ by just not doing stuff that you don’t want to do (with the exception of taxes!). I loved her ‘awkward’ sense of humour (her words!) and the way she came across as quiet and a little shy, but was confident that that was ok (if that even makes sense!). It made me consider that rather just drifting around, doing what I thought people in my situation should be doing, I can be intentional and decide what it is I WANT to be doing (and then do it).

At the talk I bumped into Claire from Beetlecherry who is currently planning a relaunch after reassessing her goals. She identified her real passion – endangered animals – and is now working on relaunching her site as a virtual wildlife park! This idea just really spoke to me, as coming straight from her heart. I realised that if you want to really connect with people online you have to talk about what is truly important to you.

So to summarize this rambling and incoherent part: I’ve been having a bit of a creative identity crisis and have come to the realisation that to find out what it is I am meant to do with my life (or at least what I am meant to do next!) I need to keep being creative, keep connecting with people who I feel are on the same wavelength as me, voice my interests and dilemmas of the moment, be authentic and use my true voice, be intentional about the worklife I want to create for myself.

So many ideas whirling round my head of what I want to do right now.....

So many ideas whirling round my head of what I want to do right now…..

To try and think through where I want to go a little further, I did two lists, one  of all the things that I feel I might want to write about at the moment, and another of things I want to try and do more in my life (possibly this idea is rather lifted from this post by Harper and Finch).

Here is my list of things I want to write and blog about:

  • motherhood/ Identity in motherhood
  • Deaf Studies/Sign language issues/Deaf Space
  • profiles of women I know who inspire me
  • art/curating
  • interface between art and craft
  • my experiences with anxiety and what has helped me
  • mindfulness
  • body image/self confidence
  • facial difference (I have a wonky face and Etta has a facial birthmark)
  • collaborative drawing with kids
  • craft/art/messy play ideas (documenting what I do with Etta)
  • child development /language acquisition
  • drawing/life drawing
  • music (I’m recording some things on soundcloud with my sister in law Sam)
  • tarot, especially as a tool for personal development
  • storytelling

Here is my list of things I want to try and do or do more of this year (both business and personal goals!):

  • Try out various printing methods -gocco/screenprinting/monoprinting/lino printing
  • Do more tarot card readings
  • Get more into wholesale
  • Make some more unique/one off fascinators
  • Make some fascinators inspired by this material
  • Finish knitting a mustard yellow shrug I’ve been working on for about 5 years
  • Record more music with Sam and post on Soundcloud
  • Write some articles for a Deaf Studies journal
  • Put on an exhibition or enter some art I made to be exhibited
  • Try out some ideas I’ve had for things in ceramics
  • Try archery, horseriding and fencing (I may have been reading a bit too much Game of Thrones)
  • Write something about parenting and submit to a paper/magazine
  • Get a monofin and mermaids tail and try mermaiding/freediving
  • Start a #creativekickstart hastag where people photograph/photo collage the things they are working on/have been inspiring them/

 

I think putting together these lists helped to crystalise a few things for me, because  I’m feeling quite fired up about a couple of these things (you may have an inkling of one of these if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram ….and there may be a clue in the picture actually…) and want to get started on them!  More to come on this next week! :)

Brighton Etsy Team Bloghop

My local Brighton Etsy Team, which I am part of are running a blog hop where members each make a post answering a set of questions and nominate each other to join in with the bloghop. I was nominated by Anna Liversidge  – Thank you for nominating me Anna! :D I am loving reading all the background stories for everyone!

 

What inspired you to start your business or Etsy shop?

I originally did Fine Art at University, but left my degree feeling really negative and low in self-confidence about doing anything creative. I then went into working with Deaf adults with learning disabilities and mental health problems, which was a great experience in many ways because I have a huge love of learning languages, and learning a visual language like BSL was incredibly exciting to me.  But as a result of this I completely abandoned any art or creativity in my life. I  didn’t really have the time or energy for anything else other than my job.

I loved the people who I supported and met through work, but I think when I look back now I realise that I was pouring so much of myself into the role that I was reaching burn out, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I think that doing care work with a sign language interpreting element,  you are always trying to leave yourself out of the picture, so as to make what you are doing all about the person you are supporting. This left me feeling a bit like a non-entity. I don’t know if I would ever have left my job voluntarily as I believed so strongly that it was a really important job, but in the end I hurt my back at work, probably from pushing myself above and beyond what I was really capable of doing.

I spent over 6 months off sick, in agonizing pain, experiencing terrible panic attacks on a daily basis and pretty much feeling like the world had ended. During this time, I really needed something to focus on and keep myself occupied, so I started making kanzashi. Eventually I realised that I would never go back to support work, and that I would have to find something else to do with my life. Friends had already been encouraging me to sell them, but it wasn’t until I met Marine from Hello Marine at a party, while wearing one of my hair flowers , and getting some encouragement from her, that I even thought of selling them online.

At first my goal was just to get a little bit of money back so I had more to spend on materials, but as time went on, I raised my sights and really wanted to make this something I could live off.  By the time I got pregnant in 2012, I was starting to feel that through a combination of Etsy sales, custom orders, wholesale, workshops and craft fairs I would one day be able to make this dream a reality.

We’re looking at goals in the Brighton Etsy Team this month (you can follow along with #btnetsygoals!) Can you share one of your goals for your shop for the next six months?

In 2013 I had a little baby girl called Etta, and although my Etsy shop has been open since she was 3 months old, I haven’t really had the time or the brain space to focus on my business as much, so it has been somewhat on the back-burner since then. She is now nearly 2 and has finally started sleeping a little bit better, so I finally feel like I have the energy to pursue my creative/business goals again.

I feel that now is the time to take stock of what I really want my business to be doing. One of my main goals is to kickstart my business again post-baby by pushing myself to make more, posting more frequently on social media, making more connections with other makers and finding some wholesale opportunities.   Because I sort of fell into kanzashi making, I also want to explore some other creative areas, and not limit myself to one type of creative process, just because that is what I started my shop with. I really want to reassess why I am doing what I am doing, truly find ways to do what I love in a way that is authentic to who I am, and find ways I can make my business fit in around raising Etta. Two main sources of income pre-baby – workshops and craft fairs – are something that pretty much always run during weekends, and I am not sure if I want to give up time with my family at the moment to  do those things. However, I love the in-person connection with a local community of makers that you get through doing events, so I really want to find ways I can retain that.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on lots of one-off pieces, as I find designing new pieces the most exciting part of making. There are some subtle fascinators inspired by curling fronds, using the same fabrics and colour scheme as these pieces (I should really have named that collection!), which are nearly ready to sell.

And (what I hope will be) a ‘proper’ collection of bright and crazy colourful pieces related to goldfish and waterlilies that I will launch nearer Spring/Summer.

I recently started making some origami paper brooches, which were super fun to do and added a more budget end to my shop.

 

At the moment I am working on lots of one-off pieces, as I find designing new pieces the most exciting part of making. There are some subtle fascinators inspired by curling fronds, using the same fabrics and colour scheme as these pieces (I should really have named that collection!), which are nearly ready to sell.

And (what I hope will be) a ‘proper’ collection of bright and crazy colourful pieces related to goldfish and waterlilies that I will launch nearer Spring/Summer.

I am experimenting with adding some graphic design pieces to Society6, which I loved  designing and seemed to have got quite a positive response.

I am a keen gardener and a person who loves to experience and appreciate the changing seasons, and I recently got inspired after looking at the website What You Sow. I am now developing a small range of pieces inspired by British plants, throughout the seasons. The first piece from this range is my Snowdrop Brooch, which I have been really buoyed up by the response to.

I also really want to rejuvenate my blog, so I am  planning how I can give it a slightly different focus, one that really reflects more of my life and interests at the current moment.

If you could give other sellers or someone looking to start their own design/craft business one piece of advice, what would you say?

Aargh, there are so many different things I could say here. Feel the fear and do it anyway. There was once a time when I was SO terrified of doing a craft fair. I’m not terrified of that anymore, because I’ve done lots and lots of them, and I almost feel a bit ridiculous for admitting that it used to scare me so much. Now I’m scared of approaching people to wholesale to, but hopefully one day there will come a time when I feel ridiculous that I was ever scared of that. The more you push yourself to do the things you are scared of, the less those things have a hold on your thoughts, and the less they hold you back.

 

Okay, now its my turn to nominate….I’m going to nominate Ellen from BMillinery and Amandine from fleurdecarotte to join the bloghop (if you want to!)!


happyiihgirl

My journey into the world of migraine and idiopathic intracranial hypertension; being in chronic constant pain; battling to be diagnosed and how I've managed to stay strong and happy with only a few bumps on the way!

HypeDad

Staying relevant through fatherhood.

My fancy pants blog

Fancy jewellery, Fancy craft, Fancy pants

The WoMentoring Project

Exceptional women supporting exceptional women

fleur de carotte

I am Amandine and I make jewellery which I sell in my Etsy shop. This blog shows my making process and is a collection of all my craft projects.

Knitwit Originals

Knitting,spinning, dyed yarn and fibre, felting and crochet too

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