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

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!)!

August and September Kitsuke

It has been a really long time since I wore kimono. What with having a baby, who is now a toddler, and what with toddlers being quite full on, I rarely have the time to put on a kimono anymore. Recently the Immortal Geisha forum, where I used to get a lot of my information on how to wear kimono correctly, became a Facebook page, and this has meant I am seeing kitsuke and kimono daily on my feed. You can find the new Facebook page . It has really inspired me to get wearing my collection again. So over late August and early September I managed to wear kimono 4 times! It has shown me how rusty I am with my dressing skills, that is for sure!

I won’t go into too much detail of each of my coordinations except to say that none are quite right in terms of seasonality – I still have many gaps in my collection and in my knowledge.

I would really like to identify what season the obi I am wearing in 2 different ensembles is right for. A lovely contact on Flickr identified the motif as Crape Myrtle . This flowers in summer, and the fabric seems to have a ro-like set of holes all through it , all of which point to it being a summer item. BUT it is lined and overall the material is quite thick, heavy and generally not very summerlike. If anyone has any ideas which season it should be worn in, then I would love to know! For now I am treating it as a summer piece.

Upcoming Event: Quaint Queer Weird Wedding Spectacular – Wedding inspiration for alternative brides in Brighton and Sussex – not just your average wedding fair!

I am very excited to announce that on Saturday 15th March, I am going to be exhibiting at Quaint Queer Weird Weddings , an amazing new wedding fair, that is a little out of the ordinary! aside from the fact that all the exhibitors at this fair are handpicked to represent Brighton and Sussex’s more eccentric side, this wedding spectacular is so much more of an event than your typical bridal fair. Featuring cabaret entertainment and burlesque performances throughout the day, you’ll want to attend this event whether or not you have an upcoming wedding planned!


I am very excited to announce that on Saturday 15th March, I am going to be exhibiting at Quaint Queer Weird Weddings , an amazing new wedding fair, that is a little out of the ordinary! Aside from the fact that all the exhibitors at this fair are handpicked to represent Brighton and Sussex’s more eccentric side, this wedding spectacular is so much more of an event than your typical bridal fair. Featuring cabaret entertainment and burlesque performances throughout the day, you’ll want to attend this event whether or not you have an upcoming wedding planned!

I’m even a little sad that as I’ve already had a wedding, I won’t be able to use some of the vendors at my own nuptials! Here is a sneak preview of some of the vendors I am most excited about seeing, to give you a little flavour of this unique event.

Tentario stunning tipis for hosting your event in

Tentario
stunning tipis for hosting your event in


Oh My Honey Dresses  - Unique and unusual dresses

Oh My Honey Dresses
- Unique and unusual dresses

Leon Simmonds  - celebrant. The book bursting into flames says it all really. How exciting!

Leon Simmonds
- celebrant. The book bursting into flames says it all really. How exciting!

Pyromaniacs  - fire based entertainment!

Pyromaniacs
- fire based entertainment!

Dig for Victory  - retro style handmade dresses

Dig for Victory
- retro style handmade dresses

Crown and Glory  - Kitsch and crazy bridal accessories

Crown and Glory
- Kitsch and crazy bridal accessories

Me, Cuttlefishlove Kanzashi !  image by Ali_Haikugirl

Me, Cuttlefishlove Kanzashi !
image by Ali_Haikugirl

Etsy Treasury: Neon pastels for summer 2013

I decided to make an Etsy treasury focusing on this summer’s neon pastel trend- inspired by Simone Rocha’s neon lace dresses and perspex neon bags. Put together an on trend summer look using pieces from unique designers and makers on Etsy! What do you think of the trend?

My favourite pieces from this treasury are the pink satchel by Titina Store neon Art Deco bib by Fab Parlour , which manages to combine the current Gatsby-related fad for Art Deco with the more up-to-date neon thing. Hmm, could Gatsby be the inspiration for the next trend-related treasury I do, I wonder?

‘Neon pastels for summer 2013′ by cuttlefishlove

inspired by Simone Rocha and Sister by Sibling, this collection features neon pastels, lace, pattern and perspex


1950s party dress / bright n…
$59.82

Neon Art Deco Bib Statement …
$40

Pastel Geometric Pouch,Hand…
$19.5

Neon lace earrings – Poison …
$30

Abstract art print – Mosaic …
$29

Neon Pom Pom Trio Necklace /…
$30

Spandex Bandeau Spandex Biki…
$23

neon pastel pink cross body …
$48

Hand Made Neon Fluoro Orange…
$29

Brooch. Scarf Pin. Recycled …
$35

Tie Up Hairscarf Headband Li…
$14

Neon Pastel Striped Earrings
$32

Neon Geometric Earrings ,La…
$10

vintage neon pink lace camis…
$18

OrangeTattoo art earrings
$28.9

Aqua Blue Wood Geometric Ba…
$15

Generated using Treasury HTML code generator by Whale Shark Websites.

Cherry Blossom Houmongi, Peony Obi

In this outfit:

Synthetic purple cherry blossom houmongi

Green maple and peony obi

Mustard yellow and brown obiage

Deep Blue Obijime

Yellow and pink rose paper fan

White tabi socks

Nude patent flats

Vintage kimono hairbow by Ribbonreal

Another quick-grabbed kitsuke in between Etta’s feeds! This time I planned the outfit a bit better, but it was still a rush getting in and out of it without causing screaming from the baby!

Cherry blossoms are only just blooming here despite it being mid-late May, so decided I could still get away with wearing the motif even though officially cherry blossom season is over.

I bought this obi last year, and have been itching for peony season to arrive so I could wear it. It is really nice and long, which is definitely needed now I have a post-pregnancy tummy. I still have problems with my obi being too loose- I wonder if I need to use obi clips to keep it in place while tying it to prevent that?

Doing kitsuke post-pregnancy has made me wonder about how to breastfeed in kimono. I looked in the Immortal Geisha forum discussions and apparently it is done via the gap in the sleeve at the armpit, so from the outer edge of the kimono. I am uncoordinated and clumsy at the best of times, so not sure if I dare attempt it!


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