Busy, busy being creative..!

Friday, 6 April 2018

[UK Islands Project] Lundy Island Stampy Treasures

One of the delicious things I discovered about Lundy as part of my UK Island Project, is its status as having the longest running private postal service in the world. It was started in 1929 by Martin Coles Harman, who owned the island at the time and from what I've read about him, he was quite the entrepreneur. 

This discovery really struck a creative chord with me. I wanted to know more about the stamps, the artwork and artists who created them. Was there a collection of artwork and stamps? If so – Where were they? 

Turns out that the Landmark Trust, who’ve cared for Lundy since 1969, had a collection which they’d given to the British Library.

Right I thought. I need to go to the British Library. I wasn’t able to fit it in last year, but finally went last month and was able to meet up with two friends at the same time. Stamp artist Scott Thomson who runs Positively Postal and Illustrator/Comic creator Michi Mathias (do check out her current project: A graphic novel based on 1897 travel adventure called Cycle and Camp). I’ve known Scott online for a few years as we’ve done some of the same 30 Day challenges, but we’d never met in person. This was the perfect opportunity.

To see a collection at the British Library requires an appointment. I’d been in touch with Paul Skinner head of the Philately Department and on arrival had to enter via the Staff entrance at gate 8 to collect my special pass from security. I was met there by Richard Morel, Paul’s colleague, and taken up to the third floor where the stampy treasures are kept under lock and key.

The room was compact and filled with boxes and files. A trolley full of Lundy stamps and artwork was there waiting for me. I was to have an hour or so to myself before meeting Scott and Michi at lunch.

The British Library holds two collections of Lundy stamps – The Landmark Trust which I’ve already mentioned and one by an avid collector called Chin Chie. Chin Chie’s collection consists mainly of sheet upon sheet of stamps which actually looked fantastic all together. Something about the image repeated and the perforations made each sheet a work of art in its own right.

Lunch called. Time to meet my friends. 

Having already been up to the philately room I was entrusted with getting us back there to ring the bell and be let in. That didn’t quite go to plan. We got the passes, went up in the lift, exited the lift and then promptly got lost.

We found ourselves in the ‘behind the scenes area’ of the library with lots of corridors and books but no one around. All the desks were empty…Finally someone walked past us and we could ask for directions, but they were new and didn’t actually know where to send us, so she went off to find someone else. We stood about giggling nervously as it was rather comical and typical for me to get lost so easily. Eventually she came back with a colleague who proceeded to take us back to where we’d gotten out of the lifts and took us through an opposite set of double doors. 

Here I realised my mistake. I’d turned left when should have turned right. Suddenly we were back in the Public library and a familiar space! Hurrah now I knew where we were.

After introductions we sat down at the large table and more boxes were lifted out of the trolley. Two folders in paticular were full of artwork. One name that kept cropping up on the stamps was John Dyke, and now here in front of me I could see his exquisite artwork. Some in pencil, some ink and some in what looked like gouache. 

Some pieces were around A6 size and very detailed and vibrant. Looking at the original artwork and then the stamps I have to say that some of the impact is lost when reduced to stamp size. Being able to see the actual artwork in its original state was a real thrill. 

There were some fragments of information about John Dyke on the backs of the first day covers, but not a great deal. I’ll have to search elsewhere for that. Richard, who has a particular interest in the stamp artist Victor Whitley, discovered that he’d actually designed two stamp sets for Lundy. It wasn’t just me discovering something new that day!

It was fascinating hearing Richard and Paul talk about the history of stamps, their role in capturing social history, the most expensive stamp in the world (The British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta that sold for £10m as there is only one in existence), stamp forgery (which was rife during the 1900s) and learning about other artists who’d designed stamps. I hadn’t appreciated how much a stamp could tell you.

Having seen the Lundy stamp artwork it occurred to me that actually, I’d like to create some stamps myself. Handy that Scott already does this...!

I have to say a huge thank you to Paul and Richard at the British Library for being so brilliant, helpful and kind. It really was such a fun and fascinating day at The British Library! 

Have you ever been to the British Library? 
Or, to an impressive library somewhere else in the world? 
What were you researching? 
What did you discover?

PS – Thank goodness I asked Mr CA to read this though. Otherwise we’d have ended up at the Phallus room.

Having stayed at Lundy Old Light and loving maps this is one of my favourites of the collection

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Creating your business on your own terms.

Judith Morgan, Magical Coach has recently written an excellent book entitled ‘Your Biz Your Way’ and in it she busts many (52 in fact) myths and legends about how businesses are ‘supposed to be’ when in fact, its your business and you can create it around what works for you. Judith gets right to the heart of the matter and really makes you consider your thoughts and ideas. Heck, Judith has even managed to get me to focus on ‘ONE’ thing at a time (well, mostly!) and many a time I’ll be dreaming up some crazy idea and I’ll hear Judith’s voice in my head. This, I’ve discovered has really helped me to develop my creative projects into a business. In fact, I hesitate to use the word business to talk about what I do as for me it’s more about Creative Adventures. So I've been considering how do I run my business my way?

I actually registered as self-employed in 2012, mainly as there had been a course offered at the local job centre, so it was sort of by accident. At that time I’d left a job that I wasn’t really suited to and had made me very ill both mentally and physically. I didn’t have a clue what to do next. I knew that it had to be something that would re-ignite my creativity. Something I’d suppressed and neglected for too many years. I joined a program called the '30 day challenge' and decided to put into action and idea I’d had a few years previously for a socially engaged creative project. I called it Bags of Love For Bristol and it was fun, dynamic and completed in 30 days. There was no agenda, no one telling me how it had to be done or what was expected, no fear of failure. It was playful and made me feel great and excited. I realised then that this was part of what I needed more of. This first project led me to being in pop-up shops selling the bags I’d made and getting to know local artists. I started other creative projects and over time discovered that for me, the combination of Creativity, Adventure and Nature was doing me the power of good both mentally and physically.

I was doing things that pushed be out of my comfort zone and making me more resilient. I wanted to explore this further and spent time learning about personal coaching, going on an arts volunteer placement in Thailand for 6 weeks, and developing courses that combined these three elements - Creativity, Adventure & Nature – CAN – with an idea to help others who have/are where I’d once been suffering with depression and anxiety. People who were looking for ‘another way to wellbeing’

At first I couldn’t really figure out how to make this a business and how it might work. Through continued play and Judith’s key questioning skills, all of these different elements were brought together under my ‘Creative Adventurers Hat’ as I run workshops, some in person, some online and I’ve recently started writing articles for magazines. At the heart of this is the fact that each year I’ll go on my own Creative Adventure, which I’ll document in various mixed-media ways. The current project being about UK Islands.

Alongside my projects, I work part-time for an arts charity based in Radstock, near Bath. At the moment running my business my way means being flexible and embracing the balance between having a part-time paid role which gives me some freedom and headspace to continue with my Creative Adventures and whatever form they may take.

I’m still working things out. Each project or course I create gives me an opportunity to reflect and ask myself ‘is making me happy? ‘Am I enjoying what I’m doing? Yes? I’ll carry on, No? I’ll stop and look deeper to see what needs to change or to be dropped altogether. Something I’ve had to learn to give myself permission to do.

Running my Biz my Way is also knowing that I actually have some degree of control over what I do and I find this hugely empowering, sometimes scary!  Knowing that really I can choose.

Are you self-employed? Are you like me a mix of having a part-time job and self-employed work /projects?

If you'd like to know more about Judith Morgan - visit her website here: Small Business Oracle

At the top of the Bardsey Island Mountain. August 2017

Monday, 8 January 2018

Cycling the Hebridean Way on a Unicorn

Just when I thought I’d gotten my monkey mind under control with a clear vision for the year ahead, focusing on just two things; UK Islands Project book & exhibition, things go awry.

Last week I was so giddy with excitement that I couldn’t sleep.

The giddy was caused by our upcoming adventure to cycle the Hebridean Way with some friends and our dog (in her own dog 'chariot'). 

Inspired by Grayson Perry’s bike festooned with a large goddess, I'd been contemplating having my own mascot for our trip. As soon as I'd had that thought the word 'Unicorn' popped into my head. OK, I thought. Unicorn it is...

Inspired by Grayson Perry's bike I'd seen at his recent exhibition at the Arnolfini

A late-night internet search for unicorn paraphernalia brought up this beauty which was even better than just a mascot. Why not do the whole trip on an actual unicorn!! 

How long, I wondered in all seriousness, would it take to traverse the 185 mile Hebridean Way on this? We'd have one each of course...

Taking a unicorn for a test ride. Actually faster than I'd expected!

Much laughter and excitement meant that I couldn’t get to sleep and had to try to calm myself down. Yes, I did search for adult sized versions and yes, they do exist.

I knew it would take an absolute age to actually do it on one of these, so decided why not see what unicorn type things we could somehow attach to our bikes (not quite sure the others are as keen on this as I am ;-P). 

If you come across anything you think might be suitable - please do send me a link!

PS - Much to my delight I've since discovered that The Unicorn, is in fact the national animal of Scotland!! How's about that then...*Cue spooky music*

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Cheers to you! And 2017 in Review

Cheers! Island No.14 The Isle of Skye, November 2017
On the eve of this New Year, I've been reflecting on 2017 and all the highs and lows that this year has brought with it. Overall, I'd say it's been an exceptional year and personally I've upped my courage and completed many firsts, some of which have been really challenging. 

Such as; speaking in front of large groups of people at Bath Spa University and at Watershed, Bristol; completing part one of my UK Islands Project and all that's gone with it (so far) - visiting 14 UK islands actually takes a fair amount of planning!; Having an article published in Psychologies magazine; being on a podcast with Idea Medic Tara Roskell; Interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol; appearing on Channel Islands News (when I nearly said no); receiving a letter from the Pope; meeting wonderful new people & getting to know those I already know better; hanging out with Puffins - not just once but twice - on Skomer & Skokholm; receiving a letter from Prince Charles; sleeping on the top of Glastonbury Tor in a Bivi bag with wild sleeper extraordinaire Phoebe Smith; seeing red squirrels on Brownsea and taking part in a National Trust working holiday (being physically able to do it (just about!); running a series of local creative adventures; having my 'Burn out' artwork in an exhibition as part of Mental Health week; finally having dinner at The Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye (a desire I've had for over 15 years!); making my first ever Christmas cake (it was a bit over done and the edges burnt but once I'd cut them off, warmed it up and added a dollop of cream it wasn't too bad!) and marking the milestone that it's been 30 years since I had a brain hemorrhage...

Even with all these wonderful experiences (and these are actually a snapshot as there have been many others), there have also been some really dark days in between these golden moments. Days when I've been anxious and depressed with barely the energy or motivation to get out of bed, let alone be skippy and climb a mountain. So I'm also acknowledging them as they've also been a part of this year and really part of who I am at the moment. It's an on going journey after all!

Noticing too that I still spend waaaay too long faffing about and thinking more than doing so 2018 I'll be more mindful of this and well, erm, actually allowing for it.

Going in to 2018 I'm feeling positive and optimistic. I've chosen the word Plenty (so that any time I'm feeling lacking on time or resources or well anything, I can say - I've got Plenty of xxx (time, gumption, skills etc...)

Do you have a word or a feeling you'd like to imbue 2018 with? 
If so, what is it?

I'm also going to continue with my UK Islands Project as I didn't complete the artwork during this year as I'd intended. I just didn't have the head space to do it as well as all the planning and organising that each island adventure and working part-time required. 

Lesson learnt. 

2018 will be about the creating process with the aim of having an exhibition, whatever shape that may take...

I'm also going to be going deeper not wider and a post shared by Judith Morgan (who has just written a brilliant book) has further inspired me to do this. I'll be finishing off things and reading the books I already have rather than buying new ones (I've just finished reading a book I'd bought two years ago...)

How about you?

What are your golden moments from 2017?

and what are your intentions for 2018?

Hopefully we'll get the opportunity to have some creative adventures together ;-)

Much love and creative sparkle


Thank you for being part of 2017 and making it joyful (even on those grey days) as an encouraging comment here and a smile there really does make all the difference. 
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you xx

Being on the Channel Islands news whist in Jersey was an OMG moment!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A Creative Adventurer is.....(complete the sentence)

A Bardsey Island Shell. Photograph by Morwhenna Woolcock

What did you think when you read...A Creative Adventurer is...?

I was thinking about this the other day and started to jot down a list..

Here's what I put..(in no particular order)

A Creative Adventurer / is...
  • curious
  • mindful
  • relishes new experiances
  • follows the 'crumbs of curiosity' 
  • sees things from a different perspective
  • notices the small things
  • savors the moment
  • makes time for sitting and looking
  • knows an adventure can begin as soon as they decide to have one
  • believes adventure comes in all shapes and sizes and can be found on their doorstep (its just a case of knowing where to look)
  • embraces the joys of nature
  • knows the journey can be as interesting as the destination
  • a seeker of wonder
  • a wonderment seeker (which wording do you prefer?)
  • loves to explore new places
  • expands the edges of their comfort zone
  • playful
  • experiments (without judgement!)
  • a detective
  • an explorer!
What else would you add? And as you know I'm a great believer in finding adventure on our doorstep. There is no need to go to far flung countries. You can even have an adventure in your lunch hour...

As I'm sure you've seen, my next course How to be a Creative Adventurer starts THIS Friday 01 September! So if you're feeling a bit stuck and know you'd like to be more curious, expand your comfort zone, be more playful (any of the above really!), then I'd love for you to join me and the super folks already on-board. It's going to be fun and you'll discover your own inner creative adventurer...and set her free!

I've just a few places left, so if this has your name on it you can book your place by clicking on the button below!
YES! I'd like a place!

Ready? If you've any questions - just ask. I'm here to help you and guide you on this next adventure. x

Toot Toot!


PS - Know someone you think would love this? Please pass it on! Thank you x

Monday, 14 August 2017

[UK Islands Project] Skye is now on the menu

I've added another Island to my list of explorations for this year and it's the Isle of Skye.

After the recent news reports of Skye being chock full this summer, I'm really hoping that come November, it will be much quieter. I can't imagine that many people thinking that Skye is THE PLACE to go at that time of year?! (I could be wrong mind) Most of the B&Bs seem to close at the end of October and that, to me, is a good sign that we'll have Skye to ourselves (ish).

I'm going on a quest to see otters and might even get to see the Northern Lights. In fact I think I'll book both now...

What really drew me to visiting Skye wasn't actually the wildlife - it was food. I'm still quivering with excitement that I'm [Finally] going to the famous Three Chimneys restaurant. This is somewhere that I read about, gosh, must be well over 15 years ago, if not longer, in a copy of Good Food magazine and is no.17 on my 40/40 Project list. The minute I saw it in the magazine, I've wanted to go there...and now this year it's going to happen. I bet you've got some long held dreams too and you keep thinking, 'one day I'll do that or go there'..why not revisit these dreams and see if we can work together to start to make them happen? You might find joining my How to be a Creative Adventurer course a great place to start).

Since deciding to go [after umming and ahhing about it for months], Skye has already been popping up here and there...for example, looking at the map of Skye I'd spotted a few interesting things, The otter haven (YES otters!!), some fascinating sounding castles - one in particular called Eilean Donan, especially when I discovered it was where Highlander was filmed [I absolutely loved that film when I was a teenager. All together now...'There can be ONLY ONE'] and a memorial to someone called Flora MacDonald. 'Who's Flora MacDonald I thought to myself?'...well now, I went to Bookbarn, my favourite second hand bookshop, in search of some books on Crete and the Minoans (that's another story) and low and behold - guess what book should jump out at me.....;-) I love it when these things happen - what's happened for you recently when you've noticed some synchronicity?

Friday, 11 August 2017

[UK Islands Project] The Island for August is...Bardsey

The next island I'll be visiting is.....Bardsey (Ynys Enlli).

No idea where Bardsey is? (Neither did I until I started this whole Island Adventure malarkey ;-) It's just off the coast of the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales. Look at Anglesey on a map, then see that foot thing sticking out underneath...look at the tip of that...and there's Bardsey. Known as the "Island of 20,000 Saints," this island, has it's own king (who I'm looking forward to meeting) and also has Merlin holed up somewhere in a cave... oh I mustn't forget to take my letter from the pope with me...as it was once a hot spot for pilgrims (still is actually) and they'd be blessed by the Pope if they visited the island three times.

I've discovered that Ronald Lockely, founder of the first Bird Observatory in the UK and who lived on Skokholm Island (also a Welsh Island), where I went in July, visited Bardsey and I'm actually going to be staying in the very same house he did as that house is now the islands Bird Observatory. That, as you can imagine, excited me greatly!

I'll be creating Art Postcards when I'm there so Click here if you'd like to sponsor a unique art postcard from this special island. The postcard will be created just for you and posted to your door ;-)

I'll be sharing on Instagram and be sure to sign up to my newsletter for regular Creative Adventures if you're not signed up already.