Busy, busy being creative..!

Sunday 30 March 2014

(Earth) Mother's Day

Today it's Mother’s day in the UK. As my mum is no longer here to share this day with I’m renaming it to Earth Mother’s Day.

I was planning on creating a natural mandala, yet this morning I wanted to paint. So that’s what I did. I meditated and thought of my mum, then started to draw. I drew a squiggle and let the picture emerge as I added the colours. I didn't know at the beginning how it would look. I didn't have a pre-determined picture in my mind. I let it evolve.  I love it.

Earth Mother's Day Artwork
To me it says nurturing, love and grounding.

A wren also appeared in the garden. I associate wrens with my mum ever since one appeared in our porch on the day she died. Hi mum. ;-)

I like to remember my mum before she was ill with cancer. Those days when I’d come home from school to some homemade coconut macaroons or coffee and walnut cake.  My mum was a talented dressmaker, knitter and cake maker! She died when I was 15. I miss her.

So in memory of my wonderful mum and to our abundant Earth Mother - Happy Earth Mother’s Day.

Just look around you and see how abundantly our Earth Mother is nurturing, loving and grounding us with her dancing daffodils, happy primroses and shiny celandines. These are for you. Lots of yellow loveliness! Enjoy xx


Would you like to develop a closer connection to nature and mother earth in a creative way? Join us for a 4 week Connect to Nature: Connect to Self course starting on 12 April. 

Thursday 27 March 2014

Not giving up (how to be an award winning business woman)

As part of my pre-Creative Charity Adventure research I spent a morning with Nicki Smith who runs the Creation Station in Bath. They run creative workshops aimed at nurturing children’s creativity through fun arts and crafts activities with their parents/carers. It was fantastic! We started with the rainbow song and then got stuck in to creating some rainbow paintings.

Colourful creations at the creation station, Bath. I LOVE that rainbow hippo!
As I don’t have children of my own, it was fascinating watching them really going for it with their painting. They seemed to have no fear and yes there was paint everywhere – even up some of the mum’s arms – which personally I thought was great! Next came the handmade salt dough (recipe at the bottom of this post if you'd like to try making it yourself!) to create some rainbow animals. What a colourful menagerie!

All too soon (for me at least) the 50 minute class was over and it was time to clear away. I could quite easily have spent the rest of the day creating rainbow paintings and sculptures!

Even though I only spent a morning with them it has certainly given me some ideas for my trip to Thailand in a few weeks time (6 weeks to go!) as well as giving me an appreciation of how short kiddies under 5s attention spans are. I though mine was short!

After the class I asked about the business side of things as Nicki recently won Franchisee of the year. I wanted to know what the secret was to running an award winning business.

Nicki receiving her Franchisee of the Year 2014 Award from Sarah Cressall, The Creation Stations Founder, and very inspirational woman!
"Not giving up," was Nicki’s response. "At the beginning there were occasions when only one person turned up to a class and other times no one. It was really disheartening but I was determined to make it work."

And three years on she has. How? By being determined, flexible, pro-active and by experimenting.

This business is very different from Nicki’s previous life. Armed with an English degree and being part of the Weatherspoons Management team (Nicki was an award winner there too), Nicki has run million pound businesses with teams working with her and has a wealth of experience, so thought the transfer to running her own business would actually be straightforward.  

If you have been through a similar change then I’m sure you’ll also know that isn't always the case. There are different challenges to face for a start as you suddenly become the person who does everything. This can take some getting used too!!

However, her zesty determination meant that Nicki kept going and learnt the benefits of being flexible. Flexible enough to change things when they weren't working – for example just by changing a venue saw her class grow from 5 children coming to 20 and enlisting the help of an assistant. Something as small as that, but it made a huge difference. Nicki’s success has also meant that she now trains other new franchisees so her hard work is paying off in other areas.

Being pro-active was also key and using social media when she couldn't get out and network in person as she was busy with her baby (Nicki has two young daughters, and they were the reason behind her becoming self-employed). Nicki seems to just work around everything that comes her way. I found her incredibly inspiring. 

What small thing could you change in your life or business for a greater impact? What isn't working for you right now that by making a small change would make a massive difference? It could be something as simple as spending 20 minutes outside in the fresh air before you start your day. Let me know below in the comments box what you'll do!


Fundraising Total update: £268.88 Yippee!

Target £2,500 – Can you help me reach my total by making a small donation? 

Every £1 helps! Thank YOU!

Friday 21 March 2014

Creative Charity Adventure & Connect to Nature Course

Lookie - I've created a Facebook Header too - you might have already seen it!!

Welcome Pack has ARRIVED! WHOOOO HOOOO (and eek!)

My welcome pack is chock full of information as well as some suggested reading concerning the different groups I'll be working with – so I’ll be going through this over the weekend. My tummy did somersaults and was quickly followed by feelings of Eeek! So now it feels Really REAL!  

REMINDER TO SELF: Deep breath, one step at a time & keep it simple. 

I'll be working with the following groups during my 4 weeks in Chiang Mai:
  • Displaced Burmese refugees and migrant workers
  • Indigenous tribal groups
  • Single mothers in crisis
  • Direct and indirect victims of HIV/AIDS
  • Gay and transgender community
  • Children with disabilities
If you'd like to read about some success stories of how this programme has helped individuals please visit this page on Art Relief Internationals website

Creative Charity Adventure Fund UPDATE!

Your very kind donations have so far raised £223! THANK YOU! 

I am very grateful for EVERY PENNY! My target is £2,500 so please do consider making a small donation if you feel called to. 

I have also started to contact companies about the possibilities of some corporate sponsorship. So we'll see what happens there. *I am hopeful*

I'm also excited to announce that:

Doors are now open for the next Connect to Nature Course!

Examples from some of last years participants
Now that the weather is improving I'm collaborating once again with the fabulous Jaimie MacDonald & we will be running our Connect to Nature: A series of Creative Adventures course which starts on the 12 April. 

Am SO looking forward to this as it’s wonderful seeing each person develop during the course and their wonderful creations at the end of the 4 weeks. And you don’t even need any previous drawing or artistic-ness. You can take part from anywhere in the world as it’s an online coached course.

We have a super early bird offer of only £44 (normally £88). You also get a tree planted for you with Trees for Life in the Caledonian Forest. Just think of all those happy Red squirrels! Would love to have you join us!

For the full details as well as some films about the course please skip over HERE. 

You know it's hard trying to fit everything that's happened this week into one blog post - I have so much more to share about this past week so think I'll be sharing more often than weekly as the next 7 weeks unfold. ;-)

Friday 14 March 2014

Muddy waters filled with pond weed

What?? This is how my head has been feeling for the past few days. After the EXCITEMENT of Monday and joining the Art Relief International Programme as a volunteer it’s been a roller-coaster of emotions.

First off I want to say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has made a donation so far. I am SOOOOOOOOO grateful and have been getting rather emotional about the support I’ve been getting.  THANK YOU! xxx

So I've hit a wall and it's called 'Action Planning in a clear and concise manner with FUN easy daily steps.'

As I have started with my usual 'feet first' approach I need to stop and get clear. This is what tends to happen ;-)

I know I need to create an action plan for the next 7 weeks (leading up to trip) then for the 4 weeks I am there (maximizing being there and the experience - we also have the weekends free so want to make sure I make the most of those) then finally for some weeks after I've returned.

I've been doing some brainstorming around fundraising and have a whole host of ideas (some more sensible than others!!), as well as some great ones coming in from people (thank you - keep them coming!) so next is to decide which I'll actually do and how for the most impact. This is also where I can get stuck, how to make the very most of each idea and opportunity?!

Using mindmaps and coloured pens is the way I like to brainstorm ;-)

So to move forward I've done a couple of things:
  • I've taken a big sheet of paper and coloured pens and started jotting down things in three columns - pre-trip, during-trip and post-trip
  • I've asked for some planning help from a friend of mine who is an uber planning expert. We're having a call on Monday morning. Hurrah!
Then I've got stuck in with a couple of things and have:
  • Contacted Thai Airways about possible support with flights. Cheeky? Yes, but if you don’t ask...I have considered how else to get there without flying and as much as I’d love to travel there across land and sea, on this occasion it won’t be possible.
  • Been in touch with Paul, my specialist at the FES centre in Salisbury Hospital. As I have a STIMuSTEP implant in my left leg to help me with my walking. Yes I am Bionic! I had a brain hemorrhage when I was 12 and was paralyzed down my left-hand side (was all rather traumatic) and this amazing gadget helps my walking. It's AMAZING!! I wouldn't really be considering a trip like this without having this piece of kit. Paul reminded me about finding out how I’ll be able to charge my gadget while I’m away. Yes need to know that! He also suggested some magazines that might be interested in featuring this Creative Volunteer Adventure.
  • Spoken to some lovely chaps at The Arts Council, as it’s possible I *might* be able to get a grant towards this trip as it is all about the arts.  I won’t know if I’ve been successful (there is a 50% success rate) until I’ve submitted the application. The application process takes 6 weeks so I’m not relying on getting this as that will take me right up to the line of when I’m leaving. So I’m keeping my options open and will be trying ALL manner of things!! Well maybe not all the ideas I’ve come up with. I don’t really fancy being arrested!!
  • Reminding myself on a regular basis to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ (thank you Susan Jeffers)

Tell me - How do you go about planning for a big event like this? And please do share any fundraising ideas you have too! ;-)

Have a brilliant weekend!

Monday 10 March 2014

If not Now, when?

“Art changes lives. If a voice can't be heard, teach it to be seen."- Emily Scott, Former Art Director – Art Relief International

Today I took a step to make one of my dreams come true. I paid the deposit.

I am going on a 4-week Volunteer Art Placement with Art Relief International in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Leaving in 8 weeks time.

*Happy Dance* I am SO excited and nervous all rolled in to one massive ball of butterflies. I still can't quite believe that I'm going as it has taken me a long time to get to this point.

I started looking at Volunteer Art placements a few years ago as I became more interested in Art as Therapy. During this search, I came across Art Relief International. They ‘use art as a way to help transform the lives of struggling social groups in Chiang Mai, Thailand by offering them the opportunity to express themselves through an artistic lens.’

What they were doing really sang out to me. LOUDLY. At the time I was wading through my depression and had personally discovered how hugely beneficial art as therapy was, even though it was something I found towards the end of my getting better-ness.

Since then, I've gone between filling out the form to join then cancelling it, getting in touch with people who have actually volunteered there and emailing the organisers to get further information. Everything I was hearing was great, and my confidence in them and what they were doing grew and I knew this was something I wanted to do.

Yet I was still coming up with too many excuses not to go, such as; I’m not ready, I don’t have the confidence, how will I raise the funds to pay for it? everyone will be younger/fitter/smarter/artier/more creative than me, I don’t have the right skills or experience, I’m not the right kind of person, etc, etc. (Sound familiar? This internal chatter is super tiring, isn't it?) None of which was actually true.

The real truth was I had lost all confidence in myself.  I wasn't always like this, so I knew I needed to find where my fearless younger-self had gone and bring her back. Which is what I've been doing over the past few years.

The desire to join Art Relief hadn't gone away and it popped back into my head last week along with the words ‘If not NOW, when?’ and wouldn't go away so...I am GOING!!!

I am giving my self permission to go on this Creative Volunteer Adventure that has been calling me for so long. I also knew if I kept ignoring this call it could easily turn in to - 'ah yes I wanted to do that, but never did' conversations when I was 90. I didn't want that to happen. 

I also thought having the conversation with my chap about me going for a month would be hard,  he's so supportive and knows how much I want to do this that it wasn't that difficult after all. I just needed to say the words out loud rather than only having the conversation with myself!

I now have 8 weeks to raise the £2,500 I need for this Creative Volunteer Adventure. I already have some ideas of how to do this and this will be a creative adventure in itself.

My first idea is to create a ‘Donate’ button on my site. Part of me feels this to be rather ‘cheeky’ and the other part says ‘no harm in trying this out’ So I'd created it! if you feel you’d like to donate something, any amount at all, towards this Creative Volunteer Adventure I will be extremely grateful.

Thank YOU. x

I've taken my rucksack out of storage already and I am now a nervous excited bundle, think excitable puppy, who has some planning to do!

My Target to raise is £2,500 ($4,160) every single £1 and $1 helps x

Thank you so very much for your support. 

Is there an Adventure that’s been calling you for a while?

My trusty rucksack will be going on this adventure with me.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Hello Inspiration. Do come in!

Inspiration is like a muse to me and I see her dancing around in my mind bringing me gifts. Snippets of conversation, articles, books, new places, being in nature, pinterest, daydreaming and having recently been on a Shamanic Journeying course – Shamanic Journeying too. That’s just a few of a very long list. Maybe saying 'Inspiration is Everywhere' would be a neater way to say it.

Hello Inspiration! Do come in!
Image gratefully borrowed from pinterest -
I couldn't find a credit so please do let me know
if you know who took this picture. Thank you. 
Sometimes she delivers these gifts as light as a cloud gently floating across my mind, so gently that I might miss her. Or she’ll be a butterfly who will flutter around for a while, land gently, then flutter off again. Other occasions she’ll be like a puppy and will bound around and keep coming back until I take her out to play, and finally she might visit like an electric shock. Boom! 

She’ll also visit at different times of the day, although I have noticed she tends to visit more when I let my mind wander and the front door is open (which is yellow) it’s like an invitation to say ‘Hey Inspiration, fancy a cuppa tea and a chat?’ and in she comes.

Inspiration generally brings along her friend Ideas – so I always make sure I've an extra teacup, well a mug actually, for her. Ideas, now she’s a bit of a whirlwind and moves SO FAST!

Are you still with me? Just checking.

Anyway back to my dear friends Inspiration and Ideas. They are FAB! although sometimes they don’t show up and that’s when I know I’m stuck. Or I’m trying too hard and my mind is closed. 

The other friend who’s missing at the moment from this picture is Action. After Inspiration and Ideas have turned up, sometimes Action doesn't get the invite, so I’ll either have to send another or get the megaphone out. Once she turns up I have the power trio. Inspiration, Ideas & Action. And it’s ALL GO. Actually they sound like superheroes don’t they.

Hey Action, we need YOU! Image by H. Armstrong Roberts from art.com
And of course as we start down the yellow brick road, we’ll meet other friends too like Motivation and Determination, but for now Inspiration & I are hanging out.

What’s with the yellow you might ask? Well, I’m currently developing some Creative Juice Shots and yesterday was researching yellow in more detail. 

Yellow is linked to the mind, creativity and Inspiration. So Yes, Inspiration wears yellow.

So what do I do once I notice that my mind is closed and I want open that yellow door to invite Inspiration in? Here’s my top five things for you to try if you’re feeling stuck:

  1. Go for a walk outside. Let your mind relax and as you walk really LOOK at what you see as you go. Look at the clouds, any shapes? look at the colours of the plants or the cars or the road signs. Try engaging all you senses.
  2. Go to your bookshelf/library/bookshop and choose a book at random. Look at the cover, the title, open the book at random and look at the words on that page...what does this spark?
  3. Dance! (I’m taking part in Nancy’s Dance a Day in March!) Then write down the first three words that come to your mind once you stop. Google the words and see what comes up.
  4. Daydream. Yep you have permission to Daydream. In fact this is a sure fire way to meet Inspiration & Ideas
  5. Who inspires you? Write a list and then look at what it is about them that inspires you? Read more about them and think about how might you invite some of that energy/ideas/action into your life? 

The KEY is keeping your mind OPEN & to ALWAYS have a notebook & pen with you to jot things down. ;-) I'm old school like that. So use an ipad/phone/voice message - whatever works for you. 

So remember, as I said at the beginning - Inspiration is Everywhere - if you open your mind to her and invite her in.

I'd love to hear where your inspiration comes from and how you look for her when you're stuck. please share below ;-)