When opportunity knocks – be ready to go with your gut

Hello everyone, how are you doing? Enjoying the sunshine, I hope?

So firstly, apologies for the radio silence, it wasn’t intentional, I just got crazy busy with lots of new opportunities, and then once you’ve not been in the saddle for a while, it becomes a little unnerving to get back in it. So today I’ve told myself enough is enough and to just get on with it and practice what I preach to many others!

It was also prompted by a friend of mine who was also having the same issue, and she wrote a great blog about it here, if you fancy a read of that too.

In essence the last few months have been a bit ‘off plan’ in that the part of my work that I see less as a constant income stream and more of a hobby that sells sometimes, suddenly gained some momentum and as someone who always says ‘yes’ to good opportunities, and worries about the practicalities later, I found myself in a mad creative ‘making’ phase.

To be honest this felt really good, as I hadn’t created new pieces of artwork for some time. It was a bit like the days gone by where art exhibitions actually happened, and you prepared for them! Added to this and some insider knowledge from Nigel, one of the artist members of our WOW Accountability Group, and hey presto I’m suddenly selling my work in not 1 but 4 local businesses!

It wasn’t quite as simple as that of course, but as soon as Nigel had shared about these venues, I paid them a visit, because when it comes to retailers on the hunt for new artists, you need to work fast and sell yourself, and the work. Remember people buy from people, it’s all about building those lasting positive relationships.

And I do enjoy this part because it has to feel right for me to partner with my kind of people. When it comes to small independent businesses, they all work differently; some like to be organised and you may have an informal contract that states what you are both offering, some are much more laid back and like to build personal trust instead. Either way, I always recommend putting down on paper / email what you’ve both agreed and then there’s no room for error on pricing, stock replenishing or whether you can offer bespoke pieces to their customers. It just makes things a lot easier for all parties to have something to refer back to.

But more importantly than that, it’s about finding a good connection with the owner, liking, and believing in their businesses, their ethos, and their own personable approach. For example, the first business was Joys Coffee House, in Kirkburton, where we’d already agreed to host our WOW Wednesday face to face meetings, once we were allowed after covid restrictions.

Ryan and his brother took over the café from Miriam, where we originally hosted WOW, and so it felt good to return to this magical place where it all began, and thankfully they had a similar approach to Miriam, in that not only is it a café, but also a place that supports other local businesses by selling their wares.

So, they were happy to take a selection of needlefelts and my cards, to add to their other stockists. It’s an all-round win-win, we support their business by bringing in a big group on a Wednesday, who definitely like good coffee and brunch, and we have a lovely space to hold our meetings in and sell our creations.

Next up was the new business, Unity Yard, located just outside Holmfirth’s Centre. Holmfirth has an increasingly arty vibe for anyone who doesn’t know it, it’s not all Nora Batty memorabilia! And Unity Yard has taken up a large space that used to be a fabric mill. The owner, Julia, is as mad as box of frogs (in a good way) and we hit it off immediately!

She’s now collected artwork from over 70 local artists, added in a living wall of plants for sale and gorgeous bunches of flowers, lots of crafty gifts and squishy sofas and a relaxed corner at one end where you can relax with a coffee and cake and pick up one of the many books to read in her cute make-shift library.

The whole place is just amazing, and I’m so glad that I am a small part of it! In-fact I could easily set up a part-time office there or some creative workshops (watch this space, I’m working on that!). Currently I sell my cards, framed needlefelts and brand-new framed grasses editions and prints too.

As well as Julia, there are the young helpers, volunteers (one of which is a neighbour from 16 years ago, who I hadn’t seen since then, what are the chances?!) and local artists who pop in with new pieces or for a coffee, so there is always someone to chat to. I know that making this connection will have a big impact on me and where the CCC goes!

And then there is the Eco Hub at Emley, whose owners Charlotte and Lou are now also members of WOW and once again it’s another treasure discovered! As it suggests, the Eco Hub is all about supporting sustainable living, encouraging us to re-use, re-cycle, re-love items and use eco-friendly products, such as cleaning materials etc.

And finally, another local village that I love is Denby Dale, famous for the largest pies, the viaduct and all-round lovely country village. Here, there is a unique shop called Utterly Yorkshire that Carole and her family took over last year. If you have Yorkshire loving folk in your family or friends, then this is the shop for you! There are lots of unique county gifts on offer, including a selection of my needlefelts too, which of course depict Yorkshire landscapes and felt like another great fit for this work!

What is also really lovely about all these new connections, is that it followed on from a wonderful day out with Charlotte (another WOW Member – check out her gorgeous guest house – The Norfolk House Scarlet Hen) to see my small business hero – Holly Tucker.

She and her team went on a UK tour a few weeks back, to go and see 100 small businesses up and down the country and one of her stops was at Hebden Bridge, not too far from where I live. So, I was absolutely determined to finally meet her, after narrowly missing this chance at the conversations of inspiration live event in Manchester (the queue was a mile long and we had to get the train back!).

Thankfully, Charlotte was an equally big fan, and we had THE BEST DAY out ever! Not only did we get to meet her, but we were on the Insta live she did on her big stripey bus, she signed her book for us (Do what you love, love what you do), and we had a lovely chat and plenty of photos with her. She was every bit as lovely and inspirational as I knew she would be, with that boundless ‘Holly Hurricane’ energy, that’s she’s famous for! Her team were bloody brilliant too.

What came across though was her absolute passion and determination to support small businesses and champion all that they do, which she did in spades that week and beyond. Her energy is infectious and has made me all the more determined to continue my support too, as well as keep pushing with the CCC, moving forwards and making the most of these opportunities.

So, if you are ever in doubt whether to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to something, go with your heart and gut, if it feels good, do it and don’t worry if it was not part of your original plan.

As small creative businesses we have the ability to be flexible and act fast on these opportunities. Not only does it feel good, but from experience it always leads to more or other connections and that is how you build your business community, little by little.

Plus, building that community, in turn sparks more creative conversation and therefore more inspiration. Last year I began working with grasses for my art pieces and this year on my walks, watching them blowing in the breeze, it sparked new ideas for colour combinations, resulting in the pictures further up this post, imprinted on black and giving a way more modern feel. My new retailers love them, and I feel like I’m finally finding a little niche idea as an artist, which feels like a huge step forwards on this creative journey.

After visiting Holly in Hebden Bridge, we were also lucky enough to see designer Hannah Nunn’s studio, she has a big passion for nature too and we totally geeked out on grasses, I think she termed it a being a ‘meadow-geek’ afterwards and I’ll happily be called that any day!

I hope this has inspired you to grasp those opportunities, whether that be something external or simply an internal spark of an idea of something you fancy trying. I love the idea that I can take something as simple as a beautiful flowering grass stem and turn it into something unique for customer’s walls, bringing a little nature inside to appreciate when they walk by.

Until next time, which hopefully won’t be as long, enjoy the craziness of the UK Summer holidays, parents I am with you, and I hope you get some creative, restful time to yourself in-between the entertaining, feeding and taxi-driving!

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s Don’t forget, I’m always posting tips and tricks on Instagram, so head on over there and follow to keep up to date with all the CCC news.

Also, here’s what has been entertaining me recently;

Watching:

Clarkson’s Farm – so entertaining and absolutely hilarious! This is such a great watch, with many other characters than Jeremy and even has some poignant and emotional moments too.

Reading:

The Hostage – Clare Mackintosh’s long-awaited new thriller – diving into this one!

Listening to:

Still so many podcasts but in particular ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ mentioned earlier – it cannot fail to make you feel more motivated and ‘Postcards from Midlife’ – funny and fascinating in equal measures!

I also signed up for Martha Beck’s FREE masterclass on 5 paths to your purpose which was an inspirational listen on the early morning swim run today! Well worth signing up for.

Part two of 100 lessons of a creative blogger

Hello! Hope you have had a good week and are enjoying getting through the next milestone of lockdown, and being back inside for a coffee at least, which is just as well in this weather! What is going on? Where is the sun?!

Anyway, meanwhile I’m back for Part 2 of my top 100 list of all sorts to do with creativity and wellbeing! And thank you for all the lovely feedback on my first one, many of you said it was useful which is great as that is always my aim!

This week I’m focussing on the following Top 10:

  • Favourite creative books
  • Favourite creative things I love to do
  • Favourite creative entrepreneurs / hobbyists
  • Creative achievements I’m most proud of
  • Creative ambitions I still have
Always building up my book collection!

1) – Top 10 creative books

  • Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert – the bible of creativity an absolute MUST read for everyone! This book gave me the shivers and is THE one I’d take to a desert island!
  • Collecting Conversations – Sam Bunch – everything about this book is beautiful, part memoir, part extraordinary insight into the seemingly ordinary conversations we all have – fascinating
  • Hashtag Authentic – Sara Tasker – The font of all knowledge of insights into Instagram and how to create beautiful photography, Sara was the first to write about the complexities of this platform to help us all get our heads around it.
  • Conscious Creativity, Look, Connect, Create – Phillipa Stanton (of 5ftinf on Instagram), This is such a beautiful book and will appeal to literally everyone, bursting with colour and inspirational prompts to encourage you to tap into your curiosity and create in a way you may have never thought of before.
  • The Wild Remedy – How Nature Mends Us – A diary – Emma Mitchell, I’ve come across Emma in various magazines admiring her beautiful sketches, capturing the seasons for Country Living and Breathe Magazine, among others. Here she delves deep into the seasons, explaining how nature can heal us and help our mental well-being – a woman after my own heart as that’s what I champion via my Insta account @soothedbynature. Plus, as you’d expect, it is beautifully illustrated.
  • The Artists Way – Julia Cameron (New Edition), Since its first publication, The Artist’s Way has inspired many people on their creative journeys, Julia guides readers in uncovering problems and pressure points that may be restricting their creative flow and offers techniques to open up opportunities for self-growth and self-discovery. A revolutionary programme for personal renewal, The Artist’s Way will help get you back on track, and rediscover your passions.
  • The Joy of Watercolour – 40 happy lessons for Painting the World Around You – Emma Block,. For those at the start of their painting with watercolour journey, this is such a simple, modern, step by step book that’s really easy to follow. This is what I used to create my cactus picture!
  • The Self-Care Revolution – Suzy Reading. This is more of a self-care book but important none the less for the likes of us creatives who work from home and often get so engrossed we forget that occasionally we need to look after ourselves! It’s a brilliantly written book, split into different sections, using the vitality wheel as a focus so you can work out where your attention needs to be. It’s easy to get through and just makes total sense! She’s recently released one about Self Care in tough times too, following the pandemic.
  • Hegarty on Creativity – John Hegarty. At his agency BBH (one of the most awarded advertising agencies) John and his team devised the Levi’s Campaign for black jeans, featuring a black sheep going the opposite way in a herd of white sheep and a strapline saying, ‘When the world zigs, zag’ i.e., always seek to be unique and a message as creatives, I think we can all identify with.
  • The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. If you love words, beautiful art, and nature then this book is for you – simple and exquisite poetry that leaves you feeling nourished and soothed.

2)  My 10 top creative things I love to do….

  • Daily Nature Walks – These are the fundamental, most important part of the creative process for me and where it all started with my photography account @soothedbynature, I’m a total nature geek, and it feeds into everything I do
  • Create the prompts for my Creative Writing Groups – I find inspiration for these everywhere, and I love seeing them play out with my participants.
  • My own creative writing – from prompts that I follow at a local group, to coming up with pieces for the Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blog that I belong to, and of course that ‘still in draft’ novel, I relish the challenge! Click on the link to see my latest YWL post last week
  • Photography – there aren’t many days where I don’t take a photo, I’m only sad that my children no longer allow it! The dog happily obliges though. It’s become such a creative habit that I look at things often with a photographical eye and a frame in mind, it’s a genuine passion.
  • Ink drawing, Line and Wash paintings and typographical art – I love the preciseness of black ink, there’s no room for mistakes and it takes high levels of concentration
  • Painting with different paints – I’m still learning and understanding how different paints work, from acrylic, to watercolour and brusho – I’ve never tried oil yet though!
  • Canva! This is a new creative addiction– from creating graphic prompts for our WOW Accountability Membership or designing new quote graphics for feedback I’ve had, like above. Canva is so addictive so be warned, you can easily lose an afternoon playing!
  • Doodling, list making, mind-mapping and vision boarding – even just this simple but physical act of using a pen, day in day out, making marks, I realise gives me a buzz, there’s something very therapeutic about it. And sticking bits together to create the perfect vision board to inspire you throughout the year is so much fun!
  • Needle felting – a relatively new skill but I love trying to improve it and enjoy putting the different colours together to make a scenic landscape with character. I now sell these creations on here too, so have a look if you fancy some unique artwork
  • Writing my none- fiction book which I started in lockdown and is part memoir – about my own personal journey with creativity from childhood to now AND part practical tips for those who want to get started, and inspired by the 100 Blogs I’ve done!

3) – Top 10 Creative Entrepreneurs or Hobbyists, these are obviously just my personal favourite on Instagram, but if you love browsing creative accounts for inspiration, I’m sure you’ll like these too.

  1. Lucy Peltier of @lucyludreams master embroiderer, abs lovely person, creating beautiful work and kits
  2. Hannah Nunn of @hannahnunnstudio I met Hannah on a photography course and have literally worshipped her designs ever since – she loves all the grasses and meadow shapes just like me
  3. Emma Mitchell @silverpebble2 makes beautiful flat-lays of natures goodies together with gorgeous calligraphy explanations of each item
  4. Shannon @mockingbird_makes amazing crocheting talent (see her yogis collections!) PLUS a creative and wellbeing ambassador, sharing her warm guiding light with fellow creatives, and building a community of meaningful connections
  5. Emma @emmawarrenskies Emma creates the most beautiful pieces of memory artwork for those who have lost people close to them, and Emma has an amazing resilience story too, as told on Emma Isaacs ‘Creative Ways’ podcast (search the episode) – very special indeed
  6. Emma @emmjanecollection beautiful nature paintings on drift wood – a devine collection
  7. John @johnharrison my art club hero! I learned the line and wash style from him via Shelley Art Group, when he did a demo there. He shares his process often and via YouTube too – amazing if you want to develop your own skill or try something new
  8. Jessie @jessie_ford_art bright abstract art and illustrations that just make me happy
  9. Cheryl @wellbeingauthor Cheryl is a really inspiring author who has written many well-being books and thoroughly understands how important creativity is in your life
  10. Verity @panzaandfink a new account I’ve discovered who is doing a collaboration with my friend @myhousecandy and what an inspiring woman Verity is!

4) – Top 10 Creative achievements I’m most proud of

  • Practicing my art skills (whilst thoroughly enjoying it) so that I became good enough to sell my art to real people via exhibitions and now local retailers, I’ve still a long way to go in developing my skills but it makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I see my cards or pieces in shops
  • Daring to put together my first writing workshop at Miriam’s Kitchen Table and it receiving great feedback, this has continued into the Creative Writing Club that I now run online, which I love doing
  • Sue Walker (Editor in Chief of Psychologies) believing in me and asking me to be interviewed, live, whilst still on Chemo and then creating content for the Instagram Lives that followed, which received really lovely feedback 😀
  • The collection of tens of thousands of photos for my @soothedbynature account, it’s given me an even higher appreciation of nature and the seasons, and I get lovely feedback from my followers – people enjoying my images, feeling encouraged to go out and explore on walks, is what it’s all about
  • Publishing my creative writing short stories on the Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blog, it feels a privilege to be among such talented writers!
  • Taking the seed of an idea in the middle of the night, to creating our accountability membership WOW Wednesdays, growing our support through lockdown, and helping our members to move forwards with their own big dreams
  • Taking my passion for creativity from writing about it in here, to getting braver and more visible, sharing my story and enthusiasm via the podcasts; Two Northern Lasses, The Midlife Manifesto, interview with Eleanor Snare and the latest one with Emma Isaacs on Creative Ways
  • Creating my website from absolute scratch and teaching myself WordPress – I am not technologically gifted, but I did enjoy designing the branding and content!
  • Styling the Cabin! For once it was ALL my decisions, and I LOVED making it my own, plus of course it being shown off in Prima magazine this month!
  • Receiving the highest mark in Uni for a writing piece I did on a personal experience. I chose my parents divorce, and all the drama that surrounded it! It had to be marked by 3 tutors because it was the highest, and they all made a real fuss of me over it! It gave me the self-belief that I could write and evoke emotion, and I’ve not stopped since.

And finally….10 Creative ambitions I still have;

  1. To learn how to do abstract paintings (I’ve signed up to an @thisisartify course ready to give this a go)
  2. To finish the none-fiction book….and publish it!
  3. To help others on a 1-2-1 basis by becoming a Creative Coach and Mentor
  4. To help host a collaborative creative event and a new idea of bringing creative parties to your own home
  5. To continue to learn all different art techniques – I like to give anything a go, crocheting however is my nemesis!
  6. To exhibit at Staithes Art Festival and Holmfirth Art Festival, one day!
  7. To eventually run creative retreats, in the UK by the sea, somewhere like Staithes would be ideal!
  8. To then run creative retreats, abroad, at a beautiful venue like Elena of @elenapellecchia58 ’s Villa in Tuscany OR have our own Italian villa one day, if we win the lottery, but how cool would that be?!
  9. To still have a go at completing a novel
  10. To never stop being creatively curious and continue writing this Blog!

So, that’s the end of this big 100 list, which has been a celebration of getting this far! If you haven’t read the first part you can find that here, and it has many links back to previous subject posts that you may find helpful.

Essentially this quote is what the Blog, and all my projects and adventures have been about,
being curious enough to do something, investigate and further boost my passion and purpose

Soon I’ll be back with more of the ‘normal’ stuff but also, if there is anything at all that you would like me to look into or write about more, please do get in touch in the comments below or on social media, because as you know, I want to help support you to a more creatively enriched way of living!

 And if you would like more regular doses of inspiration, don’t forget to follow me on socials:

@thecuriouscreativeclub on Instagram

The Curious Creative Club on Facebook

Until next time, keep playing, creating and dreaming big…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

PS, I still have a few places left in my Creative Writing Club, if you fancy trying something different, using your imagination and ideas in a super friendly and fun group, then why not give it a try, see here for more details

100 lessons from the land of a Creative Blogger… on my 100th Blog post!

PART 1

Firstly apologies, I honestly don’t know where April went! Since the children have gone back to school, it has felt very busy, getting used to new routines, back to the kids activities and finally getting out, out, with friends into lovely, local beer gardens! Plus, we have a lot of birthdays in April!

So, it feels a long time since I was last here. However, there has been a lot going on in the background too with The CCC which is exciting but more on that later (in part 2)!

But first as you will have seen, this is my 100th Blog in just over 2 years on the subject of Creativity and Wellbeing, and I am thrilled to bits that I have never run out of things to say on this fascinating subject! So I thought I would do things a bit differently and create a top 100 list of things I’ve either learned, read, listened to and the many people I have been inspired by which has got me to where I am today.

BUT, this post was getting so long that I’ve decided to split it into 2, over 2 weeks, so that it doesn’t take you all day to read!

So, throughout these 2 Blogs, I’ll include links to previous ones related to that particular topic, so that you can read further on it should you wish to – a kind of celebration of all that I’ve covered so far!

I’ll split the categories into 10 x 10, (5 today and 5 next week) so you can pick up and read whenever at your leisure and easily refer back to the key things you are interested in.

So here we go…

1 – Top 10 wellness benefits of finding your creative mojo

  • Doing something creative is an act of much needed self-care, something just for you with no other responsibilities, other than to enjoy yourself!
  • It enables you to drift into the ‘Flow’ state and stop that whirring brain, it’s a form of active meditation and is great for mental wellness and focussing your thoughts on just the activity in front of you
  • The act of creating gives you a sense of purpose, there’s an end goal, you have something tangible to show for your efforts
  • Which leads to a sense of achievement that you completed something potentially challenging or a newly learned skill, building pride in your work
  • It gives you confidence, especially when starting out and unsure of what to try, the more you do it, the more your self-confidence grows
  • It opens you up to a whole new world of people who enjoy doing the same thing – the vast and interesting creative community. It gives you a sense of belonging to a team of people with similar interests and fosters new relationships
  • It enables you to learn new skills and become more adventurous. Once you’ve worked out one creative skill, it’s more likely that you will go on to try other new creative activities. It’s all about being creatively curious!
  • It can lead to a whole new way of life, provide opportunities for connection by joining creative hobby groups, or may even lead you to starting your own creative business
  • You can pass your skills on, sharing what you’ve learned for the benefit of others perhaps through workshops of your own, increasing self-worth, purpose and creating that sense of ‘giving something back’ to your community
  • Physically it lowers your heart rate and cortisol levels (stress hormone) and releases all the happy hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, making you feel physically calm and content, as well as mentally.

Now you know how good it is for you, don’t just take my word for it…there’s a whole range of experts out there, who understand how magical creative living is too.

2 – Top 10 Creative, Creative Business and Wellbeing Podcasts that will inspire you.

Podcasts have become an important habit in my life that never fail to feed my motivation and creative energy. See them as mini pep talks to keep you going, and especially good for dog walks! Below is a good, varied mix of creative artists, creative business coaches, health and wellbeing and interior design too who inspire me each week with their deep and wonderful conversations.

  • The Creative Ways Podcast – Emma Isaccs from @emmaisaccsdesign – I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Emma last week for the podcast, you can catch the episode here!
  • Elevate Your Curiosity Podcast – Joanne Griffin (trend expert)
  • Conversations of Inspiration – Holly Tucker
  • Dream and Do – Nicola Rae Wickham of @alifemoreinspired
  • The Great Indoors – Sophie Robinson and Kate Watson Smythe
  • Creative Women International – Philly Page
  • Braveheart’s Rising – Lisa Pascoe
  • Feel Better, Live More – Dr Rangan Chaterjee
  • On Brand With – Deborah Ogden
  • Dream and Do – Nicky Raby

There are many more great podcasts I listen to; you can check out more on the Curious Cave page or read more about them here.

3 – The 10 thieves of creativity

I have gone into some of the below in detail before on this Blog, but I will also do another post on this, because these are all huge subjects in themselves. But if you recognise yourself in any of the below traits or thoughts, you are not alone, and there is rarely a perfect road to creative enlightenment without one of these bugbears showing up along the way!

The good news is they can all be pushed aside, ploughed through or kicked into the gutter, with some positive mindset and self-awareness work.

The undeniable truth is your thoughts, are just thoughts.

They are not facts, so it’s all about how you respond to what your pesky mind is telling you, and I know that is easier said than done sometimes, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE, so if you can accept that, you are half-way there and I’ll be discussing this more in future so watch this space.

Deepak Chopra Quotes on Life  #healthyliving	#happiness #mindfulness #quotestoliveby #quotes #quotesoftheday- The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.
  • Procrastination – The act of putting things off / distracting yourself with other less important tasks
  • Comparisonitis – Comparing yourself with others, believing them to be ‘doing better’ than you
  • Perfectionism – an endless quest for things to be perfect, rather than done is good enough – which is why I preach Practice makes progress NOT perfection!
  • What if I fail / embarrass myself – fear of failure and humiliation about the end result or doing things ‘wrong’
  • Imposter Syndrome – not understanding how you’ve got to where you are today, believing it to be a fluke or that you will get found out eventually!
  • I haven’t got time, I’m too busy! – Lack of good, solid planning, and that’s coming from someone who never thought they had the time, I promise!
  • I haven’t got money for materials – basic materials cost little, or you could solve this issue by swapping with other creatives.
  • I’m just scared to try – Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real – there are effective techniques to get around this to stop it holding you back
  • I feel like creative time is selfish – simple, NO IT ISN’T! By feeding your own needs and embracing some creative self-care it will serve you AND give you more energy to deal with ‘life’ responsibilities
  • I don’t know where to begin – Then let me help you – click on the LIVES here for ideas!
  • 4 – 10 Ways to prepare well for Creative Time
  • Book it in, make the time – planning it in means it’s more likely to happen, just as you would with physical exercise, this is your mental self-care progamme!
  • Find a comfortable space – somewhere relaxing, not in front of a pile of washing up that will just distract you
  • This is YOUR time – Make sure your lovely family, know that you are busy and are not to be interrupted, nothing destroys creative time more than children yelling ‘Mum, where are my trainers?!’
  • Set the scene further if you wish, to enhance the experience, play some chilled music, light a candle, whatever gets you in the mood and acts like a creative trigger
  • What materials do you have? – Even if you only have a pen and a piece of paper, that is the beauty of creativity, you can start with the most basic materials.
  • Prepare your materials – If painting for example, get everything ready, clean your brushes if they need it, have everything to hand so you don’t have to keep breaking off  
  • Don’t worry about mess – ‘Craftermath’ as I like to call it is the sign of a good time! The ‘mess’ can be cleaned up later, not during the process
  • Drinks and snacks – Creating can be thirsty work, you can get ‘lost’ long beyond a mealtime, so have drinks and snacks on hand so you don’t have to stop, but do get up and stretch every now and again to avoid aching!
  • Look for inspiration / prompts – if you find staring at a blank page difficult, go in fully motivated and inspired with pictures from magazines, your own photos, a previous sketch you want to expand upon, or some writing prompts (you can find plenty on Pinterest or via Writers-online)
  • Ok, everything is in place and you are ready, so Just start…and repeat – consistent creative time is the ultimate goal to feeling all those great benefits above!

5 -10 things you could try right now!

A collection of yellow from Phillipa Stanton
  • Make a nature display – collect pinecones, leaves, feathers, twigs and find an old glass bottle or vase for a rustic display, check out @silverpebble2 for ideas
  • Write a short story using prompts or write a letter to someone who needs it via Give A Few Words – click for details
  • Cook / Bake something new, if you’re like me you’ll have plenty recipes still to try in a cookbook you haven’t opened in a while!
  • Create a 3D picture – with things collected from around the house, let your imagination run wild, see @5ftinf for some colourful  inspiration
  • Start a photography project – such as taking interesting doorways in your local town, like @seaside_kate does
  • Do some gardening – it’s basically like colouring in in a different way, creating a masterpiece in your garden for you to marvel at every day
  • Make up a dance routine – if that’s your thing or of course follow one on TikTok!
  • Make a video about something you feel passionate about – what puts fire in your belly? Use your voice and values as a means to be creative
  • Create a vision board – the ultimate creative way to spend an afternoon, that will have a positive affect long after you’ve completed it!
  • Design an art piece incorporating your Word of the Year, so you can place it somewhere visible and it have a more prominent affect.
Emma Mitchell’s nature displays

So, this is my first fifty learnings, tips, and processes and I hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into the last few years of blogging experience and research!

Next week, I will cover my top 10:

  • Favourite creative books
  • Favourite creative things I love to do
  • Favourite creative entrepreneurs / hobbyists
  • Creative Ambitions I still have
  • And one other, yet to be decided – feel free to suggest anything you’d like to know in the comments!
I’ve been planting this bank holiday!

Until next time, I hope you’ve enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend and not long to go now before more restrictions are lifted! Bring. It. On! Have a great week!

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps Main image and the other ones from the cabin are by Claire Wood for Prima Magazine where I was lucky enough to be featured in their issue this month! In shops now!

PPs I currently have a few spaces in my creative writing groups, click on the link to find out more.

From hobbyist to fledgling creative business, 8 top tips to get you started

Hello!

Can you believe we are already in April, and the first quarter of the year has already whizzed by? It’s been a tricky start to the year hasn’t it, as we tentatively come out of both Winter hibernation and lockdown.

Looking back over the last 3 months, and as we move further into the year, I can feel my work gathering speed and developing along with the changing seasons.

A Spring shift is hatching.

There’s lots of movement happening and some of my reliable stead-fast habits have set the solid foundations to allow me to take the next step. In some ways this feels scary, as do all big steps forward, but it’s also about recognising what shift needs to happen to make way for the new projects.

Remember, there is only so much time in the day and so it’s time to get super focussed to achieve what I want to this year. So, for example, I haven’t been as prolific at writing these Blogs, and that’s not because I don’t want to, it’s simply about navigating the time and juggling my work priorities.

For the past few years, I’ve been building to this point of launching as a fledgling creative small business and due to the new things I’ve developed this year, it’s finally going to happen. I am both thrilled about this and also know it’s a giant leap of faith into the unknown, which always ups the heart rate a little!

But it does feel good that the hard work is paying off, and that The Curious Creative Club is heading into the next stage, including supporting people more on a one to one basis.

As I look back from the start of the year, it hasn’t been easy to get into a regular working pattern, due to the restrictions and to ensure I’ve not got frustrated about this, I’ve been working more at night. This is one way I’ve needed to adapt, and it’s allowed me to start my own regular creative writing club on an evening, which I absolutely love doing.

These are now running well and fit perfectly into the creative support ‘service’ side of The CCC, along with our Accountability Membership programme – WOW Wednesdays.

WOW is also growing as we get close to its 2nd birthday, we are providing more support and specialist sessions than ever, and celebrating the results with our members.

Added to the service side, the art product creation is also naturally growing, in a direction I never fully anticipated. You may have read at Christmas I sold several needlefelt pictures at a pop-up shop in Holmfirth, purely because I had some spare and mentioned them on the off chance to the owner. As it happened, they sold well, and this shop will be opening up permanently in a few weeks’ time and they have asked me for more stock to sell.

My cards, needlefelt pics, and cakes all available at Joys Coffee House!

Also, a new coffee shop has opened where we launched WOW Wednesdays. Similarly to the previous owner who supported us back then, the new owners also want to support the community and asked for local businesses to share their products to potentially sell in the cafe. I got in touch and they also loved my needlefelt pieces and art cards. These are happily now for sale there too, @joys_coffee_house

I’ll be honest, re art designs, I never imagined I would be focussing on needlefelt, but I have to admit, these work in the rural area where we live, as great unique gifts or designs for homes in this area. And I do love doing them, choosing the colours and the little unique elements of each design.

However, I am still very much experimenting, so it won’t be the only direction I go in, I’m far too curious for that, BUT it is satisfying to know that I’ve found a product that people like and want to buy (I hope that doesn’t jinx it!). Watch this space as I create a ‘needlefelt commissions’ page on this website too.

Why am I telling you all this I hear you ask?

Well, as creatives, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the joy of the work, and that’s exactly how it should be, especially if what you do is more on a hobby basis. But if you are wanting to dip your toe in the selling / service side and create your own small business, then there is some challenging (but also fun) work ahead, that doesn’t always come naturally to creative minds!

So, here are my 8 Top Tips I’ve learned over the last year; a whistle stop tour that I hope will enable you to start thinking about the steps you need to take, before you launch.

1. Creating your strategy – ask an expert to take a look.

If you do find this side tricky, I highly recommend accessing a specialist strategic brain! By this I mean speaking to someone who does this as a job or their business. If you have several ideas, then this will really help you see the wood for the trees, and get all your plans into one simple strategy.

They will look at your plans objectively and ask the specific questions that you need to answer to refine your strategy, plus I found it an enjoyable and interesting process!

It’s almost like they create a simple road map to get you from A to B, without you thinking along the way ‘Ooo, look at that beautiful sunset over there, maybe I should go see that instead and paint it’, and getting very easily distracted!  

Since I did this work last year with my friend Michelle Cowan, who uses her expertise on this in her consultancy business, I swear something subconsciously has happened, because it seems to be naturally going down the route we planned out together, without me overthinking it!

I also have my strategy plan to refer back to, (in multi-colour, I had to request that as I knew I’d never look at it if it was grey!), it’s such a useful document to check in with.

Once you’ve tapped into this kind of help, there are many more areas where you can gain great advice…

2. When it comes to numbers, don’t freak out, ask a bookkeeper.

I think this is fundamental, especially for creative businesses because if you are anything like me, spreadsheets and numbers will be your kryptonite.

If you have no experience in this area, it is easy to feel slightly terrified. Within our WOW membership we are lucky to have Angela Proud of Proud Bookkeeping, our financial hero, who keeps all of us creatives on the straight and narrow and very patiently answers our questions.

Many bookkeepers, like Angela do free initial consultations, to discover what you need help with and point you in the right direction or offer their own services. They can also set you up with easier spreadsheets to use, so you don’t get in a knot trying to create one!

Whilst this is a bit of a cost, this kind of service is worth its weight in gold to avoid the stress and hours of precious time which could be spent doing what you do best instead.

They can also help a little with questions about how you want to register your business for tax purposes, such as becoming a Sole Trader, if you are at that stage.

3. Insurance – do your research.

There are many different kinds obviously, but it depends on what you need it for, for example if you are trading at a market or country festival, you are likely to need public liability insurance. There are more specialised policies for creatives these days so have a good hunt around or ask a local insurance business for advice on what you need to look for.

4. Customer data and information – understand the rules.

Again, research about GDPR and make sure you are covered. Many website hosts (if you have a website), have prescriptive text that you can add to your site to cover you, but also think about how you use customers information and store it. The key is to be transparent and not send information to customers that they didn’t ask for or sign up to – such as salesy newsletters they don’t want.

5. Spend quality ‘getting to know you’ time with your brand and values.

This means almost having a meeting with yourself to get to the absolute nitty-gritty of what you are all about. I can’t stress the importance of this part of the process enough, and if you need extra help, check out my previous Blog on strengths to help you with this and this Blog on branding too.

For me, the branding and this deep work where you really unpick the unique things about your business, is an exciting part of the journey, but that’s because it was my previous career, so if this feels like a foreign entity to you, then find a branding expert to talk it through with.

Branding is NOT just a logo and pretty colours, it’s the whole personality of your business and so important to get right and appeal to the right customers for your business.

To start you off, you could do the following:

  • Think about brands in a similar line of work to what you want to do, collect images of them on a Pinterest Board and ask yourself; what is it you like about them, what works, what tone are they setting, what type of customer do they appeal to, how often do they post on social media, what is there ethical stance and values, what do they believe in and stand behind?
  • Then ask yourself; What do people know me for? What do I stand for? How do I want to show up? How do I want to work? What can I realistically create in this time? How do I want to begin? How do I want it to grow?
  • Play about with your ideas either in a sketch book, mind mapping it out and noting title and strapline ideas, maybe sketch some draft logos. Then move on to an ap like Canva (first level is free) to play some more – you don’t have to go to a design agency at first unless you want to and have the budget.
  • If you’re wanting to create a website, look at themes of design that would work well with your ideas. You want a seamless or at least similar ‘look’ across different platforms. Think about creating a brand colour pallet so you don’t stray too far from you overall vision. Look at online articles comparing hosts. Mine is obviously a WordPress site which you can start at a free entry level, but there are many more out there, so research to find what suits your needs best, especially if using for E-Commerce.
  • Finally think about tone of voice – how do you want to ‘talk’ to your customers, formerly or in a chatty way, what subjects could you talk about that link into your business and create more content, e.g., wellbeing if creating essential oils or interior design if creating abstract art.

6. Marketing – do what you need to do, not everything at once

There are so many marketing avenues available now that this part can feel intense and overwhelming.

In order to transform from a hobbyist to a creative small business, getting your product or service out there is essential, BUT that doesn’t mean you have to cover all bases immediately. You can start off slow and build up, especially at the start or you’ll find that all you are doing is the marketing and not the making!

Many small businesses start off slowly on social media first, it’s the quickest way to get your brand and messaging out there, so that your customers know what you are offering and what your business is all about. You can build up your audience here, and then lead them to your website / shop later, once you have a loyal and engaged following.

Remember it is better to do small amounts well, than everything in a disparate or rushed manner. And if you are not savvy on social media, don’t worry there are many social media experts out there that don’t charge a small fortune or offer beginner ‘power-hours’ to get you started and so you can then do it yourself, such as my WOW partner Clair, @asocialnature

7. Structure your selling process – get your ducks in a row.

Customers will recommend you and give you repeat business, if, and only if, they have had a great experience with you in terms of service. It’s not enough these days to just have a fantastic product, if it doesn’t get to them on time to give to their mother-in-law for their birthday, they will feel disappointed, annoyed, and let down.

So, spend time creating an order process, which will make life so much easier, the busier (hopefully) you get.

Step into your customers shoes and think about the key things they’ll want to know, such as production and delivery times, what happens if something arrives broken, how will you let them know when it’s on the way, can you personalise items etc. Create a Frequently Asked Questions document with answers for you to quickly and easily send out or have on your website.

Thinking about all these things upfront, will save you lots of time in the long run, and customers will be grateful that they are dealing with someone who has thought about their needs.

8. Join an accountability group, not just a networking group.

Ok this may be controversial, but as a creative I know many others who feel this way – I do not enjoy networking! What I do enjoy is learning and building meaningful, solid connections with people who are of the same mindset. I want to be with people who are alongside me, inspiring me and cheering me on, not selling to me or saying how fantastic and easy everything is. I know not all networking groups are like that, but many I have experienced are, which is why myself and Clair set up WOW Wednesdays in the first place.

Our Accountability Membership is all about nurturing people and watching them grow through gaining confidence and learning from the group. It’s for people who want to use accountability to get things done and move forwards, not just sales chat. It’s about action and real personal growth.

Obviously, you could easily join us (It’s an online membership), but if you can’t right now, or would rather join a group in your local area, look for a group with similar qualities, or better still, create some accountability with your friends or other local businesses yourself and support each other.

Working on your own is hard going when you don’t have colleagues to chat ideas or issues through with, so belonging to a like-minded group makes it a less lonely and far more enjoyable experience. Plus, you can easily tap into the expertise of the group when you have those niggling questions.

So that’s it in terms of a very quick snapshot and obviously there are many more things to consider, but hopefully this has given you a good taster of things to think and get excited about!

However, If you have any struggles or challenges with mindset in all of this, for example, you may feel stuck with overwhelm, I recommend getting some extra support.

This can come through things like business coaching programmes (often more affordable in a group membership setting rather than individually) such as Nicola Rae Wickham’s Root & Rise programme or consider joining your local chamber of commerce, who can offer you access to a number of services such as insurance, legal, health, HR, marketing and PR to name just a few.

I know this may seem a lot to take in but there is no rush, you can work ‘on’ your business a little at a time, and spread out the costs, it’s taken me several years already so far!  It’s been worth the effort though, I can honestly say there is nothing more rewarding than earning some money, no matter how little, from what you have built and created yourself!

Holly’s on a mission to inspire a new generation of female founders

I used to earn way more in my corporate career, but the pounds that I earn this way are worth so much more to me now. As Holly Tucker says, its all about ‘Doing what you love, loving what you do’ and I couldn’t agree more! See main image!

I may not be a millionaire any time soon (sorry kids!) but that doesn’t matter, I’m building a small business that I love, and I am very proud of, and I hope giving my children another avenue to think about as they grow up.

Until next time…enjoy the Spring sunshine and a bit more freedom,

Juliet, the Curious Creative x

The power of a simple letter

Who doesn’t love to receive a hand written letter, and even more so when it’s sent through the post? Well this week for my turn on the Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blog, my piece is all about just that.

I’ve recently got involved with a really lovely project – Give a Few Words, and if you are a writer yourself or even if you just like making a difference to someone’s day, I urge you to take a look, because you can use your love of writing in a really powerful way.

But for now, I’d love you to read my piece as I get ready to write my first letter for the project:

Dear Imaginary Friend – by Juliet Thomas

I hope you like and I’ll be back next week with another creative Blog post and you can always catch up with me regularly over on Instagram – @thecuriouscreativeclub or @soothedbynature, if you are a nature geek like me.

Have a fab rest of the week, not long now to the next restriction lift! :-), I’m starting to get excited…

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x