How, ‘I wonder if…’ can lead to great things!

I’ve been really looking forward to this week’s interview as it’s with someone I’ve known for years and she’s one of those people who when you are around her, basking in her calm and fun-filled spirit, good things happen!

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Adele owns The Mind Spa, based in Lindley, offering a number of well-being and healing therapies such as mindfulness, meditation reiki, hypnotherapy and life coaching sessions but she’s also an accomplished artist, producing beautiful abstract watercolour paintings, specialising in floral, sea-scapes, butterflies and birds, that also translate into items such as scarves and bags.

It’s only recently that her two passions have crossed paths, as she recognised even more the power of creativity in helping the people that she works with, as well as those who just want a peaceful few hours to paint.

With her healing qualities and spiritual way of expressing her creativity, she’s a person that very much follows her own path, which I find absolutely fascinating, I hope you do too…

Tell me about your work, what it is that you do and how long has it been going?

I’ve been helping people for 12 years to cope with overwhelm and stress by running courses, retreats, workshops and working one-on-one with people, all at my local business, The Mind Spa.

I’m also an artist under the name Juicy Watercolours, setting up a side business to sell my art paintings and also printed products via Vida.

I started to notice that people are being starved of a creative outlet and so I started to think how this was another opportunity to help people with their mental wellbeing.

Was this a long-held dream or something out of the blue?

I was born wanting to be a famous artist! So, it’s been a very long-held dream. Ironically though I also thought that you didn’t become a famous artist until you had died!

Were you creative as a child, what kind of things did you like to do?

Very! I loved painting obviously, but also gardening, creating crystals, and I used to design and make my own clothes and drama costumes. My Mum was an amateur artist and my Dad and antique dealer, he also used to make reproduction antiques so was good with his hands and had an eye for a find.

I was lucky to have really encouraging teachers and head teachers through the four schools I attended. They were all keen to see me develop as an artist.

What was your first job?

Although I had creative parents, they were not keen for me to pursue art into further education! I really wanted to go to Art school but my parents wanted me to get a ‘proper’ job, but I refused! So, my Dad marched me down to a shoe factory which his friend owned and got them to give me a job!

Unbeknown to me he told his friend to ‘make it difficult’, in the hope I’d leave and search for a ‘proper’ job such as being a legal secretary! I did try and make it more interesting for myself by getting involved in the fashion shows they did and modelling!

Where did your jobs / career go from there, prior to becoming a professional Artist?

Eventually I had enough of the shoe company and I left and my old Head teacher came with me to the job centre for support an said; ‘This girl needs a creative job!’ So, I then worked as a jewellery designer – my Dad’s plan had backfired!

After that I worked in interior design but then eventually went for a proper job, mainly to earn some decent money, and worked as a sales person for an electricity company. I liked the structure and career progression and got promoted up through the ranks, becoming the youngest and first woman Area Sales Manager! I liked developing the teams, and I became good at it, which then translated into several change management jobs for the police, and newspaper group, Trinity Mirror

Then, I had the opportunity to take redundancy, with enough of a pay-out to give me some breathing space and I came to the realisation of ‘I cannot allow another person to have control over my destiny!’

Thankfully I’d also been training in the background with a theatre school franchise and also in life-coaching and hypnotherapy.

After much soul searching and wondering what I was going to do, I thought about all the skills in personal development I’d gained and a lifetime of helping people and so The Mind Spa was born.

Does being an artist feel like having a creative ‘business’, or does it feel different?

The Art business came later. I’ve done Art all of my life, I can’t remember a time when it’s not been part of my day-to-day life, to me it was never a big deal, I was a secret artist squirreling away with no intention of making it in to a business (note: which I find astonishing, given her talent!).

What changed that was contact from an old friend via Facebook who asked to see some of my work and I posted it (before you could direct message!).

The response was amazing, I had comments and likes from a lot of people. It was a wonderful feeling, I felt validated as an artist! People left more and more comments, and then finally someone asked to buy one, I was both thrilled and terrified at the same time!

Eventually I set up a separate page under the name of ‘Juicy Watercolours’ and that’s when that business really started.

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What is the creative process like for you, tell me the process of one of your paintings from beginning to end, how you go about it.

I wait until I feel inspired, I wait for the ‘flash’! It can come from the light, form, subject or just a feeling! I then meditate on that inspiration, wait until I live and breathe it and it becomes part of me. Words are very much part of the process too and come to me through meditation such as ‘precious or delicate’ if I’ve seen the way light falls through some petals for example – And then I just go crazy with the paint until it’s finished!

I get into the zone and paint in harmony with my materials, responding to the paint, and that’s when I love it! I’ve no idea how it will look, I paint in an abstract way and just wait for the outcome.

The process can take five minutes or five years depending on the thought process! For example, I adore peonies and know that one day I will paint them again, but in the meantime I’m buying them, spending time with them in beautiful gardens, touching them to see how they feel, examining the colour, etc etc and then doing some flow paintings where I experiment with backgrounds and then one day it will just happen!

Note: The picture of the tree heading this article was done as inspiration struck whilst out driving, Adele keeps a set of paints in the car, just incase!

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What does it feel like having your skill and talent recognised by other artists, professionals and customers? What was it like to sell your first painting?

Every time I achieve another thing it’s a total thrill! It’s like going on stage and singing for the first time. In the early years I was contacted by a New York gallery to be represented by them, that blew me away.

This year, I’m really excited to be ‘artist in residence’ at Burton Agnes Hall, in the Yorkshire Wolds, spending time in their orangery with other artists and also exhibiting.

Encouraged by this achievement, I thought ‘I wonder if?’ (my mantra) and applied to exhibit at Patchings (the huge art festival based in Nottingham). I wasn’t particularly ready for it but wanted to get used to the process of applying but then was amazed to find I’d been accepted!

The first painting I sold was to a life coach I was working with, Heidi Dawson, it was a painting of sheep!

What is the best thing about working in a creative way?

Freedom of expression, being yourself and not hiding!

What are the positives of running your own business and of course the harder parts too?

Flexibility and freedom, you can choose what you want to do and work to your own rhythm, not doing crazy formal hours. You can spend your time working more impactfully and working at your best. It also gives you the opportunity to try new things and not get pigeon-holed into being a certain something.

The only negatives are it can be isolating working for yourself if you’re not careful. There isn’t the stability of regular income, it’s more peaks and troughs and finally, paperwork!

How do you feel when you are doing your creative work?

Every emotion under the sun. I don’t get creatively stuck because I don’t force myself to do it, I only paint when I feel inspired to.

What is your favourite painting you’ve ever done and what is your best-seller?

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‘In full Bloom’ – Adele’s favourite painting

A painting called ‘In Full Bloom’ that happened after I was wide awake after drinking prosecco!

My best-seller is the humming bird, it’s been in magazines and on product prints etc, people seem to really like it!

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The Humming Bird is one of my favourite’s too, just beautiful!

What are your plans for the future, where would you like to take your business?

I use my mantra ‘I wonder if?’ to guide me! I wait for signs to give me direction . I paint but where it goes in the world is not up to me.

I want to keep moving forward and stretching myself, a solo exhibition would be lovely.

Is it important to you to share your talents with other people, your local community, if so how do you do this?

Yes, I love connecting people! I want to continue with the painting workshops and offer more retreat days as I find them inspiring and so much fun to do and I know the impact it has on people, I’ve had great feedback!

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The resulting paintings from one of Adele’s watercolour flowers workshop

What would you say to someone who is thinking about turning their hobby / creative passion into something more, a small business?

Just do it! You have nothing to lose but everything to gain, I wish I’d started this sooner. Also that if you wanted to do this on the side, with other work or business, that is also fine, don’t be defined by other people’s expectations!

What have you learned about yourself, along the way, whilst setting up, growing as an artist and running your business?

That the journey of setting up is almost like a journey of rejection and overcoming that has had an enormous impact on my life. Also that most skills can be learned!

I’m astonished by the kindness and support that people are willing to give you, it restores your faith in humanity!

What are your top tips for anyone starting out?

When you’re starting something new, you’re going to feel a whole range of things, like nervousness and fear, and maybe you can’t see where you’re going but it doesn’t matter, just ignore all that and just begin!

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Do you still have other creative pass-times outside of your work, if so what are they? If not, how else do you relax?

You’ve got to keep your cup full as a creative. I have endless curiosity and am currently doing a course in Neuro- science online with Harvard University. I’m also creating 2 gardens and have my cottage project, in the Yorkshire Wolds. I also love walking, music and family activities are really important to me!

What’s the story behind your business name?

‘Juicy’ Watercolours, is how I used to describe new paints that I used, so it seemed apt!

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With these bright colours in one of her latest paintngs, the name ‘Juicy Watercolours’ is very apt!

What are you most proud of in relation to your business?

Surviving, having longevity in this business, there’s been 2 recessions since I started! Having the confidence and experience to say ‘No’ to people I think I can’t work with.

Proving the nay-sayers wrong! And finally, the difference that people tell me I’ve made to their lives.

Finally, what does living a creative life mean to you and what are the benefits to you personally?

It means having the mental time and space to live the life I want, on my terms! With that, it brings better health, more peace of mind and authenticity, more me, more choice.

Knowing Adele’s deeper story was everything I expected it to be and more, she’s a strong lady who knows her own mind, won’t be swayed down conventional paths and there’s an air of mischief about her which is endearing.

But what comes across most is her unique way of expressing her art and creativity, in my mind she most definitely has a double dose of the ‘Big Magic’ that Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently talks about, and that is something very special to have…it’s been a privilege talking to her today, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.

If you’d like to find out more about Adele, you can find her here at The Mind Spa, and Juicy Watercolours, (facebook) or @juicywatercolours on Instagram.

She also has an amazing cottage in the Yorkshire Wolds, a great source of inspiration that can be hired for a lovely break away, click here for more information.

Next week, I’ll be back to my own creative topic, I’m not sure what that will be yet, but I’m sure after being bombarded by inspiration by my four local creative interviewees, I’ll have plenty to say…

Until next time..

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve got to seize the opportunities…

Today’s interview is with someone I met through the fabulous Shelley Art Group, Nigel Proud. As with everyone who comes to this group, Nigel was friendly and welcoming to me when I joined. At that point I was a complete novice and had the artistic talent of a 6-year-old (no joke), so I was especially grateful that they even took me in!

Nigel is a talented artist specialising in working with pastels to create amazing portraits and scenes and more recently pet portraits. He takes commissions from owners and is seeing his business grow, so much so, he’s changed his working hours for his main job, to accommodate his passion. Fridays are now all about fun and creating.

I couldn’t be more pleased for him and when you have an Insta bio like this: ‘I create art because when I’ve finished it me feel all jumpy inside and I want to run round the house telling everyone!’, I knew I had to speak to him about his passion for art and that buzzy feeling that is clearly a big source of happiness for him – a man after my own heart!

So, let’s get started:

Tell me about your work, what it is that you do and how long has it been going;

I paint pet portraits, mainly dogs in pastel pens and paint. I’ve been doing this for the last 5 years. I used to paint watercolours, setting up outside, like the weaver’s cottages in Shepley and then sell them in the village, but I guess I’ve found my niche now. I was good at watercolour but I wanted to be amazing so I started studying portrait artists on YouTube, learning techniques and then I had a go at doing ‘Seth’, our Jack Russell Terrier.

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Was this a long-held dream or something out of the blue?

No, not really, I ended up becoming a draftsman after a 4-year apprenticeship which included drafting electrical wiring diagrams and technical drawing, so I suppose it did include some of my skill back then.

Were you creative as a child, what kind of things did you like to do?

I used to draw a lot as a child, I remember sitting on the front step, I think I was about 11 or 12, watching cars drive down the street, and then designing my own car in my drawing, it looked a lot like a Ford Focus! At school I always loved Art, and also German!

What was your first job?

I started at Brook Control Gear in Wakefield and didn’t leave for 30 years!

Where did your jobs / career go from there, prior to becoming a professional Artist?

There were a series of redundancies and I got the feeling I was going to be made redundant too and I was right! Because I’d been there so long, I stood my ground and got a decent amount and took the opportunity to retrain. Outside of work I’d always volunteered as a Youth Worker 2 nights a week, so I decided to go to Huddersfield Uni and do a degree in Youth and Community work.

It was the best 3 years! I found it really nerve-wracking having to stand up in-front of people and present to other students but then I really started to enjoy it, I found just stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing through the nerves really helped me. Another challenge was doing joined up writing, which sounds odd but when you are a draftsman, everything is written in printed capitals for clarity on the plans!

From there, after I qualified with a 2:1, I’ve been working in Housing Support for 7 years now, helping people who are homeless, or have difficult circumstances to apply for council housing and helping to set them up for success, by sorting a system out for their bills etc. It’s really rewarding work.

Does being an artist feel like having a creative ‘business’, or does it feel different? Does this sit alongside your other job and would you like one day to be just a full-time artist?

It’s beginning to feel more like a real business now that I’ve changed my hours and I can devote more time to my artwork. I’m also spending more time doing the ‘business’ aspects around the production, like marketing, sales, printing etc and I’m looking at other avenues to get my work out there, like making them into cards to sell in a local gallery. Eventually I would like to do this full time, dropping my other working days down slowly until retirement age.

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What is the creative process like for you, tell me the process of one of your pieces from beginning to end, how do you go about it.

I mainly work from a really clear photo, drawing freehand, or using a grid method, using mainly pastelmat paper. Once I’ve drawn it out, I then work out where the light and dark areas will be and work out what the background colour should be, I like a contrasting colour to the muted tones of the pet. One painting takes approximately 8 hours to produce start to finish.

I work in what I call a ‘butterfly’ effect, there’s no specific structure to it, I flutter about over different parts when I’m painting and use grease-proof paper to prevent me smudging it!

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What does it feel like having your skill and talent recognised by other artists, professionals and customers? What was it like to sell your first picture?

I really like it when I get a compliment or comment from a fellow artist and often invite their opinions at Art Group, For example if I feel there’s something not quite right about a painting, I know if I ask Vic and Sybil, they will pinpoint it for me and offer suggestions. I’ve been going to the group for over 10 years and it’s a really important support network for me.

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Nigel’s amazing charcoal drawing of Carol, another artist from Art Group

The first painting I sold was 25 years ago, a prize cow called Treetops Diamante! It was a Christmas present for someone and the lady called me on Christmas Day to tell me how much she loved it!

When you are creating a piece, how important is it to convey the person /animal’s personality?

Usually the painting brings that out itself, the photos taken usually convey that spark or personality and I do my best to capture it.

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How do you feel when you are doing your creative work?

I go through a range of emotions; excitement when I start it, I never feel daunted by a blank canvas, then there’s always a point when I want to throw it out of the window! But then I push through that and I know if I persevere it will turn out ok and when it’s finished I do my happy dance!

What are the positives of starting your own business and of course the harder parts too?

Knowing that I can paint whatever I like. The commissions pay for materials and I enjoy doing them but then I have complete creative freedom for the rest of the time. In my day job I work for someone else, this is purely working for me. Plus, I have more flexibility on my Friday’s off now, if I feel like going to an exhibition or a gallery, I can.

The only downside for me is paperwork and book-keeping, not my strong point, but my wife is a book keeper so that helps!

What is your favourite picture you’ve ever done and why is that your favourite?

The one I did of my Dad, he passed away 3 and a half years ago and 18 months before he died he was sat in the corner with the light falling just right so I painted him then. I put it into the Huddersfield Art Society exhibition in 2016 and I won ‘Best first time exhibitor’ with it.

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Nigel with his award winning portrait of his Dad

What are your plans for the future, where would you like to take your business?

I’d love to be working on my art full-time eventually and I really want to produce a calendar this year. I’ve started to get my cards into local shops so want to see how that goes and maybe set up an Etsy shop too and try some other products like mugs or cushions. My ultimate ambition is to be on the TV programme, Portrait Artist of the Year and I’d like to enter some more national competitions.

Is it important to you to share your talents with other people, your local community, if so, how do you do this?

It’s something I might explore more in the future but not yet, and because my style of painting is quite unstructured, it would be difficult to teach it!

What would you say to someone who is thinking about turning their hobby / creative passion into something more, a small business?

“I’d say go for it, you never know when the opportunity will come around again so take that chance. Don’t be sitting in a rocking chair when you’re old and grey thinking I wish I’d done this, don’t have any regrets.”

What have you learned about yourself, along the way, whilst setting up, growing as an artist and running your small business?

That I’m more confident than I give myself credit for. Calling yourself an Artist is a difficult thing to do, people don’t think it’s a real job. I’ve also worked out that the unstructured process that I go through is what works for me, my rebel side coming out I think, although I always finish with the highlights in the eyes to bring the painting alive!

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What are your top tips for an artist starting out?

Just be yourself, find your uniqueness by just giving things a go. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and experiment.

Did anything in particular trigger the confidence you now have to make this into a small business? What made you finally give it a go?

Yes, the opportunity arose at work when another colleague changed their hours at work and I took it as my chance to reduce to four days, you can think about these things in your head but you have to take action to make it a reality!

Do you still have other creative pass-times outside of your work, if so, what are they? If not, how else do you relax?

I like crime dramas, detective novels and country walks

What’s the story behind your business name?

Note: I challenged Nigel a little on this! Having my marketing background, I thought having such a great surname as ‘Proud’ lent itself to the obvious name of ‘Proud Portraits’ but Nigel said the most obvious name that came to him was ‘Nigel’s Portraits’! He did say his wife uses it in her business though, ‘Proud Bookkeeping’. Food for thought for later maybe Nigel?! 🙂

And then funnily enough on to the Proud question! – What are you most proud of in relation to your art work?

The picture of my Dad and the award I got for it.

Finally, what does living a creative life mean to you and what are the benefits to you personally?

Being able to be myself, drawing and painting in my style. My work life has been so structured up until now, and doing this is completely different, it’s more flexible and free and has great benefits for my mental well-being.

What came across in my interview with Nigel was his enthusiasm and courage in just throwing himself into things, completely re-training for example after 30 years and knowing how important his passion for art was to him and looking for ways to give his creativity more time; great qualities to have in my book in designing a more full-filled and enriched life through creative living.

I hope you feel inspired by Nigel’s story and if you would like to take a closer look at his work you can find him here on his Insta page, @nigelsportraits or his website

Next week, it’s the final post in the series of interviews with local creatives and I’m talking to someone I’ve known for a while through her own business, Adele Doxey, from The Mind Spa,  but she is also an accomplished Watercolour Artist and her work in that area is starting to increase,  we’ll find out how she juggles is all and the benefits to having both in her life.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative 

Ps – I did a mini mid-blog-post last Friday, linked to a few life and writing challenges I had, if you fancy a read, it’s here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cherish the Challenge

Hi everyone, I just wanted to pop in, in the middle of my four interviews with local creatives to say ‘Hi’ and share a few thoughts about my week.

It’s been a challenging one to be honest, snippets of weird things going wrong but interspersed by little bits of Big Magic, as Elizabeth Gilbert likes to call it. If you’ve still yet to read Big Magic, I urge you to get it and then devour it, because it’s a truly phenomenal book for creatives, in-fact anyone who is interested in inspiration and how it all comes to play out in the universe!

Anyway, back to my week, so it started out where I had to produce my post for The Yorkshire Writer’s Lunch because it was my turn. I decided to do a follow up to my first post, creating a story that would make readers question their first impressions and reaction to the central character, Harry. The follow up story idea came to me immediately after the first post, so I was keen to work on it as I liked the direction it was going.

However, the idea was tricky to convey a lot of detail into quite a short word-count. It didn’t come to the page half as easily as the first. I found myself writing, re-writing, chopping and re-hashing several times and when this happens, I worry that the emotion is taking a hit, like I am lessening the empathy and losing the story-line. But I persevered, kept leaving it and coming back to take a fresh look at what needed to be done.

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So true, writingroutines.com

After lots of uncertainty, I pressed publish and hoped for the best. That day I received some lovely comments from the other writers in the group who I greatly admire and look up to. One, called Chris had written this comment:

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I can’t tell you how much that left me beaming. On Tuesday I raced back to the lunch which is held every week at The Cafe Society in Huddersfield, from dropping my son off in Leeds. I walked in, and the members were discussing my story. Chris, whom I’ve only met once before, again told me how moved he was upon reading it, I was literally glowing!

You may be thinking why is she telling me all this, just to show off? Well no, this week has included two poorly children and a partially blown-up boiler creating a river running through our kitchen roof, which then poured into the Sky box and wrecked Wifi and TV for a while, I’m on day 4 of no hot water and it aint looking likely until at least next week, large sigh.

But my point is, none of that matters, really, ok it is very annoying and of course I don’t’ like the kids being ill, but it’s just life chucking stuff at you to see how you cope. The good things are both kids are now better and me and the hubs are making jokes about how lousy we look without our daily showers.

Despite all this I feel like I’ve really achieved some good things this week. The other writer’s reactions to my story, plus my friends and family’s comments too, made me feel like I am actually a real writer, something that I don’t feel worthy of very often. It felt so good to get that reaction from a piece I was really unsure about and just goes to show the things you find really tricky sometimes, challenge you to do your best work, without you even realising it.

So, the moral of the story, if you’re finding something really hard, are stuck creatively and it takes more effort, determination or more soul-searching to get there, DON’T LET IT PUT YOU OFF, it could just be that Big Magic out there knowing that you can do better, that you are capable of more, that you can dig a little bit deeper.

It might feel uncomfortable and give you a few sleepless nights, but it will be worth it to feel really proud of what you’ve created and to feel more confident diving into that next challenge. It’s only through these mini-trials that you learn, and this week I’ve learned I need to have a little more self-belief and with that I’m once again raring to go on my creative writing, so it’s back to the book (once the damn boiler is sorted of course!)

If this post has inspired you a little to rise to your creative challenge, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below and If you fancy a quick read with your cuppa, you can find the two stories I’ve done for the Yorkshire Writers Lunch here; The Dog-Walker Stalker and the follow up I posted this week,  A Lost Life.

Today I did my interview with Nigel Proud, a local artist from the Art Group I go to for next Monday’s post, part of my ‘local creative’s’ series. We had a really interesting chat about how he’s finally turning his passion and talent in pastel painting into a genuine small business and he’s really excited to take it to the next level.

So, until next time – when hopefully I’ll be more fragrant with hot running water, have a great creative weekend!

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

A Holme-made tale of international success and personal satisfaction

This week I‘m interviewing Carole Heaton from Holmemade With Love, a local crafter, designer and producer of beautiful hand-made gifts and home goods, living in the gorgeous Holme Valley. We talk about what is really important to her in her business, where she’d like to take it and what has made her most proud, amongst plenty of other things.

I first met Carole at the Christmas Rural Fair in Holmbridge that she organises at St David’s Church where her husband is the vicar. She was running a stall of her lovely gifts and I was particularly drawn to her Tree pictures (you know me local tree-hugger). I was with my friend at the time and she said she’d buy me one for my birthday coming up in January.

Carole then explained I could add a personalised phrase underneath which just made it even better for me, I eventually chose this to link it to our family values :

‘Mulberry Barn – Where hearts are rooted and dreams are nurtured.’

And to be honest this is pretty much how we live our lives (maybe the tree is working its magic!).

Since then I’ve seen her at art festivals and fairs and have always come back with something! I’ve bought cute little lavender bags, Christmas decorations and recently a fabric storage bowl for a friend and why? Not only because these items are obviously gorgeous but it’s also the fact that I’m supporting a local independent business and I get great personal customer service, which in this day and age (gosh I sound like my mum!) is a rare quality indeed! So, lets dive in and find out how Holmemade With Love came about!

Tell me about your business, what it is that you do and how long has it been going.

This is where I really struggle to define what I do, but rather than just say I make pretty things!, which is my default description, I’ll go with what I put on my business card! So, I make personalised home décor, cards and gifts for all ages, made lovingly by me.

I started out in 2015 by taking over the running of the Church’s Christmas fair and decided to do my own stall. That went really well and my niece, who sells on Etsy and Not on The Highstreet suggested I should have a go at setting up a shop too, so I opened up my Etsy shop in January 2016 and have been selling on there and at craft fairs ever since.

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Was this a long-held dream or something out of the blue?

I always crafted and created as a child but it wasn’t something I planned on becoming a business originally. I wanted to be several other things, a teacher (like my mum), an architect or an Interior Designer (but only if they had similar tastes to me!).

Were you creative as a child, what kind of things did you like to do?

Yes! I learned sewing from my mum and would make outfits for my dolls, line them all up and teach them as if we were at school! At Uni I made my own ball gown.

What was your first job?

Working on a sweet stall on a market! So, my passion for craft fairs began at an early age! I wanted the fruit and veg stall but there were no places, I think I was about 14. The stall owner promoted me to look after it and I then employed my cousin! We got free sweets too!

Where did your jobs / career go from there, prior to running this business?

I went to Uni and got a first-class degree in Production Management. I liked doing a subject that used maths to solve problems and found I really enjoyed the operational research side so I applied for roles doing this at British Coal and British Gas through the Uni’s ‘milk round’ process (where companies come in and interview the best students). Both companies offered me positions but I chose British Gas as they had an office in Leeds, the other was in London.

However, it turned out the role wasn’t what I’d initially gone for, so after 2 years I applied for a secondment into the Accounts department and got all my accounting qualifications. Since then I worked lots of different roles in my 24 year’s service with British Gas and the other companies it changed in to, from engineering to planning and general management!

Was there a key moment that led to you choosing to run your own business? 

Yes,  I became ill from a virus that then became M.E (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) See notes at end for more on this condition. I loved my career but after a long time on sick leave I eventually had to give up my job and focus on my health.

What are your business values / mission statement or what are your aims for the business?

The things that are really important to me in my business are great personal customer service and the quality of my products. I’m proud to say I’ve never had one complaint on either of these aspects.

I like having that personal connection and relationship with my customers and that’s why they keep coming back to me, which I love. It feels like a privilege to be part of people’s lives and occasions, such as 70th birthday, a wedding or mother’s day for example, and because I can make things bespoke, it becomes really special for me and them.

Quality is really important to me too, if it’s not right, I’ll start again!

aqua dachshund with bird cushion on blanket box 2    flower bookmark close up

How much has your life changed now that you are doing this for yourself?

It means I can manage my energy levels and work when I feel well enough to, I can just manage my health much better than before. So many of us in this kind of work have chronic health conditions and this kind of creative work can be therapeutic and have well-being benefits, so it’s a good fit for us. Plus, it’s much easier to have P.J days!

What is the best thing about working in a creative way?

Being creative is what we are meant to be, it nourishes the soul. People need to recognise what their creative talent is, everybody has one – it’s just different things from music to art to writing, we all have something within us.

card montage for mothers day

What are the positives of running your own business and of course the harder parts too?

I have more time for the children, I have two boys, it’s a much more flexible way of working and my husband doesn’t get a lot of time off. There’s so much more freedom, no imposed deadlines and no long commute!

The downside however is the drop in money coming in and for some loneliness working on your own from home. I’m lucky in that I’ve built a community around me of local friends who also work from home, retired people and Insta friends too.

How do you feel when you are doing your creative work?

More mindful and relaxed.

What is your favourite product to make and what is your best-seller?

Ooo this is a hard one! I like the variety of making lots of different things but if I had to pick one at the moment it would be my ‘yarn bowl / project bag’ that are proving popular because they are so versatile and can be used for all sorts!

My best seller is the tree picture, that’s been going the longest, these are personalised and come in so many colours so it keeps it interesting. I had a customer once that had me make 3 different coloured tree pictures but all with the same message that said ‘Thank you for saving my life’, it makes you wonder what their story was and I was grateful to be able to make them for her.

Red sheep & gingham yarn bowl inside view with grey knitting project 2 (1)               Be colourful tree - close up angled

What are your plans for the future, where would you like to take your business?

I keep pondering sometimes whether I should niche down and have a smaller quantity of products but there is no one product that stands out as a bad seller.

I’ve thought about providing workshops in the past so I might revisit that as I’m very social and enjoy chatting to people!

I’d like to refresh my cushion collection as they’ve been around a while now and I’d like to get back into writing blog posts and update my website in general with improved photography.

Note; Tip to other creatives – Carole created her own photo backgrounds such as a white brick wall for her photography and uses photo boards too – that way she can move products into the best light etc and it gives a clean modern look – they look brilliant in the background!

What would you say to someone who is thinking about turning their hobby / creative passion into something more, a small business?

I’d say it depends on the person and what they want to get out of it. There’s so much to think about when running your own business so you have to be comfortable wearing lots of different hats; you have to think up the creative ideas, do your own promotion, pricing, packaging, accounting, branding and even think about stock storage or it takes over your house! And you have to put yourself out there to get noticed through social media etc.

You also need a good support network like I said before or it can get lonely. It’s also not an easy playing field these days either as the market is so saturated so you have to be prepared to work really hard.

Pink velvet basket angled shot with scarf and jewellery and rose

What have you learned about yourself, along the way, whilst setting up and running your business?

Resilience and confidence in my ability via lovely comments from my customers. Also, that I have a real eye for colour matching which comes naturally to me and I’m grateful for. Plus, it’s highlighted something that I’ve always known, that I’m really risk averse, but I’m working on that!

What are your top tips for anyone starting out?

Do your homework. Niche initially, do one thing and do it well. Give things a chance to work – ignore that imposter syndrome!

Do you still have other creative pass-times outside of your work, how else do you relax?

Yes! I love colouring in books but also on iPad Aps and playing with new colour combinations. I like doing logical problems, that’s from my past work and analytical brain! I like reading and singing in the church music group. Oh, and I love decorating and mindful walking too.

What’s the story behind your business name?

I like clever names that include a back story and never wanted to use my actual name as I never liked it! Holmemade With Love was a clever twist on where I live in the Holme Valley and I try to put my heart into everything I make.

 What are you most proud of in relation to your business?

That my products I’ve made are now all over the world, I have cushions in Australia, bunting in Singapore and my tree pictures in America, that makes me feel really good that my products are across the globe!

Blue Bunting Montage primary

Finally, what does living a creative life mean to you and what are the benefits to you personally?

It’s given me back a sense of being able to contribute, to produce something and work in whatever way we can. We’re all made by god to be creative and living a create life means living a life that is fulfilled.

We had a really great few hours discussing Carole’s journey, you can find all her lovely products at www.holmemadewithlove.etsy.com (nudge, nudge there are some lovely mother’s day ideas!). You can also catch her on Instagram @holmemadewithlove

Next week I’m interviewing Nigel Proud, a very talented local artist…

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

 

(Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is a long-term (chronic), fluctuating, neurological condition that causes symptoms affecting many body systems, more commonly the nervous and immune systems. M.E. affects an estimated 250,000 people in the UK, and around 17 million people worldwide.

People with M.E. experience debilitating pain, fatigue and a range of other symptoms associated with post-exertional malaise, the body and brain’s inability to recover after expending even small amounts of energy.

 

 

From Postie to Peonies, one woman’s path to starting her small business…

Hi everyone, it’s my 10th Blog Post today yeah! When I started out I didn’t have a clue how it would go or if I’d have enough to talk about to you all but thankfully I never even have to think about it, I always have something to say when it comes to creativity!

So, for this 10th post I’ve had a bit of an idea for a mini-series in March, linked to what Joanne Hawker does in her campaign to showcase creatives online without it feeling too salesy. Joanne makes greeting cards and accessories and champions creative entrepreneurs.

She set up #marchmeetthemaker on Instagram in 2015, a daily photo prompts challenge to encourage participants to share their work, ideas and give the detailed story of what goes on behind the scenes. It’s a great way to not only share your journey but to find other makers similar to you too and build up your own Instagram community. Anyone can take part and you don’t have to post every day, why not join in?

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Now, as you know my vision for The Curious Creative Club is to support people to live a more creative life but rather than it just be me giving you my experience all the time, why not interview those who have taken their talents one step further and set up their small business around it? It might just inspire us all to take the leap too?

Luckily, I have many creative people around me whose own small businesses are really taking off, not least my first interviewee, Liz Wood.

I first met Liz when she’d just moved to our village and I’d see her on dog walks with her Labrador, Robin. She then worked for a while at my son’s school and then eventually she set up her own business, hiring a unit in the grounds of the very popular local restaurant, Hide and Hoof and Yummy Yorkshire Ice cream Parlour at Ingbirchworth, just a few miles up the road from me.

After seeing her beautiful florists and chatting to her, she agreed to sell my art cards in her shop, so now I pop in whenever I’m grabbing brunch or a coffee up there and give her my next collection to sell.

So, here’s my chat with Liz, all about how her business came about and what motivates her, I hope you enjoy it!

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Tell me about your business, what it is that you do and how long has it been going.

My business is a Florists, called The Watering Can and we just started in September 2018. We sell bouquets and gifts and I do contract work as well, such as for Huddersfield Town Football Club, providing flowers in the corporate suites. I also run seasonal flower-arranging workshops such as wreathe making at Christmas or Spring flower bouquets for Mother’s Day.

What’s the story behind your business name?

I really wanted The Potting Shed but lots of people have that name! So, I went for The Watering Can as that still links with my plans for the future.

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Was this a long-held dream or something out of the blue?

Well I’ve run a Florists before in another village for 16 years but had a break when we moved and plenty of other jobs before the first florists, but I always knew I wanted to work for myself eventually.

Were you creative as a child, what kind of things did you like to do?

My mum introduced me to flower arranging, there were always flowers in the house. I always liked art at school, I wasn’t academic, it was the creative lessons that appealed to me, I loved baking too!

What was your first job?

My first job was a being a Post Lady, for 3 and a half years! It was a real eye opener, you see all sorts of things going on! They did put you through your driving test too so that was handy!

Where did your jobs / career go from there, prior to running this business? Do you have any regrets about not starting what you do now sooner or did each job have it’s worth, leading up to this?

I worked for Sainsburys for 9 years in their wine and spirits department, and gained some qualifications in that too.

I don’t regret anything about the jobs I did before, they were very character building! You had to become a tough cookie so it taught me stamina and strength. The dream was always to do something for myself though, I just didn’t know what at the time

Was there a key moment that lead to you choosing to run your own business? What was the path that you followed?

Yes the key moment I suppose was losing my Dad very suddenly and I thought ‘Do I really want to continue in my role putting bottles on shelves at Sainsburys or do I want to do something different?’ so I started doing a floristry course for 2 years and got an NVQ level 2 and then went on to do private day courses to Manchester and London with the aim to eventually run my own business.

After that I worked for The Posy Bowl, a Florists in town, which started out as work experience with the course. So, at one point I was working at Sainsburys, doing my college course, working at the Posy Bowl and also raising my little boy! A very busy time!

What are your aims for the business?

My ultimate aim is for me to supply The Watering Can, with the flowers, to become a flower-farmer and self-sufficient. I also want to focus on the experience workshops and include this as part of that, taking them to where I grow the flowers so that they understand the whole journey.

We’ve got a plot of land now with the new house and when I leave the shop each day, I’m out there digging and planting seeds. Hopefully by Christmas I’ll be able to harvest the foliage for the Christmas wreathes workshops.

This will make us so much more self-sufficient, especially in the light of Brexit where we don’t know what will happen, there are already protests going on in the tunnel which will effect delivery of flowers into the UK.

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How much has your life changed now that you are doing this for yourself?

It’s hard sometimes, the thing I find hardest is being here on my own as previously at the old shop I had 6 people working for me so there were always people to talk to. Sometimes being on your own can make you overthink things when everything is perfectly fine!

That’s’ when self-doubt can creep in, like I’ll make something and not be entirely happy with it and then someone will come in and say that’s absolutely beautiful and I’m thinking really?, because that inner-critic creeps in. I think creative people are the worst self-critics!

What is the best thing about working in a creative way?

Just the pleasure you give to people, especially when I’m doing things like wedding bouquets and the brides are so happy. With social media now it’s easier to get that lovely feedback and see the pictures, so it’s really nice to hear that you’ve made someone’s day.

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Sunshiney flowers – how could you not be happy if you received these?

What are the positives of running your own business?

I’ve nobody to answer to, I can please myself and can create what I want. It’s so much easier mentally, even though it’s still hard work.

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It’s a beautiful place to work!

What other plans do you have for the future, where would you like to take your business?

On the wedding side, which I hadn’t planned, people often pop in from visiting the café and start talking to me about wedding flowers. I’ve also started doing wedding consultancy days where I invite say 5 brides and show them 4 different kinds of flower display ideas such as rustic vintage and bling, to help them make choices.

So, the wedding side is getting much busier than I anticipated and wasn’t planned, it was meant to be just a quirky little flower shop but it’s good business to have.

Is it important to you to share your talents with other people, your local community, if so, how do you do this?

Yes, I really enjoy doing the workshops and sharing my knowledge. I’m starting to be invited to other people’s events too, such a local Guest Dining event coming up in Spring, which is really nice and always good fun.

In the future I might also consider having trainees working here too to help them build up their skills.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about turning their hobby / creative passion into something more, a small business?

I’d say do it but before they commit themselves to getting a lease etc, to get the client base built up first and as much experience as possible in businesses similar to yours. So, if it was a product, like the candle supplier I have here, she’s putting her candles in quite a few other shops now with a view to getting her own eventually.

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What have you learned about yourself, along the way, whilst setting up and running your business?

I know that I have to have an escape and be with other people, I really like doing the corporate hospitality at the football ground because I see lots of people down there.

Other than that, I go talk to my plants and dig a trench! But I also walk the dog and spend time with my husband, Mark of course as well as making the new house a home.

Any other top tips for anyone starting out?

Just don’t be naive, trust no-one! (laughs!) Oh, and don’t ever copy someone else!

What are you most proud of in relation to your business?

Pleasing people! The effect my work has on them.

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What does living a creative life mean to you and what are the benefits to you personally?

That I don’t have to sit at a computer all day, which would drive me mad It’s a lot more relaxed and less high-pressured when you work for yourself.

Thanks for your time Liz, finally where can we find your lovely flowers and workshops?

My website is currently being built but you can find me on Facebook and Instagram

Hint hint, if you are local, Mother’s Day is coming up!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first interview, coming up next week is Carol from holmemadewithlove.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

News! I’ve just updated the workshops page with details of the next workshops to be held at Miriam’s Kitchen Table, Kirkburton, Huddersfield, we have two new dates coming up;

  • Wednesday the 3rd of April – 7pm – 9.30pm
  • Wednesday the 1st of May – 7pm- 9.30pm

PLUS! I also have a new offering where I can bring the workshop to you, in your own home, if  that is more convenient for you and then you can pick the date and time yourself (location permitting of course).

See Workshops for more information on all the above, thank you!

Also….This week I have a competition coming up on Instagram, celebrating the first birthday of @soothedbynature so keep an eye out for that on there and it will also be on @thecuriouscreativeclub too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glow with the flow…

It’s Monday and usually I’ve written my blog post by now or at least done most of it on the Sunday night but as my husband goes to Vegas for a week today (with work, it’s a tough gig, I know), my mind is whirring through a whole load of logistics I’ve got 80% sorted for this week.

Added to him being away so is my Mum, who is my usual back-up support when it comes to delivering the kids to where they need to be, so my problem-solving skills are stretched to the limit with my daughter’s usual Swimming training schedule (6 days a week) and my son goes on tour this week with Opera North, I feel like I’m juggling whilst standing on one leg….which brings me to my subject on our creative journey this week.

When the head stuff is spiralling out of control, what do you then do to help you get off that over-thinking steam-train? One way of course is to practice mediation which I know many people are huge fans of and I’d love to say that it also works for me, but unfortunately it doesn’t, I’ve tried it so many times and I just cannot switch off my head enough for it to be of any benefit.

I am one of those people that can’t even get to sleep without assistance and wholly rely on my trusty kindle and a good story to finally drop off.

So, for me, the only thing that works is to get into that creative ‘flow-state’ as they like to call it, which basically means that you are so engrossed in something, so deeply focussed that it has those same meditative effects…and your brain begins to filter out all those noisy, incessant conversations that we all have with ourselves that can literally drive us crazy.

In a world where we are constantly switched on, thanks to our little (not always so smart) phones, (if they were really so smart why don’t they tell us to take a break?!), and we have a million things to do on our ‘To bloody do’ lists, it becomes really hard for our for our minds to wind down as the modern brain has not evolved with the pace of technology.

Ultimately, we still need vital moments of ‘quiet’ to rejuvenate and replenish some of those burnt-out brain cells, ready for the next bombardment of information overload.

I don’t know how it works physiologically but the flow-state to me is almost like an altered state of consciousness where you stop noticing what is going on around you as much and you’re concentrating so hard on the thing you are working on whether that be some creative writing, or crocheting or painting, that it becomes a single stream of reduced thoughts and you instinctively know what to do next without having to endlessly analyse and over-think it.

Ok, I know it’s not always that smooth-sailing, occasionally you may get frustrated, get stuck in your creative work and that is when the voice in your head may sneak back with a vengeance and a tirade of negative thoughts but if you can either push through that or maybe switch to another part of your project for now and come back to it later, then it shouldn’t fully disrupt that lovely experience of just creating something and staying in that relaxed and enjoyable flow-state.

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According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the flow state, is defined as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”

Csikszentmihalyi, who popularized the term in his 1990 book, the mental state of flow involves “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow states have several key characteristics:

  • intense concentration,
  • a merging of action and awareness,
  • a loss of reflective self-consciousness,
  • a sense of personal control over the activity,
  • a distortion of the awareness of time, and finally…
  • an experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding.

(Taken from the article The Power of Flow, Psychology Today)

This is just one of the many wellbeing benefits of getting creative, and I’ll talk more in future posts about the others that I recognise but this is such an important thing to do for our own self-care, and again it’s all about the process being of huge benefit, not just the results.

So what if your creation resembles a purple egg chucked at a wall, if you’ve had an enjoyable time producing it and you FEEL better, calmer or even more energised for the rest of your day, THEN ITS WORTH IT and you’ve probably given your partner or kids a chuckle at the same time!

So how do we get to this state of being that brings this inner calm and joy, you may ask?

Well in order to do this, you have to get in the right frame of mind and space. For a start you need to eliminate distractions from your environment.

An absolute no-no for me is noise above a certain level. I think this is partly due to me being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) but as soon as the TV goes up to a certain point, I can’t concentrate, and feel physically uneasy and agitated – my family find this totally bizarre and they’ll say to me ‘but it’s not even loud’, but it grates on me so much I just can’t think straight and have to leave the room. However, I can tolerate low level easy music or the gentle hum of a café and be able to switch off and get in the flow.

Similarly, if I’m cold at all (which is most of the time hence the bobble hats until at least April), I just can’t focus, it’s almost like I get brain freeze, so I have to warm up those brain cells and finger tips in order to be at my best.

So, what I’m saying is, to set yourself up for optimum success, know the triggers that distract you and remove them. Switch off your phone, clear your space both physically and mentally as much as possible before you get down to work. Also, have everything ready to hand to avoid having to search the house for that elusive paintbrush that you really need. Set your stall out to make the most of your precious time to just focus on the project in hand.

This week I’ll be spreading the message of the flow-state at something new and exciting (and out of my comfort zone, again!), hosting a discussion table at the Kirklees Women’s Empowerment event on ‘Creativity for Wellbeing’. There are 150 women attending so I’m looking forward to getting deeper into this subject with my local community and ‘empowerment’ is one of the core values for The Curious Creative Club, so it’s a great fit!

Right, I’ve got so engrossed in writing this post (blame that flow factor!) that I need to get out of here quickly and pick up the daughter from training!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps I’ve recently updated The Curious Cave page, where you can find a whole host of extra resources to inspire and support you on your creative journey, why not check it out?

PPs I’ve finally worked out how to add social buttons to this website! Yeah! (I’m so rubbish at technology so this is a little win for me!) – check out the links on the right side-bar or below if viewing this on mobile.

Spring into the Seasons and feel that creativity surge

How amazing was the weather this weekend?. I don’t think I’ve ever known it to feel like Spring this early in the year, in February no less!

It’s been so beautiful and just makes me realise the huge impact the weather can have on our mood and subsequently our creativity too.

Everyone works differently of course, you may be way more productive in the darker Autumn – Winter months, when you’d prefer to stay home and hunker down until the crazy wind / rain / snow disappears or you may love to work outside in the sunshine of the Spring and Summer months, taking inspiration from the garden shooting up around you and listening to the birds noisily building their nests.

Each year I appreciate and notice the seasons more and more, especially since we’ve had our dog Barley. Now I’m out most days in all they have to offer, come rain or shine, and whilst I sometimes have to gee myself up and wrap up from head to toe like a mummy against the elements, I always feel better for that fresh air walk and a chance to notice what is going on quietly around me.

Of course my walks are the focal source of inspiration for my @soothedbynature Instagram account and I can really see the seasonal effect as I scroll down the page.

 

The colours change from bright blue skies, deep yellows and lush greens of Summer to the burnt oranges, sludge browns and golden corn colours of Autumn that in-turn morph into calming soft greys, black silhouettes and icy teals of winter and then finally the vibrant hues of purple crocuses, creamy lambs’ coats and violet bluebells push their way forwards to steal the limelight as we are head into Spring.

I love seeing the gradual change on my feed, a mindful collection, capturing all that is special about our seasons. Despite many of us finding fault with the British weather, we are so lucky to have the rich variety of the seasons and besides, what else would we talk about if it wasn’t for the daily conversations about the weather? My mother alone wouldn’t know what to do with herself!

 

As well as a daily inspiration for my photography, the seasons are a constant source for my writing and art projects too. So many of my short stories or description scenes are connected to my childhood and the catalogue of memories I have from growing up deeply ensconced in nature.

I was an only child and my Dad was a keen bird-watcher and animal lover. I’d been dangled off cliffs by my wrists (for fun?) on steep mountains in Scotland, had hiked in Wales to see puffins and dramatic coastlines and been mackerel fishing on small, sea-sick inducing boats in Cornwall.

I could spot a kestrel, then buzzard, then golden eagle a mile off and had rescued all sorts of wildlife, from mole, to hedgehog to seagull and even a baby rook that became a pet called ‘Rolo’ which when called would land on my arm from 10 houses away.

Looking back, it was all completely normal to me but in hindsight a story-book, magical childhood – it was like living in Dr Dolittle’s house.

Then more animals appeared, when, aged 7, my Dad bought a Pet Shop and our house turned into a mini-zoo as we bred pets for the shop. My best-friends were rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, budgies, cockateels and even rats (which are incredibly intelligent and friendly by the way).

My party trick at Christmas was to come into the house when all the family were there with a rat on each shoulder and one on my head and my Aunty would jump on to the table and scream the house down – fun times.

As I got older and more tom-boy like by the day, living in a street with only boys, (I had to play army and fight for my survival or be teased to death), I practically lived in our local woods, only coming home if I was hungry or soaked from falling into the river off the rope swing.

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My daughter reminds me so much of me when she climbs up trees and my son equally loves exploring and leaping between rocks

Those formative years, of living almost feral, tattooed a love of all things nature deep into my skin, scarred my knees as I clambered up tree trunks and filled my soul with belonging – I can’t explain it as it probably makes me seem pretty weird but when I’m in the middle of the woods now, it feels like home, my breathing slows and the trees feel like family – I know that sounds incredibly odd, maybe it’s because I was an only child and had a wild imagination that’s never left me but it’s the place where I feel the most inner calm.

The sea is equally inviting, I can sit, sheltered on dunes and stare for hours and hours at the rolling waves and expanse of the horizon. Again, I think this intense attraction stems from holidays on remote isles seeking out seabirds, crabs and fish in rock-pools and occasionally seals sunbathing on the rocks and of course my love of swimming – there’s nothing like that first sharp shock of a British sea but when you glide through the water and feel weightless and free, it’s just heaven. My ultimate dream when we’re older is to have a beach-hut or shack overlooking the shore, with a desk at the window for me to write, then just stare!

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My idea of heaven, as featured in this recent edition of Breathe Magazine, (@justbreathemagazine) , I could literally walk into this picture…

I remember the seasons so well in all of these places; the vast stretch of purple Scottish heather in the Spring bank holidays when we visited, my arms full of bluebells I would collect for my mum’s birthday in May and the tightness of sunburned cheeks and salted lips from crab fishing, perched high on a jetty, all day long in the Summer.

Our memories are the stuff of dreams, that warm feeling of nostalgia, and are a huge pool of inspiration for us to dive into and recreate through poetry, a painting or a sketch to name but a few.

If you’re like me, you’ll still remember them so vividly, in technicolor almost, you’ll feel the scratchiness of the dune grass and the warmth of the sand under your toes or remember the excitement of catching your first crab or collecting delicate shells in a bright red bucket.

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Some of my artwork inspired by memories of coastal holidays

There are stories to be told from experiences that are uniquely yours – at the very least to pass on to generation after generation, don’t keep them to yourself, they’re too precious not to share and be brought back to life as you regale them to your family or capture them in a painting. These memories are what sew your years together and enable you to deeply connect with others. We all have these gifts to share and pass along to your friends and family – everyone loves to hear a real, true story.

I could write forever reminiscing through my childhood, and one day I will pen it all down for my children so it doesn’t get lost when my memory fades but for now, with the newness of Spring popping up all around me, it’s time for that renewed energy and vigour to transfer into action! I have new Spring ideas for my art card collection and I want to revisit a Spring poem I wrote a while ago.

At this time of year I start to look around the house too and add new seasonal touches such as brighter cushions for the sofa and little vases of flowers dotted around and of course try to do some much-needed spring-de-cluttering too.

I hope the above has given you some ideas on how you can tap into your memories and feelings about certain seasons as another source of inspiration for your creative work. Please let me know in the comments if it has ignited a little spark and show me what you’ve got up to on Instagram by tagging me @thecuriouscreativeclub.

The birds and bulbs are getting busy, it’s time for us to stretch out of hibernation, flex those creative fingers and get busy too…

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

ps we are on with planning for the next ‘Playing with Writing’ creative writing workshop at the lovely Miriam’s Kitchen Table in the first week of April, date to be confirmed but please fill in the contact form if you are interested in this event, places are limited to 5 so that people get the most out of the workshop.

pps don’t forget to keep checking back to The Curious Cave for more creative resources as I update it regularly.

Getting creative with the kids

Hi everyone, it’s finally getting a little warmer out there, but with the half-term holidays this week, it’s always good to have a back up for those rainy days.

When I get desperate for the teenager to break her current obsession with the entire re-run of Friends or for my son to un-glue his fingers from his X box controller or playing his drums (very loudly), I summon them to the kitchen table.

I get eye-rolls and ‘Do we have to?’ initially, but then slowly they come around and start to give things a go. One art session was a real hit and it was all thanks to the delights of Brusho!

What on earth is Brusho I hear you ask? Well I didn’t have a clue either until we had a demo at Art Club, but basically, it’s little pots of rainbow delight, (that sounds like an Activia advert doesn’t it?) or more accurately fine, crystallised powder paint in very bright colours that can create so many different effects – it’s like magic dust!

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Brusho paint can be bought in separate pots or you can often get beginner sets like I did from good local art shops or online. The pots are like mini pepper pots and you pierce some holes in the top with a pin or nail

So, the idea is to get them to draw something out – a monster, some flowers, whatever takes their fancy really, let their imagination run riot, and of course you must have a go too!

There are several ways to use Brusho but the best way to use it with kids is actually to just let them go wild and sprinkle it (but put plenty of newspaper down). The colours are really strong so don’t use too much at first, they can always add more later.

Next is the really fun bit – you grab a misting bottle (if you’re professional) or in my case an emptied-out Mr Muscle bottle filled with water! You then spray on to the paper, from at least a 30cm away from the paper, lightly at first to see how the paint works with the water and then keep adding until you are happy with the effect you have got, but, and this is the crucial part, without going too far that the paint just runs into one massive splodge. This is trickier than it sounds but don’t worry if it goes wrong at first, it just takes a little practice.

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It’s great for posters too or book covers like my daughter did below, just use masking fluid to paint out the lettering of what you want to say, (like I did in the picture at the top of this post), let that dry and do the brusho effect over it, with plenty of paint around the lettering and then once everything is dry, gently rub off the masking fluid to reveal your wording.

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Once your painting is dry you can add in the finishing touches. These can be painted in as normal by just mixing some of the paint in a palette with water, for example the picture I did below, I painted on the leaves and the background to the vase below afterwards.

Brusho flowers

The alternative is to cover a piece of the page you want to go back in to work on afterwards and do the brusho effect first. I did this with the hedgehog below – I did all the leaves first, and then went in to paint the hedgehog after.

Brusho Hedgehog

So, go ahead shoot your water pistol / Mr Muscle bottle at your picture and see what you can create and hey presto you will have a truly unique piece of art.

Needle felting

Next up is something I’ve learned recently, and is better for older children, I’d say 8 plus to avoid any needle-stabbing accidents, (either to themselves or their siblings!).

For this you need the following materials – all pretty cheap and can be bought online or at your local craft shop.

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  • One square of thick sponge
  • A smaller square of 2-3mm thickness felt
  • Needle felting needles (these are different to normal needles as they are barbed on the stem)
  • A selection of different coloured merino wool

Place your piece of square felt in the centre of your square sponge, then select the wool you would like for the background of your picture, for example for a landscape view, so sky and earthy/ green colours – It can be thin or thick strands depending how textured or colourful you’d like it.

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Take your wool and lay out your sky for example, horizontally across the felt, the edges of the strands reaching at least the edge so that it covers the whole of the felt. You can use the needle to tease it into place or separate it out more.

Then comes the fun, stress-busting bit, using the needle, stab the wool into the felt, at a straight up angle, going through the sponge about 2/3rds through, but not hitting whatever you’ve got underneath, such as the table or a magazine, as this can snap the needle. Do this lots of times to effectively stick the wool to felt, securing it into place.

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Keep doing this working from top to bottom on your picture, adding different colours of wool across to create your scene. Every now and again, separate the felt from the sponge by just peeling it off.

Once you’re satisfied with the background, you can then add in the details by either using finer strands of wool to create shapes, such as the sail boat in the first picture and  the little sheep on my 2nd picture, by wrapping it round the bottom of the needle to get a circular shape, holding it in place with your finger and then stabbing it into place. You can also create trees using fine pieces of wool or if you’re good a sewing you can embroider these in either.

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The great thing about all needle felting is that if you make a mistake you can just pull that bit of wool out or move it with your needle.

Disclaimer: I can’t tell you how satisfying it is just stabbing away but just be careful as the needles are very sharp and if you stab fingers, it hurts!!

The effect you can create is brilliant though and you can make a really lovely picture in quite a short time. I think they’re great for children’s bedrooms too, I started this one for my son as he’s obsessed with turtles and it’s easy to make the 3-D effect of the shell by only securing the outer edge to create that dome effect.

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Today, when Jake had a go, we had one stabbed finger, but he soon learned how to do it! He created this eye picture, below for his bedroom, although I’m not sure I’d want to wake up to that looking at me!!

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So hopefully that’s given you a few fun ideas to keep the kids entertained and away from screens for a few hours if nothing less and hopefully you’ve had a go too and enjoyed just experimenting with something new.

If you do give this a try, I’d love you to share your pictures on Instagram and tag me in @thecuriouscreativeclub and let me know how you get on in the comments below too.

Have a great creative half-term!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps There are lots of tutorials on You Tube if you need any extra help, just search ‘Brusho’ and ‘Needle Felting’

The value of connecting kindness with curiosity

So, as I write this I’m still on a high from last week which was pretty nerve-wracking, exciting, mind-blowing and so fulfilling, all at the same time. What am I on about you may ask? Well, I bit the bullet and delivered my first ever creative writing workshop!

From a seed of an idea last year to putting it all together, doing the marketing, working out the tasks and making sure I had enough content to talk to people about, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process. But it was actually when I delivered it and watched the participants really go for it, in front of my eyes, that gave me the most satisfaction –  this was exactly what I’d hoped for!

They approached each task with gusto, some despite calling themselves ‘none-writers’ and what they produced left me lost for words (I know, unusual right?!).

All it had taken was a little direction and their unleashed imagination and hey presto they were on their way into a world of make believe or recalling childhood memories so vividly, I was right there with them.

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‘I loved it! Never thought I was good at / particularly enjoyed writing, but you made it a joy.’ Miriam

What I loved about it was how everyone’s style of writing was so different, so individual and unique and it gave me a real insight into their personalities, which is exactly what I think writing should do, be driven by the way you interpret the world and create that sense of awe to the listener / reader.

Anne Lamott, Author of Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life, puts it better than me:

‘All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least have some meaning for a moment. This is our goal as writers I think; to help others have this sense of wonder.’

I was just as inspired by their descriptive, emotional and vivid stories as they were by the tasks given to them, I even learned a new word: Fibonacci – A mathematical sequence of numbers recognised in nature!

The evening went so well, conversation flowed about writing and we enjoyed some delicious cake provided by the lovely Miriam’s Kitchen Table. My participant’s left ‘buzzing’, feeling proud of themselves, relishing having had an inspiring, creative few hours and understanding that they just needed that little nudge and some ideas to get going. I also gave them an 8-page work-book, a small sample of more tasks and tips I’ve learned along the way to further encourage their writing.

‘I enjoyed it all, every task was of benefit, I’m inspired to get started on my writing journey!’ Carol

I also left on a high, with a head full of  ideas (as per!) and couldn’t sleep that night wondering where I could take the workshop next and how it could grow. One idea that came to me was after listening to Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast episode last week interviewing Grace Graham, the Princes Trust Ambassador of the year.

Grace had had a really tough life growing up but is now in a good place and has set up her own business called Workspa, she spoke so eloquently about her struggles and how she’d overcome them, it reminded me of when I used to work with the Princes Trust when I worked at Leeds United. The Club supported the 12-week young person’s development programme, providing a room to be used under the South Stand and funding towards the programme, culminating in a celebration event at the end. It was brilliant to watch the group grow and become so much more confident by the end of the programme and develop a positive view of the future with skills to really help them find work.

It got me thinking about whether my writing workshop could be of any use within that programme, I’m going to contact them and see, because just seeing how proud my participants were at the end of those few hours, I’m sure that feel-good-factor could work really well when working with disadvantaged young people and help build their confidence.

Plus, it comes back to my guiding word of the year ‘Value’ – I want to add value wherever I can and as well as trying to make a small living for myself, I always want to give something back too – nothing feels as good as supporting other people, your community.

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This then got me thinking about something else, an idea for those creatives out there who may have been doing their craft for years, have built up all the skills and knowledge but are maybe too fearful to put their designs out there yet to sell, put pictures online or even admit to others what they do for fear of failure.

What if by teaching someone else your skill, it in-turn builds your confidence too?

What If that increased confidence then gives you the courage to take your creative passion further? How cool would that be? This could in-fact be a win-win for everyone!

I’m not a qualified creative writing teacher, I’ve never ‘taught’ properly, anything in my life, I just had a passion to share the benefits of writing.

I wanted to enable others to feel that pleasure and satisfaction of producing something, losing themselves in a story and I know that anybody can, despite who may have told them otherwise or how much their own fear is holding them back. Added to this I designed simple creative writing tasks, linking into different techniques, such as syncing more closely with your senses, that I thought could work as prompts to get the writing process going and luckily, they worked.

Yes, along the way, I’ve had doubts; Who the hell am I to teach creative writing?

I’m not an expert, and I’m really not, BUT I do have a 20-year-plus history of jobs that were deeply engorged in writing, and I had the diary-jotting, poetry-scrawling, story-telling and now novel-writing experience stacking up quietly in the background.

But above all else, I have this huge nagging voice to share all of this, spread the joy of taking part in creative activities and watch people thrive through living a more enriched life, from a place of kindness,…. of wanting to help.

This is why I set up the workshop in the first place, sinking in to my values for The Curious Creative Club of Engage, Encourage, Enrich and Empower which all ultimately equate to adding value.

As I got into the flow of the workshop, I found I did actually have the knowledge to delve into a deeper conversation. We discussed different writing triggers and tactics for inspiration and I identified the unique qualities of their writing, making them aware of the skills they had shown.

For example, Carol used great dialogue and humour to convey the characters in her story, Neil had the great imagination to link three pictures and build them very quickly into a story and Miriam’s descriptions in her writing brought about an instant emotional connection for us to what she was feeling. As the workshop went on, I could have talked about writing for hours, buoyed by their enthusiasm and I loved every second.

Unbeknown to me whilst writing this I’ve just discovered that it is Random Acts of Kindness day on February the 17th – another great reason to share your talent as I’ve been talking about above and as Jenny Alexander from Writing Magazine has suggested in her free-range writing article (pg 28 of the March Issue), also a good topic to use as a creative workout for your writing (see some of the prompts below this article if you would like to try this.)

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And speaking of random acts of kindness, I want to thank Miriam Leece, who took a chance and let me run the workshop at her gorgeous café. Miriam is a passionate advocate of all things creative too, having a deep love of art and wants to ignite that creative community spirit within her cafe;

‘Nothing makes me happier than seeing this place used as a setting where people can connect and grow.’

We need many people like Miriam in the world!

So, if you’ve ever thought of sharing your creative passions with other people, whether that be as a business idea or as a volunteer, I say ‘Do it!’, so long as you have done your homework and make sure you know your subject inside out; you’ll find it extremely rewarding.

Both routes are valuable and have different benefits, giving you a new direction for your creative interest, sharing your unique knowledge and boosting your own confidence along the way, but as a volunteer you’ll also get that added bonus pleasure of knowing you’ve supported someone in a different way, perhaps helped someone realise their creative dream without them even knowing it was in there? It doesn’t get much more satisfying than that in my book.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

I’m busy planning for my next  ‘Playing with Writing’ workshop, if you would like to find out more and register your interest, please click here.

Random Acts of Kindness Writing exercises: As written in the March 2019 Edition of Writing  Magazine:

Memoir Prompts:

Jot down a few ideas for the following, whatever comes to mind and remember to stick to the time limit to help you get going and not overthink it.

  • When did someone you didn’t know do or say something that helped?
  • When did someone you know well do something surprising that helped?
  • When did you do something to help a stranger?
  • When did you do something surprising to help someone you know?

Write the story of one of these (15 minutes)

Poetry Prompt:

Think about a time when you had to be cruel to be kind, for example putting a terminally ill pet to sleep or when you’ve had to step back and watch your child make their own mistakes to learn. There’s a wonderful poem about this called For Julia, In The Deep Water by John N Morris.

Your poem will be the story of someone who has to do something cruel to be kind. What do they have to do? Why is it the kindest thing? Write some notes about the person and their dilemma. Imagine you are this character and take 5 minutes to write the story in prose – just as it comes, in the first person, ‘I…’ Using prose warm-ups like this for writing poetry can help you feel your way into the voice of the poem.

Next, take 15 minutes to write your poem, choosing either first person as in the warm up or third person, he/she…’

Looking for the lightbulbs…

Hi there curious folks, this week I want to talk about lightbulbs and I don’t mean the kind that I’m still waiting for my husband to change (it’s been over 6 months, the spotlights are really high up I admit, but above my wardrobe, so each morning it’s like looking into a dark cave trying to decide what to wear!).

Anyway, back to the point, no, I’m talking about those delicious light bulb moments of inspiration that often strike at the craziest of times. For me it’s either 4am, bolt, wide-awake style with a sudden list that I then try really hard to remember in the morning or when I’m strolling in the woods with the dog, the rhythm of my pace, gearing up the idea’s factory.

These days there is enough space in my head for these moments to happen, but when I worked in a really busy role, it happened a lot less. So, what happens if those magic light bulb moments don’t happen? Should you just give up, or should we go in search of divine inspiration?

Well you know what my answer will be! To be honest there are so many sources of inspiration out there now, there really is no excuse –  it’s become so much easier to find them and make them work for you.

For example, take the book I’m reading currently ‘Conscious Creativity’ by Instagram sensation @5ftinf, Philippa Stanton, who recommends looking deep into your own personal traits to become aware of your own triggers.

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She asks the questions that we probably never really ask ourselves to identify these creative triggers and it’s an interesting exercise to work out what kind of creative person you are.

She asks questions like, are you a words person, do you consider yourself to be mathematical, do you accumulate, collect, or are you a minimalist, to name but a few.

This is especially useful for those people who really want to start a creative hobby but have no idea where to start, she then moves on to look at your own aesthetic and creative preferences such as what kind of designs appeal to you, modern or traditional, do you prefer sitting in dark or light spaces, do you feel drawn to textiles?

Again, it’s a really interesting exercise to just focus the mind on what you really enjoy doing creatively.

In my experience, one creative outlet has led to another and now I have a trio of interests that actually, accidentally, work really well together.

My first interest was writing, that stemmed from childhood and a wild imagination, see Writing for my history as to how all that began. Next came Art, probably encouraged by a very artistic dad who used to draw birds and animals regularly and then finally as an adult I got into photography.

Quite often now, I will take a photo for my @soothedbynature Instagram account, which I then need to caption, and rather just writing anything, I use it as a mini-writing exercise of description, thinking carefully about the words I choose so that the story befits the image and the feeling that I’m trying to convey to my followers.

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 I have a thing about hogs weed, their shape really appeals to me!

Later, I might then use that photo to use in a painting or drawing – I’m not very good at just imagining a painting in my head, I need something to refer to and this way I always have a huge bank to choose from! Or I may collect something from a walk in the woods, pine-cones, acorns, leaves and feathers for example to then create a display at home to draw.

When I did my first short-story for the Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blog, it was a photo of the fields down to the wood, that is overlooked by a bungalow, that inspired the story as I often wondered if the people in that house sat at the window watching walkers tramp down to the woods.

It can be even something as simple as naming a painting with a play on words, I like to give them a memorable name that is unique rather than just stating what it is, for example the one below is called ‘Autumn leaves a rainbow’, playing on the word leaves, it’s just yet another small way you can work that creative muscle.

Autumn leaves painting

Another example of this is a painting I bought at Staithes Art Festival last year, not only did I love the painting, but it was its title that made me love it even more and instinctively buy it.

Named ‘The Habit’, because the painting was of a hare crossed with a rabbit, it was perfect for my office at a time when I was trying to create space and time in my day to make my writing more of a habit. I knew by looking at that picture it would keep that at the forefront of my mind.

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‘The habit’ by the fab artist Daub at www.daubart.com

This brings me on to another area on inspiration. I’m very much the kind of person who needs sources of inspiration throughout my home, I need my home to be interesting, a feast for the eyes that feeds my soul too. When typography pieces of art became the trend around 5 years ago, it made me very happy being a ‘words’ person! However, I try not to go overboard and only choose ones that truly mean something to me or are a bit more unique.

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Added to this, one thing I’ve discovered is that I’m really drawn to texture in a big way and colour too. I’ve attributed this to the love of my walks, crumbling dry-stone walls, old wrinkly trees, the smooth waters of reservoirs, dramatic sunset skies and the intricate patterns of leaves or butterflies’ wings; they all really appeal to the way my brain works!

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Just one of my many rugged wall shots, accompanied with a sunrise and a sprinkle of snow

I think it also stems from living in a barn with a huge brick fireplace, chunky beams and a stone kitchen floor, interspersed with soft fur throws, strings of lights, decorations and fluffy cushions – the more rugged, contrasting and quirky the better for me and the cosier I feel.

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Birds and words, what’s not to love?

Much to my family’s distress, (mainly due to the number of them rather than they are that bad!), I also put up my paintings around the house, and not just the ones that are the best of my collection. This is purely to remind me of how far I’ve come and if ever self-doubt kicks in, I can see how I got from there to here and that I will (hopefully!) continue to improve.

This love of textures transfers to my photography and my art pieces, you’ll see a number of rugged Yorkshire walls on my feed and different art techniques, learned mainly from the great artist Pippa Ashworth, included in my paintings, an example of which is below.

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External to my home environment, as well as my walks, fashion and trends also inspire me. I love seeing the new collections come out and this year I’m going to try and experiment with my art to include some of these new trends relating to pattern and colour.

This year the pantone colour of the year is ‘Living Coral’ and if past years are anything to go by, you’ll see this colour starting to translate into fashion pieces, interiors, stationery and gifts throughout the year.

I listened to a great podcast on this – ‘Elevate Your Curiosity’ episode 20 by Joanne Griffin from @arnoldandbird interviewing Elizabeth Stiles, a fashion retail consultant, who talked about how the colour ‘living coral’ will translate into the retail space and how it links in with bigger issues such as climate change.

It’s a really interesting concept to see how the simple choice of a new on-trend pantone colour can actually have a big impact on what we then see in shops.

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Living coral and animal print – two of the biggest trends this spring season

Next, there’s the online world and a huge source of inspiration to be found on platforms such as Blogs, Podcasts, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, although I’d say when it comes to creativity, Instagram is by far the best.

The sheer numbers of creative people out there on Insta is a bit mind-blowing, but if you narrow down your searches to what you are most interested in it is more manageable.

I’ve learned so much from other creatives out there online I wouldn’t know where to begin but the thing I like most is that it is a more friendly and supportive space, with people willing to give you help and advice – just try not to get too addicted or into comparison syndrome – everyone started at the beginning, just like you.

Podcasts are also a brilliant resource to just listen to the many experts out there whilst you’re doing some mundane task such as driving the kids about or washing up. This totally appeals to me as I feel like I’m constantly learning, and building up that knowledge to help me along my creative journey.

Now finally on to the best and most important source of inspiration for me, personally, are the people that I surround myself with, the human faces and interactions and in particular the people I call my creative tribe.

Without becoming a member of my local Art Group there is no way I would have had the knowledge or courage to try the many different art techniques I didn’t even know existed.

This simple, small village, art group has opened up a whole new artistic world and it’s literally like going to Charlie’s chocolate factory each week for me as I stare in wonder at the other artists ridiculous talent or watch one of the professional artists demos and think how on earth do they make it look so easy?

Then there’s the writing group I’ve also joined where Gale, an ex-creative writing teacher sets us really interesting writing tasks that spark the imagination, leaving us scribbling furiously away and usually coming up with at least the beginnings of a short story. Again, I’m amongst like-minded, supportive people and there’s nothing more encouraging or inspiring than that.

If there is one thing to take away from this piece it would be that, people inspire people and when you are part of a small, colourful, creative community it is so much easier and less-scary to pursue that creative dream.

I hope these ideas have encouraged you to go in search of inspiration and chase whole-heartedly the thing you love and are desperate to start doing more of. I’d really appreciate your comments if this has ignited a fire in your belly!

Now, I just need to figure out how to inspire the hubs to change those damn lightbulbs, his trigger is all things mathematical and food, so maybe if I say ladder + lightbulbs = a big bag of dark chocolate pretzels?…

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

As always, The Curious Cave is my long list of resources and inspiration that includes the podcasts, books and insta accounts I’ve talked about above.

And if you live local to me (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire), you can check out the first workshop I’m holding, ‘Playing with Writing’ this coming Thursdsay (Feb 7th), please contact me asap if you are interested as there are only a few places left, thank you.