Welcome! Before you get comfortable - I have moved! Please come over to my new place, Do What You Love

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Flora Bowley to teach at Do What You Love retreat in England!

I am absoutely thrilled to share the news that American painter Flora Bowley will be teaching a three-day workshop at the Do What You Love art and creative enterprise retreat in Yorkshire, England next May!

(Image: Tyson Robichaud)

Flora's painting style is gorgeously unique, bursting with colour and beauty, and she is an incredibly gifted teacher.  The one day class I took with Flora a while back was one of the most freeing days of painting I have ever experienced.  So you can imagine how exciting it is that Flora will be travelling to Europe specially for this workshop, where participants can sink into three days of indulgent creating with this wonderful free spirit. 

In "Bloom True - wild and delicious painting with Flora Bowley", the class will explore a whole new way of painting from a space of freedom, non-judgment and experimentation. This process is about loosening up, letting go of expectations, having fun and allowing paintings to unfold naturally. The class will paint on giant canvasses, with access to acres of stunning countryside for inspiration and outdoor classroom space.

If you are able to join us, I can promise you will never look at painting the same way again.

'Freed' by Flora Bowley, acrylic on canvas 36" x 36"

As part of the retreat's creative enterprise sessions, Flora will also share some of her experience in making it as an internationally-acclaimed professional painter, who has licenced some of her work with Anahata Katkin's 'Papaya!'.

'Thirty-six' by Flora Bowley, acrylic on canvas, 36" x 36"

Flora lives and works full-time as a painter in Portland, OR, where she is inspired by magical forests, abundant gardens and a thriving community of fellow artists. Flora’s love for life and spontaneous nature are clearly visible in her vibrant, easily recognizable paintings. Throughout the year, Flora enjoys travelling, teaching workshops and painting in colorful locations around the world.

More information will be available on the Do What You Love retreat website to be launched in early January.   This retreat will be cosy and intimate – small enough for everyone to get to know everyone - so places are strictly limited. Registration will formally launch with the new site in early January, but if you want to be the first to know about it (and get in on the early bird discount), sign up for the new Do What You Love newsletter up on the right hand side of this post. 

Internationally-renowned book artist Rachel Hazell and award-winning mixed-media artist Priscilla Jones will also be teaching at the retreat.  For more info see here

Monday, 29 November 2010

And then there was snow...

We haven't had snow like this in England in November as long as I can remember.  Down to minus 20 in some places and eight inches of snow expected in the next 24 hours. 

I know it is nothing like you get in other parts of the world, but somehow snow seems to always take us by surprise here.  On the news they keep talking about the travel chaos everywhere, but I am secretly happy about the quiet magic that falls over the countryside when snow comes. 

We shuffled downstairs early this morning, before the rest of the world woke up, and sat with steaming mugs of tea looking out over the whiteness.

View from my studio early this morning

View from my attic office skylight

Our little garden

What's the weather like where you are today?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Countdown to Christmas #3: The magic of baubles

I love baubles.  When I was little my dad would get down the boxes of christmas decorations and we would throw everything on the tree - the paper chains we made in school, the balding angel we called 'Arthur Scargill', the baby's first Christmas bauble my little brother (now in his 20s) had when he was a few months old, the gingerbread stars we had just cooked up in the kitchen.  It didn't matter what colour anything was, as long as it sparkled.

When it came to buying decorations for my own place I decided to do away with the (lovely) haphazard craziness and try out a colour scheme instead.  Every year I try to find a new bauble for the collection, and find myself captivated by the magical glass creations I have brought back from New York, Tokyo, Paris and Rome.  I love it that we are now building our own story into our tree. 

A couple of years ago my man and I went to Venice and visited a glassblowing factory where big burly Italian men blew the most exquisite, delicate decorations. 

Window of glassblowing factory in Murano, Italy

This year I am thinking about silver and white for the tree, with some turquoisy-green here and there.  What about you?  Do you have a favourite colour scheme for your tree, or do you prefer the haphazard approach?  And do you have a favourite decoration which makes you smile each time you unpack it from the box?


This year I have created some hand-made decorations to give to others.  You can see a step-by-step how-to here

More Countdown to Christmas posts here 

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Finally... announcing my new business venture!

Finally, it’s time to share the new venture I have been secretly working on all these months, and I am so excited I might just burst.

But first the story of how it came about…Nearly a year ago, I jumped on a plane and travelled over 5000 miles to California, on my own, to join an art retreat. I remember sitting in my seat as the air stewardess did her demonstration, thinking “What are you doing flying half way round the world… to paint? ARE YOU CRAZY WOMAN?”

It had all started a short while before, when I stumbled across Kelly Rae Roberts’ book Taking Flight, and something in it spoke to me. The bit about listening to the whispers in your heart. You know, the ones that keep nudging you towards a more creative life. I felt like she was talking to me, and I thought “I wish I could meet this woman in person.” I found myself sat at my computer looking at her website and saw that she was teaching at an art retreat in San Jose, and I knew I had to go (although I didn’t even know where exactly San Jose was).

At the time, this was actually quite ridiculous. I was busy, it was going to cost me time and money, and I didn’t know a soul (not to mention having not painted more than three times in the previous year).

I was scared it would be full of people who knew what they were doing, and knew each other, and that I’d be the faker at the back wondering what on earth I was doing. But I booked it anyway, and went.

And it was perhaps the single most important thing I have done for myself in years.

I found a whole new community of incredible women who have since become friends, confidantes and supporters of my creative dreams. I found a deeply hidden love of creating that had been trying to get out for years.

It literally changed everything.

I went home with one message to myself. Do what you love.

And ever since I have been plotting and planning, listening and learning, exploring and dreaming, with this as my mantra.

 Piece by piece I turned my business idea into a business plan and then into a real company. I put everything I have learned out in the corporate world into something for the creative world.  I had some incredible support along the way, from my mentor and from some amazing members of this creative community (you know who you are).  I can never thank them enough. Something about the retreat experience had captivated me. I had seen so many women come alive to their own creativity and talent, and the choices they wanted to make in their lives. And I recognised two things.

Firstly, there was nothing like it in Europe, where ‘art holidays’ tend to be all about learning traditional techniques, rather than the rich and deep creative and emotional experience of the US-style retreat (with all those wonderful American women!)

Secondly, I noticed that the space created by 'retreating' somehow cracked open old trunks of buried dreams about making money from creativity. But there was no way to capture this, build on the ideas, get practical advice from people who had made a success of creative business, and put the wheels in motion to realise those dreams. And so my business was born.

Drum roll please…

The first Do What You Love art and creative enterprise retreat will take place in a stunning luxury venue hidden deep in the English countryside from May 11-15 2011.

As the world’s first retreat to mix indulgent art workshops and business sessions with successful creative entrepreneurs in a luxury venue in an area of outstanding natural beauty, it will be unlike anything else anywhere.

If you join us I can promise it will be a magical experience, and it might just be the most important investment you ever make in yourself and your creative business.

Class update:  the retreat's teachers have now been announced!  The line up is: American painter Flora Bowley, British book artist Rachel Hazell and British mixed media artist Priscilla Jones. Which one will you choose?


This retreat will be cosy and intimate – small enough for everyone to get to know everyone - so places are strictly limited. Registration will formally launch in early January (as part of a new website – so excited!), but if you want to be the first to know about it (and get in on the early bird discount), sign up for the new Do What You Love newsletter (on the right hand side).

I hope you will share this journey with me.

Look what landed on my doorstep!

This lovely quirky postcard from my Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap partner Wendy of Inner Grafitti arrived from the USA yesterday.  The theme of this swap was 'home' and Wendy interpreted this in a very original way, and created this card using ribbon, stitch, vellum, stamping, ephemera and ink, with vintage American stamps on the back.  I love it - thanks Wendy! 

Has your postcard arrived yet?  If not please let me know.  If you haven't posted yours yet please do get it sent out asap as I am going to do a round up post early next week, highlighting some of the gorgeousness created and shared around the world by these lovely people.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Is it just me or is the year rushing past?

I need to breathe. 
To take a moment to stop, and just be.
To listen and reflect a bit before leaping ahead.

There are some huge things happening in my life in the next few weeks, not least the culmination of a project I have been working on for over a year, the launch of my new creative business venture (more very shortly I promise!) and Christmas in our new home.

It is all incredibly exciting, but also stressful.  Scary even (except for the Christmas bit!)

I have a to-do list a mile long.
I cannot see the floor in my studio for the mess.
And I really don't want December to come and go without taking time to reflect on the incredible year that will soon be coming to a close. 

So I'm going to stop, just for a while. 
To breathe a little. 
And maybe even drop my to-do list in the bin and see what happens...  I dare me...

How about you?  Has the year flown past for you too?  How will you make sure you find time to look back over the past year before December has come and gone?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Countdown to Christmas #2: Making tree decorations

Christmas is going to be very special this year, as our first one in our new house.  As part of Louise's ornament swap, I thought I would make some vintage-style hanging tree decorations to share. 

Here's what I made and how I made them, inspired by an idea in Ideal Home.  They are easy (and cheap) to make and look sweet hanging up. 

Step 1: Choose a variety of coordinating decorative papers and cut them into 8cm x 4cm strips (you will need six pieces for each decoration)

Step 2: Fold each piece in half lengthways, and then fold the corners inwards (with the folded edge along the bottom)

Step 3: Fold each piece in half so the folded corners are together

Step 4: Insert the points of one piece into the 'pockets' of another (you should have a double-sided pocket next to the folded corners)

Step 5:  Continue doing this to build up a circle

Step 6: Tie several finished circles together with twine or ribbon, fix with a brad and hang on your tree...

What are you hanging on your tree this year?

More Countdown to Christmas posts here

Friday, 19 November 2010

Do What You Love interview: Juliette Crane (with my first podcast!)

I am delighted to bring you this Do What You Love interview with mixed media artist Juliette Crane

"autumn wind"

Exactly one year ago tomorrow Juliette had her first showing at a local library. One year on and she has fans all over the world, and is about to be published in Somerset Studio. If you want to know how she has done this in such a short space of time, you need to listen to this interview!

"sing your song" (I have this one in my studio)

Juliette also talks about her process, her gorgeous whimsical style, and the importance of creating in her life. Dive in and enjoy!

"fresh from the ocean"

Click here to listen (it is about 25 minutes long):      

"she stands out"

See more of Juliette's work on her website, her Flickr page and in her etsy shop, or connect with Juliette on her blog, facebook or twitter

"beauty in prayer"

Thank you so much Juliette for sharing your story so openly.

NB: As my first audio interview I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing (apologies if you can tell that by the editing), but it was so interesting listening to Juliette’s story of how her creative business has just exploded over the past year, and I hope you will find it inspiring too.  Thank you so much to Nelly for the suggestion to be brave and try audio, it was fun!

All images courtesy of Juliette Crane

Here are links to some of the resources mentioned in the interview:
Flourish creative business development class with Stephanie Fizer
Flying Lessons creative business class with Kelly Rae Roberts (affiliate link)
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (in the Do What You Love amazon shop)
Somerset Studio magazine
The rights-free music used in the audio is courtesy of danosongs


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Taking to the streets in the name of art

Steaming cappucinos, yards of bunting, warm welcomes, gorgeous art by emerging artists and the chance to poke around people's houses - what's not to love about a local arts trail? 

I discovered some gems on the inaugural Headingley Arts Trail this week, not least the vibrant paintings of Julia Keates, inspired by her travels across the world.  Here are some of her works on display in her lovely home, where she paints in her large attic studio.

Have you discovered any local artists near you lately?

Friday, 12 November 2010

What’s in a blog name?

Tell me, why did you give your blog the name that you did? I am often fascinated by blog names, and wonder whether there is a story behind them, or whether they just popped into the writer’s head when they were creating their new space. Here are a few names I love:

Pilgrim of the Moon
There is a sweet love story behind this name but you’ll have to ask Judit if you want to know about it. I find this name is really dreamy.

Shin Shin
The name means ‘honest heart’ in Japanese, and Maki describes her blog as ‘little notes to my honest heart’.

Nectar and Light
Home of polaroid photographer Jen Altman, to me this name evokes a summer day – sugary sweetness and sunshine

Tangled Sky Studio
I used to love playing that game where you try to find pictures in the clouds, and this makes me think of a sky tumbling with clouds

Doorways Traveler
The title of Lisa Field-Elliot's gorgeous photography blog suggests possibility, adventure, the unknown…

My own blog title ‘Do What You Love’ came from a deep belief that the world would be a better place if more people were doing what they love. More time spent on things that make you feel alive, connected, expressive and happy can only enhance the experience others have when they interact with you out in the world. Through this blog I wanted to give myself a space, and a kind of accountability, to do what I love (creating, having adventures, sharing stories) and put it out in the world.

How about you? What is your blog name and where did it come from?  What other blog names do you love?

Sheltering from the wind

It's blowing a gale over here. 
Winds of 90 mph in places, our bay tree was sent flying last night. 
 As the wind whips through the eaves and round the house, I am holed up in my attic office working away on my new creative business venture which I will share with you here very soon.  
So very exciting - I hope you will be inspired to get involved!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

And the giveaway winners are... (& 100th post!)

The lucky winners of the

Catherine (Sailor Girl Jewelry)
Jenny (Love and Peas)
Kate (Trestle and Bunting)
Kylie (One Red Fox)
Tiffin (Linwood Avenue)
TJ (Studio Mailbox)

Congratulations ladies, your set of three postcards, handmade with love by me using Jessica Swift's gorgeous new fabric, are on their way to you right now.

Have you all finished your postcards?  Please get them sent off in the next week if you haven't already.  When you receive one in the post, don't forget to share it in the Flickr group.

I wonder what kind of loveliness is putting a smile on postmen and postladies as the postcards fly around the world...


This is my 100th post, posted at 10:11 on 10/11/10!  When I started this blog just nine months ago I had no idea how much I would grow to love this space, and all the people I have connected with through it.  Thank you for making it so special


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

On creative validation

My first dart!

Why does it matter what other people think of what we create? 

We must care, because we post it on our blogs, show it in exhibitions, publish it in books. 

I'm not talking about when something is intended for selling, but rather when we make something for ourselves, because we feel like it, because it needed to be made, (or because sometimes it seems to make itself), why then do we care what people think?

Recently I have been going to a sewing class at a great little studio/gallery/cafe near my house.  I wanted to learn how to use my sewing machine properly, and maybe even make something I could wear.  And this skirt was the result. 

I am slightly in awe of the fact that it was actually quite easy to make something which fits me absolutely perfectly, and wonder what I could have made all those years it didn't even cross my mind to try. 

But the wierdest bit of it all was when I sewed in my first zip, and my teacher described the sewing as 'beautiful', I think I actually blushed.  I am 33 years old.  Why do I care if someone thinks I sewed a zip in beautifully?  I don't know.  But I did.  It made me feel ridiculously proud of my little skirt.  And it made me want to make more things, and make them even better. 

So maybe sometimes it is good to get a little validation, especially when tackling something new, or something that you used to be afraid of.

What about you?  Do you care about what people think of what you create?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap - how is your postcard coming along?

Have you made any progress?  Have you sent your postcard off already?  Here is a sneak peak at mine, which I finished yesterday:

It's going to be winging its way to the USA shortly - will it land on your doorstep I wonder?

Everyone who signed up to participate should have received an email from me with details of where to send your postcard.  If you haven't received one yet please let me know.

Please try and get your postcard in the post next week so we can all start admiring the lovely creations as they fall through our letterboxes and pop up in the Flickr group  (PS there are a couple there already, why not take a look!)

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Chicago city magic

Having fun with my photos from Chicago,
the last stop on my recent US adventure. 
They aren't my normal style. What do you think?

The top two are of Anish Kapoor's amazing sculpture 'Cloud Gate' in Millennium Park. The third is of a smaller sculpture in the same park ('Sacred Rock', part of a special exhibition by contemporary Chinese artists), and the last picture was taken at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

If you like any of them, I'd be interested to know which and why...

More posts from my recent US adventures:

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