So here I am, just over a week into my new life, and as ever, my instinct is to write it all out… on the internet. Because a fourteen year habit is hard to break!
I have been bullet journalling and proper journalling, but nothing quite hits the spot like a blog post. Or a cheeseless pizza.
Time is precious
And never more so than being able to sleep and wake on my own schedule. I realised a long time ago that, alongside loving the various challenges of being an entrepreneur, a massive part of my drive to work for myself is that I just don’t get on well with the standard times that society deems acceptable. For waking, for eating, for living, working and sleeping, I do everything later than I’m supposed to, and it drives everyone around me absolutely nuts.
And oh, it is BY FAR the most satisfying part of this new journey so far. I wake up (not even that late, but past the point at which I’ve always had to be at a day job desk) and I’m NOT TIRED – I’m raring to go. I don’t have to drag myself through a shower solely to wake up enough to pass as a functioning human, but instead can have an invigorating shower with my own essential oil mixes, I can dye or deep condition my hair, and I don’t nearly break my ankle trying to get out in a hurry so I’m not late for work.
It. Is. Bliss.
Grief can make me have misdirected meltdowns
I feel like this is probably something I should already know, or certainly should have learned in the past seventeen months. But apparently I am a stubborn one (who knew?!).
On Tuesday Mum and I went to the crematorium to finalise our choice of final resting place for Dad’s ashes. When we first visited, a helicopter flew over, and it felt absolutely like the right place. But actually choosing the niche where his ashes, and later on Mum’s, will stay for always was rather more emotionally exhausting than I’d anticipated.
So of course just before we went, I had a total panic about all things business and life, and only after I got home did I realise that all of that was simply grief, redirected somewhere which was easier to get a handle on.
I still can’t get my head around Dad not being here, it seems impossible that he’s never seen my studio, and I can’t believe that I’m doing this Massive Life Thing without him. It’s the weirdest experience. I miss him.
We had a sneaky BBQ which I think he’d rather like… I’m also eyeing up a pizza oven to go on it, which he’d definitely have liked.
Mum is of course around, and wonderfully supportive even through her own grief – I’ve no idea what we would have done without each other.
is my happy place. Almost exactly a year ago I went to Open Studios with Rhi, and it felt like such a good place to be. Though I could never have dreamed that just a year later I’d be established there and able to spend as much time as I want in my studio!
I hopped briefly in and out during the first whirlwind week, but today was the first time I got to actually go and work there – shooting new Ink Drops selections ready for tomorrow’s strategy/wrapping/Ink Drops pasta session with Anna.
And it just felt so strongly like exactly where I was always meant to be, doing what I was always meant to be doing.
It’s a while since I’ve felt this contentment, and sense of rightness in what I’m doing – for much of the past few years, even while building my beloved businesses, I’ve battled anxiety, feelings of desperation & being trapped in a 9-5, and of course, latterly, grief.
So although grief is absolutely still part of me, I am also revelling in feeling like I’ve made the best possible decision. And I reckon Dad would approve of that.
Life with cats
Oh, my kitteny cats. They are never predictable, are they? Clover had a fright five or so weeks back and has been behaving very strangely ever since. The insane heat we’ve had didn’t help matters, as it was then hard to tell if she was refusing to go outside from fear, or just because it was too damn hot.
She had her final vet visit yesterday and was given a definite diagnosis of stress – so nothing medical underlying her behaviour, which is what I was fretting about. Poor little fluff had made it very obvious all was not well in her kitteny world, so I was worrying about what else might be happening under the surface.
Luna is as cheeky as ever, and I think all three of us are loving me being home more – I can pop in and out much more calmly than before, I love not having to rush out first thing in the morning every day, so I get mid-morning cuddles when I’m here, and apart from their breakfast being later, they certainly seem to be enjoying the extra attention!
Reading vs TV vs Netflix
I’ve realised (though it is more of an affirmation of something I’ve known a long time), I’m really not a film or TV person.
Giving up TV, when working full time, to have more time to work on my businesses, was easy. I haven’t had a TV licence now for I think four years, and I don’t miss it at all. I rarely even watch DVDs, and my TV set is gathering dust in my spare room.
I do go through small phases on Netflix, mainly of kids’ programmes – I worked my way through Ever After High, My Little Pony, H2O Just Add Water and Mako Mermaids, and am now most of the way through Spirit: Riding Free (which was maybe a less wise choice as while I love it, it’s about a girl and her Dad on the Wild West frontier and it makes me cry more often than an animated kids’ series probably should…).
But reading – I can’t give it up. I have temporarily switched back to reading things which are useful to one business or another, or to my self development – Women who run with the wolves, a proof copy of the new bullet journal book, and an incredible take on boudoir photography.
But I literally can’t exist without the written word – it’s part of my DNA, and without it I am sad and not quite whole. Much like I am when I don’t pick my camera up for too long, but without the attendant creative angst!
Friends are magical
And Mum, of course! I worried a little that I would lose some of my social circle, and by extension some of my social skills, by changing to a life where I am primarily on my own. I live alone, I work in my studio alone and as I’ve already established, my body clock isn’t very normal!
So far, I’ve been proved completely wrong. Which is good! I know I have worked exceptionally hard to make and maintain my friendships, but I am also exceptionally lucky to have the people I do in my life.
this little guy was by the studios today. he’s not representative of my friends, but he’s cute and I figured it was easier than trying to tag the many people who have been instrumental and wonderful lately <3
The studio was also definitely the right decision – with 30-odd artists also based there, there’s always someone to chat to as you refill the kettle, and it’s wonderful to get an insight into other people’s creative processes.
And I managed to sneak to see Julia and Odette before they move to Ireland – I have no idea when I will get over there, but I am SO excited for their new life too! In a nice ironic twist, I chose one of the hottest days of the year to go – we had a lovely actual day, but the train home was in rush hour (because Clovie needs her routine!), lacked air conditioning, was packed with people due to cancellations and was held for 40 minutes outside Colchester station. Which gave me a nice reminder (not that I needed one) of why I’d very much prefer never to work in London again for more than a day or two at a time!
Talking of temperatures…
The heatwave has been insane. I have been more floppy and lethargic than normal, the cats keep asking me to turn the heating down and I’ve been devising ever more creative ways to wear minimal clothing without getting arrested.
When we had the first downpour I ran out in it, I’ve never been so pleased to see rain in my life. To the right is my happy, soaked-to-the-skin self after around 90 seconds outdoors.
Today has been intermittently thundery with massive downpours and sun in between – only at half nine am I now starting to feel a little cold at the end of my fingers… but even that’s a novelty after the weeks we’ve had!
(to put that into perspective, it’s currently 18 degrees in my living room, as I type this at my bureau (because vintage + tech FTW!). For the last… six or seven weeks, it’s not dropped below 25 degrees downstairs at any point. Upstairs has been 29-32 constantly, even with windows open.)
And on that note, I shall go and find some photos to break up my ramblings, and then find some food and head for bed 🙂
P.S. Looking for the businesses I keep mentioning?
Photography with soul for your gorgeous creative business (plus a blog & podcast for multipods, side hustlers and solopreneurs everywhere) – carlawatkins.com
Delightful stationery, dropped through your letterbox – who doesn’t love new stationery? – inkdrops.co.uk
Be a mermaid at mermaiding.co.uk
Lifestyle & pet photography lives at carlawatkinsphotography.com
Five and a half years ago, I wrote about leaving London for a new kind of life. More time, more space, no commuting… apologies if the link won’t work, my redirects are misbehaving and it’s much too sunny a day to sit and fix code!
And now here I am on the precipice of another new life – the one I have sought since I was old enough to know what adult life looked like, the one I have worked towards every day of the last eight or nine years.
I handed my notice in last week and from 1st August this year, I will be fully self employed.
I should probably be terrified. Instead I know with a deep certainty that this was the right time for this decision, that it is a million percent the right decision, and I am a strange mix of utterly calm and completely overexcited.
At work I have been described as “gleeful” as I’ve been imparting the news – of course there’s a sadness at leaving people behind, it’s always the people that make the job. Though hopefully I won’t lose too many of them with the change. And I am very good at what I do, and am proud of what I have achieved during my years at Essex.
But this… this freedom to pursue my own dreams, to live my own rhythm, to be answerable to nobody but myself… to fit my work around my enchantment & joy, so I am living my fullest & best life… it’s what I’ve craved since I knew how adulthood worked.
I have never understood the 9-5 life, and the way that the human race has created a rat race for themselves, wanting ever more money & power for no discernible reason. I’ve seen so many people sell their souls to their employers, and altogether too many people stretch to buy the home of their dreams, and then spend hardly any time in it, because they are stuck at work earning the money to pay for the home… which they never see. It is a conundrum I have tried and failed to get my head around.
And ultimately, this is what I have always wanted. A chance to give my all to my businesses and my life, instead of using the best of myself on a job and then only having the dregs of my energy for the things that are most important to me.
My time in “proper” jobs has taught me huge amounts about myself, who I am, how I work, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, what I will & won’t tolerate, and a million more small ways to know myself. In the last five years I’ve also discovered my love for the solo life, how to tackle my anxiety, what my natural waking & sleeping rhythm is (it’s nothing like what the general world expects which would explain a lot!), how to control most of my allergies, and I am learning how to live without Dad, though this is by far the hardest lesson.
I know it will involve some sacrifice, and I know it will involve harder work than I’ve ever put into a day job.
But as I stand on this precipice, I cannot wait for the end of July. and the leap into something I have loved from afar for so long. My quartet of businesses & my blog bring me joy on a deep level – I am already settling into giving them more of a boost, as they will no longer be side hustles, but the main part of my livelihood.
I am most looking forward to the freedom to design my days as I please, to wake & sleep as my body tells me, and not feeling so goddamn exhausted all the time. To be able to lose myself in creation and not have to put it aside before I am ready, because of a schedule created by someone else. And to changing other people’s lives & businesses, in small but significant ways, through my photography and my mermaid tails, and the connection of handwritten letters.
And on that note, I am off to sit in the garden with my beloved kitteny cats and enjoy the May sunshine!
You know when you read something, and it triggers you to look up something else, and then you find a video about it, and then you’re off, down the internet rabbit hole, finding knowledge you didn’t know you were missing, and discovering endless wonders?
Well, today that happened to me. With the ridiculousness that is GDPR I have been keeping a closer than usual eye on my inbox, and what caught me today was Giffords Circus.
From their new video:
to discovering that Nell who owns it has written a book, actually more than one book, which are obviously now at the top of my wishlist – how could I and my showgirl alter ego Lotta possibly resist resist a book subtitled “The secret life of a circus girl”?!
Then another book, by Clover Stroud, was suggested, and I was so intrigued by the similarities that I searched to see if I could find the connection. It turns out they are sisters, and their other sister is Emma Bridgewater. Yes, that Emma Bridgewater.
From there I found myself reading an unexpected article about loss and running a business, and I have approximately eight more tabs open that I am excited to read! I can also feel my long-held love for the circus coming to the surface… I suspect a new obsession is coming…
Today’s lunchtime sojourn down the rabbit hole was a glorious and thought-inducing one. I wonder what will be next?
More Giffords/Emma links for you:
- Life & lunch in the big top with Giffords Circus
- Nell Gifford on Instagram
- Giffords Circus review in Tatler
- A peek into Nell’s home
- A wonderful interview with Clover Stroud
You can book tickets to see Giffords Circus, if you are lucky enough to be nearby – they run until 30th September and all details can be found at this year’s tour site, My Beautiful Circus.
It’s been a while… 2018 is turning out to be the weirdest year of my life so far, I think. Up, down, sideways – you name it, I’ve felt it. And it’s only April!
Though also nearly May, which has utterly confused me as in my head it’s still last June. And if last May you’d told me that in a year’s time, I’d be coming to our annual few days away after a whole weekend shooting in my own studio I think I’d have laughed in your face at the impossibility of it all.
Which just goes to show that sometimes impossible things are possible. If not necessarily before breakfast, because whose brain works that early in the morning?!
I am run off my feet with a combination of delightful and hideous stuff at the moment, and still battling indescribable sadness that Dad isn’t here. I miss him so very much – time has started to heal the outer face of my loss, but I am unsure the inner void will ever feel any better.
However, for the purposes of this update, I’ll focus only on the delightful, and until everything calms down and I can blog a bit more often, you can mainly find me on Instagram…
@duckingfabulous for personal, day to day stuff
@thesillykittens for Luna & Clover’s antics
If you want to keep an eye on my businessy world:
@mermaidinguk and @kerenzasapphire for mermaidy goodness
@catalystcarla for branding photography & multipod musings
@carlawphoto for occasional proper photography (I am doing quite a lot of that at the moment but am really bad at sharing it on insta, for some reason… I sense a 2019 resolution coming on already!)
@inkdropsbox for stationery indulgence (ditto on the posting front, but we’re launching a fab new campaign shortly and having a bit of an overhaul, so keep your eyes peeled!)
If you’re reading this, thank you for still being around <3 I miss my little space over here – and I will be back properly soon 🙂 (and you might get an email about GDPR soonish too. Bloody new laws.)
PS You can buy the photo on all manner of fabulous things – wall art, phone cases, possibly even a duvet cover – in my Redbubble shop 🙂
For the first time in the 13 year history of this blog, I’m not doing a roundup post – I can’t face it. Nice things have happened this year, but the balance is eclipsed by the loss of Dad.
I have just come home from a week with Mum (Luna & Clover came too) and it was wonderful to spend time with her but we both found the hole he has left behind him was even bigger over Christmas. He was always so damn
competitive enthusiastic about the Christmas lights that I’m going to have to seriously up my game in his honour next year. My neighbours are going to love me…
On the plus side, we did find some wonderful photo memories of me & Mum & Dad during the Christmas break, which I plan to make into an album so they’re not just lurking on a hard drive somewhere.
Anyway, that’s why this isn’t a round up post this year. And technically, all the businesses are taking a break till 2nd January.
But old habits die hard and I’ve never yet spent a new year’s eve without writing on my beloved blog, so instead, have the best 18 photos from my mermaid life & business (because most of you won’t have a steady stream of mermaid goodness in your feeds!):
Being a mermaid really wasn’t something I thought could make actually happen – yet now I get to make other people’s mermaid dreams come true as well as my own, and it fits beautifully alongside my photography, business photography and stationery ventures.
My current quartet of businesses feels meant to be, and I really think Dad would approve. Plus I can run them with Kitten Assistants Luna & Clover, who really do light up my life. On that note, I’m off to feed the kitten assistants and read a good book.
I hope 2018 is everything you want it to be and I’ll see you on the other side.
With bittersweet, very mixed feelings, I’m approaching the end of Christmas Eve, the first one without Dad. We went to his pub for a drink on Friday afternoon, and they’d put both his plaques up in his indoor & outdoor spots – he’d be SO pleased by this, I can’t even tell you!
I’ve moved myself and my Silly Kittens into my Mum’s flat for a few days, which has had mixed responses from the cats – Clover is ruling the roost, Luna is happiest when cuddling me but really is also quite cross that she’s not allowed outside because we’re not at home.
They are however both doing their Important Cat Job of distracting us and making us laugh – they are an actual pair of furry idiots, I love them so much.
Having managed to have get some rest and a lie in over the last couple of days, I’m too sleepy to blog properly – but did want to post this, of the two fluffy con artists caught at quiet moments today.
Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, wishing you a wonderful, peaceful few days.
I can’t get my head around the fact that it’s October. October!
With the falling of the leaves and the crispness of the mornings, it couldn’t really be any other month – but I was still surprised to see leaves on the ground when I walked into work the other day.
So what does the start of autumn look like in my world?
Mixing up my routine
I have been craving routine (I know, who knew that was something I’d ever want?) but mainly at home. At the day job, my routine is set in stone and needed a shakeup.
So taking inspiration from my first ever online course (a Free Range Humans one), I am parking in a different place, taking a different route and making sure I have lunch with different people every day.
I’ve also been taking the laptop out and about to work in some of the cafes, bars & student areas when I can, and have organised coworking sessions with colleagues for stuff we’re collaborating on.
So far, so good.
Burlesquing in public
It has been a LONG time since I’ve danced out – probably not since Hogswatch, actually… so I was chuffed to bits to have the chance to dance out with fabulous friends Lynsey, Annastasia and Jenna in September. Photos courtesy of Lynsey’s other half Mike!
(Edit a couple of days later – I knew I was tired – I did the Fling in July this year! But though it was gorgeous, that’s probably a good example of exactly how much my brain is fuzzing things at the moment…)
It was a greyhound show, and I did come home wanting greyhounds again. But I think Luna & Clover would eat them…
Mermaiding. All the mermaiding.
September was the month I finally got my pod! Sam organised a Clacton meetup, and four of the twelve mermaids there were me and my gorgeous models/friends/burlesquers – Jenna, Lynsey & Fran were mermaiding for the first time before modelling for me, and we all loved it so much that we want to do it again, regularly 😀
Here’s a shot of all of us:
And here’s the Colchester pod:
And here’s a really quick edit of some of the video footage of the girls’ first swim!
Watch us & subscribe on YouTube (I know, that’s a Vimeo link, means no adverts on the site!)
And then it was time for our mermaid shoot at the start of this month. We had the Loft studio for three hours, and it was basically playtime – mermaid tails, crowns, corsets and sparkly lingerie galore.
We spent the night before at Fran’s house, decorating shells & tiaras, and it was so utterly lovely I can’t even tell you 🙂
AND THEN THE SHOOT.
These girls. They are naturals in a tail and apparently also naturals as models too – some people totally freak out in a studio environment but they were PERFECT.
I’ve not finished the edit yet, but here is a teaser:
Autumn has also brought:
- a steampunk shoot
- unexpected photos of Dad
View this post on Instagram
Look what I found! Dad and me in Colchester – a pic I'd totally forgotten we even took. Moments like this are bittersweet – I still miss him SO DAMN MUCH, but I bless mine & Mum's tendency to shoot absolutely everything that happens, because that means that sometimes, you end up with precious moments you didn't know you had <3 #thingsthatwouldmakedadsmile #love #loss #grief #colchester
- meeting my GORGEOUS new niece, Odette Carla (yes, Odette Carla <3) – if her mum & dad are ok with it, she’ll get a post all to herself!
- a 20 year friendiversary celebration with Louise
- going out for dessert for Maddy’s birthday
- tarot discussions & inspiration
- new friendships
- old friendships
- ridiculous kitten antics
- and a whole load more stuff I can’t remember because I’m tired.
I still miss Dad a ridiculous amount, I’m still prone to crying at the drop of a hat, and Mum & I still have an insane amount of admin to do.
But keeping busy isn’t a bad thing, and doing things that make me feel like me is a good thing, and a random side effect that I had not anticipated is that for several weeks now, my anxiety has been much, much lower. I’ve had some dips & attacks, but it has been SO nice to feel a bit more like myself and not be living with constant irrational fear all the time.
So there’s my autumn. I’ll try and post proper roundups of each thing on the relevant blogs:
- Mermaiding UK for mermaid stuffs – instagram is @mermaidinguk and @kerenzasapphire
- Ink Drops for stationery stuffs – instagram is @inkdropsbox
- Carla Watkins Photography for lifestyle & pet photography – instagram is @carlawphoto
- Carla Watkins Business & Branding Photography which does what it says on the tin – instagram is @catalystcarla
Oh, and with all this multipod goodness going on, I started a podcast about being one, especially being one in business. But I can’t share it yet, only one episode and it recorded quite quietly. It’s coming, though!
I hope your autumn brings you happiness <3
I’ve been in a real funk for what feels like ages now, and while I know some of this is because tomorrow marks six months since we lost Dad, which is normal and natural, some of it is more inexplicable and just annoying.
I’ve struggled to create, to sleep, and especially to do the everyday things that have to be done – laundry, cooking, day job tasks, ongoing business tasks, blogging…
It’s always a warning sign for me when I can’t find my blogging mojo – for most of my adult life I’ve had a blog, so any time when I don’t want to post for an extended period usually means I should take a long hard look at what’s happening, and maybe talk it out somewhere. (Ironically, not necessarily online…)
Last week, I felt like this and just didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, but managed to force myself out of the house, into the car, and across town to burlesque.
If you’re a long term reader, you’ll know that I’ve always danced, and that burlesque has been a passion for nearly six years now. My lovely friend Lizzie now co-owns Love You Burlesque, and alongside shooting them for a year (over at my business & branding photography biz), I dance with them too.
Lizzie and Gennie often talk about how their classes give ladies an hour to themselves every week, and I never really understood how important this was… I live on my own, so I spend a lot of time happily by myself! But that evening, I managed to leave behind all my sadness, anxiety, stress and general meh-ness for a whole hour, and lose myself in frills and feathers and sass.
This week has been hard, because it’s approaching a significant anniversary that I don’t want to think about. But tomorrow is going to roll around all the same, and walking aimlessly from room to room, wondering what I came in for, is not going to help.
I skipped burlesque yesterday as I just wasn’t feeling myself, and today although I had a lovely lunch with friends and a surprisingly good day at the day job, I got home and felt… meh.
So I got out my bike, shooing away the spiders that were lurking. Dusted her down, pumped up her tyres and went for a short ride to quite literally blow the cobwebs (on her) away. It’s the first time I’ve ridden this year and it was a great reminder of connection.
Riding a bike (or a horse) means you’re out in the open air, you can feel the wind rush past your face as you move, and you are closer to the road than you ever are in a car.
You can see the leaves and the birds, the conkers (when the hell did it get to be conker season already?!) and the marks on other people’s cars. You are going quicker than you would on foot, but slow enough to notice pretty shutters, colourful front doors and various things for sale from the front of people’s houses (I love village life).
I only went to the shop and back, and yet I have come home feeling freer, calmer, and much less angsty about everything. Luna and Clover got to be outside till just now, instead of me panicking and hauling them in early (they get very silly around dusk, I think it’s a cat thing), and I have written this post, blitzed my bullet journal and answered some customer enquiries instead of just wandering around aimlessly.
It appears that next time I feel rough, things beginning with “b” are helpful… bikes… burlesque… bullet journals…
What do you do when you have an attack of the meh?!
If you follow all of my businesses, you’ll notice I’ve been on a bit of an accidental shopping spree recently… oops!
Needing some more stationery (when do you not need more stationery?) for the studio and also to perk up the day job desk, I popped to town and found these beauties the other day:
The folder is immensely glittery and very happymaking, and stands out beautifully on the day job shelf 🙂 I like the reminder to dream big, too. And it is always time to be a unicorn… though I probably didn’t need any more notebooks…
Talking of notebooks, this A4 hardback beauty has PINK LINED PAGES. I’m not sure when I started liking pink more but this one’s definitely on the favourites list. And again, besides the unicorn imagery, I really like the words.
Unicorn stickies were a silly but necessary purchase – you always need sticky notes & index tabs and they might as well have unicorns on!
All from The Works so didn’t even set me back that much – under a tenner for all four!
What’s your happiest everyday stationery?
My first Fling festival was in 2011, and still stands out as one of the most magical experiences of my life.
My first performance there was with my troupe Paper Dolls Burlesque in 2013, running a tent, performing and getting people to dress up and do burlesque themed crafting.
It’s moved to Hylands now (same site as V festival), grown hugely and developed into a proper festival you can camp at, not just a one day extravaganza.
This year I performed with the Burlesque Jems, and was also their photographer for the day, capturing their performances and a few sneaky portraits too.
I made a last-minute mermaid bra so I could mermaid-burlesque (merlesque?!) and it was just a wonderful day – the most myself I’ve felt since before Dad went into hospital. It was amazing to merge two of my alter egos (Lotta Fiero and Kerenza Sapphire), brilliant to be back on stage, scary but eventually great to be out and about with my camera, and wonderfully indulgent to leave my worries and sadness behind and throw myself into festival life for a few hours.
Also, what better example of a multipod in action than photographing and performing all on the same day?
I had forgotten how much of a workout dancing and photography are though – my Sunday has been exceptionally gentle!