On the precipice of a(nother) new life

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.

new life part 2 | carlalouise.com

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!

Down the rabbit hole: Gifford’s Circus

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:

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.

Speedy update!

Pin Mill by Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

Oh hai!

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?!

Anyway.

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.)

xoxo,

Carla

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 🙂

2017 – the year I’m not reviewing

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!):

Mermaid Kerenza Sapphire best nine 2017 Mermaiding UK best nine 2017

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.

xoxo,
Carla

Merry Christmas!

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.

Into autumn

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…)

Paper Dolls Burlesque new line up | carlalouise.com

Paper Dolls performing | carlalouise.com

Paper Dolls performing | carlalouise.com

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:

Clacton September mermaid meet | carlalouise.com

And here’s the Colchester pod: Clacton September mermaid meet - Colchester pod | carlalouise.com

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 🙂

at Fran's before mermaid shoot | carlalouise.com

mer crafting ahoy! | carlalouise.com

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:

Fran Lynsey Jenna Mermaiding UK studio sneak peek | carlalouise.com

Other happenings

Autumn has also brought:

  • 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:

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

Bicycles and burlesque

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.

Carla in Harry Potter/Night Circus burlesque gear | carlalouise.com

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.

Bluebell the bicycle | carlalouise.com

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?!

Unicorn stationery haul!

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:

unicorn stationery haul | carlalouise.com

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…

unicorn stationery haul | carlalouise.com

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!

unicorn stationery haul | carlalouise.com

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?

Fling 2017 – a return to my magical self

Burlesque Jems at the Fling Festival 2017 | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

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!

Here are a few of the photos – the rest will pop up over at Carla Watkins Photography and Burlesque Jems in the coming weeks.

Sometimes, self care looks like…

going to the beach and watching the sea and getting a sense of perspective.

charlestown harbour | Carla Watkins Photography | carlalouise.com

And sometimes, it looks like setting a reminder on your phone to actually bloody well eat proper food before the evening arrives!

After the recent heat, a gorgeous day yesterday (including accidentally transforming friends into mermaids in my garden) and an increasing habit of eating dinner at 10pm, today I woke up and just felt rough all over.

Lovely Annastasia came round so we could do the Ink Drops tax return (not fun, but felt good once it was achieved) and talk about stuff we want to do with our little company (fun and inspiring), but we were so busy chatting that I forgot about lunch.

Then Clover did a hat-trick of throwing up so I went into cat-related anxiety tailspin (admittedly nowhere near as bad as I have been in the past, but I was definitely fretting). On good advice I kept kittens in and went back to bed for a couple of hours – only to be woken up by furious catfighting outside my living room window. Gah!

Fortunately my two weren’t involved in that, and as they have managed to keep food down since, they are currently roaming the garden and having staring contests with pigeons and snoozing on the decking – it’s tough, being a pampered cat.

But it was only once I put dinner in the oven at almost 6pm that I realised I hadn’t eaten anything except some popcorn since breakfast, and breakfast was just a ciabatta roll because I wasn’t that hungry when I woke up.

No wonder I felt odd, and found routine things like cat puke overwhelming to deal with!

I am off to eat dinner now… and I think I shall put the laptop off and shut the studio until after I’m back from the vet tomorrow lunchtime. Could do with keeping the cats in, and it won’t hurt me to have a morning off like a normal person!

But this isn’t the first time recently I’ve forgotten to eat and then felt physically as well as mentally dreadful, so that is a lesson learned. During grief, but also in life generally, remember to eat proper food!

My silly kittens are 4!

Luna and Clover, unbelievably, turn 4 today.

Luna in the studio on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Clover eating bamboo on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Or at least I think they do – had to pick an arbitrary date for when we thought they were born when I got them, and while the vet registration says 25th, I have always celebrated on 22nd.

They have been properly in the wars recently and it’s been an awful 12 months.  Luna got hit by a car last August, and has come home more than 10 times with mashed, split & blunted claws since then. Vets maintain that is consistent with vehicle trauma, but in the last three days I have witnessed my two yowling & fleeing from the enormous & fearless tabby cat from down the road, and both times poor Luna’s claws have all been completely buggered straight afterwards. So I think I have my answer as to what is causing it. She also has a massive gash and two scabs on her head at the moment, so looks more like a thug than she is – she’s just been defending her territory, her home and her sister!

Clovie has had various bouts of puking and cystitis and hairballs, which is unpleasant for all concerned, and both of them have been having digestive issues since December. The poor little pair have been in and out of the vet so often that the receptionists now know me by my voice when I get on the phone.

I’ve struggled a lot with guilt and anxiety over them in the last year or so – possibly sounds ridiculous given what else I was coping with, but I also think that was part of the reason I fixated on them. I couldn’t make Dad better no matter what I did, but the cats’ health is both my responsibility and sort of within my control – I can at least take them to the vet and do my best to get them fixed when things do happen.

It’s been a bit better recently, though I am very fed up of having to plan every arrangement with the caveat that I may have to cancel when I get home if I need to take the cats to the vet – this cannot possibly be normal, but has become my normal because they seem to damage themselves so frequently!

But despite all that they are happy little cats, and at the moment are giving me purpose to get out of bed in the mornings, and excellent cuddles when it’s not 150 degrees outside.

Luna on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Clover on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Neither of them were feeling particularly photogenically cooperative today – it’s been ridiculously hot (record breakingly so) for the last few days and we are all hot, tired and floppy. But I got a couple of the portraits I like to do on their birthdays, and one each of their silly personalities too. So I’m happy.

And just now I shall head indoors to have dinner and give them theirs, and hopefully it’ll be cool enough to have a game of mouse-on-a-stick!

Clover on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

Luna on her 4th birthday | carlalouise.com

 

June check in

Just checking in – I really miss blogging like I used to, as more of a journal of my life. Over the 12 and a half years I’ve been writing about my life on the internet, I’ve seen blogging change and evolve and shapeshift so many times.

I haven’t quite worked out where it is, as a medium, today – some people say it’s dead, some people say it’s stripped back to its bare bones, some sit in the middle.

But for me, and I’m sure I’ve talked about this here before, my blog is my online living room. It’s decorated how I like it, it’s filled with the things and conversations I want to have, and people can visit and leave as they like. No scheduling, no shoulds, no worrying.

It’s probably not a strategy to build an enormous following, but that was never the goal for this particular blog. And I have plenty of business spaces to do the strategic-yet-authentic thing (though if I’m honest, even my businesses don’t have much of a schedule for blogging & social. I prefer to be present and write when I have something to say).

So, things that have been going on in my (still grief-fuddled) world recently:

This amazing box to brighten up my day job desk

hogwarts broomstick repair kit box | carlalouise.com

Friendiversary dinners & plans – from a year to 20 years, eeek!

Choosing a yellow rose to plant in Dad’s memory

A series of commercial shoots coming up for the Burlesque Jems (and I’m going to be on TV dancing with them – eee!)

Packing for holiday and wondering how the hell I’m going to get my biggest fin, two weeks’ worth of clothes plus my camera, lenses & laptop into hand luggage only

Mermaid filming, and some secret squirrel plans for Mermaiding UK’s blog

Celebrating my Gran’s 88th birthday (we missed Dad being a BBQ maestro but it was really lovely to spend a whole day just chilling out with family)

Gran's 88th birthday | carlalouise.com

Gran's 88th birthday | carlalouise.com

Happy lunching with friends at work

I was on BBC radio talking about being a mermaid!

mermaid on the radio | carlalouise.com

Ink Drops packing, podcasts and plans

Moving Crafty Coffee to a Wednesday, to fit in with my new part time hours

Planning for a creative day with friends

Julia and Willoughby came to stay for the long weekend and I had my first foray into toddler soft play – was hilarious! At sixteen months he is gorgeous and much more interactive than newborn babies… but I had forgotten how much energy kids have!!

Going back to burlesque classes – I had missed it SO MUCH

Jenny & Matt’s wedding (and unicorn shoes, and sneaking in brunch with Lou & Paul!) It was also… illuminating… to meet up with people I’d not seen for nearly a decade. I’m very entertained by how some of them still think of me, and also by the passage of time in the case of the boys – the teenage boys I was friends with and loved so much – they are all now hurtling for middle age, yet haven’t changed personality-wise at all.

me with the blushing (erm...) bride Jenny | carlalouise.com

the gorgeous bride Jenny and groom Matt | carlalouise.com

And I’m sure all sorts of other stuff which has escaped my brain for now.

I can’t quite believe it’s June, but I’m trying to keep up my Happy Jar and gratitude journal practices, and making an effort to cook & eat well, as grief is quite exhausting enough without also trying to survive on junk food.

I’m still sadder than I knew was possible, but I am getting through each day, and spending as much time as I can with Mum and my family and my kittens and my friends – these things do make you realise the important things in life.

And finally, I’m hoping to spend a bit more quality time with my camera over the next couple of months, around all the admin we have to do, and also of course around work. I read somewhere that immersing yourself in things you love helps with anxiety, as you’re too absorbed in your creativity to worry unnecessarily about things. I think maybe this is a good experiment to try…