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.

Fairytales and Living Boldly – Brooke Shaden’s London meetup

It’s always a weird mix of lovely and scary to meet people you admire. To unexpectedly have the chance to meet, talk to, learn from and shoot with one of the photographers whose work you most admire is a bit overwhelming… but in a good way!

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Fine art photographer & artist Brooke Shaden comes over to the UK and does a meetup in London once a year. I’d never been before, but spotted this one just a few weeks before it happened, so signed up on the spot. I arranged to meet Louise there, took half a day off work, and made my merry way into London on the 2nd of September.

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As soon as I got there my fear disappeared, because it was obvious that we were surrounded by likeminded creative types. Brooke’s talk centered on fairytales and living boldly, creating your own fairytale – and if you’ve been reading this blog for even a short time you’ll see how much that chimes with my own take on life.

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To add delight to the evening, the lovely Virginia (who I’ve known online for a long time, but who I’d never met) came and said hello – she’d recognised me from across the room which was a wonderful surprise!

We all swapped fears, and the ones I received were surprisingly similar to my own… fear of not being good enough, fear of never making self employment work. It’s unbelievably comforting to know that other people (whose work I admire) suffer the same fears and worries and doubts that I do.

Brooke set up some shots for us to see how she works, explaining her thought processes as she went.

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And then we were free to wander, roam, and play!

Here are my raw shots….

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One quick edit…

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and countless others lurking, waiting for me to turn them into the art that was in my head when I pressed the shutter….

I’m definitely having a photography moment in the second half of this year and it’s making me ridiculously happy returning to my first love! And it was a massive confidence boost to have models and costumes to play with, without the pressure of creating anything specific.

This event also ticks off 2, 36 and 52 on my daydreams to do list!

What I wore: a secret wedding

Well, originally intended to be secret, and actually a small, intimate and utterly joyful celebration of one of the happiest and best-suited couples I know.

I chose my outfit around the shoes… which is becoming a bit of a habit!

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A London wedding and being unofficial photographer meant long dresses were out – and I didn’t want to detract from the polka dotted, blue-and-red-and-white shoes. (which, for the record, I can walk and run in!)

So I chose a pretty beaded navy blue dress with a glorious chiffon skirt… dress-full-length

My hair was in ringlets when we left the bride’s room – sadly it doesn’t hold curl so by the time we arrived at the pre-ceremony brunch, it was more wavy, and by the time the ceremony was over it was straight again!

Here’s the gorgeous couple cutting their cake…

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Aren’t they brilliant? It was one of my favourite weddings to date, and I was honoured to capture it in photos for them as well as being their witness (surprisingly nervewracking!)

Last minute photoshoot prep – argh

I have a photoshoot with the lovely Grace tomorrow afternoon.

We booked it months ago, which means the date has snuck up on me, and while I’m very excited, I’m also incredibly disorganised. This week I have been frantically making these beauties:

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while simultaneously freaking out about how little preparation I’ve actually managed to do.

Discovering at ten to five on Wednesday that a) a key part of one of my costumes was locked in my parents’ garage, b) the location I had scouted would be overrun with students investigating their futures at university (how inconsiderate, lol!), and c) I hadn’t actually got round to ordering two other key costume components yet, I haven’t been the most serene in the run up to the shoot.

Fortunately Grace has found us a new location, the internet is magical and I have both costume pieces in my hands, and I did a detour on the way to see my accountant last night and got the other one from the garage. Phew. Now all that’s left is dyeing my hair, deciding on make up and actually getting there in one piece tomorrow…

Worst case scenario, I guess we’ll fly…

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I have been scouring the internet and my Craftsy classes for posing ideas and practice, because despite all my dance history and being a photographer, generally when you stick a lens in my face I get the giggles, and not in a delicate and attractive way, usually in an all out snorting, crying-with-laughter-while-rolling-on-the-floor kind of a way. Which is going to be difficult in a corset.

Fortunately the two main looks we’ll be shooting are my two newest alter egos – Nell, real name Petronella Blythe Merriman, who’s a steampunk gypsy with a story all her own, and an as-yet-unnamed woodland fairy with rainbow wings and western boots. (I love how this alter ego work feeds off who you actually are.)

So though I’m excited-nervous to be the other side of the camera, I’m looking forward to drawing out more of Nell’s character, and perhaps finding out my fairy’s name and personality.

I’ll let you know how it goes! (and secretly? I’m pleased I’ve not had time to stress about it much. Like my self portraits, I suspect it’ll go better for being a bit spontaneous…)

With love and unicorns,

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Tulle and rainbows {What I Wore}

A dear friend’s 41st birthday… our new favourite bar in town… a balmy Saturday night… and a quick detour to the ruined priory at the bottom of the high street for some photos on my way in…

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Jacket and tshirt: ancient components of my wardrobe | Tulle petticoat: Hell Bunny | Polka dot pencil skirt (underneath): M&S | Rainbow shoes: Schuh, custom work by me | Handbag: genuinely not a clue, possibly from Dubai. (I’m in that delightful stage at the moment where most of my wardrobe is so me, but also so old, that I have no clue where most of it originated)

My hair was in ringlets before I left the house – but it’s now so long and heavy that a twelve minute drive rendered it vaguely wavy, instead. It still felt mermaidy though.

And apparently I need to work on my poses – I do actually have two legs, it’s just not that obvious from these photos.

Will definitely be wearing my petticoats as outerwear for the rest of the summer, though!

With love and unicorns,

Carla

52 Project | Week 2: Unicorn-Appropriate Headwear

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Some of you will have seen this already. I love my unicorn hat, and saw no reason why I shouldn’t wear it to the day job on the day of my appraisal. I didn’t wear it *in* the appraisal. But I make several people smile, do double takes or laugh out loud every time I do wear it, and for that reason it deserves a place in my 52 photos that represent 2015.

That hat is extremely Lotta.

The contenders are, as always, in my Flickr stream in chronological order.

Wordsmith or witch?

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My jewellery has always symbolised what’s important to me – a birthstone, my Aes Sedai ring (the books the ring is inspired by changed my life), friendship rings, and most recently one reminding me of my intentions to photograph more of life. I create my talisman jewellery so that other people can do the same – keep their beliefs or dreams or hopes close by, always.

For day to day wear, I have various charms representing parts of my life or intentions which I wear separately or together on a silver chain – inspired by my Mum, who wears her cross, her evil eye protection, a camel and some other significant charms all together on a gold chain. I love that her beliefs and superstitions sit so easily next to each other like that.

As 2014 draws to a close, I’d like to add to my charms. A pentacle, for my spiritual side and for the witches in Discworld; a hare, for my connection with nature and also for Tiffany Aching (another Discworld reference) and the courage I hope I too have; and cats, to symbolise my two fluffy con artists who have so quickly become so central to my world.

talisman jewellery by Carla | carlalouise.com

But almost every online shop which sells charms goes on at length about pentacles being a Wiccan symbol, and the Wiccan rede or tradition. Which is fine, but also quite annoying, as I’m not Wiccan. I don’t particularly identify as a witch in the traditional sense, either – only that an amalgam of the pagan/hedge witch/nature/druid traditions is what most calls to me from all the religious and spiritual paths out there.

And then that got me thinking – I have always, always been fascinated with magic, witchcraft, spells, the fae, the Other. I am unusually intuitive and more than usually aware of how others are feeling and the potential or actual impact of words and actions – mine and those of others. I feel other people’s pain in a way that is draining – my heart quite literally hurts for a friend who’s suffering emotionally or physically. I’m instinctively aware of the moon’s phases and their effects on me (if not perfectly versed in all their names), and I have a collection of crystals and tarot cards which I use fairly regularly. (I sell them, too – I wouldn’t do that unless I believed in them.) All of that makes me Carla, not Wiccan, or any other particular religion.

But words – now words have incredible power. I love, and I firmly believe, in words working magic. As spells, manifesting, crystallising intention or just putting yourself out there – whatever you call it, you will have noticed at some point in your life the power of declaring what you truly believe, voicing your dreams, giving life to that which you most crave through words, whether spoken or written. (It’s said that millionaires write their goals down every day, and billionaires twice a day.) And symbols like the pentacle or the hare (or a typewriter, a flower, whatever works for you) are just as powerful – they create words and associations in your mind. Which is the first step to making your dreams real.

And though I’ve never particularly thought of myself as a witch, I do use words and symbols and rituals, every day, to create my magical life. A life which I’m told inspires others (a concept I find humbling and exhilarating in equal measure). A life which is an evolving creation in itself – a journey, not a destination. A life made out of words.

So am I a wordsmith, or a witch? Or a little bit of both?

Traditionally, witches have a terrible reputation. The definition usually involves evil spells and an ugly old crone. In my life, as with all women, I’ll be maiden, mother and crone – in age if not in actuality. Beauty is subjective – but while I don’t for a moment believe I’m ugly, neither am I about to claim the alternative title of enchantress – the dictionary definition of “captivatingly attractive” is not something that could be consistently said about any human being I’ve ever met, and especially not me first thing in the morning. Plus I don’t put spells on people.

Instead, I believe in magic like most people believe in the sun rising each day. I refuse to let being an adult dull my imagination and sense of wonder. I listen to people and I share stories and I create words and symbols and images – in the hope that these things will encourage other people to live out their own dreams.

I am not a Wiccan. I am not an enchantress.

But I am magic, I am creative and I love words. And so I suppose I might just be a witch… by my own definition.

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With love and unicorns,

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P.S. Want to find your own alter ego, witchy or otherwise? Hop over to Unfurling Your Wings and get your name on the list – the list for early access closes soon!

 

Popping my (Hogswatch) cherry

The last weekend in November is Hogswatch.

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(for the uninitiated: Hogswatch is Discworld’s equivalent to Christmas. Discworld is Terry Pratchett’s alternate universe. Wincanton (a real town in England) is twinned with Ankh-Morporkh (a fictional city in a fantasy universe) and every November, a bunch of, in Terry’s words, bloody loonies descend upon Wincanton to celebrate Hogswatch. Clear as mud?!)

Though some of my friends go regularly, I’d not made it last year as it was my parents’ 40th anniversary. This year I was nervous but exc;ited – and hadn’t put a whole lot of planning into my costumes. I knew I was performing twice, and one of those involved chip packets.

So after a 3.30am alarm, staggering out of the house (watched by some very confused cats) at 4.20am and a 3 and a half hour drive, I arrived in Wincanton. Threw myself at my Travelodge room and slept and slept and slept.

At 10am, I found myself at the Memorial hall with Annastasia, surrounded by fellow loonies in outfits and costumes  varying from mild to extreme, and I couldn’t stop grinning.

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We taught a burlesque workshop to seven brave ladies and one extremely brave gent. Our chosen music, to match the theme of Going Postal, was… no, not Return to Sender, or any of the usual suspects. We went for Postman Pat.

Then I could wander to my heart’s content (and also packed in meeting Anna’s parents, the Boggises (who have long been heavily involved with Discworld and Hogswatch), long chats with new friends and some shopping, as well as a sneaky nap after lunch.

Come 5pm, I was in the green room, taking fuzzy but excited pictures of myself:

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And then we got up on stage and danced. And oh, I had forgotten how much I enjoy performing. 2014 has been so busy and so manic (pfft, so much for my word of the year of “balance”) that I haven’t had much of a chance to dance at all, and it is still an unmatchable feeling to come off stage to appreciative applause (and sniggers, in this case).

Also got to sing the Twelve Days of Hogswatch (harder than you’d imagine, when you’re standing at the front holding up the words but you can’t actually read them yourself… it goes something like “On the FIRST day of Hogswatch, my true love sent to me, a mumble mumble blah blah blah. On the SECOND day of Christ-Hogswatch, my true love sent to me, TWO something mumble…” And that’s entirely sober!

Then the traditional sausage supper at the Bear, and on to the Pink Pussycat Club. Where we danced another number… dedicated to Rincewind the wizard, it involved a red pointy hat with stars on, three kimonos, doing some suggestive things with a potato masher and having a fight over some crisps. And the final reveal was…

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(photo credit: Paul Heyes via FB)

(if you don’t get it, don’t worry… it’s a long story. If you want to get it, read Interesting Times.)

Here’s another pic of us during Postman Pat…

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(photo credit: Tatyana Arbuzova via FB)

As cheesy as I know it sounds, the whole weekend felt like coming home. I didn’t feel like a newcomer (apart from when Nanny Ogg/Renta made me have a Hogswatch Virgin badge…), and as I’ve often found with my more niche hobbies (most notably model horsing – this felt a lot like that), there’s an instant sense of kinship. I even found some more stationery fiends (and friends) during our letter writing salon (an Ink Drops venture) on Sunday.

We were all letting our real selves out to play – our alter egos, but the ones we wish we could take back to everyday life with us. As so often recently, Lotta and I were perfectly in tune. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Having made so many new friends and felt so at home so quickly, coming back to the round world (not the Disc), and the prospect of the day job and doing housework were less than appealing.

I put this off by popping in on the way home to see my ex-headmaster and his family – which I know sounds weird, but my primary school was muchly special. Totally failed to get any photos of us all, but he did keep the sign when the school was demolished to make way for flats…

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And it was so lovely to catch up after more than a decade.

So I drove home to my silly kittens through the night, arrived at 10pm, fell into bed to dream of the Disc, and woke up still half there today. I spent this morning waving photos at anyone who would look, and am now settling down to the important work of planning next year’s costumes and skits.

Big thanks to Annastasia for giving me the chance to attend – it’s now an immovable fixture in my calendar.

Happy Hogswatch… I hope you’ve been naughty AND nice!

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PS for any non-Pratchett fans, normal service will resume shortly. If you’ve read him and don’t like it, fine. If you’ve never read him then for goodness’ sake go and borrow a book from your library and try one. You’ll never know if you don’t try…!

PPS You don’t actually have to be a fan to come to Hogswatch. I would love, love, love to see some of you there next year! Or at any of the various cons I hope to now attend in 2015 🙂

PPPS If you fancy creating your own alter ego, hop over and have a look at Unfurling Your Wings. It’ll launch a little later than planned due to some mad new VAT laws, but on the plus side, it’s now going to be a much more immersive experience, with goodies coming to you in the REAL ACTUAL POST.

Witchy portrait fun

My first Halloween/Samhain with my two familiars, and I thought I’d have a bit of fun.

In preparation for trick or treaters, I had positioned my broom by the front door, bought most of my local shop’s supply of miniature chocolate bars and dug out my pointy hat.

Luna-kitten was looking rather obliging, so I also made a Halloween picture while I was at it…

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Loving my new lens!

Thought I’d share the best outtake too – I’ve never seen her look quite so horrified at my antics.

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Clover was very sensibly snoozing on the back of the sofa, just out of shot. She’s a great witch’s cat but she doesn’t like to flaunt it.

And as Saturday was the start of NaNoWriMo, I have accidentally now written almost 5000 words of a story/book about how Luna and Clover came to be witch’s cats… it’s so much fun letting my imagination out to play!

Choosing a talisman

After last week’s sneak peek of the talisman jewellery I’m currently making, I thought I’d share the locket that’s my own current favourite talisman, and how I came to choose it.

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From, and featuring an image by, one of my very favourite artists, Nicola Taylor, it shows her self portrait titled “Listen to the Colour of your Dreams”.

How to choose yours

A talisman should be a wearable reminder of something – a way to keep your dreams or wishes, hopes or beliefs, close to you. It should also be something that makes your heart sing – whether in colour, or style, or some kind of indefinable quality you can’t quite put your finger on.

Things to think about:

  • the colours that speak to your soul
  • words that have always meant something to you, whether in your mother tongue or another language
  • objects or animals (or both) you are drawn to
  • things people automatically associate you with
  • your dreams, aspirations and hopes – what could represent them?

(more…)

Colouring in and desktop geekery

Ahem. So a couple of weeks ago I started an art journal. As predicted, I haven’t managed to use it every day (because some days are wordy days, and some days are illustrated days, and some days I’m just so tired there is no journalling at all).

But this week I have mostly been buying ADULT COLOURING IN BOOKS. Well. Actually, they’re children’s ones that I have commandeered, but that makes them no less valid for adults. Right?

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I am having so much fun… and it’s surprisingly therapeutic, especially since now I’m the grand old age of 28, there’s no pesky “art” teacher telling me I must colour inside the lines OR ELSE. (I never understood that – how are we supposed to stretch the bounds of our creativity if we have to keep inside pre-drawn areas even when we’re really small? But I digress.)

The “colouring for girls” did make me hesitate before buying it – but I really liked most of the images inside, so into my basket it went.

Other happy-making news this week:

Luna has learned to sit on my shoulder like a proper witch’s familiar. This is awesome…

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And I’ve finally organised myself into a proper, Photoshop and InDesign-friendly desk layout at home, thanks to a new screen and a cheap but pretty wireless keyboard. And I have a new barcode scanner – squeak!!

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Yes, my desk is always that messy and always contains Pepsi and cat treats. It works for me.

There has been cake and Pimms (spiked with vodka, as my mum gleefully informed me halfway through the afternoon), and my kittens’ first mouse, and beautiful skies and strange weather and wonderful conversations and new collaborations and an electric feeling in the air… excitement reigns in my enchanted realm!

I also launched my Magical Manifesto this week – I have more excitement up my sleeve on that front in the form of an email series, an online experience and a book. July is shaping up nicely after my horrible June. Which can only be a good thing.

Before I go and do some more colouring in (squee!), should you fancy brightening up your own desk, or sending some handwritten missives instead of emails and tweets, I refilled the Ink Drops Etsy shop today – pop over and have a nose 🙂