2016 in review: Daydreams to Do

Another year, another list to update – this time my epic Daydreams To Do list.

In 2016 I managed to cross off…

2. Create the fantasy fine art photos that have been in my head for decades – after some tentative faffing in 2015, and some loving kicking from lovely friends, I have made a bit of headway with this – mainly camera calibration, confidence and ideas. But I did create this little lovely in a stolen moment just before sunset one summer evening…

Tea Party by Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

Work needed, but it made me so happy and was the first thing I’d made for ages for the pure joy of it!

3. Outdoor dinner party (ideally hosted but I’d attend one just as happily, as long as fairy lights are involved) I had a gardenwarming BBQ in August!

4. Swim in a mermaid tail  Yep, more mermaid swimming happened this year, and I met & swam with other mers too!

©Photography by Grace Hill www.photographybygrace.co.uk

16. Take a boat out on Coniston & Windermere, following in the Swallows & Amazons’ footsteps – not quite, but I did follow in the Swallows’ footsteps on a gorgeous day trip to Pin Mill earlier in the year, with Rhiannon and Janine.  We saw Alma Cottage, had lunch at the Butt & Oyster, had a glorious walk and then finished with tea & dessert at the pub. Everything about the day was magical!

Pin Mill walk | Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

Pin Mill walk | Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

27. Wild swimming – her’es me, just about to go into the sea, in Selsey!

Mermaid Kerenza Sapphire at Selsey

29. Vintage events – Twinwood festival with Lou this summer – it rained but it was still glorious!

31. Photography training & courses – I did Nicola Taylor’s Creative Photography Roadmap in February, and will be diving back into that in 2017, and I had a training day with Kerrie Mitchell in March.

36. Meet an online friend in person – Met up with lots of mermaid friends this year!

39. Make a video for YouTube – not sure why this has been on my list so long, but here’s a mermaid one I made…

41. Finish my five year diary and buy another one for the first half of my thirties – I did finish my five year diary on my 30th, and I did buy another one, but I haven’t actually written in it all year!

45. Create a library in my house – my spare room is now a library with a TV screen and a sofa bed – reading perfection!

46. Complete an online class This year I completed Do What You Love <3 There are many half finished ones to go!

53. Go kayaking. To the pub?! I went kayaking almost by accident in October, with the girls, for Ally’s birthday. It was glorious! (I did try to go with Maddy in August but sadly that was the day Luna-kitty had an argument with a car, so spent the evening in the vet’s instead!)

As always, it’s lovely to see things on my list come to fruition, and I hadn’t actually realised I’d done so many this year! <3

NaNo…PhoMo?!

Two years ago, I started NaNoWriMo, wrote assiduously each day for a week, and ended up with the beginnings of the book of my cats’ story. Heavily fictionalised.

Last November, I was running around like a total headless chicken trying to finish the house before winter hit, and if I remember rightly, I had garden chairs instead of a sofa, and 70s tiles instead of proper carpet.

This year… I am attempting to tell my story in photographs.

Stolen Moments | Singlehood series | Carla Watkins Photography | carlawatkinsphotography.com

This year has been so hard, in so many ways, but the last few months, even with all their trials, have taught me (along with some very good friends who have given me loving but firm kicks up the backside) that a) I can in fact take beautiful photos and b) that longing to make something of that talent/passion/call it what you will isn’t going to go away – I’ve been trying to get rid of it for a decade, and it keeps coming back to assert its presence.

So I am either going to attempt 30 photos or 50 photos in November. One a day, or the 50,000 goal of NaNoWriMo, translated into each picture being worth a thousand words. I’m sure mine won’t be, and that there will be a lot of cats, but I’m excited to give it a go.

Of course, it’s the 2nd already and I have taken no photos – the day job is manic, and yesterday evening was taken over with kitty anxiety when madam Luna appeared with blunted, frayed claws again. The fact that she seems utterly fine in herself, if a bit cross with me for poking her paws every time I get near her, that it really was only the tips (whereas with her previous accident, she lost all the claws on one of her back feet entirely) and that miss Clover had similar damage to the claws on one of her back feet, tells me that perhaps it’s to do with the concrete in the garden and their insistence on jumping off the shed.

So no photographs yet (the one in this post is from my Singlehood series, started last year). But there are fireworks this week, and a trip to Pin Mill, and my studio build, and a friendship shoot from last week to edit, and lots of delightful things to look at through my lens. And of course the mischievous kitteny cats.

I might even get round to finishing the rework of the Carla Watkins Photography site and blogging them on there!

And I realised just after I got really excited about NaNoPhoMo… that it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and National Novel Photo Month doesn’t quite make sense… I’m going to use the tag anyway though, I suspect.

Are you NaNo-ing?? Or are you with me on the NaPho-ing?!

#inspirenovember Instagram challenge!

This time of year can be a bit dreary – while I love the gorgeous colours of Autumn, I am much less of a fan of the endless rain, colder days and dark evenings. I’d make a good cactus – love the light, hate the rain! 

Anyway, though I have a few client shoots booked in this month, I don’t have much in the way of personal projects going on. While lamenting this to Louise, who has just come back from a Thailand honeymoon and is feeling the cold even more than I am, we cooked up the idea of a month-long Instagram challenge. 

And then thought why not open it to everyone? 

  
So here’s all the info – I’m mainly using my photography handle, @carlawatkinsphoto, and Louise is over at @louiserosecouture. 

See you over on Instagram! 

Catching up with the 52 project

For all that this year has been one of the most momentous in my life (I bought a HOUSE, people), and for all that I’ve rarely been without a camera of some sort since January 1, I seem to have let my 52 project slip.

This is not for a lack of taking photos and more for a lack of having actually taken them off my various devices, sorted, edited and uploaded them… oops.

I’ve moved the album over to my duckingfabulous Flickr account and added the rest of this year’s – up to the first week in September.

Choosing one photo for each week is impossible, so here’s the whole album, organised by week…


Created with flickr slideshow.

Can tidying up really be life changing?

I hate tidying up. Really, truly, hate it. But annoyingly I really like living in a space that isn’t full of clutter.

As I’ve tried to explain too many times to count, I don’t TRY to make things messy – chaos just follows me. I don’t deliberately leave things lying around, I’m just absorbed by an idea and don’t notice them lurking. I wasn’t born organised – and I am beginning to believe that the world can be divided into those who can stay tidy effortlessly and those who can’t stay tidy even if they make themselves miserable spending every spare moment trying to tidy up. (I suspect this effect is immeasurably worse if your partner/children/housemates/visitors are also messy by nature!)

My whole life has been lived in creative chaos – from my room as a child to my spaces at uni, from half the flat I shared with Julia to the whole house and garden I currently live in.

*I* know where everything is, it’s a filing system unique to me and I usually know exactly where to locate a specific item (under the bed, sideways a bit, behind that bag – there you go! Oh, you meant the other one? Basket on the windowsill, about a third of the way down, in a pink zipper bag. Sorted.) Until I tidy up, or worse, someone helps me tidy up, and then I have months of frustration because I can’t find anything.

I am naturally untidy and unashamedly lazy when it comes to housework – I will do the bare minimum to keep my house nice, and am easily overwhelmed by situations like my current one, when my house is filled with boxes and tools and goodness knows what else, in preparation for modernisation (plumbing and electrics. Necessary but oh-so-disruptive).

Much to the bemusement of the generation above mine, I have always unapologetically chosen fun things over housework for my entire life. Hoovering vs creating? No chance I’m going to pick hoovering (though the kittens’ faces when I do switch the Dyson on is unfailingly hilarious).

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t collect things that made me happy or curious, and I have always believed I’m happy surrounded by my precious possessions. I just happen to have a lot of possessions which mystify everyone else as to why they’re precious!

But as I pack up everything I own into boxes so I can more easily shunt them around the house during the electrical works (I lose either Luna or Clover behind or in boxes on a daily basis right now), I find myself wondering whether I actually, truly, need all this stuff.

Boxes

But how in hell do I even start to thin it down? (actually that’s a bit too melodramatic – I’m already two bin bags of clothes, three boxes of books and several bridesmaid’s dresses down… but the rest of it is overwhelming.)

Marie Kondo is the author of the bestselling book oddly entitled “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I was initially hugely entertained by this – how could tidying up be fun, magic or remotely life changing? It’s just one of those endless, thankless, reoccurring chores. Right?

Well, wrong, apparently. David over at Raptitude reckons she’s got a good point and that her method is intrinsically different from most. She also acknowledges that very few of us were ever taught to tidy up – only told that it had to happen. (No blame intended to our parents – they weren’t taught by their parents either). She also comes highly recommended by my circle of friends who travel the world constantly and work as they go – some of whom had even more stuff than me before they took up that wandering lifestyle!

Marie teaches an all-at-once, drastic method of decluttering your living space and your life, using intuition rather than logic or emotion to choose what stays and what goes. I’ve not read the book yet but I’m aware of the underpinning concept of “does this spark joy?” – if so, it stays, if not, it goes.

And that, I think, is what’s finally got through and made me willing to give it a go. My intuition is strong and well developed; I have spent immense amounts of time on getting to know myself, what makes me tick, what makes me happy; and I know exactly what kind of life I want to live. Joy is something I wholeheartedly approve of and seek in my day to day life.

Perhaps having less stuff will give me more time and space, both mental and physical, to continue creating & living the life I choose. Perhaps this book will help me get there. And given I have to handle every single thing I own over the next few weeks anyway, it would make sense to turn it into an experiment alongside the Raptitude one and see if it makes a blind bit of difference to my lifelong messiness.

And if it works, my Mum (one of the world’s loveliest but also tidiest people, to whom my clutter is befuddling in the extreme) can sit back and smile, thinking that it’s owning a house that’s done the trick. As long as she’s happy, I don’t mind!

So. Ramble over, what am I actually going to do?

  • Buy Marie Kondo’s book (on Kindle, of course)
  • Read the book
  • Apply Marie’s concepts to my belongings as I pack them
  • Live in unintended minimalism while the modernisation work is completed
  • Move all my stuff back into the correct rooms and out of boxes and hopefully never have a messy house again

Hmm. I’ll keep you posted…

With love and unicorns,

Carla xx

Edit: I read and started applying Marie’s methods last night. I’m another bag of clothes down and can see my bedroom floor for the first time since I started packing…

 

 

 

 

How to give old shoes a magical new lease of life

Three ways I’ve given old shoes a new lease of life…

1) The Rainbow Shoes

I don’t know if I’m ashamed or proud to admit that I have three pairs of identical Mary-Jane shoes from Schuh, in different colours. Red ones,  a present for my 19th birthday, to go with my Dorothy outfit. Black ones followed to go with an interview outfit, because they were SO DAMN COMFORTABLE but also looked good. And finally purple ones, a 21st present from my then-boyfriend.

I have now worn all three pairs so much that the straps have broken, the buttons have come off, they’ve all been reheeled at least three times and the leather is, well, completely buggered. No amount of polish is ever going to make them look good again.

So I took a leaf out of my own book (I’ve gone through phases of decorating shoes before) and decided to turn the black ones into rainbow shoes… using Decopatch papers.

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rainbow-4

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rainbow-2

I finished them off with a couple of coats of glitter Mod Podge (because sparkly rainbows on your feet!) and when they were dry, a coat of satin spray varnish to get rid of the stickiness.

 

2) The Lace Effect Heel Shoes

I used a similar ploy very effectively years ago, in the hideous London job, when I was informed my favourite shoes weren’t smart enough any more because the heels were worn and scratched. Never one to be deterred by rude people, I spent an evening up to my elbows in sandpaper, Mod Podge and tissue and this was the result:

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These are now five years old (I did the heels three years ago), still worn regularly and have held up to all the abuse I regularly chuck at my high heeled shoes.

3) The Sparkly Shit Underneath Shoes

Yeah, that never took off as a brand name. But, back in 2012 when I still lived in the flat, I had a cheap pair of black-and-turquoise satin shoes that needed a bit of pep for a night out with friends. As you can’t really glitter glue or spray paint satin, I looked around my studio, spotted my bead stash… and the rest is history.

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These have sadly long since bitten the dust, but I plan to use the same technique on another pair of heels that need some love soon.

So now I never have boring feet!

With love and unicorns,

signature

 

 
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52 Project: Weeks 7 – 9

Oops. I’ve been taking as many photos as ever, but somehow have completely failed to choose a photograph every week and put it on the blog. The first three and a half months of 2015 have flown past with indecent haste!

I can’t choose just one so the 52 Project will be more of a my year in pictures type project…

Week 7 (9-15 February): Creativity

Louise Rose Couture at Retro Photo Studio

Assisting Louise Rose Couture with a shoot at Retro Photo Studio – which was so much fun! I have a whole stash of shots from my behind the scenes documenting of the day, but I’ll share them in a separate post. This was a quick snap with my mobile.

collaging

Collaging and creating and giving myself permission to rip up old magazines. A lovely way of spending an afternoon.

Week 8 (16-22 February) Birthday joyfulness

Obviously I’m struggling to pick just one for each week. 16-22nd February involved birthday chilling, an amazing photo treasure hunt with a wonderfully eclectic selection of friends, and most importantly, my fluffy Clover-kitty was back to her usual silly self after a poison scare involving a stay at the vet.

birthday-chillaxing IMG_20150222_123059

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Week 9 (23 February – 1 March): Preparation

Getting ready to head off on holiday, I had a calming and colourful Lush bubble bath, got woken by the Nose-Biting Kitten Alarm (TM), finally cracked off-camera flash for product photography and found a stowaway while packing my suitcase.

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Pomophily

What do you get if you cross 38 balls of wool, 14 women, 12 weeks and 1 serious piece of research in a TED talk?

An art piece made of pompoms, featuring Campus Cat.

Obviously.

Over a year ago, I met the lovely Sarah by chance when she bought something from a classified ad I’d placed and we got talking about her crochet flower brooch. We decided, as you do, that what we really should do instead of going for coffee was start a craft club at the day job. And Crafty Coffee was born.

When the university we work at then launched an art competition to celebrate 50 years and our campus spirit, we had a mad idea that became reality – and I went to see it in the gallery last week. It was rather a lovely experience, actually – it’s been a while since I’ve seen my work in a public place, and I believe this is the first time something I’ve collaborated on has been exhibited in an art gallery.

So without further ado, let me present… Pomophily. (Because the design was based on Professor Maria Fasli’s TEDx talk on Homophily. But we made ours from pom poms.)

 

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nicespace

(not as sad as it used to be, as the Hex is now in use as a gallery. But a quirky and often unnoticed part of the uni, anyway)

something-fierce-entrance

in-gallery

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plaque

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Tiny Lifechangers: colour coded keys DIY

pinnable-keys

It can’t be just me who finds my tray of keys and spare change a constant muddle, and has more than once picked up the wrong one to house sit or feed a friend’s cat. (I often try to blame being creative, but in this case I am just hopeless at keeping the keys organised).

After the third time I tried to let myself into my parents’ house with my business partner’s house key, I decided I needed to do something drastic.

keys

Enter the 10-minute fix for easy, pretty and un-mix-uppable keys: nail varnish.

I have three sets of house keys besides my own, all of which are similar enough to make it difficult in a hurry (or the early morning) to see which is which.

So I raided my (embarrassingly extensive, for someone who paints her nails maybe three times a year) nail varnish stash and chose four colours.

colours-2

Glittery blue, for my own key.

Pool blue because it’s pretty.

Burnt sparkling gold because it matched the one gold-coloured key in the set.

Bright green because it makes me smile.

(Sneaky tip, I chose all of these for their heavy coverage too, to reduce the number of coats).

colours

Steps to making your gorgeous new keys:

Remove all keys from keyring, and wipe with white spirit or similar to remove any residue from fingers and handbags.

Arrange on a non-stick surface which you don’t mind having bits of nail varnish on (I used a box file)

Paint one side of your keys in your chosen colours.

one-coat

Let dry, and add another coat. Repeat until it’s as bright as you’d like – but be careful not to paint any of the actual key mechanism!

Turn over and repeat on the other side.

Once dry, re-attach to keyrings and admire.

finished

(optional) 7. Write initials on keys with permanent marker for extra identification.

Definitely one of the simplest projects I’ve ever done, but it’s had an amazing effect on the part of my life that involves me turning up at the right house at the right time and actually being able to let myself in…

Creating A Magical Life – the Dream Board

It’s no secret that I’m a great believer in talismans – visual or physical (or both) representations of what means the most to you.

Things you’re aiming or hoping or striving for; things you want to be reminded of; dreams you’re chasing; anything you want to keep in mind.

three-talismans | carlalouise.com

And I’m also a convert to the power of manifesting – or making what you want happen. The concept has undergone a bit of a transformation, from something totally away with the fairies to something more concrete and tangible, and I believe much more socially acceptable than it was a few years ago. (It’s possible I just hang out with very open, likeminded people, but either way I don’t much care what people think – it works for me!)

I’m the biggest fan of magic going, but actually I’m not convinced manifesting is particularly ethereally magical. I think it’s a more practical magic – if you get clear on what you want and remind yourself of this regularly, then you’re much more likely to notice opportunities to make it happen – opportunities that may otherwise have passed you by.

Gratitude and goals lists are already part of my daily routine – usually the last thing I do at night before I put the lights off and snuggle up with a cat on my head (yes, really – Luna-kitty refuses to sleep on the bed unless she’s on my head, purring loudly into my ear. It’s a surprisingly nice way to fall asleep). These tend to be more immediate – things from the day I’m thankful for, things I hope to achieve in the next few days/weeks/months. I have a list for each year too, though I’ve not yet shared that here.

dream-board-top

So when I saw Leonie’s suggestion in her 2015 Shining Year workbook to create a dream board for the year ahead, I jumped on it – a wonderful combination of talisman and manifesting list!

I covered an old noticeboard in pretty fabric, and found a teacup to store my pins. Then I dug out my scrapbooking stash, some precious objects, my 2015 intentions list and my Pinterest boards and proceeded to create a visual representation of the things that mean most to me and the things I intend, hope for, wish for and plan for in the coming year.

Some highlights:

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At the top is my Hogswatch 2014 medal – as one of the outstanding highlights of 2014, and with the passing of Terry Pratchett while I was away in Texas, Hogswatch 2015 in Wincanton is the one event I will be at by hook or by crook this year.

On the other side is a Night Circus inspired embroidery my gorgeous friend Gabby made for me – to remind me to keep my imagination, my dreams and my eclectic style going and not succumb to normality.

Then there are the other pins – ranging from reminders to inspiring quotes to business goals to personal aspirations, skills I want to acquire and experiences I want to have, things that inspire me and beautiful things I’d love to have in my life (velvet cloak, anyone?).

dream-board-full

I add to it constantly, and tick things off as I achieve them too. It lives in my living room, at the heart of my house – and it’s one of the best ways I’ve ever had of keeping track of multiple intentions.

Big thanks to Leonie – I’m already excited to see how it’ll look by the end of the year!

Do you have a dream board? Would love to see…!

Self-worth boost: the Achievements Jar

Self-Worth  Boost Achievement Jar | carlalouise.com

You know how it is – you’re rushing around, juggling your business, your day job, kids, family, friends, social arrangements, getting the car MOT-ed and trying to find time to clean the house without waking the neighbours at 1am with the hoover.

And as you sink into bed each night, you wonder how it is, exactly, that you’ve spent all day full speed ahead but don’t feel like you’ve actually achieved anything.

I’ve felt like this for all the time I’ve been running my businesses – because between my shop and Unfurling, Ink Drops and my day job, I am more or less constantly on the go.

And yet you are doing SO much more than you give yourself credit for.

How do I know this? Well, at the start of 2015 I set up my achievements jars. I think I first came across them on Pinterest though I have no idea whose pin they were.

I have one (the biggest) in my living room, by my dream board, one on  my desk at home,

Self-Worth  Boost Achievement Jar | carlalouise.com

and one on my day job desk.

Next to each one I keep a little stash of torn up pieces of paper (a great way of using scrap that would otherwise go in the recycling straight away).

During the day, I scribble down what I’ve just done and pop the pieces into whichever jar is nearest, and empty the jars regularly into my beloved Ikea resealable patterned plastic bags.

They can be as small as “played with kitties” or as big as “added new products to my website”; as mundane as “hung washing before work” and as exciting as “ordered prototypes of custom talisman” or “successful experiment with new bangles”.

Self-Worth  Boost Achievement Jar | carlalouise.com

The idea is that by keeping track of even the tiny things, you see the paper build up and have a tangible reminder that although it may feel like you’re not achieving anything, you are Doing. So. Much. And so much good!

You can adapt the concept for a memory jar, for compliments, for good days – but I like this simple catch-all, and it has really helped me to take a moment to notice what I do.

And realise that every single thing I do, from everyday routine to motivated action to much-needed rest time, is moving me forward into the life I’m designing, not just the obvious things.

Try it – you might just be surprised at how much you’re achieving without giving yourself credit.

Self-Worth  Boost Achievement Jar | carlalouise.com

52 Project, week 6: colourful

Couldn’t choose just one for this week – too much good stuff! Rainbow shoes, My Little Pony hair, glittery Doc Martens and a sign I’m on the right track…

First up, rainbow decopatched heels – these were a much loved pair of black leather Mary Janes from Schuh, which I own in black, red and magenta. But all three pairs have been so worn over the last 7 or 8 years that no amount of polish was going to make them acceptable. So I turned the black pair into rainbow shoes.

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Then I went to get my hair re-bleached for some more and brighter blue on Saturday. But liked the brown-to-blonde-to-mint-green look so much I haven’t actually put any extra dye in yet! IMG_20150207_155655

If I don’t find any cowboy boots I adore on this trip to the States, I shall be buying these glittery babies the moment I return…

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And a sign that I’m on the right path with Unfurling Your Wings – I’ve never bought Illamasqua, though my friend Wendy has designed bags for their launches, but I have just discovered that their tagline is “make up for your alter ego”. Perfect. 20150208_115452

 

As ever, the other contenders are on my Flickr stream.