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)

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Tiny Lifechangers: colour coded keys DIY

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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?).

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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.

52 Project, week 5: Pomophily

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Bit fuzzy from my much-abused camera phone, but this is the moment we handed in our entry to work’s art competition. Based on one of our academic’s TEDx talks, about homophily – which is “the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others”.

This was a group effort from Crafty Coffee, our Friday lunchtime craft group – and we thought it illustrated us perfectly.

Don’t miss Campus Cat in the middle! Maria’s original talk is here, with the images we were inspired by at 15:19.

 

 

Why being interested in ALL THE THINGS is actually a good thing

Discovering, a couple of years ago, that I was a Scanner, was a turning point in my life.

If you’ve never come across the word in this context before, alternative names include Renaissance woman/man/soul, polymath, da Vinci personality, multipassionate, multipotentialite, and some that are less complimentary – dilettante, flake, Jack-of-all-trades, fantasist.

Barbara Sher, who coined the term Scanner, goes into it in much more depth in her books, but the gist is that it’s someone who has many interests, usually moves jobs often, can’t seem to settle on one thing to do and who has ideas all the time, and frequently leaves projects seemingly unfinished.

I’m not normally one for labels, but I’d struggled for years with my many, many interests, and my attention span waxing and waning depending on what I was doing, but also on when I was doing it and what other things were currently on my radar. I had more hobbies than the rest of my group of friends put together, and found it utterly impossible to stay in a job for more than 18 months or so without being bored to tears. By the time I was 24 I had a CV which spanned as many pages as my Dad’s did – he was 66 at the time.

Even the line dancing I adored, I stopped once I’d reached a certain level. I qualified for, competed in and placed in the World Championships in Nashville in 2000, and it has taken me fifteen years to rekindle my love affair with line dancing. I got what I wanted out of it, and then I quit. (Though I’ve worn cowboy (girl?) boots ever since I was nine.)

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Modern Western society expects us all to be specialists, and to choose one thing to do for the rest of our lives. Even at 16 I raised eyebrows by choosing English, French, German and Physics for my A levels. So many people told me that I should have taken another Humanities subject. I’d have taken something arty (photography or textiles or something like that), but I was told at school, repeatedly from childhood, that I was academic and not creative. So I did what I could at the time, while dreading the thought of refining my choices even further.

My tendency to stop completely and move on, once whatever I was doing ceased to be interesting or fun, has been frowned upon over the years too – because in our society, whether at work or at play, quitting is seen as giving up, as being unreliable and therefore as a bad thing. I couldn’t understand why people would continue with all sorts of things, most of which were either supposed to be fun or which took up a considerable chunk of precious life –  work, relationships, hobbies, projects – long after they stopped enjoying them.

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Discovering blogs (or weblogs, as they were known in the misty recesses of 2005) was a revelation – here at last was somewhere where I could write about and share the day to day stories of being me, of everything I did – and instead of simply recording it in a diary, I found likeminded people! Other people’s writing, blog comments, forums for incredibly niche hobbies like collecting model horses – for the first time, no one judged me for having a series of bursts of enthusiasm for something, then taking a break and returning to it later.

(A vaguely relevant side note – I found it hilarious when people started extolling the virtues and wonder of internet dating, and meeting people online, a few years ago – because these were the same people that gave me repeated lectures on how stupid I was to go to London to meet new friends I’d met online through my hobbies… whether Wheel of Time fans, model horse collectors or photographers. My first internet meetup was with Chloe in London when I was 19, back in 2006 – and it was apparently far from normal to do that then. She’s now one of my dearest friends. Who knew something held in such suspicion would become so mainstream so fast?!)

Regardless of the type of project, idea or pastime, I followed (follow!) a pattern of sorts – I’d have an idea or something would pique my interest, I’d research it a bit and decide I wanted to learn about it or learn to do it. I’d do some more research, meet some people who already did it, buy some things related to it (craft materials, jewellery tools, small collectable resin horses, typewriters…) and then throw myself into it with an all-consuming passion. Until the next thing caught my attention.

An example – at the time I write, I have just found the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series. I ADORED MLP when I was younger, and had avoided the new style ones in case I hated them. Then I saw an episode on YouTube and am now devouring the first and second series on DVD, while scouring shops and the internet for MLP memorabilia to keep on my desk, pin up in my studio, and hang from my handbag.

I’ve driven both my (now ex) partners and my parents, and probably my friends too, up the wall for decades with my wild enthusiasm for a new project which dwindles into inertia just as they’re starting to come round to the idea of me having chosen My Thing, at last.

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So after the best part of a decade of doing this and blogging, and trying to justify my inability to choose or find that One Thing to do with my career and free time that was supposed to keep me interested for the rest of my life, I found one of Barbara Sher’s books in the library.

And I read it, and I cried… because there at last was proof that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t a flake and that I wasn’t broken. I just had a different kind of brain – and there were other people out there like me.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve actively sought out other people who get it, though the majority of people I know still don’t. Which is ok – we’re just wired differently! Lots of the solopreneurs I now count among my dearest friends (the internet is a properly magical thing!) are also scanners, and we’re learning how to make our personalities work with our businesses rather than forcing ourselves into a box.

When I find a new thing, the time I spend engaged with it varies – from a few days to a few years, and I am never without several things on the go. (if I’d had a £1 for every time someone asked me how I fit so much in and follow so many hobbies, I could probably retire tomorrow). And I have a noticeable cycle, though the timing isn’t consistent – generally, if it’s something I discover and like enough to chuck myself into it, I make friends within it and then continue to return to it after intervals, throughout my life.

Examples of these include collecting, painting and showing model horses; my car Poppy and the club I belong to through her; roller skating (started at age 6 and I go through phases of being addicted to it every few years); horse riding; jewellery making; papercraft and scrapbooking; customising shoes and clothes; reworking the interior of my home; sewing; camper vans; cross stitching, baking, wanting to write a book… the list is endless (almost literally).

The only things which are consistent are writing and photography. Which brings me to the heart of this post.

When it became apparent at an absurdly early age that I was going to write, and read, far more than I was going to do anything else consistently (the photography came later), it’s been suggested repeatedly that I should be an author and write books, or a journalist and write articles, or a travel writer, or [insert traditional writing-related-job here].

And they’re all good ideas on the surface. But the trouble is, I don’t want to write whole books (well, I do, but I know myself well enough now to know that completing more than one is highly unlikely – the kick I’ll get when I finish Unfurling is highly likely to be enough for me to move onto something else instead of writing a second book).

I don’t want to dive so deeply into one subject that I don’t have time or energy left over to explore all the other amazing things out there – which, if I pursued a traditional writing career, I would have to do. Even journalists, who write short to medium articles instead of whole books, usually specialise in a broad topic – business, or travel, or cookery, or lifestyle.

And while thinking about my blog, and where it’s headed over the next few years, and how I got into blogging in the first place, it occurred to me that it really is the perfect place for my scanner personality to develop, grow and flourish.

It takes the two things I do naturally and consistently, and applies them to the ever-changing series of things that I do equally naturally, but much less consistently. I can write one-sentence posts, or 2,000 word epics like this one – and I get to choose, rather than an editor.

Since I very first started blogging back in 2006, and in a more structured way since the inception of Ducking Fabulous in 2010, I have used my very own space on the internet to record, write, think out loud and muse about life, learning and all the things that catch my fancy.

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To explore and investigate my passing enthusiasms, catch ideas I’d like to follow up in the future, and record my journey through learning and practising and discovering. It gives me a self-made library to refer to when I come back to something I’ve done before, and means I have tangible evidence of how I’ve improved, changed, or grown in a particular area.

Through my writing I’ve learned to give myself permission not to finish things, and to hop, if I want to, between interests. I allow myself to stop doing things if they’re not working – a complete antithesis to the previous generation’s work ethic, which tends to be along the power-through-and-keep-going-even-if-it’s-hard-and-it-should-be-worth-it-in-the-end lines.

Credit is also due to the rise of blogging in popularity and as a career choice – I no longer have to explain what a blog is, and it’s the best excuse I’ve ever had for trying out new things – all in the name of fresh content for my lovely readers. Yet this blog, seemingly uniquely for a blog that supports a business, is still very much my little space on the internet. I’m forever reading articles which tell you what you must and mustn’t do in order for your blog to be businesslike, or relevant, or grow your readership… and I stand by my belief that a blog is the equivalent of your home online.

I want people to see me for who I am, and if they resonate with me and like my writing, then some part of my business will probably be a good fit for them. Whether it’s jewellery, tarot decks or courses depends very much on them and what they’re looking for.

I’m trying this year for the first time to schedule my posts and write them in advance, and while it works for some types of post, it’s failing miserably for others. Like these. I need to write them when the inspiration strikes, and then I want them out there so I can have the conversations they spark while the subject is still fresh in my mind.

So what about you? Are you also a scanner, or beginning to realise you could be one? Let me know in the comments (or email me if you’d prefer it not to be public) – I’d love to know.

With love and unicorns,

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52 Project, Week 3: jewellery experiments

stamped talismans | carlalouise.com

This week I got my creative mojo back in buckets and have been making jewellery, and experimenting with new techniques. And I’ve finally applied to the Secret Vintage Fair – a fair I’ve wanted to be at since they started, but life has got in the way. Fingers crossed my application will be accepted and I’ll be able to take my new stock out in April!

The other contenders for this week are in my Flickr stream, including my first ever Cornish pasty……


Created with flickr slideshow.

2015’s 52 Project (and Week 1)

Once, long ago (well, in 2008) I did a 365 photography project. I loved the challenge of taking photos every day, but my life is now far too full to be able to commit to that. And I have quite enough half-finished projects and barely-started ideas to knowingly add to the pile!

So instead I’m starting a 52 project for 2015. One photo a week, all year.

I’m sharing the best contenders each week over on my Unfurling Flickr page and will post the one I choose each Monday over here.

For the very first week of January I struggled, because it was full of amazing at home and with friends. And lovely Anna’s 40th birthday! So in the end I went for an arty one and one of the birthday girl, because it was far too hard to choose from the ones of my friends all together.

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Anna-on-her-40th

Speedy Christmas Wreath*

The lovely people at Country Baskets sent me a box of craft ingredients and a challenge – make a Christmas decoration using at least four of them. I’m up against other bloggers and they will judge the competition this week. Eeek!

My box contained florist’s wire, satin ribbon, a frosted (faux) mistletoe spray, a wonderful garland of fluffy white pom poms, silver (faux) poinsettia with wired stems, silver bells on a chain, a pack of cream coloured wire balls and a pack of heart shaped baubles.

I had a wonderful time unpacking them and the cats had a wonderful time exploring the box and the packaging. (Thank you for the unexpected bonus gift of a cat-sized box, Country Baskets!)

But what to make?

Due to the EU VAT fiasco that is still raging, I haven’t had a lot of time for crafting, and I wasn’t sure what would best fit the challenge in the tiny pockets of time I had available. Then I remembered that a few years back I used some similar wire, plus tinsel and baubles to make an evergreen wreath. Those pom poms were crying out to be hung on my front door, so I set to work.

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It is nearly impossible to craft when you have inquisitive cats who are firmly convinced they’re helping…

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But eventually I had a finished wreath – and I’m chuffed with the mistletoe in the middle, as real mistletoe is poisonous to cats so I won’t have it in the house. Here it is:

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And here it is adorning my front door, just in time for Christmas brunches and drinks!

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*Courtesy of Country Baskets – I wasn’t paid for this post but I did receive a free box of products to use in my decoration.