Thoughts on a Depth Year

At risk of being accused of bandwagon jumping, the lovely Annastasia recently sent me this article from Raptitude about a Depth Year.

As you’ll know if you’re a regular visitor, or a friend (or both!), I read a lot. Blogs, books, magazines, cereal packets – if I’m not creating, I’m always reading, and always digesting information, and yet this stood out.

Mermaid Kerenza Sapphire swimming at Haraki Beach, Rhodes | carlalouise.com
Not necessarily this kind of depth, although I do find a sense of calm & peace at about 3m underwater.

Deeper, not wider

The general concept is to go deeper, not wider. So making more of what you already have, revisiting half-finished or abandoned projects, trying not to buy more and do more and acquire more.

Just for a year. Just to see how it feels. It might become habit, or a way of life, or it might not.

At least, that’s what I took from it. And it was like a siren song to me, at this weird crossroads between my old life and (another) new life. I’m living my freelance, self employed dreams, and I have more freedom than I’ve ever had, and it is everything I dreamed of.

But it’s still early days, and while the businesses are doing ok, they’re not yet seriously established. In my book, that comes around the 5-7 year mark of the same business, and though I’ve had businesses and side hustles for nearly nine years, of course my hallmark is changing things up, even while the themes stay the same.

And under everything, still, is the utter despair of grief, and not really knowing what life looks like without Dad in it. It’ll be two years in March and I still don’t really know how to get my head around the loss of him.

Frustration with the culture of MORE

I’ve also been getting increasingly frustrated with social media, and the comparisonitis and more more MORE culture. The concept that you can only be happy if you buy certain stuff, do certain stuff and look a certain way. I know it’s changing, slowly and in corners of both the internet and real life, but it is exhausting.

Avon, of all places, body shamed cellulite in a recent advert, and frankly it felt like the last straw. I also spent a couple of weeks at Mum’s, with the cats, over Christmas, and as she has a TV and I don’t, I luxuriated in the novelty of watching TV while curled up with antibiotics, throat lozenges and a very obliging Luna & Clover.

Oh my god. The ADVERTS. They are constant, and loud (I swear the volume goes up of its own accord during ad breaks, to follow you to the loo or kitchen or whatever). For someone who has lived without a TV for more than four years, rarely goes to the cinema, doesn’t read newspapers except in dire emergencies and gave up typical women’s magazines a long time ago, the adverts are overwhelming.

What depth looks like to me

Depth. As a multipod my life is wiiiiide – I cover a lot of ground, love a lot of things and keep a lot of plates spinning. It’s how I thrive best.

Recently I’ve been feeling very contented with my quartet of businesses, plus dance and this blog. The combination finally feels right to me, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not feeling the pull to create a whole new venture. Instead I’m creating within my existing ventures and it feels bloody brilliant.

But a quick ten minutes with my journal and a cuppa (oh, who am I kidding, a Pepsi Max) yielded this list of things I could explore further this year:

Photography for clients – exploring new ways I can use my branding & web knowledge to create stunning shots for business owners & bloggers, year round, and helping women feel amazing about themselves in both their personal & their professional lives.

Photography for joy – fantasy/fine art work, landscapes & exploring, my existing personal projects, documenting the people close to me.

Posing at a Brooke Shaden workshop in 2015. I still haven’t finalised the images which came from this!

Studio lighting & flatlays (I’m in the process of launching a stock library and would love to develop this further – pop over to studio19stock.com for details). Having Studio 19 is a dream come true, but I haven’t really experimented with different lighting setups much – just used what I’m comfortable with to get amazing shots for my lovely clients. Experimentation is definitely on the cards!

Time with friends & family – whatsapp is a wonderful invention, but I found myself feeling very disconnected during December (not unusual over the madness of the festive period, plus I had whooping cough so felt generally wretched), so I want to spend more time in person or at least on Skype, with my full attention on my loved ones and vice versa.

Tarot, oracle & witchery – I’ve done some readings for myself and for friends recently which have been spot on, and having used the cards for a long time to prompt my inner thoughts & journalling, I’m getting to know them much better. I want to explore this side of my spirituality and I have about a million books connected to the subject!

Marking the seasons – sort of connected to the witchery really, I always say this is something I’d like to do, and then the seasons race past and I find it’s winter solstice again and I’ve failed to notice or mark the passing of the year.

Cooking from recipe books (and possibly freezer diving!) – I have a whole bookcase full of recipe books and a massive folder of ones I’ve found, not to mention my Pinterest board – so this year I would love to explore these in more depth and see if I can find some new favourites.

Sorting and printing photos – both physical and digital.

Journalling, my five year diary and my gratitude diary – they’re frequent habits but not daily yet. and my five year diary which started on my 25th birthday and finished the day before I turned 30 is a treasured possession, so having another one would be lovely.

Letter writing – I’m doing lots of this with Ink Drops (we have declared 2019 the Year of the Real Letter) and I’ve also found a new penpal through a Facebook group I’m part of.

wooden type at St Botolphs | carlalouise.com
Letterpress goodness in Colchester. I’m not ruling out letterpressing my own stationery!

Jewellery making – this is something I revisit every January to make my Wear Your Word bracelet, and I’d love to hone my skills & learn some new ones instead of taking up a whole new hobby.

Scrapbooking/vision boarding – apart from my yearly vision board, I cannot tell you how many half-started, unfinished scrapbooks are kicking around my office!

Roller skating – joyful movement is hugely important to me, and dusting off my skates has never yet failed to bring me happiness.

Cross stitch – I’m still battling with a very small cross stitch I bought eight years ago whe I left the library. It would feel SO GOOD to finish it, frame it and hang it up!

Ebaying, decluttering & the Queen Sweep.

Diving into my course library – I have bought (and done) so many courses over the years, I’d love to revisit some instead of buying new ones.

Unread books & rereading books – and this afternoon I paid off my library fine so I can use the library instead of buying books.

Finish decorating my house – this is of course time & money dependent, but I can certainly do bits and pieces, like putting up the art which has been propped against the fireplace for almost three years.

Burlesque & line dance – going deeper means learning and remembering and possibly performing.

Blogging – here I am!

BBQs – Dad would approve so much!

Self portraits, costumes & prop making – all of which make my heart sing, but I never seem to have time for. I will, however, be going to Bothwell School of Witchcraft as crew this year, so am hopeful this will bring together those long-suppressed bits of creativity.

For ten minutes, I thought that was quite an impressive list, and I have definitely missed some stuff. Aside from all the things I do (and it’s always been a long list), I’ve always been fond of the make do & mend concept, and will be actively looking to repair rather than replace things which break or go wrong.

Plus of course trying to buy less – I’m still allowing myself to buy what I need, but will try to keep tabs on my impulse purchases, and anything which uses too much single-use plastic. (Mermaid at heart, see!)

So I hereby declare 2019 my Depth Year.

Fancy joining me? Already done one? Leave me a comment or drop me an email, I’d love to hear your experiences & tips!

How to wear your cats on your ears

Some time ago, the wonderful Laura Sparling created a limited edition run of custom cat lampwork beads – you could choose all the options and they would look, more or less, like your cats.

Lampwork cat earrings | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

LOOK AT THEM…. they even have the right colour eyes!! 

Obviously I thought this was the best thing ever, and proceeded to buy lampwork portraits of Luna and Clover.

And then I bought a house and everything went to hell in a handcart for eighteen months while I rebuilt it.

This morning, I had a pet portrait shoot booked that sadly had to be rescheduled due to miserable weather, so instead I decided to have a mini artist date – and turn these cats into earrings! (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type…)

Lampwork cat earrings | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

It wasn’t a complicated make – extra ingredients were sterling silver ear wires and 3mm jump rings. I removed the lobster clasps from the cats and added the extra jump ring and the wire – the extra ring makes them hang the right way more easily.

And here are the finished earrings:

Lampwork cat earrings | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

Plus of course the close up at the top.

It was lovely to make something for me – and even lovelier to now be able to take my idiot felines with me wherever I go!

Making rainbow unicorn bark

rainbow Unicorn bark | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

Having recently rediscovered artist dates (I’m actually reading the Artist’s Way now, along with two friends, and it is so far both wonderful and a bit uncomfortable), and with the studio now finished enough to work in, I’ve been collecting ideas of what I can do with precious alone time.

Carla Louise's artist date Pinterest board screenshot | carlalouise.com

There’s lots on there from the general list of things I want to do in 2017, but the one that caught my eye this afternoon when I returned home from spending Sunday with my parents was UNICORN BARK.

Chocolate bark is quite an American thing, I think, but chocolate is chocolate whichever side of the ocean you’re on, and when you can make it swirly, sparkly and pastel coloured, I’m definitely in.

It’s also easy and quick, which given everything I should be doing other than making chocolate, is a good thing!

rainbow Unicorn bark | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

Ingredients

Good quality white chocolate (I used Menier, and made a mini 100g bar of bark for this first run)

Food colouring in the colours of your choice (I went for purple, pink and blue. Online opinion says you should have oil based candy colouring. I couldn’t find this in a hurry, so went for Dr Oetker gel colours which worked fine!)

Greaseproof/waxed paper (I used foil/parchment which I believe was from Aldi)

Hundreds and thousands, glitter, sparkly sugar bits (all optional – mine were bronze sugar pieces from Waitrose which I had lurking in my cupboard)

That’s it!

Method

Line a shallow container with your waxed paper.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of water on the hob. If you’re using the microwave, do it in 15 or 20 second bursts, or you’ll do what I did with the first bar, burn the bottom and end up with inedible crispy chunks in your chocolate. And wasted chocolate is practically a crime!

When smooth and stirrable, split between three or more bowls – one for each colour.

Working fairly quickly, mix your food colouring into each bowl. I used about five drops of the gel colour to get this strength, which I’d say is strong pastel – you can adjust as you fancy.

Dollop the coloured chocolate randomly into the waxed paper tray, swirl around a bit with a fork.

Sprinkle with your choice of toppings, then leave to cool (not in the fridge as this can do weird things to the chocolate’s finish).

When it’s properly cool,  break into pieces.

And voila… unicorn bark!

Pssst! Looking for gorgeous brand images of your own creative work? Come and visit me over at my business & branding photography site and let’s make gorgeous images from your creative goodness!

Dates with myself (try it – it might just change your life)

Way back when I was still working in London, I wrote about my spontaneous booking of tickets to see the English National Ballet and Flawless at the Hammersmith Apollo.

artist date - flawless and ENB | carlalouise.com

There wasn’t anyone immediately available who I particularly wanted to join me, so I took myself. It was a Friday night, and my colleagues thought I was crazy and a little tragic. I may even have thought that myself for about five minutes after I left the office.

And then I realised, it wasn’t tragic, it was wonderful. The feeling of independence of doing something typically associated with group or couple outings by myself was incredible. It’s also very freeing not to have any expectations around an event or place – you don’t have to comment on it, or work around anyone else’s plans or needs – you can simply be, and absorb, and enjoy (and eat cake).

2012-06-08 14.37.33-2

And so I’ve carried on having dates with myself when I feel the need to recharge my creative and emotional batteries.

I’ve been to gardens, museums, galleries, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, talks, all sorts. Often I’ll discover it for the first time with someone, and return on my own to appreciate it properly.

It doesn’t have to be a day out, either. Sometimes I’ll go and visit a particular shop I love, or I’ll spend an afternoon scrapbooking, delving into memories.

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