2014, eh? Crack on!

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I think my New Year is still in its wrapping.
You know how you get something new and you just want to admire it for a while in all its shiny newness? Crisp, clean, free of any sticky mitts…

I’m not kidding anyone with the fact I’m dawdling, am I?

Ok, time to break open the packaging and get into 2014!

I’m not really one for New Year’s ‘resolutions’ (who wants those judgmental undertones to start the year?) but there’s a bunch of stuff I intend to do this year (I figure ‘intentions’ give me a bit of leeway – I can approach them whenever I damn well feel like it!) So here they are in pictures:

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And in words: do another market, set up an online market stall, develop my sketches and characters, practice Quenya & calligraphy…

I’ll be honest, some of it’s kind of scary for me. I still feel like a bit of a tech n00b with online things and that I’m gonna stuff things up big time! Dunno why. I grew up with computers, then shied away a bit when the internet really got booming. Now I’m playing catch up with just a teeny weeny streak of self consciousness…

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It’s funny, I’ll take artistic risks all the time. I’ll work on something important, or something where I only get one shot. I get the idea, ponder it, then – rather than do test runs and perfect it elsewhere first – I’ll pretty much launch in and see what happens. Maybe not the best way to do it. I’ve screwed up, I’ve problem-solved, I’ve rescued. But it works for me. And I’m cool with that.
Yet something like setting up a thing online, that your average 3 year old has probably mastered these days… nup.
I get intimidated.
I procrastinate.
I hide.
Weird, huh?

So yeah, time to push past all that and embrace 2014 by expanding further on the interwebs. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Who knows, maybe it’ll help someone who’s in the same boat (even if it’s just a rather loose sense of moral support where they can think, Yay, I’m not the only one!) For others of you it might prove anywhere from entertaining to cringeworthy (I still don’t know wtf this hash tag thing is all about. No, really. #WTF?)
Suggestions and support are always welcome, however! 😉

Right, well, one of my first destinations along this year’s path is an inn called ‘Learning to Photograph One’s Stock’. (Goodness, I think I’ve just fallen into describing my life as a big fantasy adventure where there are inns and forests and magic coins and things… haha. Awesome.) But yeah, learning to photograph the stuff I make and want to sell. This is an art in itself if you want to present things in an appealing and inspiring way. Think magazine presentation vs DIY classifieds you see here and there. = Magical vision of the thing in context vs lazy snap of the thing tossed on a kitchen bench. Hmmm.
Because I’m an earthy kind of person (who is prone to medieval and fantasy references, as you now know) and some of the themes of what I create are earthy, I wanted to incorporate that in my photos. This means choosing a certain background, ‘setting’, colours, textures, and props like leaves and bark. Having access to heaps of magazines has been great for picking up ideas and inspirations that I can start to experiment with.

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Already I’ve learnt that flat = boring (box 1), the protective cello bag needs to be ditched (box 4), but the bark and branch elements are quite good (boxes 2&3). These kind of complete the vision I had when making the charms themselves.
It’s a start.
So now I’ve flitted over to the stage of defining what my online stall will be (title, themes, maybe even logo) and also making the things specifically for it. Along with that then, when ready, I’ll look at creating a good set up for photographing them. (All the while telling myself, ‘You can dooo it’ in my best Rob Schneider impression, to keep the doubt & discouragement demons at bay) Hey, whatever works, right?

Something I have got rolling already is a second blog dedicated to Nut & Arbie.

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Yeah, I know, I’ve only just started this one! But they threatened to invade it if I didn’t give them their own space! And I do rather like the excitement of starting something new (see last post).
So if the adventures of a well-endowed bully dog and a cheeky, overgrown spider appeal to you, please check out their blog: Nut & Arbie
They’ll be overjoyed.

Now to find a slab of meat and a mug of ale! (…Or a sushi and hot chocolate.)
Till next time!

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One for the Dabblers

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Don’t you love it when an article in a magazine validates or at least identifies one of your quirks? You know, a trait or a behaviour that you thought nobody else had, that your family and friends give you a hard time about because they’re clearly not one of the chosen ones who get to enjoy such an element in their lives? Even better when the article paints this quirk in a positive light (what? you mean I may not be the spawn of hobgoblins after all? Please, do go on…) It’s like finding a soulmate on a page, a new friend amongst a bunch of words.

I experienced this feeling recently as I flicked through a copy of Psychologies from a few months back (hooray for Christmas where you finally have time to catch up on reading while you hide from relatives and recover from your food/drink/chocolate/fruit coma – choose as applicable). There was an article talking about people who are serial starters – they start all kinds of projects and either don’t finish them or finish very few.

‘Hey, that’s like me!’ I squealed to Nut, who didn’t bat an eyelid (probably coz he doesn’t have any). Yet his expression said it all. Yes, Kel, you started making *my* blog, remember? You started putting ideas together, started taking pics, started editing pics, but where’s my blog?

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Well, I… Hey it’s coming, alright? Haven’t you got a spider to harass?

Whoops. That came out a bit defensive. But sometimes we do that when we’re challenged, don’t we? Particularly when it regards something that’s more or less a natural inclination for us. Something that’s misunderstood. Something that, for whatever reason, society/family/peers/Grumpy Cat deem undesirable. Or inefficient. Time-wasting. Deviant. Frivolous. Harking back to some underlying, old school belief about how life ‘should’ be lived.
‘You’re not doing your life right, you’d better shape up and get things together in the prescribed way or you’ll regret it.’
Hang on – whose life is it?!

That’s what this article was getting at, in a way. Honouring what feels right for you. Putting aside the guilt and instead adopting the assumption that, deep inside, you actually know what you’re doing (even though you may appear like a headless chicken bumping from one thing to the next!)
For those of us ‘serial starters’, we’re not lazy or quitters. Some of us are just wired to explore rather than settle. And who’s to say that it’s not the way to go, or that it’s going to be detrimental? Because often the dabblers among us can be made to feel inadequate, as if there’s something wrong with us for not having that ‘one thing’ we do in life. Yet, the world’s now changed in a way that actually favours the dabblers and jacks-of-all-trades.

So what if, in the bigger scheme of things, we’re actually ahead of the game? What if our occasionally criticised dabbling has given us a wide and varied skill set that makes us highly adaptable? Not to mention well-attuned to our interests and strengths? How is that a bad thing?

Another thing I loved about this article was its praise for curiosity. As any creative knows, permission to explore and experiment opens the way for those happy accidents and discoveries you never would have made if you only kept to what is known and accepted. A healthy dose of curiosity about life – your own life in particular – surely leads to a brighter, happier you.

In my experience, a brighter, happier me is the one that embarks on all kinds of new projects. Usually with the intention of finishing them, but not bound to doing so. (Pressure to finish things can sometimes stifle the joy of them.) I like starting different projects because I think they’ll be fun. I love learning new things. I love the energy of beginning. Sometimes I lose interest part way through. Sometimes I embrace it all the way. I can’t know till I get going. Coz how are you supposed to know what really resonates with you until you’re in the midst of it? (Riding the waves of ‘succeeding’ and ‘failing’ along the way too.) That’s what makes life interesting.

At the same time, the article suggests that sometimes the lessons we’re meant to learn arrive before we finish the task itself. Be it a book, a project or a course, if you get the feeling you got what you needed halfway through, rejoice! Now move onto the next lesson elsewhere; wherever your interest takes you, coz that’s where you’re going to be happiest. Imagine if we praised and valued our adventurous minds instead of scolding them!

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I reckon it’s time to let ourselves off the hook regarding things we haven’t finished. Maybe we’ve already learnt what we needed to learn and our energy is best channelled elsewhere, into new things. If that is what’s happening naturally, why fight it? Relax and be more process-orientated rather than outcome-orientated. Who knows, maybe the process is the outcome, and was always meant to be.

*The article I’ve referred to throughout this post is called ‘Starter’s Orders’ by Barbara Sher, in Psychologies magazine, October 2013 issue. I started looking online for a link if there is one, but my brief search got nothin’. By that point I was already moving on to photo editing and finishing a block of chocolate (see I do finish some things!!) 😉

What the Water Gave Me

I’m not one to fling myself into the ocean much when I go to the beach. Sure, our beaches are beautiful, and I’ll wade in every now and again. But what I love most is walking along the sand searching for the odd, the interesting, and the magical. Yeah, I’m one of those ones you see crouched beside rock pools or hovering over dumpings of shells and rocks on the sea-licked expanse.

It’s easy to lose track of time and place when there’s so much to explore, with the afternoon wind and waves crashing in the background.

Sometimes I’ll collect things I find and like (though who knows what I’m gonna do with that pile of weird sea rocks & shells, or the funky driftwood stick…).

Other things, however, can’t be taken except in picture form. Either because they can’t be picked up, or you get the feeling they’re where they belong. Here are a few of my favourites from recent wanderings along Sydney’s Northern Beaches armed with my iPhone 4s.

A favourite escape

Narrabeen – a favourite escape

 

Sand stars?

Sand stars?

 

Arrangement as found

Sometimes Nature does its own arrangements

 

This made me think of a faery ring...  Sea-fae?

This made me think of a faery ring. Sea-faery-style.

 

I did say the odd and the interesting...

I did say the odd and the interesting…

 

I feel there's kind of sad beauty to this find.

There’s kind of a sad beauty to this find, I feel.

 

I wonder what its story was.

I wonder what its story was.

 

It still fascinates me now. Life, death, and what is left behind.

It still fascinates me now.

 

Life, death, and what’s left behind. The sea produces so many treasures for those who recognise them, and who take the time to visit.

Thank you for visiting!

 

(And thanks to Florence and the Machine for the title inspiration) 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scrap Wood Made Good

So last week was a good ole play around with photographs and editing apps. There has been more of that, thanks to more apps, more time messing around, and more chocolate. The muse likes chocolate.
But this week I’ve also been getting my hands dirty (or at least dusty & roughed up a bit) with woodwork. Nothing fancy! I’d better establish that from the get go. We’re talking veeery basic – chopping & sanding, since I haven’t done any projects with wood since Year 8 (i.e. a while ago). I think I’ve even still got the money box I made, somewhere…
But why wood? Why now?
Well, I found a piece. At the side of the road. Just an old shelf with four bonus screws poking out dangerously underneath. [Insert jump for joy here] Coz one thing I’ve been wanting to try for a while is making rustic, artsy little signs (you know the ones; currently breeding like rabbits in a homewares store near you). I think they’re great. And I wanted to create some with my own sentiments and quirks, rather than the usual ones you see.
So I lugged this plank home, ignored it for a couple of weeks, and then finally decided it was time to play. (Stars aligned and stuff like that.) Thanks to Dad being a hoarder of all kinds of tools and handyman shit, I had access to: circular saw, drill, sandpaper, ruler and pencil. The last two I could’ve provided but hey, package deal.
The result: a pile of pieces to sand.

Site supervisor - Nut

Nut decided to supervise.

Actually very enjoyable. And I found the stain on this particular wood created an awesome effect when sanded around the edges only. Bonus!
At this point I was also thinking about ideas and effects. The experimental piece reveals some of my discoveries so far:

Sacrificed for the greater wood. Erm, good.

Sacrificed for the greater wood. Erm, good.

Scratching letters in (channelling the high school vandal I never was), looked great but took too long. Metallic gouache that I had lying around, was shit. No, really. It needs to be chucked. Should’ve known there was a reason for the markdown price. White acrylic paint looked alright but I wasn’t completely sold on it.
Then enter the hero: Ink. Precious ink! that I’d snubbed all these years for no apparent reason in favour of watercolour and acrylic and graphite. I was introduced to this marvellous medium a month or so ago by a graphic novelist at a workshop he was running. Nothing beats ink and brush for creating a damn sexy line, he’d said. I have to agree. Line work, filling in, all of that, it just feels so good with ink. Which led to this morning’s trial run on my first little sign: Hero sign
A bit of free hand calligraphy that fit – thankfully. I’d sketched it first (good idea) coz I’m notorious for just charging in, which doesn’t always work but seems to work enough that I do it more often than not. (Gambler! Rebel!)
I’m currently deciding if I’ll add anything else before finishing. As I said, this is all experimental, and I’m really hoping ink remains the hero by staying permanent and shiny and neat.
If not, well, maybe it’ll be onto plan B. The wood burning kit. Which hoarder Dad remembered (and found!!) last night. Gotta love Dad. But it does mean I’ve gotta cut him some slack re: the overflow of stuff. For now. At any rate I’ll be experimenting with wood burning next!

In other creative news: note pad fail! I’d painted pics on little notepads to sell in gift packs for Christmas, applied clear nail polish over the acrylic paint to seal it, and then this happened:

Oh nooooo!

Oh nooooo!

The whole thing has peeled off like a big sticker (which I can use for something else, I guess) – but ack! Glad I found out now rather than later. Must’ve been the particular plastic cover coz that’s never happened before.

Which leads me to a thought for the week: giving oneself permission to fail. I never used to. I’d have sooner keeled over than made a mistake, let alone tell anyone. But that’s no fun and scares the muse away (chocolate or no chocolate). So I’ve given myself permission to mess up and laugh about it. Even share it with the world. o_O
Be sure to watch this space for future f-ups, triumphs, and the joys of being creative!

Have Phone, Will Create

On that bloody phone again, are we? Addicted much? Should we book in for surgical removal yet?

Huh? Did somebody say something? Oh, hey, howz goin?

 

That happens a bit now, I’ve found. Such conversations instigated by any number of family members, or my own inner voice, at any given creative time. Coz creative time can now happen anytime and anywhere (yay!), thanks to the marvel that is smart phone + camera + (I’m now discovering) photo editing apps.

Uhh… they’ve been around for years, Kel, I hear you say, bit slow on the uptake there.

Sure it’s not a new concept, but it’s new to me. (Hell, I’ve still got Flappy the carrier pigeon roosting in retirement out back, since I finally caved in to peer pressure and got an iPhone last year.) But what can I say? I’m certainly not interested in racing anybody to high-tech land. I’m a different kind of geek, thank you very much. I’m happy with my leisurely pace and my stumbling upon things in my own sweet time.

So, stumbling upon photo editing, as I have recently, I’ve discovered a whole new world of fun. I was already pleased with the easy, portable nature of a built-in phone camera for capturing those whims and inspirations that strike at odd times.

Bush walking one afternoon...

Bush walking one afternoon…

Now I can take that moment in time, spend hours experimenting, and end up with that same moment in time, just slightly modified. Faaantastic.

After some tinkering

After some tinkering

Also what I love about this is the simplicity. When the muse comes to visit I don’t always have the hours and space to get out drop sheets and paints and brushes. Or knives, embellishments and card stock. To be able to just point, shoot & then tinker is perfect. And I figure I can tie it in with my other projects as well.

Faery Charm, anyone?

Faery Charm, anyone?

Beats pictures of food.

What I’m probably liking most is that there are all these accessible, user-friendly apps that mean streys like me can add an artsy edge to our photos without getting all fancy-pants with expensive equipment and a whole new vocabulary. (I’ve flipped through a bunch of photography mags; I have no idea what they’re talking about.) They can start to sound a bit elitist as well which my photos… are not.

Nut

Nut

This is Nut. He’s a stray too. Picked him up at the toy-animal pound (aka the local op shop) a little while back. He’s a bit of a character and likes having his picture taken, so he might feature in some more. When I catch him causing some photo-worthy trouble… (often enough).

So this week’s creative spurt has been made possible by the Camera Awesome app, which has its own set of crazy terms for things you can do to photos, plus references to unicorns and other random things. RateCameraAwesome

Haha.

What other apps have people found good/useful/fun/worthwhile? If you can peel yourself away from them long enough to reply…

Soggy Old Sunday? Just Add A Bit Of Crazy

Well, one of the last things I expected to be doing last weekend was a train dance. Yeah, a train dance. Dancing whenever a train goes past… to the amusement of a hundred or more strangers.

Alright, maybe I’m abusing creative licence by applying the term ‘dance’ to the funny bobbing up and down motion we were doing. It was more… umm… think squats with goofy grins. Or Tweedle dum, Tweedle dee & Tweedle me. Coz there were three of us (I’m not crazy enough to pull off something like that on my own) – me and two guys I’d only met that morning.

Tweedle dee & Tweedle dum

Tweedle dee & Tweedle dum

Tweedle me

Tweedle me

          To set the scene: I run a market stall once a month selling my creative stuffs

Creative stuffs

Creative stuffs

 

It’s held on the second floor of a carpark next to a local railway station. In theory it’s the perfect setting: undercover, plenty of room, well ventilated… Until you get hit by a trilogy of shitty elements: it’s raining and you discover leaks above your spot, there’s a fat-arse SUV with its gut overhanging into your space on one side, and a food stall is relocated next to you on the other. Oh that last one wouldn’t be so bad, I hear you say. Yeah sure, if you like the smell of bacon & eggs & whatever the hell that thing is, all sizzling on a barbeque and wafting onto you and your stock. Would be perfect for some. But for those of us who would rather pluck out every nose hair than catch a whiff – let alone breathe it in all day – it’s a recipe for agony.

Kel's reaction to bacon

Kel’s reaction to bacon

So anyway, I set myself up (a longer process than usual, as I swore at each leak I discovered, and praised the cellophane wrap protecting my handmade cards), all the while feeling watched. Not a creepy kind of watched, thankfully. Just observed. By my new neighbours across the way: two guys selling auto-care products.

Hmm… young, single guys? I wondered briefly, interestedly (is that even a word? There’s no wiggly red line of shame appearing under it, so must be…). Coz you never know… they sounded like they could be.

But no. Wasn’t to be this time.

Sorry, Mum.

No son-in-law just yet.

What I did discover though, on getting to know these two over the course of the day, was a couple of middle age mates who bring a sense of fun and mischief wherever they go. Like a couple of court jesters on the loose. They came up with the train dance as a response to the slow, cold morning (so much for being weeks away from summer). And soon enough, in contrast to my previous ways, I found myself joining in.

You see, not that long ago I was one of those shy girls with more than a little social anxiety, who would sooner die than join in some public display of mild insanity. But hey, you change your life and then suddenly (it seems) start to find yourself doing interesting things in surprising situations. This was one of those situations.

“So what are the rules, then?” I grinned at them.

“Umm…  It’s gotta be when the trains pull in or out”

“Regardless of whether you have a customer”

“And we’ve all gotta do it”

Cool. Simples. Goodbye customers for the day!

I imagined people backing away slowly or giving our stalls a wide berth lest they catch the loony bug. But then I remembered how much I’ve appreciated the random acts of silliness I’ve seen over the years. The people who make a fool of themselves to bring a smile to others or, even better, amuse themselves first and then everyone else as a result. A bit of contagious crazy. I was up for that.

So there it began. Our rainy, shitty day soon became a fun event as we carried on & called out, laughing and pointing to each other when a train rolled past every 15-20mins. Tweedle dee would get caught while explaining his product to customers. Tweedle me got caught discussing fantasy books one time, and juggling money another.

Occasionally rules adjusted:

“Let’s synchronise!”

 “Nah let’s get it so there’s one up one down and one half way.”

“Speed up if the train’s pulling out & slow down if it’s pulling in.”

And while we received plenty of strange looks and occasional frowns from market shoppers, we also triggered plenty of smiles. A couple of other stallholders even joined in once or twice.

Chatting later on, we agreed spontaneity is the key. Some things are a success purely because they’re unplanned. You embrace a whim and get creative. You have fun, make friends, and bring a little crazy to life in a way that brightens everyone’s day. (And in my case, balance out that chocolate I’d downed earlier…)

By the afternoon, my potential ordeal of a day had turned into a great day. I managed not to scare all my customers away and made some sales. My stuff stayed dry. I survived the food smell waftage. Just.

Soon all that was left were the farewells to my new friends and the long pack up process for me (which I don’t mind; it’s kinda therapeutic).

Then just as they were pulling out to drive off, a train pulled in. I glanced across, still linked to the sound as I’d been throughout the day. Nah, I thought, that’s it, day’s done. I can’t do it alone.

But in the middle of everything, the car stopped.

They both got out.

And together we all did one final train dance – grinning from ear to ear.

Last train dance for the Tweedle 3

Last train dance for the Tweedle 3

 

Then our day was done.

 

 

 

There’s No Such Thing As Too Many Books

Don’t do it. Don’t even look. Yes they’re nice and tidy, and I can see they’re tempting you with their possibilities, but you need clothes, dammit, not more books!

That’s the rational part of my brain whenever I walk into an op shop and head for the book section. Happens every time. I could need a million other things but somehow priority falls to wandering the rows of random. And random they are, because every store is different, and depending on the vintage of the volunteer who stacked them, you can be in for quite the browsing adventure.

Sometimes these pre-loved pals huddle together in genres: thrillers, fantasy, YA, general fiction. Oh, and the romance books reclining over there on their own shelf.

Sometimes they sit amongst fellows of a similar size; history, art, animals and other reference-type volumes. The kids’ books tend to play stacks on closer to the bottom row, but you do see the odd one sneak up to sit with the big boys. Sometimes there’s no sense of order at all. Occasionally it’s chaos. A bit like how my room looks now I’ve adopted so many.

Once upon a time mine were close to organised. Believe me they were. Really. I know current evidence suggests otherwise, but I did have separate shelves for separate topics. It was like a real library, only without the barcodes and strangers and hushed voices.

Exhibit A

See? Exhibit A: Organised.

But then I got more books.

And more books.

And yet more.

Until it all went to shit as far as order and tidiness go. The library grew but the allocated space didn’t. This led to some creative arranging, and the realisation that… order schmorder!

I mean there’s no rule that says YA fiction and military memoir can’t sit together, swinging their literary legs off the edge of the shelf as they survey the recent arrivals getting comfy on the floor. New age and illustration seem pretty happy together. As do fitness and medieval history. Only Tolkien and Hobb have their own shelves, testament to how much they mean to me. Or perhaps because they settled in first and no one else has challenged them (who would dare!?!)

Exhibit A

Uhh… Exhibit B. Yep, two-deep.

So there are no rules now as far as I’m concerned, and it seems to be working. There has been the odd incident of doubled up books (how did I end up with two of that one?), but that surely couldn’t be down to the lack of order (look, see, they have different covers…). At any rate I kind of like the adventure of looking at a shelf and not knowing what I might find. It leads to those happy accidents of intending to find out one thing and then learning another ten through distraction. It’s great for creativity. And procrastination.

More than that, it’s like I’ve brought one of my favourite places home with me; recreated the jumbled op shop charm of both new and pre-loved books gathered within easy reach. At any time I can sit and admire them all, just as they are. I can touch, feel, see, flip through, smell, taste (ok maybe not taste; that’d be weird) the rows upon rows of titles. I can be transported by the words, meanings, ideas…

As a side note, you might’ve guessed I haven’t jumped on the electronic bandwagon. If you’re on it, good for you! It seems like a bit of a 2D experience, but at least you’re reading. For me though, nothing beats a book pile, book shelf or book cave for seeking out reading material. It’s visual, it’s tactile, it engages all the senses (again probably not taste – unless you’re an infant with one of those plastic books that’s built for chewing on). All up, it just feels more real.   

And I don’t think I’m about to change any time soon because, for me, as long as I’m surrounded by books, life is good.

 

Now I’m off to grab some food before I starv- oh look, is that a book sale?

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