Friday, 30 September 2016

I am a magpie who needs to focus

Do you ever feel like a magpie?  Flying around going about your business then you spot a shiny thing!  Oh yes, something shiny, new, different and you are distracted.  That shiny thing lies on top of a whole bunch of other things that are lovely but not very relevant but you are a magpie, so you must have them!  Before you know it your day is gone with a nice collection of shiny things but little actual work done.

I am a magpie.  The shiny things can be physical objects but are more often distractions.  You know the kind.  The wormhole that is the interwebs is the main offender.  " I will just check my blog and maybe write a quick post......" the voice in my head says.  10 minutes later I am watching GIFs of cats in space or involved in a heated online debate on pressing seams in quilts. (yeah right! - #sarcasm).  

So in light of the above, this magpie is trying her best to focus on focus this season.  Autumn is in full swing here in bonnie Scotland.  The leaves and trees are turning and the winds have picked up.  The big jaikets are oot!

I have so much on the go workwise.  It sometimes feels like a juggling act and add on our personal lives and you get the picture.  Anyone who follows my wee blog knows how quilting is my first love.  I recently rediscovered my love of drawing again.  From this followed some other discoveries.  I suppose I need to prioritise too.  I have paid work that must be done or we don't get a holiday that year.  However, I really do feel it essential that I make time for the other endeavours too.  As I mentioned in my #how to grow your creativity series, learning new things and exploring other creative techniques all feeds into my overall creativity.

This is were you come in!  I would love to hear in the comments section or on instagram ( remember to tag me @poppypoochie), how you stay focused.  What do you do to ensure as that you stay on task, looking at the bigger picture and not flying off with that shiny thing?
p.s. - Giveaway winner from creativity series was drawn by random number generator yesterday.  Number 4 is Lucy Brennan of Charm About You and has been notified.  Yay Lucy!
Collette x

Thursday, 22 September 2016

how to grow your creativity last one!

So here we are at the end of our #how to grow your creativity series!  I hope you have enjoyed the journey and that my series has contributed positively to your creative journey.  Please feel free to share in the comments or the link up.

This week I wanted to talk about how we can sustain and nurture creativity in a work setting.  When I began quilting many moons ago, I never dreamt for a minute I would actually make an income from it.  If you had said to me I would have projects and patterns published and be teaching patchwork, well I would have laughed manically.  

However, here I am.  I work as a quilter.   Opportunities have arisen that did not exist when I began quilting.  
When you work in a creative field you are still faced with creative lapses and losses of your "sewjo".  When I quilted for a hobby, this was annoying, but not dire because I wasn't really working to deadlines or commissions.  Now I am faced with deadlines and briefs and need to try to sustain my creativity.

So here are the ways I try to maintain my creativity so that I can create on a regular basis.  I did not start off this way.  It has been and continues to be a journey of self discovery and growth.  

  • I try to approach quilting as my job now.  Not a boring job but one I love.  A passion.  Something I just need to do.  I wouldn't be a quilter if I didn't love it.  We have all heard of "do what you love" and I can honestly say that I do!  I love teaching, I love writing, I love making quilts.   I  have worked hard to get to where I am just now.  It didn't all just fall into my lap.  It has been and still is a journey.  One of success, failure, knock backs, rejection, elation, and joy.  A mixed bag.  

  • This means that I need to continue to put the work in.  By having a working day and a to do list, I expect to create and get the work done.    There are the days, of course, I just have no motivation, my sewjo has gone, or I am just being plain lazy.  Sometimes I can take a day off and just use it to do something completely different.  However, more often than not I need to work because of an imminent deadline.  This is where the point below comes into play. 
  • I need to ensure that I turn up at my desk and am ready to get some work done.  More often than not my creativity turns up along the way and off we go.  Even on the days I am not feeling it.  I can switch tasks and focus on say a different project, or just the pattern writing or preparing class notes.  By changing task this means I am still getting the work done in one way or another and when my sewjo reappears(which it always does) then I am ready to get going!

    • I work from home and those of us that do, know how hard that can be.  Self discipline is not a strength of mine, but I am learning.  I need to make the best use of those school hours when the kids are off learning.  

    • Distractions can be a personal pain.  The housework is all around me, always needing done.  So I usually try and get a few bare minimum  tasks out the way after the school run.  This frees up some head space a little for the work ahead.  I am way too easily distracted by social media and web surfing too.  So I try to allocate space in my day for specific tasks.  For example, in the morning my head is always clearer.  This is the best time for me to write patterns and blog posts.  I can then get on with practical sewing and cutting work as the day goes on. 
    • It can also be helpful to get out for a walk during the day.  I am in the house most of the day apart from when I am teaching.  I talk to myself and the dog A LOT.  I need to do a 20 min walk to school and back to collect Emma.  Most days I can't be bothered but I kind of try to view it as essential.  Obviously it is a bit of exercise which I definitely need  but also the fresh air, human contact, and sights and sounds refresh me and give me a chance to go over my work for the day (or sometimes lack of) in my head. 
    • Lastly please try not to compare!  I do this all the time.  I look at all the awesome, talented people around me and often think "I am not good enough".  It is really hard not to do this.  I get that.  With Pinterest, Instagram and such like everywhere it is a constant battle.  I need to tell myself that I do not know someones creative journey.  I only know my own and I need to remember that we are all at different stages.  You are exactly where you should be at this time.  You will be where you should be another 10 years from now.  We need to en(joy) where we are at now.  I don't want to lose the joy I get from quilting and creating by comparing.  I certainly don't want you to lose that too.  We are a community built on ages of tradition and mutual support and we should treasure it. 

    So there you go!  My thoughts on how to nurture your creativity if it is your job.  Please feel free to share your own thoughts, tips and such like in the comments here, on the link up or on Instagram using the hashtag #howtogrowyourcreativity. 
    I will draw the fabric giveaway next Thursday to allow anyone joining the conversation this week to enter.  
    Collette x

    Tuesday, 20 September 2016

    What have I been up to?

    This has been quite an exciting week for me.  I had my first project published in the October issue of British Patchwork and Quilting magazine!  

    This magazine was one of the first quilting magazine's I purchased way back when I was just learning.  There weren't as many wonderful magazines as are available now at my local supermarket.  I probably would have bought them all anyway had they been around!

    So to have a project published and beautifully photographed in there is a special wee moment in my heart.
    I used some lovely Moda Grunge fabrics in pink and blue.  The yellow was an organic cotton which I loved working with.
    The bag features a foundation paper pieced sewing machine and spool designed by myself.  It is an easy bag to make and very sturdy.  Perfect for travelling to classes with your quilting equipment!

    I was also lucky enough to have my zipper cushion tutorial published in the latest issue of Quilt Now magazine.  I loved making this cushion and gave it a concealed zipper on the back.  The fabrics are designed by Janet Clare for Moda and are a joy to use and look at!

    Remember and pop in this Thursday for the concluding part of our #howtogrowyourcreativity series.  I will be chatting about how to maintain and revive your creativity when you are creative for your job!
    Oh and remember the giveaway too!  Drawing the winner sometime on Thursday!
    Collette x

    Thursday, 15 September 2016

    how to grow your creativity - so you have lost your sewjo?

    It happens to us all.  One day we wake up and we just don't feel like creating.  We don't want to sew, don't want to draw, knit, make or do anything remotely intentionally creative.  We just feel MEH.  Or maybe frustrated, uninspired, lazy, too busy, and even inadequate.

    In my 10 years of quilting I have experienced many of these ups and downs. The first flush of excitement and joy we get when we are beginners can often be replaced by negative feelings of not being good enough,envy of other fantastic quilters, and thinking,  "what is the point"?

    This can be a torturous experience.  Especially early on in your creative journey.  Social Media is the main culprit.  We have so much ready access to be able to view the work of others.  It takes seconds to scroll through our Instagram feeds and be bombarded with the amazing work by quilters and creatives out there.  Pinterest is another culprit.  We have all been caught in that trap of " I will just have a look for 10 minutes" and 2 hours later we are left feeling robbed of our time and sometimes even less sure about our work!

    Tip time!
    •  We need to learn to stop comparing our work to that of others all the time.  I know this is no mean feat from personal experience.  It is a constant struggle for us all.  Why not take a social media  break?  Even just for a few days?  Perhaps when you are working on something really important or when you are feeling most overwhelmed by all the talent out there.  Take a few days out of facebook land and Instagram feeds and ban Pinteresting for a while and see how you feel afterwards.  
    • Change how you see the work of others.  View it as inspiration.  Not in a blatantly copying kind of way.  But say you have a quilting idol or similar.  It is helpful to view that person's work as a benchmark.  Perhaps one day you will achieve their level of expertise and seek to be inspired by them rather than comparing where you are now.  Remember everybody's creative journey is different.  We are all in different places.

    So what about the times we hit a brick wall?  The ideas are no longer flowing, the urge to make has vanished,  the enthusiasm and passion has buggered off leaving you feeling like an empty vessel.  
    Personally I go through cycles of this.  The first time it happened I was horrified and worried that that was me and quilting over.  Through. Finished for ever.  But then slowly, but surely something magic happened and my sewjo returned.  It wasn't a conscious thing in the early days.  It just happened.  
    Now though, I almost expect it to happen.  So when it ups and leaves I am ready to deal with it and here is how!
    • I accept it.  I go with the flow.  If I have sewing deadlines etc of course I need to work.  (more on this next week).  However, sometimes we just need a break.  Often coming up to our summer holiday, I find I slump a little with all the busy buzz of school and planning the holiday.  I often return from holiday inspired and raring to go and create.   We get so carried away and enthusiastic and I become almost obsessive, that I overdo it and then end up scunnered.  So I listen to my creativity.

    • Once accepted I do something else.  I procrastinate often.  Yes, procrastination can be a good thing for your creativity!  Sometimes doing something else totally different  to your main creative work opens the mind up to little eureka moments or inspired thoughts of how to do something differently.  Write those down as they are gems!
    • I experiment with different crafts and techniques.  Over the years my love of textiles has grown from fabric, to wools and printing.  I have tried spinning wool, ( fun but hard), felt making(loved that), needle felting(not so much), and lately lino cutting!  I love drawing too !  By opening myself up to something new and immersing myself in it, I am still creating but recapturing that spirit of the beginner again.  Enjoying for enjoyment's sake.  Learning.    There are tonnes of free on line courses out there (CreativeBug, Skillshare among others).    This all feeds into your main creative work and the ideas will flow again!
    • Learn a new technique in quilting or your chosen path.  Over the years I have used on line classes to learn foundation paper piecing among other things.  This links in to my previous point about challenges and learning.  Improvisational patchwork is also a wonderful, freeing technique with no real "rules" and just allows you to cut freely and sew freely too.  Have a bit of plain old fun with a box of scraps.
    • Selfish sewing - we love to make for loved ones and other people don't we?  This is awesome but sometimes just distracting yourself with a little project just for you is needed.  It could be anything!  I have often decided to make myself a cute wee pouch from a precious fat quarter just for me!  This doesn't have to be a huge project.  A quick, easy and selfishly satisfying make can be restorative.

    What about when your creative thing is your job?  You still experience some of the same issues whether we create for a living or a hobby.  Some of the tips I have mentioned are helpful in these circumstances but I have also learnt that having a creative job brings it's own joys and pains!  More on that and how I get through the blocks when I have no choice next week!
    Please feel free to link up here, share tips in comments, or on Instagram and share how you get over the humps of losing your sewjo!  If you share I will enter you into my lovely fabric giveaway next week!

    Thursday, 8 September 2016

    How to grow your creativity week 2 guest post

      Welcome to the second week of our #howtogrowyourcreativity mini series and link up!  This week,Lucy Engels from Skinnymalinkyquilts, takes the seat and talks about how she is inspired and creates and her story.  Feel free to link up (link at end of blog post and there is a fabric giveaway for all participants)
    your own stories of what inspires you to create and how you became the maker you are today.  Feel free to share any creative blocks too and I will be be sharing next week ways to deal with these!
    Over to Lucy x
    Hey everyone!

    I was delighted to be asked by Collette to guest post on her blog about Creativity. More
    importantly how to grow your creativity! So, I will tell you a bit of my story and was how I
    got to where I am and talk a bit about how I create.

    I think sewing has always been in the blood as one of my Gran’s was an amazing seamstress and constantly sewing. She created fabulous wedding dresses and always had the sewing machine set up in the corner of the living room. I got my first sewing machine for my 18th birthday and it sat untouched for years when I decided, for my first project ,to sew a shirt, as you do.. After sewing on both sleeves upside down, so they stuck up the way instead of pointing down, I decided it maybe wasn't for me and put my machine away.
    I had always wanted to be a costume designer (still do if I’m honest) but somehow ended up going down the Fine Art route instead. On graduating I felt unemployable and after a string of jobs that just about covered my rent I thought, I need a job that would allow me to make enough money to make art. So I decided to trained as a Social Worker, because thats not a demanding profession at all it is?… Fast forward several years and I suddenly remembered that this wasn't what I wanted to do. This wasn't my plan!

    I wanted to get back to making and took a night class in fashion and interior design. It was
    fun! Sewing was back on the agenda and I made my first quilt for my first nephew.  Probably very badly, but I knew nothing about quilts back then! I was absolutely hooked and SkinnyMalinkyQuilts appeared in 2013. Making quilts kept me sane while I was  working in such an emotionally demanding job. It was at the beginning of this year, heading for burn out, and a relocation that pushed me in the direction of leaving social work and focusing on making full time. When I say full time I mean in between running about after the kids and whenever I can squeeze time in..
    Life has never been so good!

    Having a formal art education has in no doubt helped me have a more disciplined approach to creating. There was a structure I was taught in art school; Research, plan, experiment, develop to then get to the final execution. I had to figure out how this formula could be applied to my making as I would lose interest if an idea was staying on paper and taking too long to realise. I need to do to figure it out! So the process I have developed for making is more immediate and hands on. And it’s ok if it doesn't work out, its all learning.

    I remember being told that every drawing and piece you create treat it like it could be something amazing. Consider it, think about what you are doing, turn it upside down, go
    back to it. In doing this it raises your standards and helps you develop your skill. This is true and in each piece I make I keep this idea in the back of my head and find it pushes
    me to want to complete each piece as I go.

    If I have too many WIP’s on the go my thinking gets messy and I can’t focus. My ideal process for working is more methodical and ordered although it doesn't always feel like
    that! I set deadlines for creating and organise my time in blocks. Setting aside time to experiment, complete commissions, design and print fabric and now restock my shop and fulfil retailers orders. In amongst all this I try to set aside time to think. Just think. It is
    such an important part of the creative process that gets pushed aside for the making.

    More often than not I have a million ideas in my head and am constantly thinking of new colour schemes and ideas for quilts, cushions or fabric. I suppose the process is never really finished, its all a work in progress. As your skills develop or a new technique is discovered it opens up other creative opportunities and ideas. Just make to the best of your ability using the best materials you can. The point is there is no right or wrong way to do things. Yes there are ‘rules’ to follow because you want your work to last and be of high quality. But how you apply those rules is up to you. Its not life and death, creativity is supposed to be fun! Enjoy!
    link up and win fabric! (Use hashtag on IG to link up)

    Thursday, 1 September 2016

    My creative process

    We are born with an urge to create.  I saw this in my kids when they were barely able to hold crayons and make expressive marks on paper (AND WALLS!).     Playdough becomes moulded into monsters or sausages, paint is splattered to create abstract art.

    The wonderful thing about little kids is that they just CREATE.  They are free of inhibition, free of self doubt, full of imagination, and absolute beginners.

    The beginner is a beautiful thing.  I was one as I started my own creative journey into quilting.  I felt that buzz of excitement at all the possibilities.  The thrill of teaching myself (with the help of youtube) how to use a little sewing machine.  The freedom of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, whether it was right or wrong.  I had never even heard of the Quilt Police - damn them!

    So now 10 years later and still quilting, I wanted to share a little about my own creative journey and the things I have learned along the way.  I will then hand over to the lovely Lucy Engels of Skinnymalinkyquilts,  who will guest post here and share  her experiences and creative tips as an artist and quilter.
    I will then talk about  some of the brick walls we ALL hit in our creative journeys and how we can overcome them.  There will be some practical advice on what we can do when we lose our mojo or sewjo.( it happens to us all!)  

    My creative process is always growing, changing and evolving.
    I wasn't even aware I had one or it mattered to begin with.  I just created some things I liked the look of, not really bothering if my quarter inch seam allowance was perfect ( sssh I didn't know this was even a thing to start with) or my stitching was even.  There was no benchmark for technical ability because I had never done it before! It was quite a liberating time.  As time has gone on I would say that I have changed creatively and with that the way I do things.
    • organic - I work really organically - for me that means I don't meticulously plan.  For a quilt, I will of course do the essentials of fabric needed and a basic layout, but so often I change my mind along the way; I choose a different fabric , change something that isn't working, add things, or start all over again (yup I have done this often!).   I have tried to plan to the last detail but it really just isn't me.  I can do it if necessary but I feel more at home allowing my rough plans to blossom into something.  It is almost like the fabric and quilts tell me what they want me to do with them when I am on a roll ( on other occassions we fall out and argue and I will talk about this more soon). 
    •  ideas - they seem to come to me at the oddest of times.  Sometimes when I am doing the most mundane tasks ( washing up, hoovering) one will pop into my head.  I try to write them down but often forget.  They are not always workable but it is like a little golden nugget when one pops in and it might just be a keeper! I am also inspired by EVERYTHING I see. 

    • evolve - this is linked in with an organic way of working.  Often I will start with an idea or a design.  This happens quite often with my drawing and painting work.  Once I begin making marks on paper or quilting a design I may have a "happy accident" and discover something that I  have got to carry on with.  It might not be in the plan but I have to go with the creative flow.  I may never get that moment back.  So it could be a mix of colours that goes totally against colour principles but just works or different types of paints creating an unusual reaction on fabric or paper, for example.
    • discipline -  this is the most disciplined thing I do!  I find self discipline personally very hard. I work from home, when the kids are at school and there are many distractions all around.  Not even welcome ones but you know the stuff, housework, pets, housework, tea, biscuits, and random appearances from folk who think you do nothing all day!  To be creative, I need to put the work in.  Discipline has become much more important as a result of my teaching  patchwork and magazine commissions.  The transition from hobby to freelance quilter has meant I have to approach my creativity almost in a job like fashion.  It can be done and still be a passion.  If I am at my work table with fabric and a rough idea in tow, then the creativity usually flows.  Of course, there are days when it all goes up shit creek but that is for week 3.  All I can say just now is hang in there, we all get those days, but there is always tomorrow! 
    So what is your creative process?  Do you plan to within an inch of your creative life?  Are you more organic, do you create only when you feel like it?  If you have a creative career, how do you work?  Do you have a strict routine, a ritual you need to perform before you create or generate ideas? I must always have a cup of tea to hand before I do anything. 
    This week I would love for you to link up any blog posts or share on Instagram using the hashtag #howtogrowyourcreativity on your process and how you like to create.
    Think about how an idea gets from your head to a tangible item.  By doing this, I hope that we can help each other learn and GROW our creativity.  It can be a blog post or a photo or an inspiring quote. 
    • Next Thursday Lucy Engels shares what makes her tick creatively.  The following week we cover that dreaded moment of when our mojo goes and what to do!
    Collette x
    p.s. don't forget that anyone taking part in the link up each week or participating and using the hashtag on Instagram and is a follower of mine will be eligible to be in the fabric prize draw.  This will be 4 fat quarters of fabric and maybe some other little bits and bobs. I will draw the winner on our last week of this series.
    lovely prize draw fabric!