I used to do a Weekly Snaps post virtually every Sunday or Monday a couple of years ago. I never meant for it to stop, it’s just that other things inevitably got in the way… Anyway, probably because I’ve recently started writing more on my blog , I’m now craving a post with as few words as possible. I have cheated a little bit with these pics as they were taken over the past couple of weeks, rather than just this last one. I’ll be writing stuff on here again over the next few days, but for now I’m going to post a load of photos and say no more about it…
Looking back over the past few months , something which seems noticeably missing on this blog is anything much I have written about my new book Conscious Creativity , apart from a post I put together about the ‘Conscious Creativity’ scent I created and then painted.
Most of 2018 was totally consumed with the writing of it and then the subsequent promoting of it: I ploughed all my focus and energy into those directions because, apart from anything else, this was the only book I was ever going to write. ‘Conscious Creativity’ is about seeing the world in a different way; offering easy techniques to unlock doors of perception as well as exercises to engage the senses. There was something almost autobiographical in writing it; it’s basically a manual of how I work, how I see and experience life and how I like to use what is right under my nose to constantly inspire me. I wanted to explode the myth that creativity is just for the arty. I want everyone to realise their enormous creative potential and I want everyone to connect to their inner abstract and acknowledge that all the unspoken stuff going on in our heads is something to be embraced rather than ignored. Creativity is often pared right back in our teens, almost to the point of disbelieving it’s existence. Therefore if we limit creative conversations and dismiss, for example, what colour a number feels like, what shape a a neat whisky tastes like, or what a scent sounds like, we will undoubtedly be limiting our growth in all areas. And so I wrote a book ( because I was asked to ) about personal creativity; how to connect to and value your ideas, instincts and senses. How to accept getting things wrong, how to experiment and how to experience the world in ways which feed your creativity and secure your foundations.
Last year was both nerve-wracking and stressful, exhilarating and exciting, and even though I’m sure my son and partner would have preferred me to have been a little less hyper, I wouldn’t have changed any of it. It was an experience I never imagined I’d have…particularly because I am not a writer and have never had any ambitions in that direction. I have had plenty of ambitions in many different areas, but not in writing. Writing takes SO long; it’s all about describing things rather than looking at things, getting the grammar right, making words make sense, and getting a point across. There’s no running at a canvas with a dripping paint brush, there’s no paint splats all over the floor and no acrylic-drizzled trainers. There’s just the constant tippitey-tap of the keyboard, the clunk of desperate deletion, and a slightly achey shoulder. And you can’t hang a finished piece of writing on the wall to feel the glow of it’s colour on your face. You can’t take a chapter to the framers and you can’t stare at an article and feel something innate simply by looking at it. With writing you have to open the computer, distance yourself from distraction, and go off into some other world. I understand that lots of people love writing, but I am not one of them; it feels awkward and as if I’m in new territory, emotionally and creatively, which I’m completely unfamiliar with. I think as a consequence of this unfamiliarity, last year meant that I wasn’t able to keep on top of all my nice little organisational systems which I’d forged for myself pre book. This year, copious amounts of photographs still lurk uncategorised, my computer and iphone storage is bulging at its Apple core, and yet I have been defiantly ignoring everything that needs to be done to fix it all…
For the last 6 weeks I’ve been teaching and encouraging a group of students in my online class to explore more fully the concepts and chapters I write about in my book. I hear myself advising students to ‘Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’…We all need to explore the ugly places, look at the dark shadows; the ones lurking in street corners as well as the ones hiding inside your deeper self. To discover what it is you don’t like and why you don’t like it is a crucial juxtaposition to all that you find easy and attractive. These sorts of investigations, difficult as they often are to face, have the potential to ripen and develop into wonderful personal projects. This is the way to new discoveries and I really feel that seeing new things, hearing new sounds, tasting new foods and totally engaging with your senses is the most authentic way to grow creatively…However, as I am fundamentally a sensory person; a person with synaesthesia and a person obsessed with abstract images, colours, smells and tastes, I am becoming increasingly aware that I keep avoiding, and even dismissing, the fact that the written word plays a huge part in all this.
I wrote my book not only pretending that I was an author, but also, I think, pretending that it wasn’t writing at all; it was just chatting, like an encouraging teacher might chat. The words which I had to tippitey-tap out on the computer were an inconvenience to overcome in order to get people doing stuff. To get people out of their heads, away from reading the words and away from thinking that because it’s been read it’s been done. Even as I’m writing this the words are getting on my nerves and I have the dread sense that I’m repeating myself. Working out the words gets in the way of how I feel and getting in the way of the shapes I want to express. I have to conjure words in my head and arrange them on this screen, rather than mixing paints on a palette and daubing un-interpretable marks on a canvas. To share my thoughts with you I must converse in this universal, wordy way.
I feel like I’ve fought against writing and reading all my life; words are black and white and have regular shapes, they are not Bismuth Yellow, Quinacridone Crimson and amorphous…but now here I am on my blog writing probably more words in this one post than have appeared on my blog in the past 3 years!
Do I have a point? Well, yes, sort of…I think so… ‘Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’... It’s my own phrase and a phrase which has been sitting rather awkwardly on my shoulder recently.
In tandem with my online class students, I will go out myself and do lots of the homework exercises I set because I like to be able to talk about fresh and personal experiences in my Live sessions. I also genuinely love doing them; it feels like a treat and I often feel completely inspired afterwards. I do try to experience places and things which are out of my norm, ugly or strange, but this way of working is where I really feel creatively comfortable.
‘Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’…Well, I don’t feel at all comfortable writing loads of words. I feel like I’m betraying the person I’ve told everyone I am for the last 25 years! I also tell people that the exercises in my book are there to help you grow in any discipline across the board, not just painting and photography. So why then I am I so reticent to acknowledge my writing ( nb. I deleted the word ’embracing in favour of ‘acknowledge’ as it felt much less affectionate…that kind of says it all! ). The answer is ‘I really don’t know’, but I do feel that the time has come to consciously explore these unchartered wordy waters, just to see what happens and to see where it takes me. I can’t exclude pictures from this new territory; that would just be a terrifying step too far at the moment, but I do want to try and at least play with some of my own advice. I don’t want to be hiding behind my words like some self-satisfied creative guru, I want to move forward; I want to mean what I say.
“Creativity is about discovering your own ways of working, your own unique practice, and growing the confidence needed to accept that. It’s not about learning how to create something like everyone else, it’s about learning how to acknowledge the true value of what you do.” – Conscious Creativity, Introduction, Page 9
( The photographs below are an assortment from the book launch, the book press workshops, various stills of the book and experiments from various chapters…the cider was gifted by Wyld Wood Organic Cider, the Kombucha by Old Tree Brewery, Brighton, Chocolates and Tea and Cake from Fortnum and Mason, Flower installations by Kate Langdale Florist, Scent from The Experimental Perfume Club and the Venue and food from The Regency Townhouse, Brighton and Paul Couchman )
( photo above taken by Julia Smith from www.humphreyandgrace.co.uk ) ‘Conscious Creativity’ was released last November and is now being stocked all over the country and online as well as in Foyles, The Tate Modern, Anthropologie, Waterstones and The National Gallery. It is currently in its 5th printing.
For the past couple of months, part of my long daily list of things I’m meant to do has consistently included ‘BLOG’ along with ‘Sort Photos’. I’m usually good at being on top of sorting my photos and observations but this year has felt really chaotic and as if I’m only doing things when I absolutely have to. It’s not a feeling I enjoy; it’s a feeling which actually makes me full of rage and self loathing. I can very happily start a Live Instagram story and talk about things; creativity, ideas, procrastinations, annoyances etc, etc, because I genuinely love connecting to you all; it’s like going for a coffee or hanging out at the pub and having a chat about stuff. But actually getting down to work, doing what I’m meant to be doing and earning a living has felt like something I’m completely rebelling against. I had to look back over some of my old photos the other day and longed for the freedom and flair I had felt 2 years ago…I’ve been really trying to look at why I’m being like this at the moment and also trying to accept that it’s actually part of my whole creative process. I can feel that there will be some sort of shift, probably into new areas, and that I just have to ride out this period of time where my creative output feels rootless.
I haven’t stopped working and I’m not in any way ‘blocked’, it’s almost the opposite problem, but having ideas and working out how to implement them; writing the emails and creating the proposals etc, is a complete nightmare. I just want to be gardening! I’ve also realised in this period of time, ( and this feels quite a big thought ) that I’m not, and actually don’t want to be a ‘business woman‘. As a self employed person of over 20 years I’ve always had to run my own ‘business’, chasing the dream that one day I’ll be earning a fortune. For the past couple of years my business was better than it ever was ( although nowhere near the £150 – £200k sums you hear about ), BUT I was under no illusion that it would last. Part of my problem is that whenever my work and I have been accepted, I feel the need to move on; create different work, explore new aesthetics, new ideas and generally just keep moving forward. I’m doing this at the moment but I’m doing it in the knowledge that I’m creeping further and further away from any sensible business models.
I go into Instagram and an amazing digital entrepreneur pops up telling me how I can turn my financial life around as long as I don’t talk about the negatives, if I learn their secret business strategies or even just ‘niche down‘…NONE of these things I want to do! I’m left feeling like a failure and it’s in these moments that my digital demon appears:” Having over 400K followers means f*** all if you don’t get your act together and monetise it” , “No wonder your income has gone down and your business feels all over the place…that’s because you actually told people you were all over the place! ” , ” How can you have no idea where you want to be in the next 18 months?!!!” , “And why aren’t you talking more about your book?! You have literally thousands of copies to sell before you receive any royalties at all!!”
Any sort of blogging has felt completely out of the question recently and Instagram Stories has felt more like my place, especially as they disappear after 24 hours…I love curating visual stories ( I use the Unfold app and Videoleap mostly ) but when I’ve uploaded it I feel completely done…the idea of repeating it all in some other form for the blog or on Steller or Facebook drives me insane! However, sharing things all over the place does mean that I can reach more people, and that IS the bit I love. Obviously it’s great when a brand finds you and wants you to create content for them; it’s a commission and I enjoy it, but pleasing brands is NOT the reason I create and share images and I’ve grown to resent the knowledge that a certain aesthetic or composition will be more appealing to them. Also I just can’t do that clever photoshop stuff, and part of that makes me feel old fashioned…even a bit too old for the Insta environment.
I’m a 40 something experiencing all the weirdness of growing out of the really full-on ‘being a parent‘ times…and maybe there’s the clue, maybe that’s where my personal shift lies. I was in that parent gang for so long, that gang which shared each newly discovered nightmare and hilarity of having a young child. Sharing the day in the forest when I accidentally poked my son in the eye with a stick whilst telling him off, the day I didn’t notice that he’d cracked his head open on a wheelie bin, the sad day we lost Cheeko which then became the happiest day when we found him again, and the day he made an amazing film and I felt SO proud. I was a single parent striving to get somewhere other than being just a parent, and now that my son is 18 and about to leave home…I am all over the place. Who I am feels wildly in the air. Who I am is being wafted around the skies like a helium balloon without its helium, like an empty crisp packet on a windy day, like the scuttle of ordinary, overlooked leaves…and I can’t even begin to imagine who I will be when he decamps to Manchester in September…
At this point my digital demon is now itching to get a word in: ” Why the hell have you told them all that? Are you actively trying to secure your failure?!!” “You’re meant to embody positivity, creativity and inspiration…it’s your BRAND!”
Well Digital Demon, I suppose I can’t help myself…I need to feel the sadness, the strangeness, the rage and insecurity as well as all the amazing joys and excitement that being a creative brings. And if that means I can’t be a business woman to boot…so be it.
…I’ve now become aware, and a bit self conscious, that I don’t usually write this much. I obviously spent months writing my book, but I was completely out of my comfort zone during that time. I think I acted ‘being an author‘ in my head on most days. I like my pictures to talk and I don’t really like the act of putting words down; it gets on my nerves, and I often find that I write just to get it out of the way… so I can get on with the pictures. ( Even now I am absolutely dreading having to go back to the top of this outpouring and edit it ). I’m also aware that in terms of length I should probably now be arriving at some sort of ‘point‘…
Well, I’m not massively sure what the point is apart from it serving as an explanation of my floundering without cohesion at the moment. Right now I’m sitting at my desk in the shed surrounded by reminders of what I should be doing; my calendar is still staring April at me, a couple of books people have sent me are piled up, random notes for my online course students are pinned to a shelf, a memory stick with millions of photos I want to write blog posts about is teasing me from my pencil case along with a fat pin cushion giving me a very knowing prickly look. But probably the most telling of all is a Post-It note right next to me with a short list of ‘things I want‘ written in Sharpie. It says: Blue Yeti Mic, Yellow Roller Skates , Wormery …I want the roller skates more than the wormery, but I want the wormery more than the mic, but it’s the mic which would be for work. I really, really want the yellow roller skates…
I started writing this post because I was waiting for my images to upload and I thought I’d just get on with the intro…it’s turned into something else completely, but I hope it at least breaks the deadlock which I’ve created for myself around my blog…fingers crossed more posts will follow, although this may just be a sudden rebellious outburst in the direction of my digital demon!
Anyway, I can’t finish without pictures so here are some taken over the last few months…
P.S The blog posts I am mainly wanting to put together ( and I’m writing this down so it makes them feel more like solid ideas ) are: My Trip to the Scilly Isles, Daffodils in Cornwall, Bluebells in East Sussex, Stanley Kubrick Exhibition, My Personal Plastic Journey, Shadows, Synesthesia, Artists Open Houses, My New Textiles, Patreon, and My New Paintings For Sale. In an ideal world I would be finished in an hour…in an ideal world I would have a wormery and yellow roller skates.
As I haven’t created any ‘Weekly Snaps’ posts for ages, I should just say that they are almost entirely written in images; I always find wandering about, looking at things and finding stuff that matches up far more satisfying and expressive than words… The next few photos are from the brilliant new David Adjaye exhibition: Making Memory which opened at The Design Museum last weekend….you can find all the details HERE
It was a crazy few weeks before the New Year; I was planning and organising loads of stuff around my book launch, running workshops, sending out calendars and hosting my Artist’s Open House. It was full on to say the least, but kind of exciting at the same time. I was probably a bit too hyper to be honest, but I was enjoying a big old creative flow. However that basically resulted in major Christmas flu; spending hours in bed, coughing like an old fashioned smoker and just completely crashing for the first part of January. I had all sorts of things I was going to do as soon as Christmas was over; sort my photos, sort my emails, sort my house, fix the cooker etc, etc. But I found it SO difficult to rally any sense of urgency, any sense of practicality and any sense of getting on with things. It’s only been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve felt much better and now I’ve got creative things I’m desperate to do, but which I have no time to do, pouring into my mind and waking me up at 3am! One of the major ‘jobs’ I’ve had to address is that of new workshop dates…I think I sort of wanted all the information to just appear in people’s heads without me having to do anything. I lose hours working on the aesthetics of putting an Instagram story together for example; I absolutely love doing it, but the reality is that it always takes way longer than the half hour I hoped it would. I also think, as I’ve hit an Instagram Stories note, that they are in part responsible for me not keeping up with my blog consistently: they are so quick and easy and reach so many more people that it leaves blogging feeling clunky and not as satisfying as an instant response to my surroundings…Anyway, here I am, nearly at the end of January, just about catching up, or at least with all the workshop info and booking details ready to go. So this post is going to be a combination of January things; colours textures and general observations as well as a pointer to my next online course.
There are still various things I need to really catch up on: the next big job is getting some of my paintings listed in my online shop ( something I’ve been promising since September! ) and getting back into making some clothes again! If you haven’t already seen, my inner clothing imp seems to have been unleashed, and the stories of my handmade and thrifted clothes are shaking up my feed on Instagram! …and my old ‘Weekly Snaps’ posts are something I need to get back into too…as my Grandpa used to say: “We’ll see what we shall see…” And just another reminder about the online course and with more details in my shop here
When I began writing Chapter 7 of my book ‘The Senses and Synaesthesia’, I hadn’t realised that it would become the heart of what I wanted ‘Conscious Creativity’ to be about. I realised how passionate I was about getting people to connect to their senses and how acknowledging even the most everyday scents and sounds is crucial to developing personal creativity . I started to imagine what my book would smell like, the pages and the print, and then I suddenly realised that I actually wanted to create a scent that I felt represented the book itself.
I met Emmanuelle from The Experimental Perfume Club last year during the ‘Perfume’ exhibition at Somerset House ( there’s a post about it here ), and I asked if I could come to one of her Open Lab days in Hackney so that I could blend a ‘Conscious Creativity’ scent. Open Lab means you can spend time exploring and experimenting with the vast perfume organ in Emmanuelle’s workshop and create a unique scent of your own. One couple who were there when I was, were blending a scent for their wedding day and another for their honeymoon! It was a truly amazing and utterly absorbing afternoon and I could have stayed for hours…I experimented with mixing scents rather like I mix paint on a palette, the only difference being I had to look at the scents in my mind’s eye. Time lost significance at The Experimental Perfume Club and I was drawn into a visual and scented space inside my head, which in turn led me to creating an abstract image of the scent I blended with many essential oils including Birch Tar, Coffee and Eucalyptus.
So now ‘Conscious Creativity’ the book, has a corresponding scent and painting. I wanted the scent to be open and fresh, include a hint of citrus and have a strong woody note to echo my constant Instagram companion, the table. This is my visual journey of my inspirations, texture references and experiments which then became a painting of the scent of ‘Conscious Creativity’…
sketches and texture inspiration… Paintings often start off completely different to what the final piece actually looks like…I started with multi coloured layers so that I would be able to scrape back to reveal hints as I went on… You can order my book ‘Conscious Creativity’ here and please do email me if you would like any more information about my paintings. If you would like more information about The Experimental Perfume Club, you can follow them on Instagram and also look on their website where you’ll find more about their workshops, Open Lab days and fabulous new perfume collection ‘Layers’ ( which I am wearing constantly at the moment! )