Monday 31 March 2014

My Month in Numbers 2014: March

Hello hello.

Unlike last time - where I bemoaned the lack of days in February - this month gifted me one extra!

The calendar I'd been referring to all month had the 31st all the way back up to the top of the grid next to the 1st ... and so I entirely forgot that today existed!

And seeing as it does in fact exist it means I get to round-up my month on its final day as usual ... and here it is.

Or should that be 'here is was'?

7 = the number of friends I spent 3.5 days with in a converted barn during a crafting/eating/laughing weekend in the countryside:
It really was very countryside-y too, so much so in fact that we backed on to a farm. And, when the direction of the wind changed ... the smell proved as much!

Apart from the country smells ... over the weekend I experienced ... my 1st piñata:
Its 6 pointed star was soooooo hard to break open that none of us could even dent it until ...

... until someone suggest we imagined it was someone we really didn't like and, funnily enough, it didn't last long after that.

Despite being in the heart of an area where many people go on walking holidays beating the life out of that piñata, wandering to the end of the drive to pick up a phone signal, and climbing the step up into the Land Cruiser to visit the craft shop was the nearest thing we got to exercise all weekend!

Crafty-wise, for me, it wasn't an especially productive weekend but I'd made up for that before the month ended ...

I spent 6 hours with 12 other people picking up mono-printing / gelli plate tips from Kate Crane last Saturday:
Photo courtesy of Kate Crane
As I don't have a gelli-plate I just wanted to try it out, play with techniques, maybe make some fun backgrounds for other projects and just spend some time listening to someone who knows what they're doing! After spending the day playing I'm a little bit tempted to get a plate of my own ... but you know what I'm like ... if I can't do it [without making a mother of a mess] on my knee, while sitting on the sofa watching TV ... I probably won't get round to doing it. Unless of course I book myself on to another full day workshop ...

3 = the number of little boys[about 6 or 7 yr old] who waited with impeccable patience and good manners in order not to photo-bomb that group shot above! They were about to whizz past us on their scooters when they realised that we were lining up to take the photo and they just stopped in their tracks and waited.  They were a credit to themselves, not moving, commenting or giggling until someone told them that is was OK to move on past us.

Which they did.



I think they were perhaps a little bemused as to why on earth 12 grown-up women were standing outside proudly holding-up their paintings!!

7 = the number of new embossing folders I accrued in March. 
I say 'accrued' rather than 'bought' as I only actually paid for 6 of them.

No. I didn't steal the 7th! What do you take me for? [Is it the piñata bashing? Or the territory battle we had with The Quilters earlier in the month? Are you worried I've got myself in with the wrong crowd?]

No, the source of the 7th was Heather, one of my loyal shop customers who very, very, kindly sent me an embossing folder which wasn't her kind of thing but which she thought I might use. [For the record: I had no idea she was sending me it ... I honestly don't solicit embossing folders from all my customers!].

Anyway, Heather had posted her gift out to me on the 18th of March which was 1 day BEFORE I wrote the following on my Facebook page:

"I'm browsing for embossing folders - a task which I thought would be straightforward / quick / relatively cheap - until I saw all the *really* nice designs I've somehow overlooked before ... hexagons, birds, dandelions ... oh dear, this may turn out more expensive than I thought!"

Weird isn't it? That at the time I was writing that there was a surprise embossing folder already wending its way through the postal system for me! Well, the whole scenario left us both changed women. While Heather confessed to being slightly freaked out at the coincidence I on the other hand ... began to wonder about what else - embossing folders aside - I could draw into my life just by thinking about buying some for myself! Let me try ...

"I'm browsing for an amazing new dress / pair of cowboy boots / era of world peace ...."

I'll let you know if any of that drops on my doormat tomorrow.

Speaking of gifts ...

57 days after my birthday a friend [who I only see in person a few times a year] gave me not only this handsome chap she'd needle-felted for me:
 ... but this rather appropriate book too:
 Perfect no? It's full of useful/useless number-based facts such as:

And speaking of Shakespeare ... [almost as if I'd planned it like this ....] this leads me to my final statistics for March:

BBC Radio 4's Afternoon Drama spot really spoilt me!  As I had 0 hours of work on campus in March [hey, what can you expect from a 'zero hours' contract?!] I've purely been working from home on magazine features and shop products ... while spending my day listening to the radio. And while Radio 4 is my favourite place to rest my ears week in week out ... this month it excelled itself giving me:
  • 2 new episodes of Rumpole - one of my all time favourite radio dramas. Court room intrigue. Humour. Benedict Cumberbatch. Need I say more?
BTW: 5 minutes into the 1st episode some misguided fool - who clearly hadn't read the radio schedule for the day - cold-called me trying to tempt me into buy a nonsense warranty. While. I. Was. Listening. To. Rumpole! What kind of a person does that?
  •  and finally ... during each of the 5 week day drama slots last week Shakespeare's Hamlet graced the airways. And as that totalled around 225 minutes or 3 hours 45 minutes it meant that it was a pretty faithful adaptation of the full gloriously wonderful script! 
A rare treat which, as so often happens, proved yet again that when you hear Shakespeare done well, you can see through the hype and unfamiliar language to actually understand not only what he was saying ... but how he was saying it.  

Right then ... I'm going to leave it there before all I do with this extra day I'd forgotten all about is sit and write about the previous 30!

I must get something else done, I mean as there's at least ... no, wait, I daren't count how many ... things on the ironing pile ...

If you'd like to join me by sharing your vital statistics for the first time then do check out the full how to guide here. And if you're one of the regular number-crunching crowd ... then it's over to you ... link me up ... I'll stop by for a visit soon.

Julie x

Saturday 22 March 2014

Simply a Moment - March 2014: A Matter of Territory

Hello hello.

It's that time again [well, actually it's a little later than that time, but Alexa's been away] when Alexa, at Trimming the Sails extends an invitation for us to join her in marking a mid month 'moment'.

To learn more Alexa has a few tips on how to record your own moments and read her very touching March moment here.

But for now, here's my own March moment ...

A Matter of Territory
Date: 15 March 2014
Time: 10.15am
Location: Community centre on crop day

Three of us have just finished setting up five collapsible tables and twice as many chairs in the glass-sided upstairs room of the community centre.

This is after already having hauled all our crafting gear up there too.

An action which, for me at least, took two trips:
  1. one to carry my [oh-so-heavy-what-on-earth-have-I-got-in-here? / fossils-are-probably-forming-at-the-bottom-by-now] bag and tool tote ... meanwhile ...
  2. the second trip was to drag/bounce/yank my equally weight trolley up the steps and, just to make sure I get a full cardiovascular work-out here, around a particularly tight and awkward bend in the small curved staircase.
It had dawned on me, as I was walking in from an unusually full car park, that this wasn't our usual cropping weekend.  Normally we meet on the second Saturday of the month for our crafty get-together and today's the third. [We were away on a crafting break in an old barn last weekend].

Which explains all the cars: a different group have booked one of the centre's other rooms.

And there's me thinking we'd suddenly got very popular ...

... that maybe they'd all heard about how we're always genuinely happy to share our supplies with anyone who needs it ... or how we're not cliquey and don't have strict set places to sit in [but maybe, don't sit there ... just in case] ... or maybe someone mentioned that Jean brings homemade cakes ...

But no ... it's none of that ... it's just that The Quilters are in ...

And so us Papercrafters have been shifted from our usual, large, ground floor [read: no fiddly staircase to manoeuvre] room. And there's a distinct whiff of dissatisfaction in the air ...

Apparently the part-time caretaker, surprised at seeing us here on a different day, has already consulted the diary in the office ... just to check ... which hasn't gone down well with our key-holder crop organiser ...

Nor has the fact we've been moved up here when there's another perfectly serviceable ground floor room available. Which the quilters are only using as a place to iron their works in progress. But, no matter, we've set up now and we're just going to get on with it. Or at least we were until ...

... until the second crop organiser arrives, declares that we did in actual fact book the downstairs room, there's no need for us to have been sent up here, and as longstanding customers we're going to have what we booked. Then all [genteel, perfectly civil, but still ... ] crafty hell breaks loose.

And she calls us out on what's basically a protest march. Or a very British occupation.

And we collapse and put back those five tables we set out.

And we re-stack those twice as many chairs.

And I pick up my [heavy] bag and my tote [I'll come back for my trolley] ... and we march back downstairs to claim the second best room as ours! 

It was like a Women's Institute version of West Side Story's rumble between the Sharks and the Jets.

Well ... I mean ... OK, maybe it wasn't exactly a fatal knife fight in the street ...

... but, hey, the quilters did have to move their ironing board ...

Thanks for pausing for a moment to read mine. And, while you're in the blog-reading mood why not go treat yourself to some of Alexa's beautiful moment-capturing? You'll be glad you did.

 Julie x

Thursday 20 March 2014

International Day of Happiness

Hi you.

When I sat down at my laptop this morning I hadn't intended to share something happy with you [not that I planned to share something miserable either ... what do you take me for?] ... in fact I hadn't intended to blog at all. But then ...

... I saw people talking about how today [March 20] is the UN International Day of Happiness ... and my Pollyanna gene took over, calling me to join in!

And so ... with the aid of a scrappy 'bit bag' card I made while away on a very happy crafting weekend with friends earlier this month ... allow me to wish you some 'Happy happiness' today!
[See, I told you I was a Pollyanna ... I actually made this card before I needed something to illustrate International Day of Happiness!]. Anyway ...

Your presence here, reading me, makes me a happy blogger.
Thank you for your time and your company and so, for today ... 
May the sun shine on you, the toast fall butter-side up and that you manage to peel the backing off that double-sided tape on the first try. [Well, there's nothing like a bit of optimism is there?]
Julie x

Monday 10 March 2014

'We have something in common' :: Paper Love blog hop

Hello you. How's things?

Today I'm joining in with the Paperphilia 'Paper Love' blog hop and taking it as a chance to debut the style of papery thing I've been working on, quietly for over a year now.

[I would say I'd been working on them 'secretly' but that sounds far more clandestine than it really is and it makes me seem paranoid. Which I'm not. Why? Who said I was paranoid?]

I haven't blogged any of these before so the only way you might have seen one would be if you've been curled up on the sofa next to me of an evening when I've been snipping out and sticking. Have you been? No? Oh, I thought I recognised you ...

They're a little different from my other creative papery potterings - art-journaling, collage, scrapbooking, card making etc. Gone are the colours the layers, the textures ... and yet what remains - monochrome, plain and pared down - still feels right to me:
It's a style of work I've fallen utterly in love with as it combines two of the things which inspire me the most: paper [specifically pages from my vintage book collection] and words, which together result in a 3rd thing I hold dear: communicating through the written word.

This 'back-to-basics' approach appears to also have had an influence on what it is I end up saying in these 'found' story collages. It seems that it's not just their form that's a little bit stripped down and naked ... but the content tends to be too: the snippets themselves influence what it is I end up saying.

Being formed from such simple black and white ingredients all the life and colour these pieces need has to come from the found words themselves.

They each bring with them their own set of emotions and meanings and then, when I combine them  with words from other sources, the finished pieces are suddenly something new. Something even I didn't see coming.

And what they've become is an on-going series of  'Snipped Tales' as I like to call them ...

[For the record, yes, I do know that that name could be taken the wrong way. But you should know by now that you're never more than a juvenile grin away from an underlying double entendre when you're in my company.]

So, let me share one of these 'Snipped Tales' with you now; one I sent to a friend at Christmas.

Other than wanting it to feature friendship in general, I didn't set out with anything in particular in mind. Instead I just pored over lots of pages until I found what it was I wanted to say ... or, more likely, until it found me.

And here it is:
And while yes, what I'm doing could be considered as up-cycling old books ... there's just something slightly more romantic about the whole process for me. Something rather mysterious. Alchemical.

Somehow in re-purposing all those old words, phrases and snippets that have found themselves loosed from the pages of timeworn books ...

... I find myself freed to find something new to say.

Thanks for listening to my 'Paper Love'-story today ...

I hope to follow up this 'Snipped Tales' debut with more in the future. Like I say ... they're something I've been working on in private for quite a while ... so it's surely time I opened up the pages to share a few more ...

Julie x

  • The PaperLove Blog Hop is a celebration of all things paper! Follow the links to discover more bloggers who love paper and use it to inspire and delight.
  • And if you want to explore a whole world of paper, and stretch your paper passion further with a host of creative projects, why not join the innovative new online course PaperLove (starts March 31). Led by book artist Rachel Hazell, PaperLove is a five week creative adventure for paper lovers.
  • Find out more here.
 Majo Bautista / Tona Bell Louise Best Cathy Bluteau / Jennifer Bomgardner / Giova Brusa / Lindsay Buck / Beka Buckley / Joanna Caskie / Jonathan Chapman (Mr Yen) / Halle Cisco / Sarah Clare / Cathryn Clarge / Dawn Clarkson / Rhiannon Connelly Jenny D'Fuego / Molly Dhiman / Ian Dudley / Ayisatu Emore / Akmal Farid / Monika Forsberg / Claire Fritz-Domeney / Louise Gale / Chrissy Gaskell / Julie Hamilton / Emma Hawman / Rachel Hazell / Holly Helgeson / Claudine Hellmuth / Kim Henkel / Sarah Hoffman / Joanne Hus / Paula Joerling / Beth Kempton / Julie Kirk / Eos Koch / Katie LaClair / Kristy Lankford / Michelle Manolov / Doreen Marts Rosie Martinez-Dekker / Tori Mears / Maria Mederios / Lise Meijer / Debbie Miller / MaryJane Mitchell / Suzy Naidoo / Grace Noel / Hannah Nunn / Camilla Olsson / Jo Packham / Rachelle Panagarry / Monette Pangan / Melanie Paul Nicole Piar / Jen Pitta / Liz Plummer Julie Reed / Michelle Reynolds / Lisa Rivas Angee Robertson / Natalie Ryan / Aisling Ryan / Elisabet Sapena / Kyrrha Sevco / Jamie Sprague / Elizabeth Steele / Terri Stephens / Juniper Stokes / Mary Tanana / Maike Thoma / Linda Tieu Gabrielle Treanor / Tammy Tutterow / Deborah Velasquez / Jordan Vinograd Kim / Cat Whipple / Brooke Witt / Katie Wood Amelia Woodbridge

Friday 7 March 2014

The 'Stunned Bird' defence of social media

Hello you.
  • Do you have a fondness for Facebook?
  • An Instagram infatuation? 
  • Perhaps you blog? 
  • Or maybe you tweet? [On Twitter I mean ... your bird impressions don't count here. Unless of course you are a bird. In which case, apologies, carry on as you were.]
If you answered YES to any and all of these [apart from Instagram - which is surely only a matter of time for me - and the bird thing, because I don't think birds can read] then I can't deny it, I hear you ... I'm right alongside you on the social media front.

In fact I'm changing my status to "Yay! Me too! #greatmindsthinkalike" as we speak ...

But ... I  do know my predilection for social media is not universal.

Not everyone feels the urge to share photos of their meals before they tuck-in or keep the world updated on their current Benedict-Cumberbatch-Preoccupation levels [fyi: mine are currently fluctuating between 'well, this is distracting' and 'oh for goodness sake I can't look any more'.]

Often, those who don't spend their days immersed in 'likes', 'hashtags' and 'ats' decry social media as an unnecessary and even damaging screen [quite literally] standing between genuine human interaction.s  
And, let's be honest, even those of us who have embraced the myriad ways we can share our lives online can, occasionally, feel a little bad about why we're doing it and whether it's all just a bit well ... artificial. 

But, personally, I'm not big on guilt. Or beating yourself up about things that aren't hurting anyone. Plus, my interactions on social media have brought me so many opportunities to meet lovely people and follow new ventures why would I want to feel bad about it?

And so ... allow me to offer up the following #truestory as a form of defence both for social media as a platform and for its conflicted users ...

Sometime last year, at an unremarkable photocopy out-of-town retail park, following a post-shopping cuppa with my Mam and sister, we were just leaving the café when we bumped into someone outside who simply could not wait to tell us what had just happened. What he'd seen. What we had just missed.
An out of breath 5 year old dressed in school uniform, his hand in the hand of his grandmother, his body leaning diagonally outward from hers with even his legs clearly brimming with excitement.

"Did you see that?" he asked us.

And there was no doubt it was us - three complete strangers - he was addressing. Looking directly at us [no self-conscious adult avoidance of eye-contact] he continued ...

"A bird just flew into that window!" he turned his head to indicate the plate-glass front of the shop next door.

"It went" and here he moved his arm in a swooping gesture to demonstrate the bird hitting the glass "then it just flew off!!!!"

He was amazed. Awed. Astounded. He'd probably never seen anything quite like it in his life.
"Wow" I replied; eyes wide and eyebrows raised to really illustrate how impressed I was at this momentous event.

And we smiled at his grandmother to show that we really didn't mind being stopped dead in our tracks by a small excited person in full-on live-reporting-of-breaking-news mode.

And then that was that. Once we were all up-to-date we went our separate ways.

But a few steps on it dawned on me that this exchange - as unexpected as it was - actually felt very familiar to me.
  • the 'I just had to tell someone' immediacy;
  • the instant communication;
  • the straight-to the point directness of the language.
... all of it was reminiscent of something else ... something which - unlike being stopped in the street by small boys reporting on low-flying birds - I experienced on a day-to-day basis. And I turned to my sister and said:

"It's like live Twitter! He just tweeted out loud!".

.... which is the key argument in my 'Stunned Bird Defence' of social media:
  • it's a natural impulse in us to share our news with others; so natural that children do it without thinking twice.
  • we sometimes simply want to make an announcement about our experiences; to define and document the moment by putting it into words.
Some of us - those who are adorable and cute and small enough and who can get away with it, do this by stopping a stranger in the street ...

... and some tell a friend ... and some use Twitter, Facebook etc. Then just as I responded to the little boy, those who read the tweet / status raise their virtual eyebrows and smile to demonstrate they heard what you said; they 'like', re-tweet, @ you or leave a comment.

So yes, social media may well be an artificial platform for human sharing ... but it's not actually an impermeable barrier between us ... it's a bridge. A connection.

Let's go forth and share to our heart's content without the guilt. Without the doubt.

So we're a society of facebookers, bloggers, tweeters, pinners and instagrammers. So what? 

No one died.

Not even the bird.
An experiment in illustrating blog posts with my collage ©Julie Kirk 2014

If you'd like to connect with me online [for instance, the next time you see a bird fly into a window you know you're going to want to tell me all about it!] then:
And if you're not on Twitter but think you might like to give it a go my [free] 2011 class 'Tips for the Twitter-curious' goes into detail to try to convince you / help you out. [Some of the screenshots etc will be a little out-of-date by now - but the majority of the class is intended to show the broader uses of Twitter, plus its benefits to you, which remain the same.]

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Scrapbooking: When fiction meets fashion

Hi there.

So tell me ... where do your classic literature loyalties (and hearts) lie? Are they with Mr Darcy? Mr Rochester? Heathcliff?

But while I'm sure they're all very serviceable companions in some ways (if you like moody men) personally my heart belongs to Mr Knightley:
Believe it or not I was actually very fond of Jane Austen's Mr Knightley even before he was played by Jonny Lee Miller. I loved him from the first time I met him when I had to read Emma for my English degree. But when Mr Miller played him ... well, that kind of sealed the deal for me!

OK, I'm distracted now. What was the reason behind this blog post again??? Ah, yes ... scrapbooking ...
At first glance you might think I was going for a full-on 'pensive Austen heroine' pose here ...
... when actually it just captured me in a break from my quiz-show hostess duties! Remember the Only Connect post-it note interactive boards from my January Month in Numbers? You can hop over there for a wider angle view of what was really happening beyond this close-up!

However ... it did give me a good opportunity to tell the story inspired by what I was wearing ...
 ... which had triggered in me a spot of Emma-style day dreaming:
You'll be the first to know if there are any developments on this matter ...

I'm now tempted to ask ...

Have you ever captured the story behind an outfit or item of clothing in your scrapbooking?

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one whose love of layers, colours and patterns crosses over from dressing myself into dressing my pages!

Let me know and/or link me up.

Thanks for dropping in today.

Julie x

As well as giving me the chance to combine 3 of my favourite things: clothes, Jonny Lee Miller and scrapbooking, this project was also one of my 3DJean Design Team post for this month. To find out more details about the 3DJean supplies I used you can view my post here.

The paper doll clothes were cut from the book Pride and Prejudice Paper Dolls by Brenda Sneathen Mattox. (A rare thing in my collection ... a book you're actually meant to cut up!!)