Saturday 31 May 2014

My Month in Numbers 2014: May

Greetings, hi, hola.

You know what I'm going to say don't you?

[No, not "Is it Tuesday today?" which is something I ask James on a spectacularly regular basis. Usually on a Monday; because working from home wreaks havoc with my sense of days / dates and it's always important to know when it is in fact Tuesday ... because that's when Elementary' is on.]

No, what I was going to say was ... it's the end of another month [again! I know! I just keeps on happening doesn't it?!] and that means that it's time for another numberly summary of my previous 31 days.

If you'd like to join the ever-evolving Month in Numbers community there are a few guidelines for you here. Please give them a quick read if you're new to it. [Don't worry. It's free of charge! But you do need to have been alive during the previous month so you can write about it. Which is pretty manageable I think.]

Anyway ... I'll come and visit your stats soon, until then ... here's mine ....

625 [on Virgin] = my newest favourite TV channel 'NHK World'. We've only had the channel for a week and but, in between news programmes, the Japanese channel has some great shows and documentaries about fashion, craft and travel. What's not to enjoy?

5 = the number of meals out / special occasions during which I ate something nice!

Which included ...

1 = a lunch with friends at a local garden centre which has a very quaint vintage-style tea room inside one of their plant greenhouses!
I had hoped that, as it was a sunny day and we were under all that glass, I might have grown a little.

Alas, I don't think it worked ...

2 = tea + cakes [plural!] at a charity fundraiser. 3 = lunch in town with Mam.

4 = the 2nd year in a row we celebrated James's birthday with a lunch at Robineau Patisserie:  
3 courses each. And it was delicious. As usual.

and  5 = a meal to mark our anniversary.
22 years = how long James and I've been together. 
Obviously I met him when I was 5 and we've been together ever since ... ahem ...

Actually below is one of the earliest photos I could find of us together. From an age before digital cameras. Taken in a photo-booth!! In the days before photo-booths were just a novelty all the cool kids had at their parties! 
On the actual day of our not-a-wedding-anniversary-because-we-haven't-had-a-wedding-but-it's-still-an-anniversary anniversary we travelled ...

85 miles to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. [I blogged further photos from our day trip last week in my 'Zoom In Zoom Out' post

It was a beautiful day and probably the nicest, weather wise of the entire month! And we say lots of arty-soul-sustaining sculpture including ...

... a 2.7m man or 'Network' by Tom Price as it's officially called:
And we browsed the 40+ pieces in the major Ursula von Rydingsvard exhibition:
James sneaked this photo of me reading the exhibition guide while wandering past one of my favourite pieces.

We also visited 'Seizure' the Roger Hiorns work which is a re-located council flat which has been transformed by 75,000 litres of liquid copper sulphate ... naturally.

We didn't take any photos while we were inside it, so for a clearer idea of what it is you might like to visit its page of the YSP site here - the slideshow on there includes a video you can watch too ...because it's impossible to explain it in words!! 

While in the sculpture park gift shop [which is a treat in itself!] ... I spotted this which managed to combine 3 of my favourite things ...
  1. Papery supplies
  2. Patterns!!
  3. and something with a good number I can use in a Month in Numbers post!!
I convinced myself it was worth buying as I could use the cards in my crafting kits ... then I got them home ... and drooled over them ... and patted them ... and gazed at them ...
And I'm finding it hard to let go ...

But, speaking of things that come in blocks of 100 ...

1 out of 100 = how many original hoop designs by Kirsty Neale I now have in my possession!
Because she's generally lovely and splendid Kirsty sent me some happy mail this month which included one of the designs which featured in her book 'Hoop-La!' which was published last year. Gorgeous isn't it?

Amongst other things my happy mail parcel also included some zebra print sticky tape 'cos ... well ... that's the kind of thing people send me.

4 = the number of parcels "for the lady" that arrived on the same morning. At least that's how the Postman referred to me when he handed all my mail over to James last Saturday. Oooh get me. I'm a lady now!

And speaking of happy mail for the lady ...

Happy mail #2 = Katie Licht and I indulged in a spot of ephemera-stash-swapping and, alongside some lovely vintage pages, my parcel from Katie included her super-cool 'Advice for Modern Life' zine [which she blogged about here]:
Like Kirsty, Katie was one of the bloggers I 'tagged' at the end of my blog hop post during the month - along with Vicky Trainor. And last week they all picked up the blog were I hopped-off so ...

... if you haven't already been to visit all 3 of my tagees ... would you hop back to my post sometime to find their links at the bottom ... and go say hello? They created 3 great posts between them and you'll find lots to inspire you there I promise!


Thanks for reading my vital statistics for May - one of my favourite months round here - and if you've got your own to share, let me know [don't forget the guidelines here if you're new] ... and I'll drop by to visit soon.

Here's hoping June is a veritable treat for you and all those you love.

Julie x

Thursday 29 May 2014

Extra Padding: Prepare to hook yourself in again. A re-introduction to the Push-Up Bra series.

Hello hello.

So ... Push-Up Bra blogging eh?
So, why am I back here peddling my push-up again?

Well, I wanted to return to the series for two main reasons:

1. To re-inspire lapsed bloggers. Including myself.

Towards the end of last year / the start of 2014 I'd really slowed down on the blogging front.

Which, in itself didn't worry me. It's like I say in Chapter 9. The Kenny Rogers Approach you gotta know when to walk away, know when to run!

So I just recognised that it was a natural lull in my blogging and just waited until I felt like running back! Which was sometime this spring.

Over that time my creative motivations and focus shifted slightly ... which had a knock-on effect on how I felt about my blog.

For instance I know in the original series I wrote that I often had plenty of things to blog about as I blogged ever scrapbook page I make. But the thing is ... I've only blogged 4 scrapbook pages this year ... and I haven't made a new 12x12 since February.

So ... I've been starting to question just what it is I should be using my blog space for. Things change. People, creativity, focus, motivations and blogs ... all change.

But, fortunately, I remembered I'd written an entire series aimed at helping other people get around precisely this kind of issue ... and I took it as an opportunity to take my own medicine.

 Physician heal thyself and all that!

And the second reason I wanted to take another look at the Push-Up Approach was ...

2. Because, quite honestly, it was a lot of work and I wanted to promote it again!
  • If it was a book [and it almost could be!] I'd like to think it would be something you could return to, slide off the shelf from time to time, dip in and out of.
But things move fast in this online world ... and they get forgotten quickly. And new people make their way on to our blogs all the time ... and so ... I thought I'd create a space to shout about it again.

And here we are ...


So let's begin properly [this is the part where you can revel in having a legitimate excuse to crack open a fresh new notebook. Go on ... you know you want to. Yes, even that lovely one you've been saving 'for best'. Go fetch! I'll wait ...]
Let's have another look at the course structure [which you can also apply to the bare bones structure of your own blogging.]

The series is divided into three parts:
  1. Why ::  Why would I want to blog more? What's in it for me?
  2. What :: What am I going to find to blog about?
  3. How :: How am I going to get organised for blogging more regularly? How can I streamline my blogging time?
[You can read all the posts in the series from the ink on this page]

But, while the course is divided into those distinct sections I know that parts of the series aren't for everyone. [Read the introduction to the course for more of an idea on whether any of it's for you or not!]

Some of you have told me directly, and I've seen it mentioned elsewhere, that it's not for them.

So I wanted to address this:
  • not because I'm in a mood about it [I rarely indulge in passive-aggressive mumblings ... least of all on my blog!]
  • and not to club you over the head with my push-up bra [OK, that should really say 'my push-up bra way of thinking].
But because I don't want that idea to put anyone off ...

It's not ONE approach; it's at least eight. And they're all intended to be pick 'n' mix.

Think of it like all those 'extras' you can put in a bra to boost the end results ... 
  • there's the regular under-wiring and the soft padding ...
  • then there's that thicker padding which can make the bra look like there's 'someone' in it even when it's empty ...
  • and then there's those soft gel pocket inserts and the bigger 'chicken-fillet' style boosters [or fish fillets as my Mam's been known to call them, which really isn't something you'd want in a bra.]
  • and then ... there's even air filled sacks ... which look like very small buoyancy aids ...
And sure they're all things you could put in your bra to ... erm ... raise your profile ...

... but maybe not every time.

I mean, some days you might be required to see over the top of your chest!

Same thing applies to your blogging and which ideas form the series you want to take on board at any given time.

From what I've understood from the feedback I've received it seems like it's the HOW approaches - revolving around the ideas of draft posts / scheduling / organising posts - which have tended to stick in people's minds the most:
And, funnily enough ... it's the advice in these chapters which seems to have struck a chord with both those people who loved the idea and can see how it would work for them ... and those who couldn't even contemplate it!!

I'm considering that some kind of achievement! At least there's a reaction!

Those who are turned off by the HOWs refer to how they prefer spontaneity in their blogging and I can't disagree with that. If that's how you are motivated then go with it! I'm meant to be doing something else right now .. but here I am finishing off this post as it felt like the right time!

If you're more of a spontaneous kind of blogger I would still say you can pick up tips in the WHY and WHAT sections of the course. There's nothing there that talks about structure or forward planning really and I still believe you'll find something to spark off a blogging idea there.

But really, if you're entirely happy doing what you're doing, blogging whatever whenever, then you probably don't need any blogging advice from a series like mine!

However ... if you'd like a few ideas on how your 'ooooh, now!' nature can actually help you shape your blog [at whatever time frame you fancy!] then here are a few ways you can exploit that spontaneity of yours ...

Making spontaneity in blogging work for you:

What is it that you last spontaneously blogged?
  • What was the topic?
  • Was it something that had just happened?
  • Was it something that felt time sensitive?
  • Something you were bursting to share?
Look at that post.

Mine it for inspiration.

There's a lot you can learn from analysing the kind of post you felt you just had to share, that instant.
  • Maybe it reveals your passions [there's a LOT more about this in the McFly Approaches both one and two.]
  • Maybe you can make a note of the kind of post it was then ... the next time a similar occasion arrives ... you'll remember that 'oh, last time this happened I blogged about it' ... and you can do the same again.
  • You'll be gradually building up a recognisable style / segment / feature. Something which - although maintaining that element of 'here and now' can still become an occasional spot on your blogging calendar. Something readers will come to recognise and connect to your unique style / voice [there's lots on finding your blogging 'voice' in The McFlyApproach Part One]
My Month in Numbers series [now in it's 5th year] began as an entirely spur of the moment post.

I didn't go and draft up 52 new posts in advance ... I didn't even anticipate repeating the same idea the following month.  And I had no overarching grand plan to still be sharing a monthly statistical summary four years down the line!!

So I know from experience that when you follow a spontaneous idea that just grabs you ... you can really make it work for you blog for years to come!

Another great example of making spontaneity work more than once - which is nothing to do with me or my push-up bra, I'm not taking any credit here - is something my friend Sian Fair at From High in the Sky has been doing recently.

In her 'Me on Monday' spot [the latest episode of which is here] Sian shares a glimpse into her weekend with a fun list of what she's got up to and a few photos. Of course she can't write these  posts in advance ... but she can, and does, repeat the idea the following week with the fresh things that happened that weekend.

So ... if you hate the idea of drafting and scheduling posts in advance ... don't let that deter you from following the Push-Up Bra course - it's much more than the HOW.

The WHATs are all there for the taking, whether you take them and schedule something for the next month or the next five minutes! These are all still worth a look:

If you are inspired to share something you've learned/used/developed from The Push-Up Bra Approach to Blogging series on your own blog - please visit this post for details on what you could do + what I'll do in return!

If this re-cap or my new notes on spontaneity stir up anything you want to feed back to me ... drop me a comment! [Who doesn't love blog comments? Well, the nice ones at least!]

I'm currently testing out the 'reply' function on my comments, so if there's something you really want to ask, I'll do my best to reply beneath ... and maybe you could check back to see it sometime or tick the 'notify me' box. [Email notifications of replies seems a bit hit and miss].

Or you can always catch me on my Facebook page or Twitter.

Ill see you soon push-uppers.

Julie :-)

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Zoom In Zoom Out: Sculpture? Remote control car? Small robot?

Hi again.

It's a three-blog-post week so far here. You'll be sick of the sight of me soon.

On Sunday, to mark mine and James's not-a-wedding-anniversary-because-we-haven't-had-a-wedding-but-it's-still-an-anniversary anniversary [clearly he hasn't got sick of the sight of me just yet] we took ourselves off to one of our favourite places: the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

And, while we were there, I spotted the following sight ... which I just knew would make a fun contribution to Helena's 'Zoom In Zoom Out' [or ZIZO for short] photo-sharing meme.

So here it is ...

Zooming In ...
 What do you reckon it is then?  Looks pretty much like a remote control toy car doesn't it? And yet ...

... if I just move the dial around a bit ...

Zooming Out ...
... you'll see that actually ... it's a robotic lawn mower cutting the grass on the roof of the park's 'Underground Gallery'! Of course it is!

Can you make it out? In the centre of the photo? It made its way backwards and forwards, all day, without once dropping off the edge!

BTW: the Underground Gallery and various other outdoor locations around the park are currently home to a simply fabulous exhibition of work by Ursula von Rydingsvard.

Those of you who've been taking an interest in the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show this week might recognise her work as one of her wooden sculptures features in the Laurent-Perrier garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei which just won 'Best in Show'.

But back to the sculpture park ...

Zooming Out - even further ...
If we just step back and zoom out a little further you'll see James looking out from the open first floor window in the main entrance building from which I took the photos:
It was absolutely the perfect weather for wandering around, lazily ... and probably the kind of weather in which you'd prefer to have a robot doing the lawn-mowing work for you!
And finally ...
From another angle ...
See the robot mower on the left? OK ... now glance across to the bottom right hand side ... and what's that just a few metres away from the ultra high-tech grass-cutting machine? That'll be the old school version ... 3 grazing rabbits!
So ... do you think that fabulous juxtaposition is just a coincidence? Or is it actually a modern art installation commenting on 'the way we live now'?? Who knows? ....

For more ZIZO photos stop by the links hosted on Helena's post today.

See you ... soon ... ish ... maybe not tomorrow though ... I'll give you a break from me for at least 24 hours. Probably.

Julie :-)

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Simply A Moment May 2014: A bit of yesterday in today's cup

Hi there.
Simply A Moment the wonderfully thoughtful, mindful, beautiful monthly meme hosted by my good friend Alexa at Trimming the Sails is making its way back to the harbour this month. For now at least Alexa's putting the moment gathering on pause and so I wanted to make sure I joined in one more time.
That said ... in the gracious manner with which she approaches everything, Alexa stated that she hopes "those of you who want to continue recording sixty seconds of your day from time to time will feel that you can do so".
I'm certain I'll have to find a way - maybe different, maybe similar - to continue writing about my life in the way that 'Simply A Moment' provided a space. So maybe it's not the 'end'. Maybe we'll just enjoy different moments!

You can visit Alexa's May post [which isn't the same as a May Pole!] here.

And here's mine ...

A bit of yesterday in today's cup.

Date: 15 May 2014
Time: 14.20 ish
Location: Kitchen. At home.

Tea break time. 
I flip the switch to turn the kettle on and head outside to see if the washing's drying on the line.
It is. In fact I might as well bring it in now. So I start collecting it in from the end, next to the clematis, which is at its pale pink peak right now.
With both hands I draw the new-to-me-but-vintage bed sheet I bought from a charity shop to my face and sink my nose into it, inhaling deeply. 
'Good' I think. 'That's a relief'; the smell of damp dark cupboards has now given way to a fresh clean scent far better suits its glorious floral print.
Back inside the kettle's boiled so I dash upstairs with the laundry, draping it over the banister so it won't be too creased when I come to iron it all. OK, now, priorities; let's get this cuppa made.
I pick up the box of loose leaf tea and reach for the spoon thinking about how I bought the loose leaf by mistake. Not that it matters. It's all tea. All hits the same spot.
It's just ... apart from having to make it in a cafetiere [because the leaves are so fine they escape through the holes in our other strainers] ... apart from that, the box is out of place on the worktop. 
All the other teas - in bags - are in their own glass jars; all of which are all fully occupied. And, the thing is if I put this box of leaves in the drawer I'll forget they're there. [I know this to be true as, when I went to see if there was space for them in there ... I found another box of neglected loose leaf tea. And I can't even remember buying those!]
So ... I start to look around for something nicer to store them in. Something I can leave out on the top. I open cupboard doors and peer in in the hope there's something [to quote Goldilocks] just right to house them in.  
Nope. Too large. Too plastic. No lid. And then ...
I turn my head to the top shelf above the dresser in the dining room where the coffee set my parents handed down to me sits on display. Was it a wedding gift? I'll have to ask them.

I reach up to grasp the sugar bowl which, fortunately, is at the front of the display. Its matt finish is smooth against my fingertips. I make sure I've got it safely and lift it down.

I rinse it to remove the dust its gathered during its life - in my home at least - as a merely decorative item. On display as its retro design and brown colour tone compliment the style of our décor.

Once it's dry I pour in the fine, almost-black, don't-sneeze-or-it'll-go-everywhere leaves tapping the sides to make extra space for a little bit more. I wipe away the sprinkling of leaves that escaped mid-pour, carefully replace the lid and slide the pot into its new - useful - home near the kettle.

With a feeling of slight apprehension - that now it'll be in daily use, now it's not safely tucked away out of harm's way ... it may get damaged but also ... satisfied at this elegant solution to my mistake purchase. Plus, it's nice to put something old and personal back to use again.

Lifting my warm mug of fresh tea from the counter I turn and head back upstairs.


Thanks for taking a moment to pause and read through mine.

Do hop back over if you missed my post from yesterday where I shared more of my Snipped Tales project ... and I'll see you soon.

Julie x

Monday 19 May 2014

Like a blog hop, only slower. [Which, considering there's hopping involved, might actually be safer].

Hello you.

A few weeks back Sandie from Itchifingers asked if she could 'tag' me to take part in this blog-hop-with-a-difference and, while I'm here now  'Hi, how's things?!' ... truth be told, I very nearly ran screaming ...

You see, the thing is, once you're 'tagged' you have to go on to tag three new people who, in turn, will go on to blog their own 'hop' post the week after yours. [You can read Sandie's post from last week here.]

And ... well ... approaching others ... asking them to play with you ... opening yourself up to rejection ... well that can be a little bit scary [insert all your own flashbacks to your schooldays here].

But, sometimes, especially when you're a freelancer and small business owner [an owner of a small business I mean. Not that I'm a business owner who's small. Although ... at 5ft2in I'm that too] ... sometimes you have to just have to put on your big brave pants and make the most of whatever opportunities lay before you. And join in. Take part.  Be seen. And ask others to play!

So that's what I'm doing today.

I'll introduce you to my 3 lovely hoppers at the end but in the meantime ... here are my responses to the questions I was set. And, as you'll discover ... me sitting here talking about myself was clearly not one of the issues I had!


1. What are you currently working on?
I currently divide my working time between creating craft magazine projects and creativity kits for my Etsy shop. But I thought I'd take this opportunity to share something a little more personal and non-work-related: my Snipped Tales.  [I've mentioned them previously in this earlier post if you'd like to see another example].

Snipped Tales are the short short-stories I make [to say I 'write' them doesn't quite fit with how they're created.] They're micro stories, sometimes verging on poems, and they're made entirely from words and phrases I've snipped from old books:
And they're something I always turn to to wind down after I've put my other commitments to bed for the working day. Because these aren't work. They're just for me. For now at least ...

I can't believe I'm going to say this out loud but ... I'd love to have a full range of Snipped Tales on offer to others as art prints, greeting cards, notebook covers ... even a book ...

But when I'm working on them I try to put all that out of my mind. I don't want to try to second-guess what other people would like .. I just try to build the best story I can with the words in front of me.

Stories like this one ...
As I mentioned, I don't really feel like I 'write' these stories ... it often feels more like I'm simply setting them free. Like they're been trapped inside other pages all their lives ... and then I release them.

But if I've made it sound like I find the process of 'finding' these tales easy ... then you need to ask James what kind of mood I'm in when I've been sitting staring at a box full of words for three nights in a row without having made a single paragraph!
That said ... when it all comes together [say, on the fourth night of staring at all those pages!] and I've unearthed a new tale which, despite being made from disparate parts now has its own logic; makes its own sense; lives in its own new world ... well ... that's one of the best feelings there is.

Do you ever make something which, a few months down the line, you look back at and realise - that despite your own inner critic, or your self-imposed high standards - you actually like the thing? And you give yourself credit for a job well done?

It's a nice feeling isn't it?

Well that's how I feel about my Snipped Tales!

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
If there's a modest yet honest way to answer this question I'm not sure I've found it! But the first thing I thought of when I read this question was the time I had some free business coaching a few years back and one of the first things the coach asked was about my USP; what was my unique selling point?

And I replied [hey, she asked. I had to say something]: "Well, I'm kind of  ... funny."

And while I really do hope that that's the case ...  the thing with that was ...

...  if you feel like you have to tell someone you're funny ... then maybe you're not as funny as you thought! 
Yet whether it's here on my blog, on social media, in my product descriptions or in my emails [it can happen face-to-face too but I'll really have to get to know you first! I'm far better with the written word! And thus a career in stand-up comedy has never been an option! ;-)]

... I really do like to introduce humour and general lightness to the majority of the work I do. Unless I want something to be poignant ... but even then ... those feelings aren't too far apart ...

But - to answer the question - does it make me different to others in my genre? Then I'd have to say probably not. I don't have the monopoly on funny!

There's no way that anything I do [from card making to kit making and my collage work and Snipped Tales in between] is 100% stand-alone different. But I don't really allow that to worry me.

The only definite way in which my work is truly different to that of others is in that I do my work and others do theirs.

One great thing about being my own product designer, brand developer and social media manager is that I get to present everything I do in my own style. In my own words. 

Which ultimately means it must end up slightly 'different' to how someone else works. Because I don't do all that for anyone else!

3. Why do you write/create what you do?
Thinking about how to answer this I've just come to a startlingly clear conclusion - the need to earn money aside -  there are just two reasons I make, write, share the kind of things I do:
  1. To please myself and ...
  2. To help others.
And that's it! Because ...

1. I make what I want to make. What makes me happy. I don't ask permission. I try not to get too caught up in trends or design 'rules'. And if that means sitting in my pyjamas cutting up old books, then so be it!

And it extends to the kits I make for other people to use too; I want to stay true to the kind of creativity/supplies/projects I enjoy, and then pass it on to someone else, without changing it too much. Because if I'm passionate about it first, there's better chance someone else will be somewhere down the line!

2. And secondly, I get huge satisfaction from encouraging others to try something new, to surprise themselves, to dare to prove their inner critic wrong!

I know, from many an hour spent in front of PowerPoint presentations on the subject, that it's what corporations call 'removing barriers to learning'. In my non-crafty life my jobs have included being Learning Mentor to primary school children and an assistant to University students with disabilities ... so, you might be able to guess that supporting others is just what makes me tick.

Which is why I'm always trying to find ways to combine that side of myself with my creative life.

I'd love to think of my blog as a safe space for anyone who feels nervous about their creativity or any of the things I write tutorials and informative blog series about [eg. Push-Up Bra Blogging, of Tips for the Twitter Curious]. And it's why I try to be open and honest about my own fears and hang-ups [and why, in the introduction to this post - all the way back up there ^^ - I mentioned how I'd initially approached this blog hop with apprehension].

If by being a little bit exposed [... don't!] I can help someone else realise they're not alone and they're not such a freak after all ... then I'll consider that a good day's work!  ;-)

And finally ....

4. How does your writing/creating process work?
When I was around 15 my art teacher told my parents that he could picture me, as an adult, working away in an artist's garret somewhere.

My parents laughed.

Not in his face. But afterwards.

You see the thing is [and, judging by my parents' reactions, the thing has always been] that I tend not to suffer unduly for my art.

Which is not to say I'm not dedicated, or I don't work hard [I do ... ask my happy editors and customers!] it's just that I'm not someone who can stay up all night working on deadlines or developing new ideas. [Again, my parents say I'm the only child they'd ever heard asking to go - rather than trying to delay having to go - to bed!]

Where were we? Oh yes, my creative process ...

... so, yes, during my working week days:
  •  I sit at my desk either working on commissions following a brief set by an editor; [OK, maybe this is the garret my teacher was talking about!???]
  • OR I compile a new craft kit from my collection of 'stuff, photograph it, write a description and add it to my shop;
  • OR I prepare blog posts to raise the profile of my kits etc.  
  • And I keep in touch with customers and blog readers on my Facebook page.
And I try not to do any paid work on the weekends, or on a night if I can help it. After all that's when I get to chop up my own paper for my own creative ends!
That's me working on my Snipped Tales last weekend. You're lucky [or else I am] that I'm actually wearing proper clothes here. I'm usually in much more stretchy clothing when I'm settling in for a night of TV and snipping!

So yes ... I love my various creative working outlets and when I'm working on each of them, I put all my efforts into the task at hand. It's just that far from modelling myself on the idea of the tortured artist or the small-business owner working themselves into the ground ...

... I just seem to produce better work when I'm happy, comfortable, awake ... and wearing something with an elasticated waistband.

[I can't wait to see that sentence turned into one of those uplifting motivational quotes people share on Pinterest!]

Julie x

Thank you for visiting me and reading through my words today but ...

 ... like Wonderland's White Rabbit [or someone standing on a cream carpet who's just realised they've got something nasty stuck to the bottom of their shoe ...]

... it's time you hopped on elsewhere my friend ...

Below are links to the three inspiringly creative ladies who [thank goodness!!!! Can you imagine how lonely I'd feel if no one agreed???] accepted my invitation to keep this blog-tour touring next week.

For now you should:
  • go visit them - you'll be glad you did!
  • maybe add them to your regular blog reading list ...
  • and then make sure to head back and visit them when it's their turn to answer questions next Monday, May 26th 2014.
I'll let them introduce themselves in their own words ....

Katie Licht is ...
...  a collage artist, stay at home mom, former graphic designer, proud Midwesterner, amateur roller derby girl, and daily receiver of the mercies of Christ.

She is most inspired by cetaceans, eavesdropping, old paper, and cabernet sauvignon.

Vicky Trainor is ...
... a forty something floral obsessive. 

Vicky considers herself to be very lucky to work from a 'home studio' and very lucky to have a family who allow her to do so as she has taken ownership of what was the living room to her 1930's semi detached....'the parlour'....

This is now her work room that she affectionately calls 'The Linen Garden'....

Vicky’s blog shares her obsession, her 'floral love', her potterings of sorts, her wanderings, her hoardings, little scissor snippets of what is happening in her studio - a very cheerful place for you to visit once in a while.......a perfect little floral gathering...”

And last but not least ...

Kirsty Neale is ...

... is a freelance writer, designer and illustrator, living in London.

She is a columnist for PaperCraft Inspirations, and the author of two books, Hoop-La and Paperie, for David & Charles.

Thursday 15 May 2014

How to transform a box frame into a printer-tray style display case. [Zebras are optional]

Hi hi.

If you were here the other day - when I posted about the progress I've made in my work room redecoration project - then you'll have heard me mention I was also decorating a little somewhere where my zebra collection could thrive too.

And here it is ... complete with directions on how you too can up-cycle a cheap/old box frame into a fancy custom display case!

[With thanks to Effie of Efemera Ink who first introduced me to this technique a few years ago.]

  • A box style picture frame
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint [regular white emulsion will do]
  • Paintbrush
  • Thick cardboard / grey board /chipboard
  • Old book pages
  • PVA / white glue / gel medium etc
  • White acrylic paint / gesso / Distress Stain [I don't know about you but I can never keep a straight face while referring to 'Distress Stains'. Oh my.]
The box style picture frame:
  • The size and depth of this will depend on what you plan to display in it afterwards. Mine's deep enough for my zebras. [A phrase you won't hear that often.] 
  • As you're going to paint and customise it you needn't worry about finding a 'perfect' example.
  • Keep a look out for them in charity/thrift shops, car boot sales etc and remember - it doesn't matter how ugly the thing is .... you're going to cover over it all eventually. Just enjoy the bargain!
  • Mine was something James spotted a skip and brought home for me years ago [it's been lurking in a cupboard ever since ... until inspiration struck last month!]
  • And, for this style of 'printer-tray' style project the box doesn't even need to have glass in it ... mine didn't, and you don't need it.
  • If you're going to paint your frame give it a quick sand first. There's no need to try to remove every last trace of the original colour; just sand it enough to give the paint something to grip to.
  • Then paint over it using ... anything you've got handy!
  • I covered over the horrible reddish fake-mahogany on mine with the same white satin paint I'd been using to refresh the woodwork in my craft room:
  • If yours is bare untreated wood then acrylic paint would cover it easily.
  • If it needs a few layers then give it a quick sand down in between coats. The end result will be worth the extra effort.  
  • Once the paint is completely dry sand over the frame to distress the edges and corners.
  • I used quite a course grade sandpaper for this, which gives quite a scratchy texture, a finer grade will give a softer effect.
  • Don't press too hard at first, just get a feel of how much paint is coming away each time. It's easier to sand over it again to take more off than it is to go back and re-paint the whole thing!
  • Finally spray on some furniture polish or apply some wax and buff.
So, that's the exterior seen to; let's move indoors now shall we?


You need some sort of base structure on to which you can build up your shelves / dividing strips. This part is all going to depend on the size and shape of your frame plus what kind of insert/backing structure it came with ... so bear with me!
  • Mine came with this 4-sided grey board/chipboard type box insert already inside:
  • But if yours simply has the back section [that you would normally use just as the back of the frame] then that should work almost as well. You might need to secure your shelves a tiny bit more, but it's not a major issue.
  • Plus you'll need to 'wall paper' around the inside walls of your frame before adding the insert with the shelves too.
  • And if you've simply salvaged an empty frame with no insert or backing at all ... just cut yourself one from a sheet of grey board,  a sturdy cardboard box or even the backing board from a few A4 notepads glued together.
You then need to decide:
  • How many shelves you want and how you're going to position them.
  • You can also add uprights/ vertical dividers in the exact same way I'm about to show you for the shelves.
  • When arranging your dividers just keep in mind the size of the items you plan to display in the frame - then base your layout on that.
  • After all your hard work you'll want to make sure the precious items you want to show off will actually fit inside!!
Next ...
  • Cut shelves from a sturdy cardboard box [as I did here] or grey board etc to fit inside your base structure.
  • Measure and mark out in pencil where you want them to sit:
Now you need to anchor each shelf in turn to your base. Here's how:
  • Add a slosh of water to a tub of PVA glue [How much is a slosh? I don't know! I just know you don't want to water the glue down too much ... you want just enough to make it 'glide' across the paper more easily, that's all!].
  • Tear strips from the pages of an old book.
  •  [I used an old French botanical book - pages of which can be found inside the  Modern European Language vintage pages packs available from my Etsy store. Or, if you'd like a custom order of just these papers, get in touch!]
  • Apply the glue to the paper using a brush then stick the paper to one of your cardboard shelves.
  • Make sure to leave at least a few centimetres over-hanging the edge:
  • Now fold the overhanging section over on to itself, position the shelf where you want it, then press the excess paper down on to your base structure:
  • Think of this part as adding a bracket support to a shelf!
  • Repeat the process of adding paper brackets all the way along the top and bottom of each shelf you add.
  • You may need to allow one coat of glue to dry before adding more layers as your cardboard and can get too damp and begin to bend, buckle and the paper starts to drag and tear.
  • Keep repeating the hinging process it until each shelf begins to feel secure enough to take the weight of the treasures you'll be displaying on them!
  • You also need to cover the entire backing board with scraps of torn paper overlapping one another - and overlapping the brackets of the shelves too.
  • The finished result should be random - no need to be methodical of neat here!
  • Just keep adding sections of paper alternating their size and direction - until the whole thing is covered.
  • Paint over each layer of paper with glue as you go along to seal any loose edges.
  • If your frame didn't come with a cardboard insert, remember to wallpaper the inside walls of the frame to match!
Tip: If you don't want a shiny finish to the final layer of paper ... use a Matt Gel Medium rather than PVA to apply it. You can use Gel Medium throughout the entire project if you want but PVA is cheaper.
  • Finally, just to 'knock-back' the finished text-print design wash over it with either watered down white/cream acrylic paint or gesso or a Distress Stain in 'Picket Fence' as I did here:
  • A quick wipe around, blending out the colour with a damp paintbrush, should be enough. You don't want to cover the text print altogether.
  • Leave to dry and then ...
... that's it! You're done!

All that's left to do is:
  • Hang your frame on the wall, or stand it on a shelf then introduce your treasures to their new home.
Here's how mine turned out ... once I'd moved a few stripy friends in:
 And here are some close-ups so you can see the shelves more clearly ... and so you can meet the zebs.

You can see how the shelf just blends into the background [and also how terrified/hostile these 3 little ones look in their new abode]:
The 'Wade Whimsie' zebra knows someone's behind him ... but is too polite to just turn around and stare ...
Two old ones I bought to give away ... and, erm, never got around to letting go ...
And the man himself.

The one who kick-started my collection.

The one so famous he just goes by a single name: Zebra. [Hey, I didn't say it was an original name!]
And finally, the nice, chunky, depth of my frame means I can also stand some of the bigger boys on the top. Both of these were gifts from friends:
For an alternative design ... here's one I made earlier - only this was made entirely from scratch from grey board using no original wooden base frame whatsoever:
You can see lots more images of this particular project in my post here.

But I'll leave you with the latest version once again:

If you're inspired to try something similar yourself ... link me up, send me a photo ... whatever. I'd love to see your interpretation of this custom display case from an old box frame.

And if you're not planning to make on right now please pin this post for future reference!
If you've enjoyed this post please share it by whatever means you share things: Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, crop circles, semaphore ...

Any support for my free tutorials is most appreciated!

Julie x

Monday 12 May 2014

Extra Padding: The Push-Up Bra Approach to Blogging needs *you*!

Hi you.

How does this sound?
Before you say anything, I know.

When you give a post the title "The Push-Up Bra Approach to Blogging needs you!" ...

... it really ought to be accompanied by an image of someone in a push-up bra pointing out of the screen to you like the Lord Kitchener wartime poster. And all I'll say to that suggestion is ...

... after you!

Moving swiftly on ...

Believe it or not it's been over a year since I first published my free, metaphor-heavy, motivational series The Push-Up Bra Approach to Blogging!
  • Over a year since we looked at ways we can all blog more often without it overtaking our lives;
  • Over a year since we learned how with our blogs, as with a good push-up bra, we can all make the most of what we've already got!
  • Over a year since, together, we raised over £500 for Save the Children charity in the duration of the series.
 Over a year!! Can you believe it?

Clearly time flies when you're blogging more often and with more confidence! Or are you?

I know from personal experience, and from conversations I've had with some of you on my Facebook page, that as useful as the original series was in helping lots of us feel more motivated to blog and more happy with our online content ... a lot of forgetting and falling back into old habits can happen in a 12 month span too!

And so ... I'm going to be embarking on a little push-up bra 'refresher' course.

Over the coming weeks I'll write a few posts reminding you of, and pointing you to towards, various aspects of the original course content.

A note to all self-starters or those of you who are new to my blog and to Push-Up Bra Blogging:
  • Plunge right in!  
  • Work through the 12 chapters [for free] at your own pace whenever you like!
  • No need to stand on ceremony here!
Plus over the coming weeks, as I remind you of OR introduce you to the Push-Up Bra's hints, tips and philosophy ... I'm sure I'll be sneaking in a few new thoughts and updates too.

And here's where you can get involved!!

I'd like to hand part of this re-cap over to you. On your blogs. And the way I see it working is something like this ...

Hello Push-Up Bra Blogging alumni!
  • Are you one of the bloggers who, last year, worked through the course materials?
  • Which elements did you apply to your own blog?
  • Which of the 'approaches' did you put into action?
  • Which parts of the course made a positive change to the way you thought about your blog ... and maybe even yourself?
  • 12 months on ... how is your blog/attitude to blogging different to it was prior to reading the series?
OK then ... now I've got you thinking about it ...

Would you consider writing a blog post about your experience of the series?
  • Your post could be as long/short/broad/specific as you fancy.
  • It could simply be about one small change you made or share one tip you remember from the series.
  • It could have a link back to the series page ... so your readers know where to find it.
  • It would be great to think that people new to the series [which was, and remains, entirely free to access!] could learn from your experiences  and feel motivated to follow along themselves!
Reasons you might like to take part:
  1. Because ... you like me. [If this isn't the case ... feel free to keep that info to yourself ... and I'll carry on in blissful ignorance.]
  2. Because ...  in order to make my advice memorable to you I gave it a title that's had an interesting knock-on effect to my SEO.  [Let's just say that over the last 12 months some people using the search term 'push-up bras' must have been really disappointed to have landed on a series about blogging tips ...]
Additional reasons you might like to take part:
  1. It'll give you something fun to share on your own blog. Woohoo!
  2. I'll promote your post  across social media [potential new blog readers; new sets of eyes!] as follows ...
  3. If you link up to me in your post then send me a link I'll share your post on my Facebook page [which currently has 427 likes].
  4. If you include an image/photo I'll also pin your post to the Push-Up Bra Blogging 'Extra Resources' Pinterest board [which currently has 694 followers]. [I can only pin a post that contains an image because that's how Pinterest saves posts]
  5. And I'll Tweet it too! [Where I have 1019 Twitter followers.]
And if you're new to the series ...

Hello Push-Up Bra Blogging newbies!
Do you wish you had the time or inspiration to blog more often? Do you keep promising yourself you'll blog more regularly? Do you wish you could blog as confidently as some of the bloggers you admire? 
If you do and you feel like getting more comfortable in your blog space then I'd say you're ready for a fitting for your first Push-Up Bra Approach!  

Would you read the series and write a blog post about your experiences as you work through it applying what you're learning to your own blog?
  • It would be great to hear feedback from you as you took on board those hints and tips you felt were most useful.
  • You could simply blog about one single small thing that's working for you.
  • No pressure ... just a fun post!
Reasons you might like to take part:
  1. See the reasons for the alumni! Plus ...
  2. If you've been looking for a good reason to invest some time and effort into a new or neglected blog ... then here's all the excuse you'll need! You're testing a theory!! One which compares blogging techniques to padded bras, freezer meals, Kenny Rogers and more ...
  3. And ... it's an easy way to get one of your posts seem by lots of new readers!
OK ... that's it. I'm all out of persuasion here! So:
  • Have a think ...
  • Have a read ...
  • Wait for my refresher posts  ... OR else leap straight in now ... whichever!
  • And if you do get around to writing a post [any time at all between now and whenever!] link me up and I'll swing by to share your post when I can.
I'll look forward to hearing from you!

Julie :-)

Friday 9 May 2014

Creating Space :: Another 8 days of office reorganisation. [And a herd of zebras takes up residence]

Hey you. It's me.

Here's a second look inside my Creating Space office redecoration project. Fortunately for you, you get to look from a distance; any closer and I'd have dragged you in here to sort through a box or hold a tape measure for me.

[The first instalment was here ... in case you missed the part that made me cry!]

So here are days 8 - 15. Not that the days are necessarily consecutive ... I'm afraid I'm not dedicated enough to tackle it day in day out;  more like 'as and when'. But I am chipping away at it!

Day 8: How has it taken so long for me to do this?
A good proportion of my work for crafting magazines involves card making and yet ... until now I'd been storing my card blanks in a box [albeit a nice box!] on the floor, beneath another [nice] box. Let's just say reaching for one wasn't exactly ergonomic.

And now? Now they're all on a shelf in the cupboard directly behind me when I'm sitting at the desk making it so easy to swivel around in my chair, open the door and grab what I need. Makes perfect sense!

It also proves to me exactly why - as stressful and as messy as it's been - it really was necessary for me to have reconsidered where every single thing in the room was best suited.  

Day 9: Feeling a little exposed...

After re-painting I didn't put my old curtains back up straight away as I thought it would spur me on to get the new ones made.

In reality it just led to the bin men, road cleaners, neighbours directly opposite plus any one passing by having a really good view of me sitting at my desk adding kits to my shop and die-cutting!

I put the old curtains back up the following day.

Day 10: Organisational advice Coldplay*-style

I used to have all these rolls of wrapping paper, speciality papers, tubes etc standing in a basket on the floor. But in this tiny space floor space is at a premium and, once I'd moved everything out ... I liked the feeling of space it created. So I looked for an alternative storage spot:
Then ... in the opposite direction ... I swapped out the 5 green plastic boxes beneath the cupboards for these cream 'Curver 'My Style' storage baskets which I found at The Range: 
[*'High up above or down below' is a line from Coldplay's Fix You.]

Day 11: Beginning to see some progress [and some flooring]!
My poor spare room has been awfully put upon lately. But I'm finally making a dent in all the rubbish!

Day 12: Adding a personal touch
The sorting process unearthed an old box frame that I'd always planned to do 'something' with and, as I wanted to bring some personal touches into what was so far a pretty efficient/mundane redecoration I had an idea of what that 'something' could be!

So, I sanded it, painted it white, distressed it and hung it on the wall ...

Day 13: Filling the frame 

The frame came with a card tray insert and I thought that, with the addition of a few new cardboard shelves, it would make the perfect home for my collection of zebras.

[Yes, I have a collection of zebras, if this is news to you, you might need to read this.]
I have a few more photos of this upcycling-in-progress which I think I'll share in a post of their own soon, so you can see how you too could turn a boring old frame into your own printer-tray type display.

And the fact that I do indeed own a zebra collection might just help explain my choice of curtain fabric ...

 Day 14: There in black & white

I finally felt motivated enough to make the curtains which, I now realise, are not the first pair I've made but the first pair I've made to hang in my own house ! Well, it's only taken me 10 years to get round to it!

Day 15: Curtains!

In curtaining, as in cups of tea first thing on a morning and TV adaptations of Sherlock Holmes ... 2 are so much more welcome than 1.

So I finished up my curtain making on Day 15 and I now have a matching pair:
My window was small enough, and my fabric wide enough, that I could've made the stripes run either way. But horizontal won out in the end.

And I'm very happy to report that, the stripes have not dazzled my eyes into a migraine as I had once feared they might!

Oh and on the subject of messing with your eyes ...

How's this for camouflage?
Clearly I'm naturalising into my new environment rather nicely!

Julie x