Ever been surprised and delighted to receive something unexpected? It’s a tremendous feeling isn’t it! I felt a warm glow of gratitude and pride this month when it was announced that I’d won the 2020 UK Enterprise Award for Best Art Workshop & Supplies Company.
The awards are run by SME News and are based on merit rather than number of votes received. Apparently I showed ‘evidence of extensive expertise and skills, dedication to customer service and client satisfaction with an ongoing commitment to excellence and innovation’ – wow! That was great to hear!
Apparently there is such a thing as the ‘winning effect’ in the brain whereby there is a release of dopamine and testosterone, giving you a big psychological boost. The sense of achievement makes you feel like you can take on more challenges and has been described as an ‘emotional pay rise’.
I hope that one positive outcome of this pandemic time will be a re-evaluation of our shopping habits. Our spending habits have certainly changed lately, whether that’s from a financial or ethical point of view. Our everyday purchases were curtailed by quarantine and much of our shopping moved online whilst we reassessed what’s really important to us.
As restrictions lift further, can our new habits turn into lifelong lifestyle changes? Will those precious outgoings be redirected to supporting local retailers and artists?
I’ve just spent a glorious couple of weeks at the coast – partly at Valley View, our Cornish Artistic ReTreat in Lamorna and partly on the North Devon coast. I mixed work with family time and had a wonderful time, even though plans had changed and we weren’t in Italy for my 50th birthday!
As always, one of my favourite activities is strolling along the shore marvelling at what has been washed up on the beach and how the sea forms the shape of the sand and rocks. This time I was fascinated by some amazing pieces of driftwood that found their way to Woolacombe beach in Devon. The gnarled, knobbly texture and colours were rich and varied.
If you’re like me, the re-opening of our lives during this pandemic has as many challenges as the stricter lockdown times had. It’s hard to get our heads around what is now permitted, advised or still forbidden and there seem to be some grey areas that are interpreted in different ways by different people depending on their circumstances.
Whilst I have been eager to open up the studio and welcome visitors for Powertex workshops, I’m very conscious that not everyone will be ready to get out there and resume ‘normal life’ again yet. And that’s absolutely fine, all I can do is to make sure that I follow the guidelines set out and offer as risk-free an environment as I possibly can.
Lockdown has been a time of reflection and contemplation for many of us, especially thinking about the future and how we’d like to make lifestyle or career changes. Some people have had a little more time on their hands, others have appreciated working from home and haven’t missed the stresses of the daily commute at all.
I went through a similar process ten years ago when I left my job with Aston Martin and decided that I needed and wanted a change of focus that would fit more with my childcare needs and explore my passion for more arty pursuits.
Whilst this is a great time to throw yourself into a new skill or work on a project that’s been waiting for your attention for some time, I also feel that we should be kind to ourselves. If you simply can’t find the time or the motivation, or you’re fed up with not living up to other people’s fantastic creations online, don’t force yourself!
In these times of enforced time at home, lots of people are looking for interesting and inspiring ways to spend their days. Whether it’s doing something with the children or working on a craft project for yourself, this is the perfect time to stay busy, expand our minds and be fulfilled.
Art and music are also proven to improve the quality of life for Dementia patients and people suffering with long-term chronic illnesses. Being creative benefits our mental health, making us happier, healthier people – and here’s why:
This nursery rhyme has made my local town of Banbury famous but even many of my Banbury friends don’t know that the ‘Fine Lady’ bronze statue located near Banbury Cross was only created 15 years ago.
My New Year’s Resolution is to try lots of new things! I’m kicking off 2020 by speaking about my artistic ‘journey’ at a TEDx talk in Banbury on 29th February and I’ll be trying out clay portrait sculpture at a workshop next month too (think Lionel Richie ‘Hello’ video!).
Trying new things for Artistic ReTreats mean creating new ideas for Powertex workshops, like the cat wine bottle workshop and the hare or fox animal sculpture, plus reaching out a little further afield geographically and showing Powertex to people who may not have come across it before.
So what are your New Year’s Resolutions? Are you still feeling bamboozled by the chaos of Christmas? Are you desperate to get back into the craft room but not sure where to start or that you’ve lost your mojo? Perhaps your studio was your sanctuary during the Christmas break, did you find time to take yourself there to reset and take a deep breath?
With Christmas looming large, in December I also like to grab a few moments out of the madness of festive preparations to reflect on this year’s successes and think about some new challenges for next year. I think it’s really important to push yourself (and your business) in new directions and try new ideas that perhaps take you out of your comfort zone.
Some people have everything on their Christmas list bought and wrapped by mid November, I’m half in awe and half appalled at this approach! It’s certainly not how I manage the build up to Christmas! Every year, I pledge to be more organised and give more meaningful presents but like many, I often end up with a stressful dash around the shops buying gifts that I’m not sure are completely necessary.
Giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is wonderful and I love it but perhaps we have lost sight of the real reason for giving presents in the whirlwind of retail gratification. Excessive gift giving can put an unfair obligation on others. No matter how fervently you urge people not to buy for you, they will want to reciprocate and they may not be able to afford it.
From an environmental point of view, so many gifts are unwanted every year and are also full of unnecessary packaging. According to a charity survey, the most unwanted Christmas presents are bath products, films & box sets and candles.
On my recent work trip to our Cornish Artistic Retreat, Valley View, I had a rare day off and decided to visit the Isles of Scilly – somewhere I’ve never been before. Even more adventurous than the flight from Land’s End to St Mary’s, I decided that a two hour horse ride would be the perfect way to explore the island, despite the fact that I haven’t been on a horse for a couple of decades or more!
I was given a ‘plodder’ called Charlie who suited my rusty skills and an instructor guide joined us. I was feeling rather pleased with how it was all going – we tried a little rising trot and a canter – so far so good. Then the ‘that’s never happened before’ moment happened! Something spooked Charlie, she leapt to the left, I fell to the right and landed unceremoniously on my back.
It’s certainly turning chilly in the mornings this month, although we could be due another burst of summery weather, you never know! As the children go back to school, my mind turns to the last quarter of the year, the traditional Harvest festivities and what I’d still like to achieve in 2019.
I spent a wonderful couple of days on the South Coast with Powertex Tutor Rosie Casselden (www.facebook.com/rosiecasseldenart/), learning some new Powertex techniques and creating a wonderful crow sculpture – more of that later.
I also had another go at glass blowing last month, to improve on some skills learnt on a pervious course last September and it was such an inspiring experience (www.facebook.com/pages/Creative-Vibe-Glassblowing-Limited/).
I loved the way the molten glass moves and how it’s difficult to control. It is fascinating to see how different materials react as they change from a liquid to a solid state. With Powertex coated fabric, I can at least manipulate the structure a bit as it dries.
Both these encounters got me thinking about where our creativity comes from and how we develop our ideas over time. The two sessions with these wonderful artists stimulated my imagination and made me want to get right back into the studio and create!