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Posted in Blogging, Setting goals and intentions

Setting goals for my blog

Today, I’m starting the free WordPress course on branding and growing your blog. I’ve just set myself some new goals which I’ve recorded in my BuJo but thought I would create a post identifying what they are and how I plan to go about achieving them so that you lot can have the chance to help and support me and hopefully cheer me on!

Goal 1: Establish a new weekly feature on my blog called Monday Matters and consistently post each week until at least the end of 2019

I generally schedule a blog post at the beginning of the week anyway so I thought it made sense to create a little more consistency. Hopefully, by writing my intention here it will help to keep myself accountable.

Goal 2: Publish a post at least twice a week for the next two months

This one is pretty self explanatory and with my new Monday feature, I just have one more to plan for each week.

Goal 3: Gain 20% more followers in the next three months

With consistent posting and improved branding which the free course should bring, hopefully this will happen! People have been really supportive so far and I’ve got some lovely comments and plenty of likes so I think other bloggers are enjoying my content.

Have you set any goals for your blog this month? If you have, I’d love to hear them and you can be sure I will cheer you on too! If you’re also doing the challenge you can find my post more easily if I tag it with #bloggingbranding apparently!

Posted in art, ceramics, creativity

Ceramics for beginners: Creating a 3D clay form

My finished hedgehog ready to go in the kiln!

Last week in our ceramics for beginners class, we used a ‘forma’ as a basis for creating a 3D clay piece. I chose to make an ornamental hedgehog which I could have on display in my garden. In this blog post, I’m going to share the process and lots of photos I took illustrating this.

Hand built clay items, i.e. those where the clay is worked by hand and some simple tools, are usually made from slabs, coils, pinch pots or a combination of these three techniques. However, another technique is to use a ‘forma’ to support the making of a 3D object or sculpture.

Our forma was a sphere which we made using one or two loosely scrunched up pieces of newspaper. We then created small flat pieces of clay with our fingers and added them around the newspaper, overlapping slightly and smoothing the pieces together. The idea is that if you made the item from solid clay it would take a very long time to dry out to ‘leather hard’ which is where it is suitable for putting in the kiln. By building around newspaper, the clay work is much thinner and as long as you add a hole into your item somewhere, it has a chamber inside for the air to get in. The heat of the kiln burns the newspaper away and you can tip out the ash and be left with a wonderful 3D design which is lightweight.

To begin, you take a piece of clay and form a small, flat round. Then, holding the newspaper sphere in your hand. You mold the shape onto the ball. You then continue to add small flat pieces around the newspaper and start to create the shape required for you object. As mine was to be a hedgehog, I began to manipulate into a kind of oval shape with a flattened base and then squeezed one end to create a snout shape.

The next step was to add a round hole on the base of the form which I did using a pointed metal tool and then dug out the clay using a looped piece. This is to let the air circulate around when the item is in the kiln and is essential to prevent the work from exploding! The hole won’t be seen as it is on the base of the work but I did try to make it nice and neat.

An air hole to allow the very hot air to circulate around the piece in the kiln

After adding a hole at the base and scratching in my initials, tutor’s initials and the session number so that my work is identifiable after firing, I made the features of the hedgehog i.e. a dog’s nose shape, some small balls for the eyes and four little feet. I create two circular indentations to place the eyes and then used the score and slip technique to attach them. If you want to see how ‘score and slip’ works click here for my previous post which contains a great link.

I was a little bit scared to add some texture to my design in case I messed it up, so I did a little practise on a small ball of clay first. Then, I added long, gentle cuts randomly all over the back of the hedgehog using a plastic knife from my modelling tools box.

Texture to create the idea of spines on the hedgehog’s back

Finally, made small snips with a pair of scissors in different places to add further texture and a spiny appearance. Again, I was frightened to do this, but I was pleased with the result in the end!

Here’s a front view of the spikes which I think look quite effective. The tutor said that when I add the glaze after he has been fired, it will go into the places where I have snipped and make different intensities of colour which will add to the effect and should look quite striking. I can’t wait to get started with this but he might take a while to dry out before he can go in the kiln. I’m also looking forward to glazing my little plant pot holder from a few weeks ago too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my hedgehog taking shape and liked reading about the process. If you ever get the chance to do a beginners ceramics course, I can definitely recommend it as it’s great to try something new and both the course participants and the tutor are lovely and so helpful. I always look forward to my time at the arts centre each week and find it really therapeutic in so many different ways.

Posted in compassion, life hacks, mental health, Mindfulness, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions, wellbeing, wellness

Practical ways to declutter your overloaded mind

Photo credit: Element5 Digital, Unsplash

There are a plethora of books and articles both online and in print about the benefits of decluttering your possessions in order to simplify your life and create more order. However, it’s not just our homes which can become cluttered and cause feelings of overwhelm and low mood. Our minds are equally susceptible and can easily become overloaded with worries, stresses and all of those emotions that come from spinning too many plates. Today’s blog post looks at practical ways of managing this mental clutter to improve our wellbeing.

1. Identify your current priorities in life

A good place to start decluttering your mind is to spend some time quietly reflecting on your life right now. Start to consider how you currently spend your time and use your energy and then begin to think about how satisfied you are with this situation. If you find yourself wanting to implement some changes, try focusing your attention on how you would like to live or what your ideal day would look like. This can help you establish what’s really important to you and enable you to prioritize. For example, you may decide that you are neglecting to look after yourself properly and need to give self care more of a focus or you might want to spend more quality time with your partner, your family or your friends.

2. Set some goals and instil some habits

When you know what your priorities are, you can work on setting some goals and creating some habits which help you to achieve these. For example, if having more ‘me time’ is at the top of your list, you may decide that you want to spend one hour per week learning a new skill or taking a class. If having more time together with your family is an area you’d like to work on, you might schedule a regular movie night, games evening or brainstorm or list of ways you would like to have fun together in your bullet journal or notebook. If you do use a bullet journal and like to have a habit tracker as part of your weekly or monthly spreads, your goals can inform the habits you choose to include. For example, if having a tidy space to study or work is one of your desires, you might choose to have a habit such as ‘ten minute desk tidy’ at the end of each day.

3. Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness is the process of bringing one’s attention to the current moment and concentrating on the flow of our thoughts, emotions, what is going on around us and bodily sensations without judgement. It can help us to reduce the time we spend dwelling on past events (rumination) or becoming anxious about the future and help us to become more calm and compassionate towards ourselves. Becoming more mindful can help to declutter our minds of worries and anxieties by creating a more relaxed state of being.

4. Take time to breathe

A big part of mindfulness and self compassion is about taking time out. Our busy lives often create minds which are full of mental chatter which we find difficult to silence. We can all find time to settle our minds by taking the time to slow down and a great way to do this is by changing your focus to a more soothing activity such as rhythmic breathing or a mini meditation. If, like me, you have a bullet journal or planner, try scheduling time to have a break as part of your daily plans or add meditation to your habit tracker. By being more mindful and checking in with your body and how you are feeling, you can also more easily recognise when you might need to pause or slow down.

5. Getting it down on paper

Another really helpful way of clearing mental clutter is to write it all down. There are many different ideas for how to go about doing this but popular methods include doing a ‘brain dump’ or regularly engaging in reflective journaling. A brain dump is basically where you put everything that’s on your mind down on paper or into a digital document. How you spill the contents of your brain is up to you. Some people like to just scribble down their thoughts and feelings onto a page of their journal or onto any random piece of paper they have available whenever they have lots on their mind. Others prefer the regular practise of creating ‘morning pages‘ where they dedicate time each day to writing it all down as soon as they wake up. Personally, I like to add thoughts and ideas to my daily plans in my bullet journal and spend some time each evening, reflecting on how my day has gone and writing a few things down underneath my bulleted lists. If you want to find out more about the bullet journal method for organisation, I recommend visiting Ryder Carroll’s website here or reading his book which explains the method in detail.

For specific projects, you may find that creating some sort of visual way of organising helps to get your thoughts on paper in a logical way. A spider diagram, is a popular method and one which you may have used at school. Basically, you start by placing your main thought, idea or topic in the centre of the page and then you add branches from this when you think of subtopics. These subtopics can then be broken down further by more branches, creating a kind of spiders legs effect on the page. A quick ‘Google’ search online shows lots of examples of this technique which can be a helpful way of structuring all of the information in your mind.

6. Avoid information overload

This point is particularly relevant to our lives today in the digital age. With so much information at our finger tips online, especially through our use of various social media platforms, it can be very easy to become overwhelmed and feel like we are ready to explode. There are many ways to avoid overloading ourselves with information, including limiting the amount of time we spend online. Also, if you have already spent time assessing your current priorities, then you can use this to inform what you focus on. For example, at the beginning of the year, I decided that I wanted to improve my gardening know how, so I thought about the steps I would need to take to do this and then spent time and energy improving my knowledge through reading about the plants in our garden, finding seasonal gardening tips online and watching gardening programmes on the television. I then recorded my learning in a garden journal. Also, avoiding negative and unreliable media sources can help your online presence positive and informative. For example, I tend to stay away from sensationalised news articles and always try to turn off my notifications for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for a while when I’m super busy.

7. Out of your mind and into your body

In a previous blog post, I talked about ways to stimulate your vagus nerve and included plenty of suggestions about how to use the power of this cranial nerve to stimulate your body and relax your mind. By moving our attention to our bodies and reconnecting to the world around us, we create much needed space in our minds which helps us to gain better mental clarity. Going out into the garden to feel the fresh air, listen to the birds or get some sunlight on our skin, taking a quiet stroll in the local park, or even just putting on a favourite song and singing out loud whilst having a quick boogie can all help.

8. Take some time to unwind

Your brain needs regular breaks to rest and recharge itself and so creating white space in your calendar or planner is a must. Spend some time away from your phone or tablet and do something relaxing which makes you feel happy. For me, a walk in nature, reading a book or doing something creative, such as painting or drawing are some of my favourite ways to unwind. I like to create pages in my bullet journal for self care and ‘me time’ activities so that when I’m feeling frazzled, I can get some inspiration for self soothing behaviours.

Photo credit: Victoria Bilsborough, Unsplash

I hope you have found today’s post useful and it has helped to provide inspiration on how you might take steps to declutter your busy and active mind. I would love to hear any others ideas that you find work really well for you at times when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed.

Posted in art, creativity, mental health, Mindfulness, watercolour painting, wellbeing, wellness

Watercolour design pad: a simple red robin

A few weeks ago, I picked up a design pad containing line drawn images for watercolour painting. As I find drawing really difficult, I though this was an ideal way to practise my watercolouring skills without needing to draw my own pictures.

The pad contains 24 A4 size pages with 12 designs so you get two copies of each image. When I purchased it, I wondered why there was several of each image but as I messed up the first robin, I was glad of a second chance!

The pad contains animals and birds and one floral image.

I chose to start with the robin design as I love birds and we have had a robin visiting our garden each day for the past few weeks nibbling on the fat balls and seed mix I put out.

The paper in the pad doesn’t appear to be proper watercolour paper but I did find it easy to paint on and I was able to get the paper quite wet without it going soggy or wrinkling as it is quite dense.

I thoroughly enjoyed having a few quiet hours mixing and applying the paint and was pleased with the results on my second attempt which you can see below. I might add some highlights to the robin’s feet using my Posca paint pen or a white gel pen but I’m waiting a while and may do a test on a piece of paper as I don’t want to spoil my work.

My finished robin and my very messy paint palette!

I’m trying to find more time for doing creative activities as a way of boosting my mental health and after I’d finished painting I felt so relaxed and happy with what I had achieved. If you love getting creative, I can well recommend doing a little watercolouring as a way to wind down after a busy day as a change from sitting watching TV or mindlessly perusing the internet on your phone.

If you live in the UK and are interested in buying the watercolour pad, I picked mine up in Aldi but have also seen it at a slightly higher price in The Range shop. If you want to find out more about my watercolour set, click here for my previous post.

Posted in art, creativity, Planning and journaling, watercolour painting

Setting up my bullet journal for October

Hi everyone. Hope you’re all well and enjoying the beginnings of Autumn. We’ve finally got some okay weather this morning so I’ve been able to take some bright enough photographs of my BuJo set up for next month and thought I would share them with you.

I decided to keep my spreads relatively simple and to a minimum this time as I found that I was tracking far too much in September and couldn’t keep up with it all and got quite overwhelmed. I’ve just done a quote page, a cover page which features a little watercolouring piece that I did, a double page monthly calendar and a planning page for my blog.

For my quote, I chose a simple Autumnal reference and as I was writing it, I had a vague feeling I’d used it before. I checked back in one of last year’s Bujo and there it was. I figured it didn’t matter and that I must really love it!

3 bright and juicy Crayola supertips plus a drop shadow using the grey tip of my Tombow dual brush pen

This watercolour was created using my new Daley Rowney Aquafine Travel Set. I followed an online tutorial and although the results don’t look the same as those done by the professional artist that created the step by step, I’m pleased with the results as I’m a total beginner. If you want to have a quick look at the tutorial, you can find it here.

Autumn tree produced on an A4 sheet from a watercolour pad

I then spent about two hours working out how to scan the image into a format that I could shrink to stick into my BuJo. After much perseverance (and a glass of wine which was most helpful ha ha!) I got it sorted. I ended up sticking a piece of paper over a mistake I made with my brush lettering but I think it looks okay now I’ve made it into a border for my picture.

October cover page

And here’s the two pages together. I think the bright colours look lovely. What do you think?

For my monthly calendar, I chose to decorate with some Autumn leaves and berries. I’m not wonderful at drawing but I think it looks okay. I used coloured pencils to shade them in but the only problem I seem to have it that when I write on the next few pages of my notebook the colour transfers. I’m not sure if there’s a solution to this, maybe I press on too hard? If anyone has any ideas, I would be grateful to hear them.

And finally, my blog planning page. On here I’m going to record days when I’m planning, reading researching as well as the titles of my actual posts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my spreads for October. I would love to hear about your chosen themes for the month and what you have planned for the Autumn. Let me know in the comments if you get the chance.