Little British Things

littleThink of Little British Things and fish and chips and ice cream in cones and other simple delights spring to mind. On May 13, a wonderful, adventurous friend of mine, Diane Leigh, took off on a tour of Britain, by road, boat and rail in search of these things that make Britain so… well, so British. Along the way, she heard stories and told tales and sampled local delights as part of her 80 day Little British Things tour, during which she raised funds for the RNLI.

On July 14, we met up on the beach with a mission… a little meeting that had been planned (though very loosely, as in, “we must meet on the beach and make art”) for some time.

When you think of Britain’s beaches, it is unlikely that you will think of London (unless you are a regular visitor to the South Bank at low tide)… but when the water is out, the Thames has plenty of sand and all manner of scavengers’ delights… if only you know where to go. So, at 10.30am, we met up at the Royal Festival Hall and headed for the beach at the foot of the OXO Tower. Here, without a specific design in mind, we began gathering the raw materials to make our beach art. Driftwood and stones, shells and shoe soles, old brushes, bits of clay pipe, sea glass, a little plastic fish and some objects unknown were placed in piles ready to make a start.

collection“Let’s make a map”, Diane suggested, so we started setting out the pieces in the shape of Britain. The tide soon turned inwards and as the piece began to take shape, we sorted by colour and design and a plastic watering can came to represent a tea pot and fragments of weathered glass and worn plastic were placed in groups to mark sea and countryside.

cornwallIn the space of a couple of hours, our piece was almost complete and to finish it off, Diane scored the centre of the map with a fork we had found, leaving little lines along the land she had recently travelled, the shoe soles crossing the map as she had crossed the country. A couple came over, curious to find out what we were making and seemed keen to share their experiences of their own journeys as people who like to travel so often are. Then we walked up the stairs and we watched as a little boy strolled across our map from west coast to east coast and back again and we went for a sandwich, leaving the inbound waters to wash away our temporary art.

boyInspiration is everywhere… keep your eyes open wide.
Adventures can be yours… make up your mind.
Create something form nothing… be willing to try.

Diane set a target of raising £1000 for the RNLI by the end of her current adventure. Yesterday, donations exceeded that amount. Tomorrow is the final day of her tour, so if you would like to donate to the cause, click here to make a difference.

thank youLet me know what Little British Things means to you.
Share the adventures you dream of.
What would you make if we went to the beach together?

What inspired you today?

Today, I was out and about between school runs, shooting a video in Regents Park for the 30 Day Challenge and taking in the everyday inspirations that we too often take for granted. I do love my freelance life.

On Highbury & Islington station, between underground train arriving and overground train leaving, I had just ten minutes to kill. Again, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of pattern and texture, image and inspiration and shot more than 20 usable images. The dirt splattered walls made me want to get busy with charcoal and the broken ceiling lights looked stunning through a lens. Off at my home stop again, I was taken with the simple beauty of staple-studded wooden poles and a scratched and splintered fence. I have plans for these images… you will see some here in future weeks. I hope they will encourage others to look twice.

What inspired you today?

In praise of play

What does play mean to you?
And fun…? When was the last time you really had some fun?

It can be so easy to slip silently and unconsciously into serious mode and spend days in a row working or just getting by, doing the necessaries, but little more. Engaging in activities that make our heart sing is so vital to our well being, as is spending quality time with people we love. So grab a friend if you can, step away from the screen and go have some fun!

Time playing is far from time wasted. When you are feeling stuck and unproductive, go play. Just think how much more energy you will have! Ideas and inspiration are natural by-products when you are in flow, so do things that make you feel good. Play regularly. Don’t hold back.

Last week, after too many days in the previous month spent face to screen, I played full on. Activities included:
Snooker with the kids
Bouncing on a trampoline
Bat and ball on the beach with my partner
Horse riding with my 5 year old son
Hide and seek
Drawing
Making beach art
Water balloon fights with my partner and our boys

Oh, we laughed and smiled so much. It was like someone had hit the reset button. I regained my perspective and got in touch with my playful spirit. This week, I am filled with energy and enthusiasm for my work and my mission. I am more creative and productive than I have been in rather too long and it’s all down to time out and fun. So here’s to more play and more fun because grown ups need to play too.
What will you do?

Call to action

The 30 Day Challenge is up and running and we are two days in. Projects are being announced and today intentions are being set. As a veteran of the 30DC (this is my 5th), I know the kind of magic that happens when you set your intention and follow your heart. What one thing could you do today that will take you a little closer to your bigger dream?

In praise of slow time

Last week, me, my boys, my boyfriend and his boy went on holiday. It is a rare occasion that we all get to spend time together like this… released from the pressures of work and travel and other commitments. Days like these seem long and full and we go to bed tired, but satisfied.

On Wednesday, up early, I decided to take a little bit of time out and by 7am, I was solitary by the sea. Such moments of silent alone time were regular in my life before I had my boys. I often took time out, in cafes and other quiet spaces, just to be and to give myself the headroom to write about whatever came up for me. I would walk to the park in the early morning before work or stroll out in the evening before sleep. These days, such moments are rare jewels and when they do come, are sometimes tinged with guilt or with longing. But Wednesday morning was perfect with the beach as my canvas… the stones and shells and seaweed my raw materials. This was real slow time… time to explore and express myself freely. Bliss. Such slow time is essential… it is our opportunity to reflect and connect with our true selves. Without it, are we not just going through the motions?

Our days away were long and and filled with simple everyday magic as we rose early, cooked and ate and went walking under big skies. The simplest of things made me smile as we engaged in activities where we connected with our environment, with the elements and with each other… fishing, sailing, riding. This is the kind of magic I would love to experience every day. I will seek ways of making this a reality. In the mean time, slow walks home through the park after the morning school run are my current indulgence and set me up nicely for the day, but I intend to expand on these.

What does your simple, everyday magic look like?
Please share your thoughts with me…

Magic happens when you commit to the dreams you have hidden.

Do you have a little dream inside you?
Is there something you long to do, but actually doing it makes you feel too way vulnerable?

For me, one of the many little dreams I kept hidden was very simple… to make art on a regular basis, free from fear. I did a little, now and then, here and there, but it never felt very serious; I never thought I was any good; it always felt half-hearted.

Commitment is a powerful thing.

In this book The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951, W. H. Murray writes,

‘Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now!”‘

I have found this to be so true! On May 1, 2012, I finally committed to what was important to me: my art. Since then, everything has changed. Opportunities have presented themselves; I have met some of the most amazing people who have supported, inspired and been supported and inspired by my projects and I have made countless connections with so many creative souls who I would never had encountered had I not made the commitment to my creativity.

If you are a regular visitor to this site, you will have heard me tell the story time and again, but all that you see here… all of my creative adventures, from my own art to the art clubs and workshops and courses I am now running to encourage others to follow their creative hearts… all of these things are a result of committing to my own little dream. All of the things I have learned along the way I am now sharing with others and supporting them as they follow their own creative paths. And I love it!

Now, I am proud to say that I follow my heart, create art and make money from my passions. The more ideas I play out, the more ideas flow and the more I learn. It’s an ongoing journey. That’s not to say that it’s all easy, but then I like to be challenged and so I push my own boundaries and continue the cycle of following my heart, making my art, sharing what I learn, reflecting, adapting and playing it all out again, with a twist.

On June 1, I will be part of the team supporting over 200 people who are committing to their own little dreams and playing out the ideas that have been hidden for too long. John Williams, bestselling author of Screw Work Let’s Play, and my very own mentor and business guru, Judith Morgan, will be leading the next 30 Day Challenge, sharing a wealth of knowledge gained from years of experience as entrepreneurs themselves. I mention this to you because, for me, this was the catalyst. 30DC was the point at which I truly committed to my little dream and not only re-discovered the creative freedom I felt in my teens, but also found a way to turn my passion into profit. You can do it too! Sign up for the 30DC with the link below and you too could find a way to make money doing something you love. https://fo124.infusionsoft.com/go/30DC/Julia/
Speaking from experience, I totally believe in this process.

So go on… take a look and take the leap. Then come back here and tell me all about that little dream you have kept hidden, but are ready to commit to. Come on in… find your tribe. I’ve got your back… I did it and I know you can too.

With love,
Julia x

Draw when you need to de-stress

Tuesday was challenging: a new project; a large group of fresh faces; a tube strike. I made it through. I left home at the crack of dawn to run the first in a series of ten 4 hour workshops for a gallery in Chichester. By the end of the day, I could barely walk, let alone think straight and was having visions of stopping at the first service station for an extended nap in order to safely drive the rest of the way home. Instead, I chose to go directly to the nearest café for a hot chocolate and lemon cake refuel. My intention was also to log on to Facebook to see what people were sharing in the group on the second day of my online creativity course. seeing the posts there prompted me to pick up a pen and add drawing to my refuel stop. Doing something so different from the focus of my day, in a fresh environment, was just what I needed to shift the energy and prepare to hit the road. Art has a habit of doing that for me… art is my de-stresser; my changer of energy. I sailed home, to uplifting music, with a head full of ideas, under dramatic skies. Today, I used art as a meditation… a way of clearing my mind of the clutter of the day. Again, it shifted the energy. In doodling away, my mind flashed back, for the first time in years, to the times when, as a teen, drawing had been my quiet friend, leading me out of one feeling and into another, more comfortable place. The reminder today? To draw when I feel uneasy; to doodle when I need to de-stress; to make art more often as it has so many benefits.

Creative Freedom video

This week, in an attempt to share my art far and wide, I have posted the first video of my art on YouTube. It feels new to be sharing in this way and I hope that doing so will help me reach a wider audience. As with everything on my journey to creative freedom, this is a little experiment. So, here goes… see what you think.

If you would like to experience Creative Freedom for yourself, click here.

Find your community of like-spirited people

Finding and being part of a community of like-spirited people can feel like coming home. A couple of years ago, my creative community was made up of my dear friend Laura and a couple of other local mums who had enjoyed creative careers prior to having children. Like me, they had let their own art and craft projects slip in recent years, but hankered for some creative time of their own. During one play date, Laura and I realised just how much we were missing our own creative time as we sat making models with Play-Doh long after the kids had wandered to another activity. We got together one evening just to sit, draw and chat together and then every few weeks to work together on our own little projects and inspire each other. It was fun, but we wanted more!

If you are regular here, you will already know that I committed to my creativity on May 2012, went on to teach art to children, run workshops and courses for adults and build my business around art, making and sharing my own creations as part of the process. It was around the same time that Laura gave up childminding to focus on her art. She had already started her inspiring blog and was taking commissions for portraits, but found this rather limiting and has recently been following her heart. She has now sold a number of her beautiful mixed-media canvas works on ArtFinder. There is value in doing what we love.

Since starting my blog and running my creativity courses over the past couple of years, my circle of like-spirited people has grown. Some of the strongest and most inspiring bonds have resulted from the online courses I have taken and having connected over creativity, we have kept in touch and continued sharing progress and inspiration long after the courses ended. Being part of a group of people with similar passions on a mission like your own has a bonding effect. Laura has found her tribe through sharing on Instagram, showing her images and connecting with artists worldwide.

It may be that like-spirited people are gathering at an evening class near you. Are they musicians or dancers or frustrated creatives keen to make art, but not sure where to start? Maybe it’s time to gather your own tribe.

Having a group of supportive, passionate people to connect with can be the difference between following your passions or not. The right group of friends will inspire you when you are feeling uninspired, cheer you on when you need a boost and share their own challenges so that you know you are not alone.

Have you found your community of like-spirited people yet?
If so, where did you find them?
If not, who would they be if you could find them?
Let’s talk this over and help you find your tribe.

The life-changing power of art

In the second year of my Ceramics degree at Uni, I told my tutors that I would not be coming in on Tuesday afternoons and that I would instead be volunteering at an art programme for the homeless in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church. I felt drawn to this place and I cannot recall now how I stumbled upon the programme there, but my interest in art outside of the mainstream had been bubbling for a while and this embodied all of the things I was interested in and believed in.

It was whilst helping out here that I first truly witnessed the transformative power of art. Week after week, people would come in off the streets, not for food, but for art. Occasionally, it was just for company and shelter. But even then, after observing for several weeks, I saw grown men pick up a pencil to draw for the first time since school.

The programme, run by a big-hearted, inspirational artist from Colombia, gave people who previously felt like they had no hope in life a purpose and a focus. Twice a week there was space for them, materials at hand and no teaching as such, just a safe and supportive environment in which they were encouraged to truly express themselves, perhaps for the first time. An annual exhibition showcased the art which was as diverse as the people who made it, showing beauty and pain, courage and talent. One man came off the streets and went on to study art at University. I felt a little nervous that doing so may change the spirit of creation for him, but trust it did not. Several others have done the same since. Many who found their voice in art, also wrote poetry; often the two went hand in hand. Creative freedom can be a saviour when everything else feels out of your control.

Art, for me, is a playful way of exploring the world and my view of it.
Art enables me to express things I cannot in words and process things I don’t understand.

There is little joy for me in copying these days, but I am regularly inspired by other artists. The freedom to follow my heart and pick up any materials, from a piece of chalk to a piece of string; from a handful of shells to pages ripped from a magazine, and turn them into something, puts a song in my heart.

Art is there for me when no-one else is, or when I won’t let them in.
Art is there when I really need to say something even if I don’t know what it is.
Art is something that comes naturally to me; something I let go of for a while and have invited back in and since doing so on May 1, 2012, I feel closer than ever to the creatively free me of my teens.

Life has changed for the better in so many ways it is hard to know where to begin, but here are just three:
1. I have found the courage to create no matter what the end product looks like and take pleasure in the creative process. This in itself is incredibly liberating; letting go of outcome allows for great freedom.
2. I have connected with so many wonderful new friends through my art and my journey back to creativity.
3. I now have the privilege of teaching art to children and I am paid to support artists in their personal creative journeys. I learn as much (if not more) from those I work with than I teach them. There is always so much to discover even from just observing the methods and output of others.

Have you experienced the life-changing power of art? I would love to hear your story.
With love and gratitude,

Julia x

Creative Freedom can be yours…
21 Days of Creative Freedom is an online course to kickstart your creativity and get you making art in just ten minutes each day.