Friday, 28 June 2013

Screen Printing Course at Leicester Print Workshop

 I thought I would share a few images from the screen printing weekend  and some of the work I produced. We started with a demo from Gemma Wright, the course tutor, who explained the various ways we could go about making images for our screens. I had taken a sketchbook with me which gave me some inspiration for imagery and I used the black paper above to cut out some shapes to use on my screen.

 I also revisited my 'Vessels' idea, something I now know I definitely want to explore further and I cut out some of the vessel shapes from my sketchbook in black paper.

 I love the quality of line and the sharpness of the images. I did hand draw some other images but didn't end up using them as I was more drawn to the vessel shapes.

I really wanted to print my Wedding Cake in pink so I mixed a rather fetching shade of raspberry and used this on a few images on my screens. Result below.

This is the Wedding Cake screen which has been exposed from a photocopy of the print. Areas are taped off so no ink will get through and then the screen is inked up, flooded with ink with the squeegee and then printed. Lovely Raspberry Wedding Cakes....

A highly enjoyable weekend was had by all course attendees and I think there will be several of us who either register for other courses or join the print workshop. It's only £50 for the year, a definite investment in my opinion!!

Watch this space for further print news and wish me luck, I have my first School Workshop this week, working in collaboration with Creative Writer, Lisa Shipman. Will post photos and write up of our achievements later!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Leicester Print Workshop Screen Printing Course

SO this weekend I had the very pleasurable task of spending two days on a Screen Printing Course at Leicester Print Workshop. I've been hanging my nose over the course prospectus for a few years, promising myself I would enrol. This was a birthday present from my folks and was something I should have gone on last year but missed the course due to it being fully booked and me being too late! The course was structured over two days, with screen exposure and learning all the technical stuff on the Saturday and then spending Sunday printing all day. Let me just say, a weekend wasn't long enough!! I've come home with a bundle of prints, some of which I'm going to work on even more and some of which will soon be seen for sale in my shop

So why did I decide on screenprinting? Well many years ago, before I had even decided I wanted a creative career I did an evening class in Textiles with my sister, learning a little bit of everything. I loved the screenprinting part and got to try it again a few years later at college. It's been a while since then and I knew that having a refresher course would be great as my illustration work is a perfect fit for screenprinting.

I had also set myself the task of expanding my skillset, something I indentified as being important and a priority whilst on my mentoring course. I think it's great to learn a new skill and to be able to broaden your scope of work. I've come away with renewed enthusiasm for print and I'm seriously considering joining Leicester Print Workshop. As a member you have use of the facilities for £50 a year and a small hourly rate. As Gemma Wright, the excellent course tutor explained, the possibilities with printing are limitless and experimenting with colours, textures and shapes, in the presence of a tutor, is invaluable. Gemma was  always there when things went wrong and patiently explained how to overcome the various issues that the group were having throughout the weekend.

I'll be sharing some of the finished work with you later this week.

It seems a while since I have posted any new work. I should rephrase, it is a while since I have DONE any new work. Life lately just seems to have got in the way, I have been in a bit of a creative dip, burned out from a busy start to the year, and working extra at day job, which all left me feeling a bit drained and not very creative at all. I'm pleased to say I'm over all that now and raring to go, all fired up with new ideas, my first school workshop is happening next week and also I've just found out that I have funding to work with a Retail Business Consultant who specialises in Retail and Product Business Support. Watch this space more news on that soon. It's all happening!!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Why Blog? - My story


How long have you been blogging?

6 years. I first started bloggin back in 2007 as I was finishing my Foundation Course in Art and Design in Nottingham. I had discovered blogs when I was researching a project and I soon became addicted to reading them and my blog list of favourite blogs soon grew.

Why did you decide to start blogging and what was the main purpose of your blog when you first started?

I decided to start my own blog, with a very limited knowledge of all things technical and found the Blogger templates and set-up to be just about manageable. After initial set-up problems I started the 'sooziebee-design' blog and began my blogging journey, recording my day to day activities, inspiration and diary. My motivation to blog came more from a personal motivation to record my own journey, it was more of an online diary. I knew I wanted to pursue a creative path and I knew that an online presence was a really important part of that process and I was really excited about the blogosphere and what it was doing for other creative people.

How often do you post?

I post regularly about three times a week. Everything I read about blogging seems to say that regular posts are what keep your readers coming back so this is my goal. If there are times that go by when you don't posts from one month to the next your blog appears abandoned and readers will stop visiting. If I can't manage to post as regularly due to holidays or just the fact I need a break from blog land I will either schedule posts or let everyone know that I'll be back soon.

Who reads your blog and why do they enjoy it?

 I think it's mainly 'creative' types or small creative business owners who read this (correct me if I am wrong!). I ahve had a lot of feedback over the last year about my blog and people seem to be enjoying th e fact it's easy to read, personal yet informative, and people seem to be finding the posts about running a creative business really helpful.

What do you think are the important ingredients of a successful blog?

Great content, variety, humour, regular posts, posting about things people find useful and things that help others out.  I think that if the blog author is passionate about whatever they are writing about this comes across in their writing and people are drawn to that if they share the same passion and interests.

How do you promote your blog?

I promote this blog through Twitter and Facebook mainly, but I also share some of my posts on LinkedIn, Folksy forums and UKHandmade forums. I tweet and facebook link all of my blog posts and also use Hootsuite to schedule tweets about certain posts. This is proving really time-saving and also it's increasing visits to the blog (I'll be blogging more about this soon!). There are also links to this blog from my website too so people can easily find their way here.

What kind of opportunities have arisen as a result of your blogging?

Well, surprisingly lots of opportunities have come up as a result of this blog. These have included guest blogging for other blogs, features on other blogs, collaborations with other creative professionals, such as Pete Mosley, which has led to my first affiliate partnership. The blog has enabled me to forge links with lots of other professionals, such as Patricia van den Akker from the Design Trust who kindly took part in our Mentoring Series. I've also made lots of contacts nationally and internationally through my regular browse through Etsy, scouting work I like for blog features.

Watch this space for more plans in the future, I have a few up my sleeve, but cannot spill the beans just yet!

How do you manage your time with our blog and your other commitments?

When I started blogging it was all very hit and miss, I would post when I could and I didn't really have a structure or timetable for posts. Now that the blog is more a part of my 'brand' and what I am known for I have to be a bit more organised, plus I have a day job and my own creative work to fit in too. After reading Blogging for Creatives by Robin Houghton I decided I needed an editorial plan for the blog. This it helps me to stay organised. It all sounds a bit grand (trust me, it isn't!). It's just a big list which includes ideas for new posts, creative people I'm interviewing, reviews of books and products, and whats coming up. I then try to get ahead of myself and schedule posts ahead of time so that if I have a busy month coming up or I'm going on holiday I can keep the posts coming.

People often ask me how I manage to do it all and fit everything in. I really enjoy blogging so it doesn't seem to be a chore to write posts. I sometimes write down ideas on my notebook on my phone if  I'm on a train or having my lunch and I also use a Mind-Map to help me to map out new blog ideas. I think being organised is key, scheduling some time in every week to write definitely works for me.

What are the benefits of blogging?

Building a community of like-minded people who share your passion, interacting with them, helping people out, sharing knowledge - feel good factor!! Also blogging has helped me to raise my own profile through the links I have made and also through recommendations from readers to others.

What advice would you give to new bloggers?

  • Do your research. There are two great books I have read which have really helped me out. One is BlogInc by Joy Deangelert Cho and you can read my review of it here. The other one I mentioned above and it's called Blogging For Creatives by Robin Houghton. Robin has a blog which you can read here. Both are full of loads of practical tips and hints to help you get your blog off the ground.
  • Only blog about something you are passionate about
  • Just do it!

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Creative Business Explorer Review - Part 3

Here is Part 3 of my review of the Creative Business Explorer by Pete Mosley. It's concentrating on some of the thoughts and ideas I have been having since starting this online course and toolkit. I'm  really enjoying working through the modules and it really is quite thought-provoking. It's making me dig deep and really think about my strengths, weaknesses, areas in my business that need work, things I'm good at, things I shy away from, characteristics which enhance my business and those which can sometimes be a hindrance to me! It is also making look at things I have gained from previous mentoring schemes and programmes and re-examine them. Some of the questions that the course poses I haven't even considered before so it's making me explore issues, ideas and concepts I haven't spent much time thinking about.

In this part of my Creative Explorer Review I'm looking at Module 5: The Dream List - exciting stuff eh?

I have covered concepts similar to those covered in the Dream List whilst working with my mentor so I have felt the excitement of dreaming big and looking at all of the different possibilites on offer, thinking of things I would love to do if no barriers existed, thinking about what I would like to be doing in 12 months time, 5 years time, who I would ideally love to work or collaborate with and outlets I would love to be stocking. Letting yourself dream is a big part of running a creative business. If we didn't dream and aspire we would never move forward. You need your dreams to motivate you and keep going, moving towards your goals.

It's funny that my dream list of a year ago is quite different to what it is now the mentoring has finished. I think this is probably due to the immense amount I have learned about myself over the past year and fact that I struggled to visualise my dreams back then. I can see it a lot more clearly now that I have spread my wings a bit more and know more about my own capabilities and strengths. I really do believe that if I put my mind to something I can do it, so my dreams are bigger and better as well as being more focused.

Try the Module, I'd love to hear about what your dreams are and the things you aspire to. And please feel free to cahre your thoughts about this below. It's always great to hear from you.

If you want to explore your dreams with the help of the Creative Business Explorer then read on. I'm working with Pete as part of an affiliate partnership, which means that if you purchase his product through my blog I will earn a commission as part of the deal (at no extra cost to you).
Click here to view more details

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Why Blog? - Katy Cowan from Creative Boom

I'm pleased to welcome Katy Cowan, of Creative Boom fame, for the first Why Blog? feature interview.

Katy describes herself as a 'friendly creative from Manchester' and her blog is the place where she loves to champion creativity and support others whilst sharing her own creative adventures. What started as a bit of a sideline has now grown into what it is oday (a very successful creative business blog) and attracts a huge audience, reaching a staggering two million people a month,

Katy also writes for the Guardian and Creative Boom is part of the Guardian's Culture Professionals Network. It is definitely a blog you should be checking out if you haven't already. It is jam-packed full of up-to-date info and top tips for creative business owners.

SO without further ado, let's get on with the interview.

How long have you been blogging?

I’ve been blogging for nearly four years. It doesn’t feel like four years – but that’s how old Creative Boom is. It was started in July 2009 and I’ve never looked back. I love writing posts that help expose my community and raise their profile. I also love to share inspirations, tips and my own adventures. It’s great fun blogging about the creative industries. It’s something I’m hugely passionate about.

Why did you decide to start blogging and what was the main purpose of your blog when you first started?

I’m the kind of person that always needs to be doing something. Otherwise I get restless and agitated. I thrive off hard work and needed a hobby to indulge my creative passion. It was one of the reasons I decided to start blogging. But Creative Boom was mainly about helping other people. It was started following the recession of 2008. Seeing other freelancers and creatives struggle through conversations on Twitter, I wanted to do something to help. My background lies in journalism and PR, so I know how the two disciplines work. It was nice to be able to provide my own platform to shout about people’s businesses and their portfolios.

How often do you post?

On Creative Boom, I post between 4-10 articles every day. I like to make my content interesting and relevant. I mainly share people’s work to inspire others, share events that my audience might find interesting and I have a wealth of regular features – one being ‘Workabout’ where I profile great cafes or co-working for freelancers to work from… Another being ‘Creative Cities’ where I profile a city and its creative scene. Elsewhere, I also blog for The Guardian, write for Computer Arts magazine and provide guest posts for popular communities like I’m actually starting to look for more opportunities, so if you’re reading this and you’d like me to write something email

Who reads your blog and why do they enjoy it?

Creative Boom is for creative freelancers, small businesses, startups and graduates. It’s something that is also read by agencies and people employed by larger companies – but who like to be inspired on a daily basis. It’s mainly about art, design and visual communication. Why do they enjoy it? Because everyone loves to see what’s going on in the creative industries and I try and provide an outlet to satisfy people’s insatiable appetite for visual creative inspiration.

What do you think are the important ingredients of a successful blog?

Engagement, personality, hard work and visual satisfaction. Those are the key ingredients to a successful blog. You should also know your audience inside out and provide the kind of interesting content that will keep them coming back for more. Above all, you have to have passion about everything you blog about – if you don’t, it will be obvious and people will just switch off and go elsewhere.

How do you promote your blog?

Over the years, I’ve relied on Twitter and Facebook to promote Creative Boom. I’ve also written engaging content that has been shared by my followers, thus leading to new fans of my site. Elsewhere, I’ve contacted big brands, publishers and organisations – telling them about Creative Boom and this has helped to build my profile. I’ve also committed a serious amount of time and effort into communicating with my audience, getting out there and meeting people and doing everything I can to ensure the site is always improving and growing. I won’t lie – Creative Boom has been a huge amount of work but I believe in it and love helping others, so it’s worth every effort. Bottom line? The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.

What kind of opportunities have arisen as a result of your blogging?

I’ve been able to travel the world, meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to meet - I’ve had a voice and an influence. I hope that I’ve been able to make a difference. I’ve always wanted to help others. I feel hugely passionate about the creative industries, particularly here in the UK – and believe they deserve a serious push. Creative Boom has allowed me to help and expose other people’s work, so I’m pretty happy about its achievements so far. I was even approached by the UK Government, seeking my opinion on the creative industries for a report they were compiling.

How do you manage your time with your blog and your other commitments?

I commit weekends, very early mornings, lunch breaks and evenings to Creative Boom while I run my own marketing consultancy, Boomerang ( during office hours. It just takes discipline to manage Creative Boom when I’ve got so many other things going on. But, as it’s a loveable hobby, I always manage to find the time.

What are the benefits of blogging?

In my case, I’ve been able to elevate my profile and therefore have access to a wealth of opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible without Creative Boom. Next month, I’m flying to LA to attend Adobe Max – a huge four-day conference with some high profile speakers and interesting workshops. And then I’m off to Tokyo several weeks later to meet various agencies and creatives in the city. But it’s not just things like these – it’s the people I’ve been able to meet along the way. It’s also pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to learn, move forward and try to be the very best at what I do. It’s a constant learning process and a real opportunity to thrive and grow. I don’t know where I’d be without blogging.

What advice would you give to new bloggers?

Find something you’re hugely passionate about and blog about that. Don’t try to do too many things at once, just focus on one thing and find a niche that you can really go to town with. Most of all – enjoy it! Blogging shouldn’t be a chore - it should be a joy. Also, don’t be afraid to make changes if something isn’t working. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve said ‘Enough!’ and completely turned direction on things. I’ve never regretted change – it’s what has led me to where I am today, and I feel Creative Boom is better than ever before. But with everything, nothing is ever perfect – so never rest on your laurels and think you’ve reached the furthest you can go, because believe me, there is always an opportunity to improve.

Thanks Katy, words of wisdom from a pro! Thanks for taking part in my new blog series and keep up the great work with yours!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Why Blog?

Welcome to another new blog series, and this one is all about..... yes, you guessed it.... BLOGGING!

Over the past year or so my blog has really taken off, readership has grown and I've been receiving lots of positive comments about it from people I meet! It's always great to hear positive feedback and I have become really proud of my little blog and the reception it is getting from readers. It's something I really enjoy doing but I often wonder what my reasons are for blogging? What is my purpose and motivation for writing this blog? (pause and think!)

I've been blogging now for 6 years ever since the humble beginnings of the 'sooziebee' blog as I was working through the Foundation Course in Art and Design. I think I discovered 'blogs' whilst researching projects and found them a fascinating resource for inspiration, ideas and sense of community. Initially, my blog was my online diary of my work, recording what I was up to, talking about what I have been up to, peeking into my sketchbooks, recording holidays etc etc. It's great to look back and see how what I was doing, thinking and feeling back then. I rebranded in 2011/2012 and decided to start this blog and I'm still loving the blogging process.

But as for my reasons why I do it, that is something I ask myself quite often and I think there are quite a few reasons why. My blogging has changed and grown alongside my creative business and has become something quite different to what it started out as. Rather than just sharing my own work, the things I'm making myself, I started to share my experiences, the things I'm learning along the way, the things that others will find helpful, things I wish I'd know 5 years ago and things I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. I also love to share great work by the many talented makers I've found online or have met face to face. My blog has brought many new friends into my life, both virtual and those I have met, across the region, the country and abroad. It's a way of forming a community of like-minded individuals, a network of those who you can reach out to when you are suffering with feelings of isolation which can often strike when you are working on your own. As well as growing my blog it is also becoming more intergrated into my business and is a vital part of it now, all part of the brand, and a way of commmunicating my work and my message to an ever-growing audience.

All of these are the reasons I blog.

I'm starting a new series on blogging, looking at why we do it, how we do it and why we love it, interviewing other bloggers of inspirational blogs and sharing lots of lovely blog resources too. SO if there is something about 'blogging' you would like to see featured, or if you and your blog would like to be featured, please do drop me a line. The more the merrier!!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Epperstone Open Gardens

Another Open Garden Visit on Sunday. This time we went over the road to Epperstone where they were holding the Epperstone Festival and Open Gardens. Having already seen the delights of Pete and Janet's Town Garden on Saturday it was lovely to get out and see a contrasting selection of village gardens (ranging from cottage gardens to huge manor houses!).

I think afternoons spent wandering around other peoples' gardens can be really inspiring. I am constantly amazed by the natural beauty which can found in our gardens, the colours, shapes, scents and textures, and the 13 gardens which were open to the public were filled to the brim with visual displays of gorgeousness!!Here is a small selection of photos I took, I'm finally getting to grips with the new DSLR we bought at Christmas.

Whilst wandering it made me realise how important it is to put time aside for yourself and your family during these busy times we are all in and just be thankful for, and enjoy being in, the present moment.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

NGS Open Gardens and Secret Craft Fair - Loughborough

Work on show by Helen Hallows, Jennie Macall, Barry Bulsara, TheApothecary Room, Helen Rhodes and Craig Fellows 

This morning I pootled on down to Loughborough to visit Pete Mosley and Janet Currie who were having their NGS Open Gardens and Secret Craft Fair in their gorgeous garden. It was great to see them again, having taken part in their first event last summer, and it doesn't seem like five minutes ago I was sharing cake and tea with the friendly bunch of people I met there. It was lovely to catch up with the lovely and talented Maxine GreerHelen Hallows and Helen Rhodes too. Always great to chat to other creatives, share what they are doing, and get inspired to try new things myself too.

Ceramics by Helen Rhodes

Birds by Maxine Greer
Here are a few of the pictures I took of the gorgeous work on display and the beautiful setting in which they were shown. If you are in the Loughborough area on Sunday you can stop by. The info the weekend can be found here

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Creative Business Explorer Review - Part 2

This is the second part of a series of blog posts about my journey through the Creative Business Explorer which has been designed by Creative Business Mentor, Pete Mosley. In Part 1 I gave a brief introduction into this online course which gives a structured approach to exploring your own creative business at your own pace. As my own Business Mentoring partnership with Debbie Bryan and The Design Factory has come to an end, I figured this would be the perfect time to work through the Creative Business Explorer so I can figure out the next phase of my own creative journey.

The great thing about the Creative Business Explorer is that you can work through it at your own pace, so if, like me, you are quite busy and don't have a lot of free time, it's great to be able to dip in and out of, although I do think that I get the most out of it when I have at least an hour to be able to spend on it.

So in this part of my review I'm working through Modules 3 and 4. These modules cover 'The Wheel of Creative Business', a fantastic tool which enables you to divide up the whole of your creative business into separate components such as 'Creativity and Inspiration' and 'Branding and Profile', to name a couple. You then work your way around the 'whole' asking yourself questions on the way around and scoring how well you think you are doing in each sector.There is an area to make notes online or you can download and print off the worksheet if you feel better about making your notes on paper.

This gives an overview, once complete, of your own strengths (or areas you are doing well in) and also those which you don't perceive you are doing as well. The result of this gives you an idea of the areas in your business on which you need to concentrate and spend a bit more time. I was amazed to see how I scored myself compared to the first time I used this tool. I think working in this way can really help you to focus on areas which need work and come up with a list of tasks you need to achieve in order to do this. Pete has the knack of being able to get you to ask the right kinds of questions of yourself, and this kind of activity really makes you think. Give yourself plenty of time to work on Module 3.

Module 4 covers 'the Creative Business Mindset' and it gives you a list of the key behaviours and characteristics that are common amongst those running successful creative businesses. Like Pete says, there is no magic involved here, you just need to make sure you have plans in place to be able to perform well in these key areas. In this section, as well as examining how well you are doing with the different 'successful creative behaviours' such as adaptability, there is a great downloadable article which covers the Immutable truths behind creative self-employment. This is a really insightful article, full of home truths, a grounding reality check, and one which I shall definitely be dipping into again.

So if you think this Creative Business Toolkit is something you think your own creative business could benefit from you can buy it by clicking the link below. I'm working with Pete as part of an affiliate partnership, which means that if you purchase his product through my blog I will earn a commission as part of the deal (at no extra cost to you).
Click here to view more details

For a limited time you can also get a 20% discount on the price of £29.99 by using the code AOW1 on the checkout. Go on, you know it makes sense!!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

My BCTF favourites - Oliver Lovley

I had the great pleasure of meeting fellow Nottingham artist, Oliver Lovley at BCTF this year when he was my next door neighbour but one. I instantly recognised his beautifully muted watercolours, delicately detailed in shades of sepia and autumnal shades, from the Summer Craft market at Nottingham Contemporary in 2012 so I dropped by Oliver's stand to say hi. It was Oliver's first trade fair and his work seemed to be going down a storm.

I asked Oliver what he thought about his first trade fair experience and this is what he had to say...

'I first found out about the BCTF at Craft in the City at Waterstones, Nottingham during December 2012. One of the stallholders Hazel Atkinson the jewellery designer recommended it specifically. It was nice to see her at the BCTF and talk about it again. Regarding doing a trade fair for the first time I would say that reading the BCTF online brochures in the exhibitor section of their website was a great help in planning for it'

Olive was recently featured in Nottingham's Left Lion Magazine and you can read his interview here. You can also read about Oliver's Nottingham-inspired artwork on his website which is here and you never know you might even see something you would quite like for yourself!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Working with a Creative Business Mentor - Anna Krystyna Casey

As you know I've been writing a series of blog posts about working with a creative business mentor and the benefits I have seens for me and my business. It's been great to reflect on what my mentor and I talked about and how I put the things I have learned into practice. I've also talked to lots of Creative Practitioners and Mentors who are experts in the field and they have given us a valuable insight into their views and opinions of mentoring as well as telling us all about their experiences and services they provide. I thought I would ask one of the other Design Factory mentees and fellow EMERGE exhibitor, Anna Krystyna Casey about her experiences of the Mentoring Programme and what she feels she gained from it. This is what she had to say.....

'When applying for the mentoring scheme, I was in the very early days of my business, looking back, I had no direction, was floating a little bit and needed a shove! I decided to apply for the mentoring scheme as it seemed like a great opportunity, I was determined to get as many benefits from my Design Factory membership as I could, and this was a brilliant one. I didn’t have distinctive targets to begin with; I was looking more for general help in getting going with my business, a fresh set of eyes. I was really only 6 months into attempting this ‘job’ and wanted as much input as I could get. I knew people thought my work was interesting and beautiful. I knew people thought my work had potential. I knew I loved making it and if I could make a career making it, I would be very very lucky. But what I didn’t know was how to do that.

I requested Stuart Akroyd as my mentor. I didn’t think I’d be lucky enough to work with him! As someone whose work I had admired for years, I knew Stuart knows how to run a creative business; he’s been doing it for a long time! I also wanted to improve my knowledge of glass as a material. As a textiles artist, my knowledge of glass was limited; despite the fact its use within my work had attracted lots of attention.

Our approach to the mentoring scheme was a lot more relaxed and unstructured than others, and I think this suited both Stuart and me; it was more organic, and centred on lots of conversations. In our first meeting we concluded our main aim was to help me decide what I wanted my creative focus to be within my practice, and how I could go about making a viable business from that. One of the most helpful sessions involved meeting Anna French, of Fizgig glass, who also works in Fused Glass. Visiting her studio, with Stuart, I was inspired by how she’d made the most of the space available to her, and fitted so much in! I thought her work was absolutely beautiful, but visiting Anna gave me a big realisation. I love fused glass as a material, but I realised I do not want to focus my business on products, or solely on fused glass. I very much want my sculptures and art pieces to be my main practice. It sounds a simple statement, but realising that had a big impact.

Since the mentoring scheme, I have continued to make the product pieces I had begun to develop. However, I have shifted focus and feel a lot happier concentrating on developing my art works. The mentoring program gave me the confidence to pursue a solo exhibition, which opens 8th June at the NCCD, and I am really proud of what I have achieved. I still do not have a formula, but I don’t think there really is one. I have learnt to be adaptable and creative, and use one side of my business (functional products and jewellery) to support the other. Now I am focused on what I want to be known for, I am able to look for ways to build my reputation. I also have the confidence to plan for the future, and am now looking forward to exhibiting at BCTF next year (with lots of advice from Sue too of course!!)'

Many thanks to Anna for sharing her experiences of being a Mentee. I'm sure you'll agree it has been great to hear how other creatives benefit from the process. If you want to find out more about Anna and her fascinating work you can check out her website here, her facebook page here and her blog here.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Join me on The Creative Business Explorer - by Pete Mosley

You may have been reading my series of blog posts about working with a creative business mentor and the benefits this can bring to your business and maybe it has got you thinking about what your business needs are and how you can begin to grow your business successfully. Maybe working with a mentor isn't quite for you at the moment for one reason or another but you still feel you need to take action and start to work on a plan to shape your business into what you dream of. Maybe you have other commitments, or not enough time nor resources to work with a Mentor at the moment but you still feel you need to explore your business in a structured way. Perhaps you would prefer something you can work through at your own pace, some kind of tool which you can pick up and put down as needed and something you can work on yourself....

Well, if this is the case, I may have found something which is just right for you. It's called the Creative Business Explorer and it's an online toolkit designed and put together by Pete Mosley, creative business mentor who some of you may know already. This product is ideal if you like to work through things at your own pace. It will guide and support you as you do that - it will help you generate lots of new ideas and find new ways to boost your income. It's full of interactive tools to provide inspiration and help you develop your business - step by step. I started using the toolkit last week and I'm really excited at the thoughts and ideas I've had after only two modules.

So if this sounds like it's just up your street, read on and I'll explain a little more of what it's all about

What exactly is it?

It's an online learning environment - once you register you are sent your own log-in details. You log in to your own private space and work at your own pace - at any time of day or night. It's ideal if you have lots of other commitments and you work on your business when you have time to squeeze a few hours in.

What does it consist of and what will you get for your money?

You get 8 interactive modules to help you work out what you need to do - and in what order, to make your business really work for you. You also get downloads, a wide range of useful articles, 40 minutes of audio, an ebook, printable worksheets and links. You can save all of your information as you work through the course and you can go back and edit your work as you go.

So far I have worked through Modules 1 and 2, the Welcome package, which gives an outline of what you can expect from the toolkit, and the Module about Hopes Dreams and Aspirations, which is quite fitting for me and a really good time for me to be tackling these topics. As I've just completed an amazing period of working with my own Mentor I've discovered a lot about myself and where I want my business to go. So, I'm looking to The Creative Business Explorer to help me along the next part of my journey. I'll be blogging about this experience along the way so feel free to join me.

I'm working with Pete as part of an affiliate partnership, which means that if you purchase his product through my blog I will earn a commission as part of the deal (at no extra cost to you).
Click here to view more details

For a limited time you can also get a 20% discount on the price of £29.99 by using the code AOW1 on the checkout.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Sketchbook Peeks - Veronica Galbraith

It's time again for Sketchbook Peeks and this month we are delving into the sketchbooks of talented surface pattern designer Veronica Galbraith, who I first found out about via Twitter.

Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now: I was lucky to be born into a family of artists/designers.

My grandad was an amazingly creative person. He was an architect, painter and even fashion designer! My mum, uncles and aunties are architects and designers. There was no escape! Since I was very small I would sit next to my mum while she was working and I would draw anything from incredibly complicated buildings to colourful fashion collections. From a very young age I dreamt of going to university to study design or architecture. So I did!

I went to university and did a degree in Industrial Design. Those were 5 incredible years where I learnt, among other things, about graphic, jewellery, packaging, fashion and product design. After leaving university I landed a job designing materials for the fashion industry. I spent 3 years, non-stop, designing printed and woven labels, packaging, catalogues and posters mainly for clothing manufacturers. The job was amazing and I learnt a great deal but the time came to find new adventures.

I came to England 13 years ago. I wanted to do an English and a multimedia course, something short, and then go back to Colombia (where I'm from!). All plans went out the window after I met my English teacher. Long story short, I married him and never left!

After my multimedia course I worked for a website design agency in London for about 9 months. I liked it, learnt a lot but found that my creativity was being buried under a pile of code. I left. Me and my husband moved down to Cornwall in 2003, ready to start a family. I became a mum to 2 amazing boys and I decided to stop working and enjoy these lovely presents for as long as I could. I didn't do any major work for about 7 years!

At the end of 2011 my youngest started school and I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I knew it was the moment to start creating something. I started dipping my toes into small graphic and web design jobs. One day, the mum of one of my son's friends introduced me to the Print & Pattern blog and I knew at that exact moment that surface pattern design was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had always loved patterns and my house is full of them, but I never thought about being the designer instead of the buyer!

I started researching about how to get in the business, found The Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design course and took it. It has been the best decision ever... I learnt loads and became part of a fantastic network of like-minded people that keep me going on a daily basis. Since taking this career turn, loads of lovely things have happened:
  •  I won a pattern design competition ran by the Pattern Observer blog and got a place in The Sellable Sketch course as part of the prize. 
  • I got 5 pages of my designs printed on the latest Texitura trend book. •
  • 11 of my designs are being published in the new Patternbase book. •
  • I've been featured in several design blogs. •
  • I opened a shop in Society6, selling lovely products printed with my designs. •
  • Some of my designs made it to Indigo Paris, a surface pattern design show, as part of a collaboration with Believe Creative Studio from the Netherlands. •
  • Some of my designs are being licensed by Solid Line Products which will be using them for their line of tablet and smartphone covers (

My next steps are to find an agent that would like to represent me and to find some licensing deals with companies I admire. At the moment I'm revamping my website and creating more pieces for my portfolio so I can approach the right kind of people.

How long have you been using sketchbooks?

I've been using sketchbooks since my first year at university (so for more than 20 years, gasp!) But my relationship with sketchbooks is complicated. I have fallen in and out of love with them through the years. Since last year I started using my iPad as a sketchbook as well, which I love!

How often do you sketch?

I try to sketch every week but that doesn't always happen. At the moment I'm more inclined to start designs straight on the computer.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?

That has always been the hardest part of using sketchbooks! I like buying them but find very difficult using them... I have a pile of new sketchbooks, with lovely white pages, waiting for me to make my first mark on them.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?

I don't get inspiration from anywhere in particular. I firmly believe that inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, e.g. walks, nature, shopping trips, movies and even my children's drawings!

How would you describe your creative process?

My brain whirls with ideas all day long, it's pretty exhausting I have to say... Anything can become the inspiration for a new design. I keep a sketchbook on my desk and the iPad with me at all times. Sometimes I start an idea on the sketchbook, then scan in and finish it off in Illustrator. But now I find it more practical to sketch on my iPad with my Bamboo pen and a vector illustration app such as InkPad. Then I just easily transfer the design to the computer and continue the process there. It's a great way of saving steps and time!

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?

Oh yes, they have! At university they used to have the development of one design from start to finish and loads of text/notes on the side. They had loads of product design in them which is quite different to what I do now. We didn't have computers readily available then so everything lived in the sketchbook. Now I sketch some ideas but most of the process happens on the computer. So only the seeds live in my sketchbook nowadays!

What is your favourite medium to work with?

I love using just black pen or markers like Pilot or Sharpies.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?

Not really. I prefer them if they have fabulous covers but in reality any piece of white paper will do!

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?

Difficult... I did do a sketch about a year ago and it ended up in a frame as I liked it a lot!

Thanks Veronica for this interesting insight into your life and your gorgeous work and sketchbooks!

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