Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Why Blog? - Sam Osbourne

Sam Osborne is a graphic designer, pattern designer and illustrator who describes herself as a ‘brightly-coloured designer nerd’. In 2011 Sam set up her own design company where, alongside her graphic design work she licenses her unique illustrations and pattern designs as well as running her own label where she sells her colourful designs on products from mugs and tea towels to cards and wall art. Her products sell online all over the world as well as in selected high street shops. I got to know Sam through Twitter and having looked at her blog I asked her whether she would like to be interviewed about her own blogging habits and why she does it.

This is what she had to say......


How long have you been blogging?

I started blogging in a small way when I launched the first incarnation of my website about 3 or 4 years ago - it wasn't a major part of my site and I didn't really know what I was doing but starting small gave me time and space to figure out what I wanted to blog about and, most importantly, to find my voice.

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

I started to take my blogging seriously when I revamped my website, the platform made the process much easier and I quickly realised that the blog could have big implications for my business. The ultimate purpose of my blog was, and still is, to drive traffic to my website and my shop but I knew that meant that the content had to be interesting and fit with the design work I was doing.

I started by writing a variety of articles that related to the wider world that my designs and products live in and a few articles about the experience of running my business. In many ways researching and writing those articles actually helped me focus on what my work and my brand was all about.


How often do you post?

I try to post at least twice a week but occasionally its more often than that, it just depends on what I have going on really. I have a few series of articles that I try to keep going on a reasonably regular schedule but I'm not too rigid with it.

Who reads your blog and why do they enjoy it?

It's to be mostly fellow creatives that read my blog which, I guess, is because I post a lot about the lives of other designers (particular in my Month In The Life series - ) and share a lot insights into the industry and my work. I try to do it all in a fun, upbeat, honest way and I hope that resonates with people.

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

Clear focus: You can't blog about everything. Being clear about what your blog is about makes it easier to find an audience
Distinct point of view: Your blog is YOUR blog - make it your own, talk in your own voice, express your opinions, be funny
Variety: If every post is the same people will soon stop reading. Change things up - add a photo story, a guest blogger, a quiz etc!

How do you promote your blog?

Mostly through social media, each post gets shared on twitter and facebook when it's published and I schedule follow up posts throughout the next few weeks to continue to promote it. I also join in specific hashtag chats on twitter (#TALKT #OMHG etc) where you can often share links to blogs and get found by more people that way. My site is run through Wordpress and I use and SEO plugin to help me ensure my posts are findable - reminding me to put the article keywords in titles and opening paragraphs etc, it's not foolproof but it's a good reminder to focus on what the article is about!

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

Mostly the blog has been great for connecting with people - my Month In The Life series has put me in touch with loads of amazing artists and designers. I've also been asked to write guest posts for bloggers and sites that I love and my feature in Moyo magazine was in part due to a blog article about my #SBS win ( )

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

My blog isn't the main focus of my business, it is there to support my design work so if I have a lot of work on then the blog will be a bit quieter. Luckily I enjoy writing blog posts so I'm quite happy to do most of it outside my 'normal' working hours!

What are the benefits of blogging?

Learning is the biggest benefit for me, I've learnt so much about me and my business because I sat down and wrote blog posts about it. I've discovered loads of new artists and designers and learned about how they work and their inspirations. For my business the benefit is being able to send people to my site repeatedly and without blogging it would be hard to do this so often and so successfully.


What advice would you give to new bloggers?

Just write: Getting started is hard but you have two things going for you in the beginning: 1 - almost no one is reading your blog yet and 2 - It's not set in stone, if in a week, a month etc you don't like it you can change it! Write about things you care about and you think your audience will care about - don't decide to write about your tax return if the subject bores you to tears, write about things you love (or hate) Read other blogs that you love. Really look at them, how are they structured? Do they have regular articles? Do they use lots of pictures? How often to they post? How can you use those lessons on your own blog?

You can find out more about Sam and her beautiful work at the following places....

Friday, 26 July 2013

Work-life balance and getting it right

Recently I've been pondering my seeming lack of time to be creative. I knew at the beginning of this year that it was going to be a busy one, with three major events in the first  three months and also working extra shifts at my day job to pay for our big Canada holiday. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn't really going to be getting as much studio time as I had this time last year but it was all in a good cause. Due to circumstances unforeseen Canada is now postponed until another time.

Being the kind of person who does believe in 'silver linings' one of the positives of this change of plan is that this means less pressure to take on extra shifts at the day job and more time for the studio and my creativity. In reality I don't seem to have done this quite yet. I'm conscious that the year is passing quickly and I keep wondering when I'm actually going to pick up a pen and make some new work. It seems every moment I have had for the studio over the past few weeks has been taken up with other jobs, such as meetings, appointments, admin, endless to-do lists and anything else you can think of in between.

It just makes wonder if anyone else feels like this? That constant battle with the work-work and work-life balance, when you feel as though the scales are tipping in the wrong direction and you are feeling creatively unfulfilled by the lack of  time you are able to dedicate to your business? Does anyone else feel as though there are just not enough hours in the day or days in the week? Or should we all just be giving ourselves a break, quit putting ourselves under so much pressure, stop being so hard on our selves and our own perceived lack of activity, enjoy what we have achieved and be more mindful of the present? Is there ever really a perfect balance or should we just be more accepting of the way things actually are and just go with the flow? I wish I knew the answers... I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as it is something I've been pondering for a few week

Aside from that, I may not have picked up a pen and made any new work for a while but I did take a few creative snaps on holiday last week. A week in the Cotswolds on the sunniest week we have had for ages has helped recharge the batteries and we are feeling rested and relaxed. I just need to make sure I plan some creative time in for the next few months to make sure I am prepared for the upcoming fairs, exhibitions and shows from now until the end of the year.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Win a place on the 'Idea Generation and Creativity for Bloggers' e-course

As I said on Monday the lovely Jo Gifford from Dexterous Diva is giving away two places on her Idea Generations and Creativity for Bloggers e-course to two of my lucky readers. So if you are a blogger yourself or know someone who is, and you sometimes struggle with keeping your blog content new, fresh and interesting this course could be just up your street.

Jo's e-course has been tailormade for bloggers in the creative community. I asked Jo to tell us a little about the course and this is what she had to say....

'As you know, here on Dex Diva I am all about creativity, blogging and business. In this e course, I bring you my experience as a multi-blog author in my Idea Generation and Creativity for bloggers e -course, delivered straight to your inbox every day over four weeks. So, if you are a blogger on a mission to be brilliant, this is for you!

The course has been a great success in the blogosphere, with many people just like you making the most of their new found ideas and online content generation, and you can join in too! If you are a blogger creating posts for yourself, your company, clients or both, this e-course will give you handy hints, tips and tools to generate fresh blog post content and ideas. Alongside tools to work efficiently and creatively, I give techniques and workflow suggestions to get those ideas flowing and keep them organised at the same time.

I have taught at London College of Communications, Cambridge Regional College and delivered sessions and workshops for the last 10 years, so this course is an opportunity to learn with ease in your own time from an expert. The course is delivered via email 3 days per week over 4 weeks, allowing you time to work at your own pace, build on the techniques and put them into practice.'

As you know this kind of course usually comes at a price, but Jo has kindly offered two places to my readers. All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment telling me why you think you would benefit from a course like this. Answers will be drawn at random at the end of July 2013. If you want to find out a bit more about the course click here for details.....

Monday, 22 July 2013

Why Blog? - Jo Gifford aka Dexterous Diva


I've been following the blog of Jo Gifford for quite a while now after following her on Twitter and am in awe her work. I recently asked her if she would like to be interviewed for the Why Blog? and she instantly replied saying she would love to! Her blog is visually striking, the images are full of bright colours, giving us plenty of eye-candy and her content is spot-on and full of great tips and advice for fellow creative bloggers. As well as blogging multi-talented Jo also makes delightful illustrations, is a mum to twins and also runs an online e-course 'Idea generation and Creativity for Bloggers'. She is giving away two places on this to two lucky readers... details to follow.

But first on to the interview.... This is what Jo had to say....


How long have you been blogging?

I began my very first blog in 2006, called Leap and the Net will appear, which was all about my journey into self employment and a new life. I lost my confidence with the project, and sadly deleted the blog and it's posts, which is such a shame as I would love to be able to look back now and see how far I have come! I began a personal blog again in 2010, to document life as a twin mum with endometriosis working in the creative industries. It has evolved so much over time, and continues to grow and change every year, as I grow with it, which I love. Having a blog is such a nice way to keep a diary and to make yourself write.

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

In the first instance I wanted to chart my journey into self employment. I was very inspired by the early Blogger community, it was a very different landscape in 2006 than it is now; no Twitter, Facebook, Linked In etc. It felt cathartic, like a personal diary, and as if I was part of a community. It still feels like that, albeit a much bigger community and on more platforms. When I began again in 2010 I had no real direction, and was just posting about my family, some opinion posts, endometriosis and my life. I began on a wordpress blog (it’s still there on and then went self hosted after 18 months or so.

How often do you post?

It depends, sometimes once a day, sometimes once a week, but on average two or three times a week I would say. I often have “going fallow” times when other projects I am working on take over (or life gets busy!) so there isn’t a set diary or schedule as such.

Who reads your blog and why do they enjoy it?

Oooh, well I think my readers are predominantly, but not exclusively, female. My readers tend to be creative, entrepreneurial people who resonate maybe with family life, blogging, my health journey, creative thinking or sometimes the fashion and lifestyle elements of the blog. I also give a lot of tips on freelance life, creative thinking and idea generation so I hope my readers enjoy a range of topics. I imagine people like my honesty, and hopefully just the little space of the web that is mine to call home in my own way,


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

It depends on the blog, whether business, personal, or both. However, I think that an authentic voice is important, even if you are constantly learning and growing in whichever sector you are working in or blogging about, honesty and authenticity is key. Eye catching imagery, compelling posts, and a reason to come back for more.

How do you promote your blog?

I use Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Blog Lovin’ as channels to promote my posts. I also use my email lists of previous e course attendees, Feedburner, and I sometimes guest post for other bloggers I love. I like to be part of the community too, so I get to know people on social media and enjoy the banter.

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

Oh my goodness, so much! Freelance blog work, speaking engagements, my ecourses, Team Bangs on the Run, my first ever half marathon, meeting wonderful friends and colleagues, working with wonderful brands, having a voice to be heard, visiting some great events, it really has done a lot for me. I have written for on and offline publications since 2005, including Le Cool being Arts Editor of an online magazine, commissions for travel writing pieces and all sorts, but the blog is all mine and I like that autonomy.

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

Honestly? I have no idea. I just love it. If life gets busy or tough, as it can do with running a business, social enterprise, having two young children and chronic illnesses, I just prioritise - if I don’t post, it’s not the end of the world :) I also post from my iPad using Blogsy so I can blog on the go, or from bed if the mood takes me.


What are the benefits of blogging?

I think blogging is good in so many ways, and in fact I wrote a post on it (of course!). For a business it gives behind the scenes news and a new insight for an audience to engage with; as a personal project a blog is great to have a platform, to write often and to document life, and to connect with other like minded people and spark discussion.


What advice would you give to new bloggers?

Just be yourself. To be an “iconic”, full time blogger takes a while lot of hard work and is very rare. Blog because you love it, because you want to create engaging content, or just for yourself, either way just enjoy the journey. Learn as you go, figure out how to create imagery, how to post the way you want to, how to tinker with CMS systems, if you like a new project, blogging is a lot of fun.

Thanks so much for taking part in this blog series Jo. If you want to check outbwhat Jo is up to you can find her Dexterous Diva blog here, her super Etsy shop here and you can follow her on Twitter as @dexdiva

Jo will be giving away some places on here e-course later this week. Watch this space for details...

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Focus Gallery - Nottingham

 Focus Gallery on Derby Road in Nottingham has been around for as long as I can remember and was a favourite haunt of mine when I was a student living down the road. It was always somewhere we would go when we wanted to buy a present that was 'something a bit different' and was out first choice out of all of the other shops Nottingham has to offer. The High Street has changed a lot since then (early 90's) and it now seems every town centre looks the same, the same big names and the same mass-produced goods, which you can buy anywhere from London to Edinburgh. But make the effort to head a little way out of the Market Square and you find yourself on Derby Road, which seems to be full of smaller independent businesses. This is where you can find Focus Gallery.

Focus Gallery began in 1971 with Norman Roland at the helm. Since then Focus has continued to grow and thrive and establish itself as Nottingham's most respected and well known place for beautiful and unusual art and crafts. In 2004 Lorraine and Angelo Murphy became the proud owners of Focus Gallery and took the opportunity to take the gallery onto the next level, by introducing a wealth of fresh talent, whilst continuing to showcase long term exhibitors and makers whose reputation and talents continue to be admired and in demand.

I'm proud to say that Focus has been a stockist of my work for a couple of years now and I love popping in to see Lorraine and Angelo and have a look at the work they have on show. This is exactly what I did last week and also had a gander at their fantastic Summer Exhibition, featuring work of some of my very favourite local artists, Helen Hallows, Josephine Gomersall, Helen Rhodes, Katrin Moye and Gillian Lee Smith.

Helen Hallows
Josephine Gomersall

Helen Rhodes

Katrin Moye

Gillian Lee Smith
If you are in the area I urge you to pop in and have a look around the Exhibition. There's loads of eye-candy and you will be tempted to treat yourself, I promise!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Why Blog? - The Harley Gallery

The Harley Gallery Team (Image courtesy of the Harley Gallery)

This week in the Why Blog? series we are featuring the team at the Harley Gallery and their lovely blog where they showcase their designers and makers.

If you fancy a visit to their Christmas Arts market or even want to apply to exhibit with them they are accepting applications until 31st July or 7th August for Graduates. Having exhibited at the show last year I would encourage you to apply. It was a great experience. Here's a little bit of info about it....

The Annual Harley Christmas Market brings over 50 art, craft and food stalls to The Harley Gallery on the Welbeck Estate, Nottinghamshire. Taking place from 22-24 November 2013, the weekend is a great opportunity to shop, relax and explore. Bringing you the best in handmade products, from real ales to jewellery, it’s a great place to pick up unusual and great quality gifts. The art market shows artists and makers selected by the Harley Gallery.

This year, the art market will have a special preview day on 22 November, 2-7pm, for those wishing to beat the crowds and get first pick for their Christmas presents. On Saturday (10am-5pm) and Sunday (10am-4pm) the market will be accompanied by the Harley Open Studios and Welbeck Estate food producers.

The Harley Studios are located a short walk from the Gallery, within the walls of the Welbeck Estate’s Victorian Kitchen Garden. These secluded artists’ studios are only open to the public twice a year, and in November will swing open their doors to reveal beautiful craft products, intriguing processes and inspiring makers.

Ok, on to the blogging then. This is what the team at the Harley Gallery had to say....

How long have you been blogging?

We only started blogging in June last year, and how time has flown since!

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

We started blogging to share more information about the makers whose work we have in the Harley Shop – all the stuff that makes craft so special – the making process, their inspirations and the workshops and studios where the magic takes place. We hope all the things that we find interesting will interest others too!

How often do you post?

A few times a week, but I’d certainly like to post more often - there’s always something I want to share!


Who reads your blog and why do they enjoy it?

People who enjoy contemporary craft and want to get to know the makers a little better. It’s the makers behind the objects that makes them special and intriguing – how do they do it? And their wonderful workshops are fascinating places to visit! There are 23 Harley Studio artists based here, all with very different work spaces according to their specialist requirements. It makes you appreciate how unique individually crafted objects are; an obvious statement to make but that’s what makes them inspirational.

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

I think blogs have the potential to be very engaging, in a conversational sense. They need to be regularly updated with information that you know your audience will enjoy. Good imagery is essential - giving the blog a strong visual language to engage its audience allows it to be viewed and enjoyed quickly and easily if you haven’t got much time!

How do you promote your blog?

Mainly through Facebook and Twitter, plus there’s a link on our website too! ( We’re finding that many artists and makers are sharing the blog too as it helps to promote their work that’s available in the Harley Shop, by providing more background information and revealing the making processes used.


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

Blogging has revealed a wonderful route for exploring visual art and craft and learning more about the artists and makers. This is what we’re passionate about and I love having the opportunity to explore it with an audience who share the same passion!

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

I find that working on the blog also feeds into other things we do, so blogging can be very helpful! Although I may be prone to spending longer than strictly necessary visiting the studios! Blogging often gives us new ideas or opens up opportunities to work with different people.

What are the benefits of blogging?

Ha! See above! Blogging also helps to strengthen our relationships with the makers that we work with, as it shows (I hope!) that we’re passionate about what we do.

What advice would you give to new bloggers?

Imagery! Make sure your visual imagery is up to scratch; the old adage is true – a picture speaks a thousand words! (So sorry.) Some of the loveliest blogs are almost purely image based, but they work because they capture and share the passions of the writer and a blog is only engaging if you’re passionate about your subject.

Friday, 12 July 2013

A peek into the world of Licensing - Jessica Hogarth

I mentioned on Wednesday that I'd recently caught up with Jessica Hogarth at BCTF in Harrogate and at Pulse in London. She was the winner of the Confessions of a Design Geek Bursary last year and her work has been going from strength to strength. When I got the chance to chat to her at BCTF in April Jess mentioned she had been working in licensing. I have been wanting to look into this myself so I thought I would ask Jessica how it all works. This is what she told me about licensing her designs.....

I actually got into licensing before launching my first range of products at the BCTF in 2012, but it takes time after entering into a contract for the products to be manufactured and go on sale! I did some work for a project at Christmas and it hasn't launched yet, it will do soon though, and I'll be doing lots of promoting online! I was at first a little nervous about the idea of licensing as the contractual element of it can be a bit stressful, but now I am actively looking for licensing deals and once the terms are agreed upon, can be a lucrative deal for both the manufacturing company and the designer themselves

Licensing is great as the designer retains copyright on the work. The company it is licensed to may have exclusivity for the designs just on their product, for example, fabric, but it can be licensed again in a different product area, meaning you can begin to bring in money for one design in more than one way at once.

A license always lasts for a set length of time, pays a pre determined royalty rate, and covers a certain territory (eg. Europe or worldwide) which is set out in a contact.

Another fab thing about licensing is that the designer is normally named and promoted heavily alongside the product which is great for promotion. I wouldn't be able to afford to launch my own range of phone cases, as much as I'd love to but doing the licensed collaboration with Korean company Lab C has seen them on sale internationally.

Thanks for giving us an insight into what you have been up to Jess. Keep us posted of any new developments, can't wait to see what's in the pipeline!!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

BCTF favourites - Jessica Hogarth

I first met the lovely and talented Jessica Hogarth at BCTF left year. I'd been researching other Newcomers and thought I would contact Jessica to say hi and to tell her how lovely I thought her work was. It really stood out and I just loved her illustrative style. We exchanged emails a few times before the show and get to meet face to face on set-up day. It was great to put a face to the name and share the Newcomers experience with her.

Since then we have kept in touch and it has been great to see Jess and her work going from strength to strength and doing really well. We caught up again at BCTF 2013 and I was really interested to find out what she has been up to. Jess mentioned she had been working with an agent and has been working in licensing. This is an area I have wanted to explore myself so it was great to be able to pick the brains of someone who had done it already.  Join us on Friday to find out what she had to say...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Colours of Summer


I wanted to share a new little App discovery called Adobe Kuler, which I found out about from one the Screen Printing group a couple of weeks ago. It generates a 5-colour palette from whatever you point your phone at..... Clever eh? Hours of fun!!

I started playing with it in the garden one morning last week (when I was meant to be hanging out the washing!!). I think the poppy colours look really summery. I think you will be seeing a few more of these colour palettes in the near future.

 I've been that busy with interviews and new content for the blog that I just realised how long it has been since I have written a blog post about normal day-to-day life and the things I'm up to when I'm not working, making new work and blogging. So I just thought I would share a photo of my garden which suddenly seems to have sprung to life over the last few weeks and is now a riot of colour. The poppies I sprinkled last year have done me proud and the display is looking rather nice if I may say so myself!!

What are you growing in your garden at the moment?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Why Blog - Robin Houghton

I'm very excited to be interviewing Robin Houghton, author of Blogging for Creatives, a fab new book I've been reading. It's jam packed full of useful info helpful to even the most seasoned blogger! Read on to hear what she has to say about why she blogs.....

How long have you been blogging?

Since 2007

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

My first blog was my business blog, which morphed out of the ‘online marketing tips’ email newsletter I’d been publishing since 2002. The time seemed right to embrace blogging and make the whole thing more of a conversation rather than a broadcast. I kept that blog pretty active until about a year ago. In 2012 I began two new blogs – one to support the publication of my book and the other on the subject of poetry, which I would say is more my passion these days.

How often do you post?

The answer to this one is different for each of my blogs! For the first six months I kept to a schedule for the ‘Blogging for Creatives’ blog and posted 3 or 4 times a week. This meant it built up a readership and together with a Facebook page was a good promotional vehicle for the book when it was new on the market. Once the book had established itself and accrued a good number of ratings and reviews, it was always the plan to then scale down the activity on the blog but to keep it going with one post every month or two.
I post to ‘Poetgal’ two or three times a week, sometimes more. Although this is my ‘hobby’ blog, one of my goals this year was to develop opportunities to combine what I love (poetry) with what I get paid for (online marketing/communications/social media). There’s not a lot of money to be made in poetry, but I do now teach courses for writers on how to create and manage your social web presence, and my mentoring services also cross over into this area. This is one way I justify the time I spend on Poetgal!
I update my business blog at less often now, partly because my interests are now wider, and also because the online marketing blogosphere is now so crowded you have to be extremely dedicated to be relevant and be heard. Nevertheless I’m proud of the archive of material I built up and a lot of my earlier blog posts are still referenced even now.


Who reads your blog and why do they enjoy it?

Those who find and read my business blog can be anything from small business owners & freelancers to comms professionals in larger organisations. The earlier material was all aimed at small business – tips, case studies, education - but in the last couple of years I’ve been blogging a lot of about internal comms, social media behind the firewall, social business and corporate comms issues. I would say on the whole the blog is about how digital and social is changing the way we work & do business, and people read it as a way of picking my brains in order to think about the challenges and find solutions. The ‘Blogging for Creatives’ blog gets a steady stream of visitors who are (going by the stats) looking for blogging tips and examples. ‘Poetgal’ is read by poets and other creative writers, plus a smattering of small publishers. The most popular posts are my accounts of workshops I’ve been to, writing tips from leading poets and actual poems by guest poets (I post very few of my own, as that would mean they couldn’t be published elsewhere.)

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

Passion and dedication. There are many, many other ingredients but without a genuine love of what you’re blogging about, and a willingness to work on it, you won’t really engage people. Readers can tell if you’re just going through the motions.

How do you promote your blog?

I know all the things you’re advised to do, such as on- and off-page SEO, regular guest posting, requesting links, leaving comments etc. I’ve written the book! However what I do for clients isn’t necessarily right for me. In the past I have had promotional strategies, but these days I tend to rely more on my existing level of visibility and length of time online, and let the promotion happen more organically. I was at a conference recently when an SEO speaker more or less said nobody who wants their blog to be found should be using a hosted solution because you’d be dead in the water. I prefer not to give black and white advice like that. Readers find my blogs through a range of means, direct referral, serendipity… I am all over the social web, and people talk.

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

I suppose the biggest thing was being commissioned to write a book about blogging! Although I think of myself as primarily a writer rather than a blogger, and I learnt a huge amount while researching the book. I’m regularly asked to give talks and sometimes asked to present at conferences. I’ve given a few interviews, like this one, for blogs or print publications. Blogging, together with other social media activities, mainly Twitter, has opened up a wide world of new contacts, projects, ideas and friendships. It’s also helped develop my own writing.

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

These days I’m more focused/prioritised and I no longer stress about not keeping up a particular frequency of posting. It’s great to have a schedule but not to become a slave to it. I blog on my ‘own time’, at home and when my husband’s at work. When I’m in the office I do client work. If I know I’m going to be busy I can always write and schedule blog posts in advance. It’s also just as important to read blogs – I tend to skim through my Feedly and/or Wordpress Reader on a regular basis to see what’s new in my blog community.

What are the benefits of blogging?

Many – but it kind of depends on what you want to get out of it – one person’s benefit is another’s ‘whatever’. For someone in business, blogging gives you an opportunity to develop a direct connection with your customers & prospects: not just to promote your business, but to learn about your customers and from your customers. It can also improve your reach and lead to more business. On a personal level, blogging can improve your writing & communications skills, develop your ability to listen and respond to alternative opinions, broaden your mind, widen your network of contacts, open you up to new opportunities and build your reputation and standing on the social web.

What advice would you give to new bloggers?

Buy my book! Just kidding. (I’m not earning royalties!) I would say start by subscribing to (and reading) some of the great thinkers and doers, they will help set you on the road to great blogging. Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Brian Clark (Copyblogger), Darren Rowse (Problogger) are a few to start with. Then ask yourself a few questions. Why do you want to blog? What are you looking to get out of it? What resources do you have – tech skills? design skills? writing skills? time? money? (NOT all of which you need in order to blog, by the way.) Set yourself some realistic goals. Do some research on different platforms, types of hosting - make sure you know what you’re getting into. Forewarned is forearmed. Having said that, there’s no substitute for getting stuck in, playing around with themes and templates, having a go and learning as you go along. There’s a huge community of likeminded people out there – reach out and connect with others blogging on your topic, you will find all kinds of camaraderie and support.

Biog Robin Houghton is a communications consultant and writer. She has nearly 15 years’ experience in online marketing: after learning HTML in 1998 she went on to study for an MA in Digital Media, worked for a digital agency during the dotcom boom and started her own online marketing business in 2002. Robin is also an award-winning poet.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Art and Words - a creative collaboration - my first school workshop

Two years ago if you had told that I would be taking my creativity into a school, working in collaboration with a writer and delivering my first workshop to twenty  Year 2 children I'd have laughed in your face and told you to stop being so silly!! Little, did I know what lay ahead....
Thanks to the Harley Christmas Market 2012 and the ideas which arose from a bit of reflection after the event and a bit of encouragement from my Mentor, Debbie Bryan, I decided to embark on a bit of a mission to explore the possibility of working with children in a school setting. As chance would have I then got to meet written Lisa Shipman when I was Artist in Residence at the Nottingham Festival of Words. We got chatting at the closing ceremony for the Festival and exchanged contact details with the hope we might be able to work together in the future.....

So, fast forward 4 months, to this time last week as I was frantically packing my marker pens and collage supplies and was off to my first Collaborative School Workshop at St Marys School in Bulwell, with Writer, Lisa Shipman. I'd never taken part in a workshop before and had no experience at all of working with the little people, so needless to say I was feeling a little bit hesitant. Luckily for me, Lisa has been working with the school as part of her Creative Writing degree so she knew what she was doing and she took charge and made me feel at ease straight away.

We had decided on the brief outline of our workshop and, working with two groups of ten children, we laid out the paper for our huge murals and I got to work with an initial landscape image for the children to begin working on.

One group started, with the help and guidance of Lisa, adding words to the art work, describing things they loved about the landscape, things they liked to do, conversations between the animals and birds, and lovely descriptions and poetic words to describe what they could see.

Working with me the other group got to work with collage, crayons and pens, scissors, glue and patterns, and started to get creative with the second mural. It was great to see how they got stuck in, coming up with their own ideas of how they wanted the art work to look.

In the second session Lisa and I swapped groups and worked with them to help complete the pictures

It was a fantastic day, although by the end of we were both ready for a cuppa and a sit down, feeling rather hoarse but very pleased with how our creative collaboration had turned out. The picture above is the finished murals placed next to each other for display in the school hall. Bring on the next one!!

Isn't it funny though how these things come about? Running your own creative business and being open to the many possibilities and opportunities out there can be hugely rewarding if you are prepared to step out of that comfort zone and try something new!!

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