Five on a Friday

Reviving my theme of Five on a Friday today.

Today’s five -

I have been enjoying trying out some new recipes – partly inspired by being able to find other ingredients in Holland. And landed on Tartelette’s blog , which I hadn’t visited for a while. I made both the salad and the tabouleh – both were delicious. Just perfect summer food. The galette is going to be on the menu over the weekend !

I fell out of love with Instagram a little bit, when it was bought by Facebook. I like supporting small indie outfits. But I’ve missed it. The community is really lovely there – like Twitter in pictures, so I’m going to start posting there more regularly again. Do you use Instagram ? Please let me know your name there if you do – I’d love to see your pictures. (You’ll find me @rhiannonmc )

I am making a bit of time in my day to get painting again after a couple of weeks where it just seemed hard to fit it in. But it is just so much fun I am making it a priority again. One book that I dip into regularly for a bit of inspiration is Flora Bowley’s book Brave Intuitive Painting.

I also always enjoy popping in to Michael Nobb’s Sustainably Creative  blog. He records a daily podcast for his subscribers ( which includes me )-  but every couple of weeks he makes it available to everyone. ( I think his membership group is currently closed to new subscribers but will open again later in the year.)  He is a good advocate for getting things done is small manageable steps. And resting when required.

And finally – do you like getting mail that is more cheerful than brown envelopes ? Mary Gorden has recently opened her Etsy shop and is offering to send out postcards from her upcoming trip to Ireland. Postcards from the road and a set of postcards afterwards from images she shot en route.

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My own news is that my  “jewellery studio” in Leiden continues to develop. I had a customer drop by and choose some pieces in person. Perhaps later in the year I will do a more “official” trunk show there  - perhaps together with a couple of other makers in Leiden. That’s an interesting  thought. In the meantime you can see the new range here – the next things to be added are some earrings and cufflinks.

Five on a Friday – a Connections Round – Up

( The image is “Tea in the Hague” – Polaroid Painting – and available here. )

In another of my “Five on a Friday” round ups – this time I thought I would pull together five of the posts from the archive where I talk about the different meet ups and events I’ve attended during the last  year or so.  At the start of the year I set myself the goal to accept any opportunities that came my way this year, to connect. And there were a good few events that presented themselves. Some were smaller and inexpensive and others were frankly luxurious and a real treat. But each one has been worthwhile. Hopefully some of these posts will encourage you to find something local to you and get out from behind the computer. If you’ve attended something this year I’d really love to hear about that too.

The Do What You Love Retreat in Yorkshire – well – that took several posts to cover completely but here is a start.

Meet the Blogger in Amsterdam - an event that was based around Holly Becker’s book Decorate.

The Impossible Factory visit - back to Holland again for this as they are in Enschede over towards the German border. There was a very international mix here none the less, from France and even Italy, as it was a rare treat to see inside the Impossible Headquarters.

This one is in a rather different category as I didn’t travel far afield, but instead joined others from the local community ( and quite a few from abroad) who turned up to witness this rather bizarre local custom – The Burry Man of South Queensferrry.

Of course not all connections are one – offs – this post about the launch of a local craft group, Granny Greens - still going strong a year later though at a different location  - Fredericks Cafe on Frederick Street from 6-8pm. If you are in Edinburgh whether visiting or local you are welcome to pop in. Despite the name we are of all ages and I’m not sure that anyone is a granny !

Five on a Friday

A random Five on a Friday mix again , of things that I have been enjoying this week.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I keep going back to ETC by Sibella Court. I really love the way she creates colour palettes with 10 colours and then uses them in different combinations. I’m looking at the colours when I am thinking about what I want to change in the house ( and really, I want to change far more than I initially thought ). But I am also working on a little web project on the side and her use of colour is inspiring me for that too.

I had to pop into town today and I made the most of the trip by going past Lush. If you’re ever anywhere near a Lush store you will smell it before you see it. Apparently this causes a love /hate relationship. I am in the “love” category ( ever since they existed under their previous guise of Cosmetics to Go ). I remember being in Gothenburg, in a pretty little arcade of shops and then suddenly smelling “the smell” – and sure enough, Lush was right round the corner. In my opinion the bath bombs are the perfect antidote to “bad days’  and my current favourite is the Dragon’s Egg . Although the assistant persuaded me to try a couple of other ones this time.

Reading this book by Johannes Itten to learn more about how colours work in combinations.

Dreaming of going here.

And planning to reward myself for work well done  ( well, if I don’t say it , no- one will ) by picking up a couple of cupcakes here. They have the most gorgeous crockery based on design elements from different buildings or places in Edinburgh.

In other news, it’s my birthday next week and I will be doing a little “something”. You might want to subscribe to my newsletter so that you stay in the loop.   You’ll find the sign up form over on the right at the top of the column.

Five on a Friday

Daisies - Cushion

Another little round up of things that have been making me smile this week.

1. Seeing my Polaroid images ” come to life”  as they turn into cushions. This one is a lovely cheerful daisy image.

2. Seeing Cassandra Harrison’s Connecting Thread exhibition opening at CraftHouseConcept . (If you are in Edinburgh go and have a wee look.)

3. Discovering some new Etsy favourites via the Decor8 blog. And yes, I did make one little purchase that I can’t wait to see – it will probably be going in my studio. The space is basically white walls and I am adding little splashes of colour.

4. Seeing my friend Tara’s  shiny new website that really shows off her artwork beautifully. Go and have a wee peek.

5. Keeping a bowl of lemons in my studio so  that I can add a squeeze of lemon with the gallons of water I seem to drink every day. Creating is thirsty work !

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Studio Newsletter went out today – as usual there is a little subscriber bonus. If you’d like a copy you can get it with my “catch up” mailing later today. The sign up form is on the right at the top.

Five on a Friday ( makes a return visit)

I haven’t done any “5 on a Friday”s for a while as I felt I needed a little breather from them. Some routines are good – but not when it becomes a habit for the sake of it. But now I’m gathering a few new favourites again so it is time for another five. ( By the way, if you’d like to contribute your 5 just let me know ).

Water Paper Paint  – by Heather Smith Jones

I first heard about this book when Geninne wrote about her contribution to it. So, even though it is more about water colour than acrylic, which is my current interest, I couldn’t resist ordering the book. And I’m not sorry I did. It’s one of those books that is nice right from the cover, with a kind of water colour paper texture. Inside there is a section to cover the basics and then 30 project based chapters . I know that I am going to enjoy dipping into the book and trying out some of the techniques and I can also see how some ideas might spill over into use with other types of paint or ink.

Foam “Brushes” for paint

Actually, I used to use these for silk painting as they hold the fluid really well – but it was a new idea (from Flora Bowley) to use them for any other kind of paint. They are great to use with acrylics but I’m guessing they would be good with watercolours as well.

Wreck this App

Based on “Wreck This Book” by Keri Smith

Apologies to non Apple using folk, but I had to include this one as it is one of my newest “favourite things”. I was not so keen on the book it was inspired by as I don’t really like wrecking books ( apart from very old ones that have served their purpose). But moving it into an app format takes it to a completely different level. It is the perfect tool for doing some doodles when you are stuck with something and need something to give you a jolt in a new direction. There are a variety of tools, paint brush, eraser, smudge tool , scissors etc and so far I’ve only scraped the surface of what could be possible. I think its main value is in getting you unstuck, but if you do happen to create a mini masterpiece you can save it , or email it on.

The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron

I’ve had this book for a little while , but never given it more than a quick glance.  It has  the same foundation as The Artist’s Way, with the basic tools of Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates plus a daily walk. However the rest of the book is short essays of a couple of pages followed by an exercise. I think I will incorporate this into my daily routine for the next month or so. I find little nudges of encouragement to be very effective.

AudioBoo

Have you thought of doing a podcast but been daunted by the technical details ? Then have a look at AudioBoo. This site makes it unbelievably easy to record your message and get it out into the world. They are no more than five minutes long, can be recorded using the microphone on your computer or phone and made pretty with a photo. It’s that easy  – record and upload – no need to edit or do other tweaks. You can preview it , discard , record another until you are happy. But I mostly upload my first recording.  If you’d like to hear what I’ve been saying you can find them here. And if you start to do your own AudioBoo ( or podcast) please let me know as I’d love to listen in.

( If you’d really like to do a podcast I can recommend trying to find a workshop run by Inner Ear they were very easy to learn from )

Japanese Washi Tape

I’ve seen people use these tapes  before, but never bought any. However recently I noticed that Paperchase have started to stock them and I couldn’t resist trying out a couple. They make wrapping up parcels much prettier but also have a lot of crafty applications. Very lovely.

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Studio Newsletter with interesting snippets and subscriber bonuses will be out next week. August is my birthday month so I usually plan something special. If you’d like your copy you can subscribe here.

Five on a Friday – Interior Inspirations

work in progress

work in progress

With having been on my travels for a couple of weeks I don’t have a guest poster lined up for today’s Five on a Friday. So today  I’m going to indulge a new direction that I’m going in -  moving some of my designs towards interior design applications. I’ve hinted at this before , and been “cooking” the idea for a while, but fresh from the energy boost of the retreat I have moved this up my priorities. It was always there in the background whispering “my turn” and I was always too busy attending to some other element of my photographic work . But now I have made space in my timetable to develop a range.

I think it is partly inspired by moving house after renting for a while. I am quite particular and can often not  find  quite what I am looking for.  Anyway, selfishly starting off with the things that I would like myself, I’m starting to build a range – and hopefully some other people will like them too !

Although I don’t have any formal training in interior design is has been a “side interest” for a very long time. When we sold our first house the buyers asked if they could just buy the whole lot, they liked the mood of it so much. Then later ,doing up a crumbling old house, from the floorboards up, I learnt “on the job”. I studied the effects of paint on walls, learning how to make big rooms feel cosier. Now ,in let’s say, a more “bijoux” residence , I am exercising the other kind of skill – making small spaces bigger ! And it also demands more restraint in terms of how many items are in the house so I am increasingly ruthless, editing out things that no longer please my eye or are appropriate to the space. I will never be a minimalist but everything has to earn the right to be there.

Over time I’ve realised that the things that give me most pleasure are the things which have some kind of story attached. The little wooden plank that my Oma had in her house to keep her keys and purse on . The green ginger jar that one grandmother gave to the other. An unusal green painted blown egg I was given in Romania. The rather forbidding carved wooden figure I bought from an amazing sculptor in northern Romania. Of course, I buy things for colour or shape or function as well – but they never achieve quite the same level as the “story” items.

I’ve digressed a little  – my intended “Five” was  a round up of past and present interior inspirations.

1. Tricia Guild from Designer’s Guild.

Around the time I did up the first house she had just launched a range for Next. It was very pale and faded and stood out against the harsher colours or overly floral chintz elsewhere. From then on I’ve followed her career. Visiting her shop was always a treat if I was in London and her books a more accesible resource. Inspiration  is a favourite – especially if I’m  looking to jump start a new colour combination.

2. Jocasta Innes – The other designer who influenced me at the outset wrote a book called “Paint Magic” ( published 1982 – goodness !) and went on to develop a wonderful range of paints , which, I’ve been sad to discover are no longer in production. But maybe her books are still available. The  second book “The Thrifty Decorator” ( 1993 ) was also ahead of its time, in restoring old furniature and reviving old skills .

And then zapping along to more recent inspirations …

3. VT Wonen – This Dutch interor design magazine really appeals to my liking for “crisp and clean” styling. But with contemporary unfussy shapes or bold use of colour. I pick up a copy everytime I am in Holland and keep meaning to set up a subscription. In the meantime they have a great website ( which is in Dutch , but the images are great if you’ve not needed to master that language).

ETC by Sibella Court -I’ve written about this book before, but I keep returning to it. I love how she writes about colour palettes and suggests creating palettes of ten colours and then using them in various combinations as a way to unify the style of a house.

5. And a new discovery for me – who is suddenly appearing all over the place -Sania Pell.  She has written a book, The Homemade Home,  which I’ll make a point of peeking at next time I am in a bookshop, but for now I’ve enjoyed her new blog, site and interviews, amongst others the one on the Do What You Love  site. I am delighted to see that there is an Edinburgh connection as she has studied and taught at Edinburgh College of Art.

By the way , if you want to join in this round of the Do What you Love ecourse – I think today is the last day to sign up.

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I am planning a few changes with my Etsy shop and website in the next wee while – if you’d like to be “in the know” you can subscribe you my Studio Newsletter here. And if you’d like to contribute your “Five on a Friday ” just let me know.

Five on a Friday by Emma Newman

Beach Walk

About Emma Newman

Emma drinks too much tea, has too many ideas and writes too many stories. Only one of these is true. Her debut novel ’20 Years Later’ will be published in July 2011 by Dystopia Press. She blogs and gets up to all kinds of writing mischief at www.enewman.co.uk.

Emma’s first short story anthology ‘From Dark Places’, recently acquired by eMergent Publishing, is available in print and e-book book formats. You can buy a signed copy from her website :  and if you like dark short stories, join Em’s Short Story Club  to get an original short story for free in your inbox every month.

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Five favourite ways to replenish the creative well

I write. All day, most day. I write lots of dreadfully boring things to pay the bills, and lots of fiction to keep me sane, and hopefully, one day far into the future, pay the bills too.

They both demand creativity, and if I’m not careful, I can drain my creative well dry in the midst of deadlines. I’d like to share five favourite things that I do to replenish the source which fuels all my words.

1. Go on a day trip to an urban environment

I live in a very small town in the country. The rolling hills of Somerset are ten minutes from my door, and sometimes, just a walk in the countryside is enough. But what really starts to make me feel charged up again is taking a trip to a big city. Bath is the nearest to me, and walking its ancient streets brings ideas back in a torrent.

Recently I was in Manchester for my first ever book launch. I travelled into the centre on a tram with my family, and we passed an alleyway with an amazing fountain at the far end of it. I only glimpsed it for five seconds, but it thrilled me.

What’s most important I suppose is the change of scenery. No doubt if I was still living on the northern fringe of London, my craving would be for countryside!

2. Read a passage or ten from a favourite book.

There are some books of which I will never tire. Shogun by James Clavell, Dune by Frank Herbert, the Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, and many more sit on my selves to be thumbed through when I have run out of my own words.

Sometimes the images or ideas that reach up from the page are enough to rejuvenate my tired word brain. Sometimes they simply take me into their worlds and fill me up there. Sometimes they are just a reminder that at some point, each of those authors probably felt knackered and fed up and they still persevered. And look what wonderful books came about as a result!

Sometimes reading a new book can help too (I am always reading one or two I’ve never read before) but there’s always a risk that it will activate my inner critic if I’m not enjoying it. Going back to books I know are fantastically written keeps that beast at bay.

3. Play a game

We have an Xbox 360, and sometimes I just cannot take in any more words, let alone produce any. That’s the time to get out the controller and throw myself into imaginary worlds created in a different medium. And also beat the hell out of baddies…

4. Do the housework

I know that sounds like the most boring thing in the world, and couldn’t be further away from creativity, but I think that’s why it works. It also helps with feelings of being overwhelmed, as clearing out the recycling and wiping away the traces of a busy life allows a sense of order to return.

It also grounds me in my body. Most of the time I feel like a mind floating on a spring about a foot above my shoulders. Scrubbing the bath can bring me back into myself.

5. Take a long hot shower

So many stories have come to me whilst I have been massaging shampoo into my hair. Why this is, I have no idea. I suppose my mind wanders, and the pressure to create is lessened by being away from the computer. It might also be a connecting with my body thing again.

It doesn’t work with baths, strangely enough.

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Thanks very much Emma – great selection.

If you would like to contribute your “Five on a Friday” …just leave a comment. They can be five on a theme or just a random mix . Or if you’ve written a “5 on a Friday” leave a link to that in the comments too.

Five on a Friday – Michael Nobbs.

tea-tray-michael-nobbs

Today’s Five on a Friday comes from Michael Nobbs  an inspirational artist based in Wales.

He  is a full-time artist, blogger and tea drinker (not necessarily in that order). He is the author of the popular blog  Sustainably Creative and regularly publishes  The Beany  , an illustrated journal of his life. In the late 1990s he was ME/CFS  and, over the last decade, has learnt a lot about sustaining a creative career with limited energy. He recently published an ebook on the subject,  Sustainable Creativity

I’m a big fan of the daily ritual of elevenses ; If you don’t know, elevenses is the rather British institution of sitting down at about eleven o’ clock for a cup of something hot and maybe a sweet treat.

I firmly believe that pausing for a short while in the middle of the morning is a wonderful creative tool. It helps us slow down and take stock of our day so far, giving us a lovely opportunity to make sure we’re focusing our time and energy where we really want to be. If you don’t already  indulge in elevenses today could be the say to start.

Here are five of my favourite elevenses treats (mix and match one or two for the perfect elevenses experience):

1. A pot of tea. I always make my tea in a pot (and usually use loose leaf tea). There is something special about taking the time to warm a tea pot, spoon in just the right amount of tea for your taste, and then wait patiently while the tea steeps for a few minutes. Tea , made in a pot, is something to savour.

2. A slice of homemade cake. Baking is another excellent creative tool. Done quietly and without distraction baking is is a mindful activity that not only provides something delicious to enjoy for out elevenses treat but also gives us time to ponder and muse over our creative ideas. My personal favourite cake is a lemon sponge  filled with (homemade) raspberry jam.

3. Toasted and buttered crumpet. I love crumpets. You can make your own  but I usually buy mine and keep a stock in the freezer. On days when I don’t particularly fancy a sweet treat for my elevenses and toasted and buttered crumpet is perfect with a cup of tea. To sweeten things up a little a spoonful of honey on top is just the thing.

4. Coffee. Sometimes, especially in the winter, the only hot elevenses drink that will do is a steamy mug of milky coffee. Like with tea, I like to  make my coffee in a pot

5. A piece of chocolate. I often have a bar of chocolate on the go. I’m surprised how I manage to make it last. Often a piece of chocolate is a treat I reserve for finishing a piece of work, but sometimes it is the perfect accompaniment to a mug of coffee or a cup of tea as my studio clock strikes eleven .This is my current favourite chocolate treat.

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If you would like to contribute your “Five on a Friday”  leave me a comment below and I’ll get in touch. Would you like to be the first to know what’s going on in the StarryBlueSky Studio – then subscribe to the Studio Newsletter here ( and get some freebie printable downloads into the bargain.)

Five on a Friday – Kate Smart

Vase with Blossom

Today’s Five comes from Kate Smart – this is how she introduces herself -

“I’m a Scottish writer, based in Perthshire.  After many years working in the mental health field, I started writing about three years ago now, mainly short stories, and blogging.  My blog http://seapenguin-thecurioussheep.blogspot.com has become a fairly epic construction and a review can be seen in the current edition of Northwords Now magazine. I’m very interested in Scottish language and culture, and I think that’s inevitably reflected in what I write,  but I’m definitely not a nationalist. My plan is to write more stories and maybe a play.”

Favourite place – there’s a sheltered grassy ledge on the seaward wall of a Dun somewhere on Skye,  with a view of the Cuillins to the south and the Outer Hebrides to the far north west. On clear mid-summer nights when the sun never really sets, the sky is spectacular. On warm summer days it’s the ideal place to settle with a book.  When you get tired of reading, you can watch the seabirds banking off the cliffs, and maybe spot seals or porpoises. Perhaps even a whale. 

Favourite food – it’s not my favourite food, but it’s practical and on such a day I would have a packet of decent quality Trail Mix in my pocket. When buying it I’d have homed in on the packet with the most dried papaya and pineapple, and almonds.  Easy and light to carry, not messy, quite nutritious and sustaining for a short walk. I’d have had a pretty substantial breakfast first, of course – and I’d have a hip flask full of gin with me in case of “emergencies”. 

Favourite activity – reading.  I would take Colette’s novella The Cat with me. Again, it’s easy to stick in a pocket and carry with you on a walk.  I like cats, and in this tale the cat in question comes out on top in a gripping tripartite marital war. I really enjoy the way Colette, without anthropomorphising, gives the cat equal billing to the human protagonists.  Colette is probably my favourite writer. 

In another pocket I would have favourite thing number four – another book.  This time it’s E.W. Hornung’s The Amateur Cracksman.  This is a book of tales about the adventures of Raffles, the devilishly handsome and debonair gentleman thief, and his easily-led partner in crime, Bunny.  Very very funny indeed. E.W. Hornung was Conan Doyle’s brother in law, which adds an extra touch of interest, but the stories are superbly entertaining in their own right. 

Favourite thing number five – a map.  Forget Google maps – as someone once said, The Map Is Not the Territory, but I do like an old-fashioned Ordnance Survey map with contour lines and symbols that you can pore over for ages.  I’m useless at map-reading, I just like looking at them and trying to figure out where the heck I am.  And I love that years ago someone painstakingly walked and measured every step of the ground, to make the map.
Kate Smart



Five on a Friday – Guest Post by Cynthia Morris.

 

Never Hide by Cynthia Morris

Never Hide by Cynthia Morris

Continuing my series of guest posts in this “Five on a Friday” slot. This week  comes  from Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse.

Bio:  Cynthia Morris helps writers, artists and entrepreneurs make their brilliant ideas a reality. A certified coach for over eleven years, Cynthia leads writing and creativity workshops in Europe and the US. Cynthia has authored several e-guides on writing and creative travel as well as over 500 articles on the creative process. Get free inspiration from Cynthia’s web TV show, Juju Infusion and her newsletter, Impulses, at www.originalimpulse.com.

I particularly love her “Juju Infusion” videos which are perfect for a a little creative boost. And if you are struggling to start or finish a project have a look at her courses. I’ve worked with her myself in the past and it definitely helped me to gain momentum.

Top Five Places to Meet Your Lover, Er, Your Muse


You know the feeling – you’re so fired up by your creativity that making time for your Muse feels like sweet rendez-vous with a lover. Don’t wait for those long interludes together; capture creative quickies throughout the day. Here are my five favorite places to enjoy my Muse while the inspiration is hot.

1. Behind the wheel. Something about movement gets our creative juices flowing. Inspiration can come fast and furious when you’re driving, so don’t wait to capture it. You might want to pull over to grab down your ideas, or, if you’re so inclined, get one of those mini voice recorders to capture the brilliance. Or, get one of those handy dashboard notepads for easy jotting.

2.In the bath. Water often infuses us with creative lust, whether it’s a walk by a stream, an afternoon at the beach, or a soak in the bath.  Waterproof art supplies not necessary; the drip of water on paper can add a sexy wave to the completed product.

3. On public transportation. The lull and rhythm of a train, the buzz of humanity on a bus can often spark something. Before you know it, you’ll be having so much fun all the other commuters will want what you’re having in seat 3B.

4. In line at the bank or post office. Everyone else is bored, angry or impatient, but you’re consumed with creative fire. The queue will move faster than you want it to. (I’ve written entire articles waiting at the post office!)

5. In bed. Either first thing in the morning or before sleep, when our body and mind are still and receptive, can be a great time for creative insight. Sometimes we bemoan the lack of time and want to grab a few extra minutes in bed. Put the two together and write among the sheets in the cozy zone!

Where are your favorite places to meet your Muse? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Also my Studio Moving Sale is still on for a few more days. And the next edition of the Studio Newsletter went out yesterday – you can subscribe to that here and receive a copy when I send out my “catch up mailing” in a day or so.

If you would like to give your choice of “Five on a Friday” just let me know by comment or email.